It’s funny how we think we know the people in our lives until one day you discover that there is a whole dimension to them that you had no idea existed. Noelene Gration, who is well known in the Central Highlands region for her PR work, was once a volunteer picking coffee beans in Nicaragua in the early 1980’s. During the Sandinista revolution most young men were away fighting and brigades of volunteers from around the world came together to pick coffee beans, signing up for a month at a time.
Noelene was one of those volunteers and she tells of working very long hours in the heat and dust, waking at 4.30am to a breakfast of beans and rice, toiling until lunch when they had rice and beans – just for variety. The volunteers had been told how dangerous it was and foreigners were targeted to be kidnapped and ransomed, luckily Noelene escaped that fate. But there were other things that would deter most people, such as sitting on a wasp’s nest and being attacked – this volunteer work was no picnic. Participants were required to pay their own way at a time when air fares were prohibitively expensive and whilst they were fed and housed, they slept on the floor with pigs and chooks. Noelene says, “It was indescribably hard work, but we were young and idealistic. Noelene found it hard to settle back into life and work, but she did so with a heightened understanding of the world.