The goal today was to visit two villages near San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua where the Nicaragua Children’s Foundation (NCF) has supported education. After the Donovans, a Canadian family of five, visited San Juan Del Sur on vacation, they saw a need there for aid to the elementary schools and decided to begin a foundation. Since 2006, the foundation has been providing much needed support with very little overhead.
I had to find the in-country representative for the foundation, Veronica. I started the search as early as I could because I wasn’t sure if I would be able to find her. There aren’t really any addresses in Nicaragua, just explanations. Luckily, in a small town like that everyone knows everyone else, so as I got close to town all I had to do was ask where I could find Veronica the Spanish teacher and I was led right to her.
Veronica was more than happy to show me around the villages when I told her I had been talking with Mona Donovan, one of the founders of the foundation. Our first stop was a Miravalle about a twenty-minute drive during the dry season… Or as the locals do it, a four hour walk or two hour horse ride. We passed smiling local after smiling local until we got to the village leader’s house where we would pick up the keys to the schoolhouse. I listened to the chief tell me about how NCF has helped the area. Before their help there were about forty children sharing one small classroom and an even smaller, windowless meetinghouse shared by bats and other creatures. Windows are necessary since there is no electricity running to Miravalle. Now, thanks to the NCF, there is a new, clean, well-lit preschool house and the regular schoolhouse went through some much needed renovations.
Another issue he told me the NCF helps alleviate was the lack of enough supplies and uniforms for all the children. I interrupted to ask some questions that have been on my mind in all the developing countries I’ve been visiting: “Why are uniforms so important? Wouldn’t it be cheaper just to wear the same set of normal clothes every day?” I asked. His answer made a lot of sense and I believe it applies for the rest of the places I’ve visited. He told me that since there are differing levels of wealth even in these small villages, it is important to give the children a level playing field (by appearances at least). The small extra cost for uniforms was worth it instead of rags on some, riches on another. My sponsor Orta has done work like this, providing denim uniforms to students in need with their “School Uniforms Project” Social Mission. I couldn’t help but think with such extremes between the wet and dry season that Dare Denim uniforms would be perfect for this environment.
The NCF also provided another teacher for the previously understaffed school and latrine on site. Until the necessary latrine was built, all forty or so children would just find a place in the schoolyard to do their business! Far from ideal. Sadly I didn’t get to see the schoolhouse in action because their “summer vacation” happens during the dry season. I talked with Veronica about maybe getting some children to show me around the next village’s school.
After a fifteen-minute drive over the bumpy dirt road, and even squeezing our car under a fallen tree that was blocking our way, we made it to Ojochal. It started with about four or five kids walking with us to the schoolhouse, but by the time we reached it almost all of the little students had come to meet us and show us their school. Adorable. It’s when you get to see the faces of the children being helped that you really understand the reason for the efforts being made.
Miravalle and Ojochal both have a much-improved education situation thanks to the NCF, but of course there is always room for improvement. I asked what the biggest needs for them at this time. There were a few including fixing the broken well on the school grounds in Miravalle and adding another teacher in Ojochal. The biggest need they told me though was a new set of uniforms for the forty-eight students that are in need of them. At seventy dollars per child to get them a backpack, shoes, and two sets of uniforms; it is a very attainable short-term goal (about three thousand total). To help support the Nicaragua Children’s Foundation visit the website at http://www.nicaraguachildrensfoundation.com/donate . I encourage you to look at the very transparent budget they make public there too. The administration costs are very low and nearly every penny possible goes directly to the villages. I was thoroughly impressed by the work NCF has done and continues to do and was thankful to Veronica and the friendly villagers for showing me around. These are the kinds of people and organizations that deserve our support!