Diana Castillo

Diana Castillo, 3

Diana Castillo, 3

Name: Diana Adeliah Castillo

Birthday: November 2010

Grade: Preschool

Home life: Diana lives in a tiny one room wood home with her mother and two sisters (Prisila and Gabriela).  She shares a bed with Gabi and her mother.

Favorite school subject: playing

Likes to do for fun: play with the volunteers, eat, dance bachata (or at least what she calls bachata!)

What she wants to be in the future: undecided

Where she would like to travel if she could travel anywhere in the world: Germany, to visit Anja (former volunteer)

What would she wish for if he could have one wish: that Anja would come back to Nicaragua

Short story about Diana, October 2013, by former volunteer Anja

Actually the story isn’t really about a child of the Education Plus Program, but for me it is. It’s about Diana. Diana isn’t a student, but she is the youngest girl of the Pantanal family. So she’s living in the house where the school is. By the time I was in Granada, she was just starting to talk a little more. And being only two years old she was so cute. Her normal day was perfect when there was enough food and action. She was always running around or watching the class. And after two or three weeks, she knew and trusted me. I think I was the first volunteer who really had a friendship with this cute little girl. So every time I came to the school in the morning, she ran outside the house to say Anja, Anja, Anja – over and over. Even though she didn’t know the names of any of the other volunteers, she knew mine, and every morning she would ask her mother if I was coming to see her. At the school, she always wanted me to pick her up and carry her around. Even if I was busy I couldn’t say no to her – never. And then there was the day when she got a new haircut, made by her mum. She looked so funny with this short hair, maybe like a boy? Well the important thing about the haircut story is, that the family, some other children and especially Monica started to call her “pelon” (baldy)– poor Diana! When I was still in Granada, I was like: “how can they call this cute little girl (my best friend in Pantanal!) pelon”??? But back here in Germany it is actually so cute that I started thinking of her as “my pelon”! She just is my “pelon” and I will never forget her. She is reason enough for going back to Pantanal! See you next summer my pelon!

We Love you Anja, especially Pelon!!!!

Anja and "pelon"

Anja and “pelon”

Diana cleaning the front porch of the school

Diana cleaning the front porch of the school

Diana, during Christmas 2012 art project

Diana, during Christmas 2012 art project

"Pelon", with her little boy's haircut

“Pelon”, with her little boy’s haircut




Luis Navarro

Luis Navarro, 12

Luis Navarro, 12


Name: Luis Alfredo Navarro

Birthday: 27 June 2001

Grade: 2

Home life: Luis lives in a one room home with his 5 siblings (including Esperanza, Wanda, and Estiven) and grandmother

Favorite school subject: Math

Likes to do for fun: play soccer

What he wants to be in the future: a police man

Where he would like to travel if he could travel anywhere in the world: USA

What would he wish for if he could have one wish: to have a good job


Short Story about Luis: November 2013

IMG_339518 year old German volunteer Leonie Hohnholz runs a literacy program with volunteer Inga Plum in tangent with our regular English program. Leonie and Inga are working hard so that no child is forgotten – at Education Plus, we believe that every child, not just the top performers, has equal potential and deserves an equal amount of attention.

One of Leonie’s students is a 12 year old boy named Luis.  Luis lives with his grandmother and 5 siblings in a one room home without floors, windows, or a functioning door.  His mother disappeared five years ago during a work trip to Costa Rica, after which his father abandoned the family.  His grandmother, toLuis’s embarrassment, constantly refers to him as slow in front of the other children. However, he has had several impediments to learning which are not his fault. Luis is behind other children his age because was taken out of school for a few years in order to harvest coffee to support his siblings.  His cousins give him a hard time about studying to read instead of playing with them in the streets because it’s just not cool.  But Luis, with the support of Leonie, has surprised us all!  Leonie tells us:

“Yesterday I was working with Luis and, because he didn’t show up for reading class for a long time, I thought we would have to repeat again, but we actually made a very big progress. When we first started he didn’t even know letters. But he actually remembered this time and after an hour of working with him, at the end he could actually start to read! We started with syllables and then we finished he was reading real words. I was so happy about it and he was very happy too! When I told him that he really made progress he was very proud, and you could see it on his face. The next day I told him I wanted to take a picture of him reading and put it on the internet to show everyone because I was so proud of his progress, and he was so happy! You could really see it in his smile.”

We are so proud of Leonie and Luis, and look forward to updating you on his progress over the coming years!
Update : March 2014
Luis is now reading by himself and will often jump into other children’s reading classes to help out and show off his skills.
Leonie and Luis reading together

Leonie and Luis reading together

Luis studying hard at Edu+ with his fellow "Tigers"

Luis studying hard at Edu+ with his fellow “Tigers”


Volunteer Spotlight

Volunteer Spotlight

Volunteer Sean teaching the kids how to play chess

Volunteer Sean teaching the kids how to play chess

Education Plus could not operate without the dedication, sacrifice, and hard work of our Volunteers.  Our spotlight this month shines on not one, but all of our very talented and very special current Vols.

We have quite a few Vols that are with us for several months, which gives the children a sense of continuity and security.  It also gives the Vols an opportunity to develop relationships that will last a lifetime.

Our current Vols come from many different parts of the world including Belgium, Canada, Germany, Indonesia, Nicaragua, and the US.  They are all involved to do the grocery shopping, feeding, cleaning, teaching, counseling, tutoring, keeping track of attendance, home visits, event planning, accounting, and much, much more.

Because we are a small grass roots organization, it is very easy to add components to our program.  If a Volunteer comes up

Inga and Leonie during reading class

German volunteers Inga and Leonie teaching reading class

with an idea, we can try it out and see if it works.

That is the case with our new reading program which was conceived and implemented by Leonie and Inga, two of our Vols from Germany. The reading program appears to be on its way to great success. Leonie also came up with the idea of an Eco Day, where the students collected plastic waste from around the neighborhood and learned about recycling.

We also have an entire family from the US, the Walsh family from the Seattle area.  Jerry, the father, has been a great help in the construction of our new latrine, Annissa, the mother, is a nurse and along with many other duties, takes care of any medical issues that the students may have.

Daughter Keeley, 18, is our “Executive Intern” as she wants to start her own educational and social project someday.  Keeley is involved in many administrative duties and is wise beyond her years, with a work ethic that we are sure her parents are very

Annissa Walsh reading with the children

Annissa Walsh reading with the children

proud of.  Younger daughter Erin, volunteers at the program when she is not in her own classes, helping with mealtime and keeping things clean and orderly.  Not to forget little Dex, who has made friends with many of the younger students and is usually found playing games with them, despite the language barrier.

Sean, a recent high school graduate, also from the US, has become quite the teacher and is a great role model for our boys.  He has a natural gift for communicating with the students on their level has been an all around big help with day to day operations.

Dissa, a native of Indonesia who has traveled the world and has a Master’s Degree in Accounting, has put her skills to good use by handling our accounting and finances.  She has also volunteered to continue working with us remotely, via computer, after

Volunteer Joyce Dubuc from Canada

Volunteer Joyce Dubuc from Canada

she departs Nicaragua in late November.

Joyce, a wonderful Canadian woman with a huge heart and love for children, volunteers with us part time as she is involved with several organizations in Nicaragua.  Joyce has supplied our students with dental supplies and shoes along with her smile and her gentle way with them.

Most recently, we have also added Luna from Belgium, and Laura-Ann, from Germany, who are still becoming acclimated to our program and to Nicaragua.  They are both showing great potential and we are sure that their ideas, contributions, and work in the next several months will make a big difference in the lives of our students.

Next week, we welcome Karoline, also from Germany, to Education Plus. We will have to wait and see what talents and ideas she brings, but we are sure she will be a positive asset to Education Plus.

Volunteers Keeley, USA, and Dissa, Indonesia

Volunteers Keeley, USA, and Dissa, Indonesia

This tribute to our current Volunteers would not be complete without Valeria, whom we call our “Voluntaria Número Uno”.  She is the 21 year old daughter of the family that most graciously gives us the use of their home to operate Education Plus.  Valeria has been working with us for over a year and can be found helping to prepare meals, washing dishes, or reading with the children.  Valeria is also attending English Classes in Granada, courtesy of one of our donors, and is scheduled to graduate from Computer School in December.

And of course, a special thank you to Monica and Jim, or fearless leaders who dedicate their time to making Education Plus run.  Together, our Volunteers truly are an international family, one that is giving valuable time, effort, and most importantly, love, to the most impoverished, yet so very special, children of Nicaragua.

A Really, Really BIG THANK YOU to:

Leonie Hohnholz and Jerry Walsh, working on our new latrine

Leonie Hohnholz and Jerry Walsh, working on our new latrine

Past Volunteer Spotlights


This post was written by Education Plus Development Director Jim Durham

Education Plus Weekly Volunteer Meeting

Education Plus Weekly Volunteer Meeting

Medical Brigade Comes to Pantanal

S0385061On Friday, 8 November 2013, our lovely barrio, Pantanal welcomed a medical brigade team from Bless Back Nicaragua. With a help from our long-time friend, Naomi Heidorn and her organization, Los Rayos de Esperanza, more than twenty doctors and nurses visited our school that day, to provide our children and their families a better access to health services. We are very grateful for this opportunity and judging from the number of people who came, the barrio was very thankful as well.

We set up our school to fit six consultation tables. A team of approximately two doctors and nurses attended each table. Our volunteers prepared a list of our children and their family members’ name. Based on that list, we called our children to come with their family, so that everyone could get examined and received medicines when it was needed. We measured their height and weight as well as asked them to write down their health concerns. After the examination, our children received a banana and a goodie-bag prepared by the team of doctors.

Sounds easy enough? Apparently not really. Although our volunteers had been informing about this opportunity to the children and their family member from couple days in advanced, there were many children that came alone. Some of them told us that their parents were working and some told us that the parents did not want to come. However, as a precaution, the doctors refrained from giving medicines to the children if they came alone. Therefore, our volunteers accompanied the children who came alone, listened to the exam and later informed the family directly about the children’s condition.



That is when I realized that the children are like family to us volunteers. When some of them were nervous waiting in line, we held their hands and told them everything is going to be okay.  Accompanying them during the exam has also helped us to learn about their health condition that they never share before. From the session, we figured out that Moises, our 12-year-old English class student told us that he only eats once in a day, which is with us at dinnertime. The doctors gave him vitamins and packaged potatoes.

We also listened to some heartbreaking stories. One of them came from Teresa, one of our pre-schoolers. She came alone to the examination and had to be accompanied by one of our volunteers. After the examination, our volunteer, Laura, went to Teresa’s house to explain to her parents about the medicine that Teresa needs to take. Laura then found out that Teresa’s sister is autistic. However, since the family does not have sufficient knowledge about autism, they always refer her as “crazy”.  At the moment, with the help from Los Rayos de Esperanza we are looking for special school that can accommodate her needs.

We are very thankful for this opportunity. Bless Back Nicaragua and Los Rayos de Esperanza have helped us to provide health aids to more than 100 children and their family members that day. We received medicines, check ups and other medical attention needed by our community. The children and the family in Pantanal are also grateful for the visit. Some of the children even told us that they would like to be doctors when they grow up, when we asked why, one of them answered, “Because they make my mom feel better and put a smile on her face.” Yes, there were a lot of smiles that day.

Parents and their children waiting to be seen by the doctors

Parents and their children waiting to be seen by the doctors




Visit from Neighbors to Nicaragua

Friday, July 5, and Monday, July 8 Education Plus received a visit from Chuck Selvaggio, Michael Lucey, and Michael Garcia of Neighbors to Nicaragua.  Neighbors to Nicaragua is an American/Nicaraguan organization that started in 2011 to help the at-risk children of Nicaragua through the promotion of education, the support of the permanent shelter, and the the provision of food to hungry children.   Rather than giving funds out or running their own programs,  Neighbors to Nicaragua has chosen to partner with organizations sharing their same mission and already operating in Nicaragua but in need of assistance.  Twice a year, at least one representative from N2N travels to Nicaragua and personally goes with those for whom funds are intended to purchase supplies, pay rent, help with school and medical needs, etc.

Neighbors to Nicaragua became aware of Education Plus through one of it’s board members, a local Granadino named Michael Garcia, who met Executive Director Monica Loveley in Granada in 2012.

The story of N2N’s visit is best told through their eyes and the words of Chuck Selvaggio:

We arrived on Friday with a suitcase filled by Greg Stephens, one of our donors, with new clothing, school supplies, and hygiene products.

Chuck Selvaggio shows donations to volunteer Isabel Proell

On Monday we spent the day responding to the needs as we could.  We met Francis (at teacher) and the accountant, Amanda at 10:30 and spent over an hour in Gonper, the school-supply store in Granada. We ended up buying a good number of supplies for the children which we brought back to the school.




In addition to the school supplies, we needed to build a walkway from the class area to the latrine. Currently, it is all dirt. When it rains, it turns to mud. We also needed to extend the roof overhang to maximize the shade and minimize the mud further. We went to buy the construction supplies. We started here to buy the laminates and cement.  Then, onto the lumber yard for the wood.  We went to another place to buy gravel and sand for the gravel. Then, onto a food warehouse and the local budget supermarket to buy and deliver supplies for the children:


Mike Lucey and Michael Garcia carrying out roofing to cover the back eating area


Michael Garcia helping to carry in 100lb bags of beans!


N2N at the lumberyard purchasing more construction supplies

12 cases of milk, beans, veggies, cooking oil, and more

12 cases of milk, beans, veggies, cooking oil, and more

Neighbors to Nicaragua plans on continuing to support Education Plus and the children of Pantanal for the long term.  We were so happy to host Chuck, Michael L. and Michael G. at the project and are extremely grateful for their truly impactful efforts.  We look forward to posting photos of the results of the construction soon!  Gracias N2N!


Chuck Selvaggio interacting with the students on Friday activity day

For more information on Neighbors to Nicaragua see:


New Intro Video made by Los Angeles Filmakers

Thank you to Jordan and Jahmin Lerum of Malibu, California for putting together this short introductory video for us.  Jordan and Jahmin are professional filmmakers who were inspired by the Education Plus mission and wanted to contribute!  Have a watch below 🙂

Nicholas Wu and Dylan Goitz, 17, United States

Nicholas Wu and Dylan Goitz of University of Liggett High School, with one of the jars they made to collect change for Education Plus

Volunteer Spotlight – Nicholas Wu and Dylan Goitz

Nicholas Wu and Dylan Goitz, both 17, are currently juniors at University Liggett High School in Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan. Nicholas and Dylan became involved with Education Plus after hearing Executive Director Monica Loveley come speak to the school about her work with the children.  Learning about Education Plus and the children of Pantanal inspired Nicholas and Dylan to make a difference in a very real way.

After a brief preliminary meeting with Monica, Nicholas and Dylan struck out on their own, leading several different initiatives to fundraise for Education Plus. The first was to set aside half of the profits from the school dance for Education Plus.  Next, they dedicated a paid dress-down day to Education Plus, and set up a donation bin in the main lobby of the school. With these initiatives, Dylan and Nicholas managed to raise $800 in just over a month!

Nicholas says:

When Monica came and spoke at Liggett, I felt inspired to go and make a difference in the world. Given all of the death and destruction in our world, I wanted to do something that would help people who were in dire need of assistance. I think that education is a fundamental right that should not be deferred for any child, so this was the perfect way for me to get involved in that field. I got a few people together who interested in helping, and we decided to start a fundraising campaign for Education Plus. With the money we raised, I hope that Education Plus can help break the poverty trap for the Nicaraguan children it helps, helping them to achieve a better life. My experience with Education Plus has been an overwhelmingly positive one, helping me to give back to the world as thanks for all of the opportunities with which I have been endowed. For this work with Education Plus, I am immensely grateful.

Dylan adds:

I got involved because I value children’s education because it is the only way to escape poverty.

Nicholas is  involved in the Civic Orchestra in downtown Detroit as well as the Liggett debate team. He hopes to study something related to policy in college. Dylan loves the sport of rowing and wishes to study engineering in college.

Thank you Dylan and Nicholas for your hard work, for spearheading these initiatives, and for caring about the future of the children of Pantanal.  You can be sure that the funds you raise will go a long long way towards helping us make sure that the children are fed, educated, and provided with school supplies!!

Beach Trip 2013


Education Plus Annual Beach Day


The children with their sponsor, Gerry Webb of Casa del Agua

On Saturday, April 20th, 44 students, along with the staff and volunteers of Education Plus, made our 2nd annual trek to the beach for a day of fun, food, sun, and surf. This year the group traveled to the Nicaraguan village of San Juan del Sur, about 2 hours away on the Pacific coast.  As with last year’s trip, this year’s trip was sponsored by Gerry Webb of Casa del Agua in Granada, with food provided by two generous donors from North America. Students were selected based on their conduct in class and attendance.

The day started early as volunteers gathered at the school to prepare the food for the day. Of course the kids were all early as well in anticipation as most of them had never seen the ocean and were very, very excited!

After our traditional banana snack, the two buses were loaded and arrived in San Juan with squeals of delight from the children. Some kids were a bit apprehensive of the water at first, but it didn’t take them long to jump in and enjoy the waves. Thanks to a mixture of local and foreign volunteers, we were able to make sure that every child had an adult taking care of his/her safety at all times.  During the course of the day there was sand castle building, soccer with an american football, kite flying, burying each other in the sand, and of course, lots of splashing and horse-play in the surf.  The kids just could not get enough of being in the water!

For lunch the kids were served two different types of sandwiches, coleslaw, hard boiled eggs, cookies, and milk.

After a couple more hours of wet fun, it was time to head back to Pantanal, but not before a surprise treat. The children were lined up and taken to the local Eskimo Ice Cream Shop for ice cream cones!

Back on the buses and home to Pantanal, a lot of very tired and smiling children had experienced a day they’ll always remember.

Thank you to Gerry Webb, Shirl Lindenberg, and Nadia Ishmael for making this trip possible; for expanding the children’s horizons, rewarding them for their hard work over the past several months, and providing them with an incentive to keep on studying!  A very big thank you also to our wonderful local volunteers and Sabrina, Lena, Francesca, Kenny, Emma, Charlie, and Hannah for assisting us on this day.

April Updates

PicMonkey Collage3

Please Like us on Facebook to show your support: www.facebook.com/eduplusnicaragua

Hello everyone,

Long time no updates, but I promise you this one will be a good one :).

In the last three months, thanks to our incredible supporters from around the world, we managed to send all of our students back to school with backpacks, provide many with new clothes and shoes, host a big Easter party for the students, and build a roof and flooring for the outside part of the school house thus tripling our capacity during rainy season, just for starters!

The biggest news is that starting in May, we are completely overhauling our curriculum to teach intensive English to all of our students, from pre-school to 6th grade, for the next 6 months. Why?

1. The point of Education Plus is not just to graduate our students from high school, but, above all, to give them the tools that they need to succeed in life.  In the context of Nicaragua, English is the #1 tool that they need to go on to higher education (even internationally) and to find steady, well-paid employment.

2. After they learn English, we can begin to teach some of their regular subjects (such as math) in English.  Besides killing two birds with one stone, this will allow our volunteers who speak limited Spanish to be able to participate more in teaching and tutoring.

3. All of the children, even the preschoolers, really, really want to learn English.  How great for us to be able to sate their thirst for learning!

Our lead teacher will be Mickey Dodson from Chavalos Nicos, a certified ESL instructor who has over 10 years of experience teaching English to impoverished children in Nicaragua. Over the years she has graduated dozens of students fluent in English and we are incredibly lucky that she is willing to volunteer her time with us.  Older students who are currently on English scholarship to ABC school and who are not able to attend our program because they attend high school in the afternoon will continue attending ABC with their sponsors’ support.

We will still be breaking the children up into three groups, and now while one group is in session learning English outside, the other has the opportunity to receive remedial help with their schoolwork inside of the schoolhouse.  Students will still have the same opportunities to “earn” school supplies to facilitate their public school attendance as well.  The nutrition program will also continue, to the extent that we can afford it.

Right now, we really need help with teacher stipends and food for the children.  To implement the English curriculum, we have three teachers who are willing to join us for a total of $250/month – one to assist with English teaching, one to lead the tutoring program, and Mickey needs her transportation covered.  We really need these teachers to make sure the program is a success, especially because we have large class sizes and periods when we don’t have any volunteers.

Thanks to Samaritan’s International, we are able to provide fortified rice daily to the children. And recently, Leslie Warren of International Peace Projects donated part of her yucca crop to her (we went out to the campo to harvest it!  So much fun!). However, we still need to come up with the funds to purchase fresh vegetables, milk, and fruit. We also found a sponsor for transport for a beach trip to San Juan del Sur this year for 40 of our top attendees, but in order to take advantage of this, we need to raise the money to feed and insure the children on this day as well, approximately $80.  If you can help us with any of these things, especially sponsoring a teacher, please please click on one of the links below:

To make a reoccurring donation, click here and be sure to select reoccurring donation at check out

To make a US tax-deductible contribution, click here to donate to us via our partner, Omprakash.org

To make a donation via Paypal, click here and send to donate@eduplusnicaragua.org.  Please make sure to send this as a personal and not commercial transaction, to avoid fees.

As always, you can see where your donations are going by CLICKING HERE and clicking “View Education Plus Nicaragua Expense Report”.  We upload receipts for as many expenditures as possible.  Because of the particularities of the Omprakash accounting platform, if we used funds other than Omprakash donations (cash, paypal, Wepay), we have to report the expense as $0, but we put the actual amount spent in the description area.

As a highlight, it is incredibly moving to see our students with their bleached out malnourished hair growing out black at the roots, thanks to our nutritional program. Here are just two examples:












Finally, one big huge thanks to all of our donors who keep this program afloat, and to all of the volunteers, both local and foreign, who have come to assist us over the past year. We wouldn’t exist without you!

Ever gratefully,

Monica Loveley

Executive Director, Education Plus Nicaragua

Semana Santa Celebrations

A Very Happy Easter

Easter week is a very festive time in Nicaragua with lots of parades and parties. With the gracious and generous sponsorship of the Davison family from Washington, DC, the students of Education Plus were treated to their very own Easter Fiesta!!

The dance music started shortly after 10 in the morning, the line of kids for the “Moonwalk Bounce House” was long, you could smell the cotton candy and popcorn in the air, along with the chatter and laughter of over 100 very happy children and many of their parents.









One of many highlights of the party was the Dance Contest. There were contests for different age groups as well as one for the staff and volunteers. What a hoot!!  It seems that Education Plus has some pretty talented dancers!


Staff and volunteers dancing to the endless amusement of the rest of the community

Along with the popcorn and cotton candy, the students were served boxed juice drinks and snacks.  Even more exciting, the children received copies of the photos taken of themselves over the last three months, which they are always anxious to receive. To have more than a photo or two of oneself is a rare thing in Pantanal, so the kids are ecstatic when we give them photos.  Finally, to top it all off, at the end of the party, all of the students were presented with Easter gifts that were donated by friends, family, and classmates of the Davisons.  Other than Christmas, we do not usually just give things away to the children, but rather we give them the opportunity to “earn” toys, clothes, and school supplies though good attendance and behavior.  A holiday like Easter, however, was a good excuse for us to depart a bit from the normal rules.

Muchas Gracias to the Davisons and a big thank you to Jordan Lerum from California for bringing down bunny and froggie ears and over 500 photos to the children at our Semana Santa party.  A big thank you also to all of our volunteers and the locals who helped make this party come together for the children.

To see more photos, visit our album on Facebook by clicking HERE

Jexael, Gabi, and Jenner with their friend Jordan Lerum

Jexael, Gabi, and Jenner with their friend Jordan Lerum