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Springboard Nicaragua Trek – Frank Carroll and James Hankin tell us about their adventure


At the end of January, Frank Carroll, Contracts Director for Compass Healthcare and James Hankin, Facilities manager at 14forty, embarked on a 10-day trek over mountains and volcanoes in Nicaragua with 28 others from around the hospitality industry. Organised by The Springboard Charity and World Expeditions it was third time lucky, having been postponed twice due to covid restrictions and lockdowns. The trekkers not only stepped out of their comfort zone but also supported a community project in a remote village.

Let’s hear more from Frank first about the expedition:

"The trip to Nicaragua was life changing in so many ways. I started off with a group of strangers and returned with lifelong friends. The country’s people were so welcoming, appreciative, entertaining and so full of humility.

I won’t deny it, the trekking was incredibly tough and painful, yet the views made it so worthwhile. Awaking at 3.30am most mornings we would walk for about two hours before the sun came up to avoid some of the intense heat. From 10am till 4pm the temperature reached 35 to 40 degrees Celsius. Usually, we would walk until about 3/4pm in the afternoon.

Whilst there we climbed four volcanoes. One of them was called “Cerro Negro”. It was a steep climb up, but we came down, sitting on a type of flat board, at tremendous speed – the record is 111km per hour. It’s well worth a watch online, you’ll be amazed.

The toll on my body both physically and mentally was immense. We either trekked uphill or downhill – never level, so the knees and feet were in a lot of pain. Much of it was through jungle, or if not, in the blazing sunshine. We encountered everything from monkeys, scorpions, tarantulas and rattlesnakes. There was a doctor with us 24 /7 which proved to be very beneficial for many, in particular me. On the first day, many of us suffered from heat exhaustion and we had to be treated in order to continue. One lady had to be taken down off the volcano on a horse. On the 4th day, whilst working on the school project, I was stung by a scorpion and thankfully the doctor was on hand to give me tablets and hook me onto a drip all within 90 seconds. If he had not been there, the outcome could have been very different.

The accommodation and food were extremely basic. The staple diet was rice and beans for every meal. I shared a tiny tent with a stranger I had never met before and luckily, we got on like a house on fire. The toilet was basic: a hole in the ground and the showers were – oh I forgot – most of the time, we had no showers as water was rationed to 3 litres every morning!

One of the main reasons for the trip was to undertake the school project and this was amazing. We all worked about 12 -14 hours a day for 3 days, to complete the project. With no running water before we arrived, we were able to build and paint a water tower, we also built a kitchen as prior to us arriving at school meals were prepared in parent’s homes. We repaired and painted all the equipment in the playground, including adding a set of monkey bars, which the children absolutely loved. Building two toilets, a shower and erecting massive solar panels on high poles meant the school had lights for the first time. Things we all take for granted but meant so much to them.

Our last day at the school culminated in a sports day. What a way to end the trip with the children all winning prizes and having fun. People were very generous before the trip, and we were able to donate clothes, books, pens, markers and games.

You can probably tell from this short blog I could go on forever, however it was the experience of a lifetime, and I will never forget it. I am very thankful to Compass for the support."

James added:

"I stumbled across Compass Groups participation in the Springboard Treks a few years back and reached out to let them know I was very interested. Since then, I have checked in annually to see if I had made the shortlist knowing this was right up my street. Travel, trekking off the beaten track, charity support, community work, and all whilst representing Compass Group seemed like a perfect combination for me. I was chuffed to hear I was finally on the list and the date of the trek was confirmed. I soon set about fundraising, getting my kit together and training for the numerous volcano ascents. Being an environmentally conscious person, I knew the footprint of a long-haul flight over to Central America, so I paid to offset my co2 in a local project - CommuniTree, Nicaragua.  

Our time in Rota Village whilst doing the community project work was such an insight into the lives they lead out there and how little they get by on. We spent three days in Rota working on the community project which was focused on the school. I was on the bench making team, making two large homemade benches from a pile of miss-match and warped timbers. On the 4th day we held a big sports day for all the children with prizes.  I got to Captain one of the teams, interacting with the children and seeing their pure enjoyment really brought it to a close nicely. The local community greatly appreciated everything we did and even held a parting celebration to say thank you for our efforts and wish us well on our way.

The whole experience was very rewarding and spending time with the community of Rota was also very grounding. Seeing the money we raised, and all our hard work go to such a good cause was really fulfilling. I experienced some special moments, challenges and views during my time on the trek and at the community project, so thanks to both Compass Group and Springboard for the opportunity to be part of it."