Memories in focus: stories about why we are how we are

Eau Claire student’s service learning project leaves lasting effect


Photo by Lauren French

UW-Eau Claire senior Michaela Schopf transports adobe mix to the brick-making station in El Pantanal, a community in Granada, Nicaragua last fall.

Story by Lauren French, Copy Editor

“Quien quiere este sombrero?”

Michaela Schopf, a UW-Eau Claire senior, offered up her grimy, sweaty hat that had protected her from the Nicaraguan sun for two weeks.

She didn’t expect much enthusiasm. But a group of about ten workers all vied for the haggard cap; she gave it to the first man she saw.

“This guy was so overwhelmed with joy that I gave it to him,” Schopf said.

Those past two weeks were the final chapters of Schopf’s study abroad program to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Schopf and seven other Eau Claire students volunteered with a building project in Granada, Nicaragua to build adobe bricks – clay made of mud, sand and water – for families in need of housing.

The daily tasks at the volunteer site were physically taxing. The thick adobe clay had to be mixed, and the final bricks – each around 50 to 60 pounds – needed to be transported to building sites.

Because the tasks were so grueling and the weather hot, Schopf and her peers decided to give away some of the sweaty clothes they accumulated to some of the workers with the project on their last day on site.

Schopf and her fellow project workers were able to meet some of the recipients of the adobe brick houses, and she said she was inspired to work harder because of their gratitude and excitement.

“One or two of them started crying because they just knew their lives would be so much better,” Schopf said. “… it just motivated us more to help as much as we could in the two weeks we had to help.”

Since the service project ended, Schopf said she has a changed perspective on her life here in Eau Claire, especially when it comes to little annoyances of daily life.

“If I’m about to complain about something… I take a step back before I even think that thought,” Schopf said. “Why should I let little things upset me… there’s so much here for me.”