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The Life & Times of Benjamin Linder

Benjamin Linder was a young engineering graduate from California who moved to Nicaragua in the early 1980s. An accomplished juggler and unicyclist, Linder was inspired by the 1979 Sandinista revolution and, like hundreds of other internacionalistas, wished to contribute toward helping the country's poor. He moved to the northern highlands and helped out in community projects such as vaccination drives. It was there that he put his skills as a juggler to good use. He dressed as a clown and with his unicycle encouraged families to visit the local clinic for measles shots. He also began work on a small hydroelectric dam with the aim of bringing light to the village of San José de Bocay. While working there, the 27-year-old was ambushed and killed by Contra rebels, along with two Nicaraguan companions. His death in 1987 made world headlines, as it came amid an intense debate in the United States over the government's support of counterrevolutionary rebels. Linder's death shone light on a conflict that had killed 30,000 Nicaraguans and it contributed to Congress's finally withdrawing support a year later.

Linder is now revered in Nicaragua and celebrated in countless murals as a juggling ambassador. He is held up by many as an American who made a positive contribution, and his efforts have now been duplicated by countless Americans doing good works in Nicaragua (see the box "Volunteering Opportunities in Nicaragua"). Benjamin Linder's grave can be visited in the northern city of Matagalpa.

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