How To Give Back To Nicaragua When You Come As a Tourist

Let me start off by saying that I love how many people write into us asking how they can give back when they come to visit. 

I love it, because this backs up my theory that the MAJORITY of people are GOOD. And I love it, because it really is meaningful to ask what and where the need is, instead of just coming in and throwing money at impoverished communities for short term solutions, rather than long term impact. 

Keep in mind that Nicaragua is INCREDIBLY diverse (the Caribbean side is totally different culturally than where we are on the Pacific, for instance), so I will only speak to what I know our local community in Northern Nicaragua has expressed to us personally. 

Clothes and Shoes

If you’re running out of room in your suitcase, or you just know that you’re ready to share your clothes, then you can donate them DIRECTLY to a local family. 

If you’re staying with us, then we can deliver them to family’s in our area who we know are in the most need. And if you’re staying elsewhere, then you can ask the person running your accommodation, your local surf instructor, or any other local friends you’ve made along the way. 

Donating clothes directly to families is much more helpful than going back to the States, and donating to Goodwill or Salvation Army. Because, the truth is that most of those clothes don’t get sold, then get shipped off to developing countries to be SOLD in marketplaces. And when the markets are overflowing, they eventually end up in landfills in those same countries. Meaning, we’re creating more waste for OTHER countries, instead of taking responsibility and managing it ourselves. 

Food and Water

These are obviously some of the most basic human needs. And, especially after Hurricane Julia, there will be many families who struggle with food production as the hurricane ruined their crops. This is why we have our Feeding Program running this year. Whether you’re one of our guests or not, you can donate virtually on our GoFundMe

If you’re staying elsewhere, or you simply meet someone in need, then buy the food yourself (typically the most welcomed care packages are dry rice, beans, cooking oil, plantains). This ensures that the money you’d like to donate to food and water will actually BUY food and water. For more assurance it’s getting into the right hands, we encourage you to hand deliver it yourself. 

Seeds or Plants

As mentioned above, many crops were destroyed in Hurricane Julia, which is why we started our Feeding Program. Because most people grow their own food, buying seeds or plants will help to set them up for success for planting next season. Again, we suggest buying the seeds or plants yourself, and hand delivering them. 

Please keep in mind that depending on the seed/plant and the water supply in the area, they might not be able to plant until April. In that case, ASK for the most durable option (like corn) that can survive during the dry season. Otherwise, you might get them seeds or plants that will spoil or die before they can put them to use.


There’s a wonderful woman in our area who has an education program for sponsoring local children to go to school for the year (around $120/year, $10/month) who we can connect you with when you stay with us (she doesn’t have a web presence to link out). 

Otherwise, simply ask the local friends you make if there’s anything they’re interested in learning or studying that they couldn’t otherwise afford. For a price reference, based on our Education Program, the most expensive tuition we pay is $40/month for one of our staff members to go to Nursing School at University. 

Remember, if you’re going to commit to something like a University tuition, to make sure you can commit to the full duration, rather than a short term sponsorship. We suggest paying the institution directly for a semester or year at a time.

Don’t forget that trade schools (electrician, mechanic, etc) are just as valuable, and sometimes create more sustainable jobs!


Ok, I know this sounds super vague. But that’s because it can apply to so many things! You can purchase everything from school supplies for children, to cooking supplies for entire families. The key here is to ASK. Rather than showing up with a suitcase full of stuff you’re sure people will need, take time to connect with locals wherever you stay (even if it’s only local staff within your resort) to understand what the needs are. 

You can buy just about anything you need in the nearest town (if you’re staying with us, then this is Chinandega). 

Some of the most common supplies we know people need and want: notebooks, pens, Tupperware (large boxes, and smaller), large cooking pot, firewood, machetes, string, nails, hammers, plastic tarps, bedding. 


If you know us at all, then you know we’re big animal lovers here at SSE, which is why we did a big spay/neuter and vaccination clinic last year in our area. Helping animals can be both really simple, and also really challenging due to cultural differences and accessibility to quality care. 

When you’re staying with us, and you fall in love with a local animal who’s clearly in need, we’re happy to organize you a ride to the (BEST) vet in the area where you can get the animal treated, and pay the bill directly to the doctor. We’re also happy to help you arrange adopting dogs or cats out of the country, as well.

Otherwise, if you’re staying down South, there’s a great organization called SOS Nicaragua that care for tons of sick dogs and cats, as well as facilitate adoptions out of country. 

Alright, I’m already nearly 1,000 words deep on this post, I feel like this only barely scratches the surface of service in Nicaragua. As you can tell, the common theme is to ASK first, then act. And once you act, buying goods themselves is often so much more valuable than just giving money away. 

Thank you for your care and kindness. We can’t wait to see you here soon!

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