November has already been a busy month for us here in Nicaragua. This past week, we had a special treat: a pizza party for the children hosted together with our friends at Neighbors to Nicaragua and courtesy of Gary from the United States. The kids live for these pizza parties – for many, their first pizza party at the program was their first time eating pizza ever.
After a wild ride at customs, all of our students grade 2 and above recently received solar reading lights generously donated from our friends at Esperanza Market,. These lights will allow our children to study and do homework at night despite lacking electricty in their homes. N2N also brought down lego donations and we have started a daily lego club :). So thank you to all who responded to our facebook campaign and donated legos – and have a look at your donations in action below!
Three weeks ago we launched our child sponsorship program. We are happy to announce that you generous donors have really stepped up and so far 25 children have been matched with sponsors :). To see who has been sponsored, just CLICK HERE and scroll down to the bottom of the page. The kids are soooo excited to write to their sponsors.
FYI to sponsors: You will receive your first letters and photos from your children via e-mail on or before Monday, December 7, or snail mail sent out on December 14th. Got questions? Just send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’d like to share a story about one of our newest students, Osbaldo (pictured). Osbaldo is 11 years old and has been studying English with us since July of this year. Super energetic, outgoing, and with perfect attendance, Osbaldo is a middle child of twelve. Osbaldo dreams one day of starting his own business, just like his oldest brother. This brother started a business buying bags and bottles from people who gather them in the dump, washing them, and then re-selling them. Osbaldo works for this his brother on weekends, and looks up to and admires him greatly. During his one-on-one conference with his English teacher at our program, he expressed his dreams of going to university and then starting his own business as well. When his teacher asked him who could help him, he said, “you.” It was obvious that, with such a big family, he doesn’t get much attention at home. His teacher told him she told him she would help him as much as she could, but that if he wanted to realize his dreams he would first and foremost have to depend on himself. Osbaldo became overwhelmed and started crying. He knew he had only himself to rely on, he told her, but would work hard and do whatever it took to realize his dreams.
As always, a big THANK YOU for your support, support that allows us to work with children like Osbaldo to help them realize their dreams.
For the third Christmas in a row, Education Plus celebrated Christmas Day with a Grand Fiesta! And for the very first time, we were able to have the party in our own permanent home, Casa de los Suenos, the beautiful facility that we opened back in June to serve these amazing kids.
The day before, on Christmas Eve, the Volunteers and Staff distributed brand new backpacks loaded with school supplies and treats to all of the students. They were all so happy and grateful to get some Christmas surprises.
Thanks to all of our wonderful donors who sponsored the children. We took videos of all the students receiving their gifts and sent them to their individual sponsors. Most everyone received their video on Christmas Day thanks to a lot of effort by a little elf.
Then, on Christmas Day, the Fiesta Grande began! Of course, as in past years, there was much food, fun, games, dancing, and treats for the 200+ children and their families, but this year we ended it with a bang. Fireworks! Just after the sun went down, we turned down the overhead lights and turned on the Christmas lights. The children lit sparklers and the staff and volunteers shot off the rockets and the display fireworks. It was a spectacular ending to a wonderful day!
Thank you to all of our donors ( you may want to mention the donors who supported the party) , volunteers, and staff who made this magical day happen! Education Plus Nicaragua is very lucky and blessed to have had such a successful year and yet another incredible Christmas Fiesta!
On June 16th, 2014 a dream came true when the ribbon was cut at Casa de los Sueńos (The House where Dreams are Made), and the gates of a brand new schoolhouse opened to a brighter future for the amazing children of Education Plus! A simple ceremony, yet a major step forward in the ability to serve the needs of the students and their families. These beautiful children now have a permanent place to call their own to grow, learn, and mature into productive, responsible, and educated citizens who will someday be able to leave behind the vast poverty in which they now live.
Marta Urbina, the local woman who has allowed the program to operate from her home for the last year and a half, had the honor of cutting the ribbon. Education Plus now has the capacity to teach and feed up to 200 students per day in a clean, quiet, safe, and local center just for them!
The new facility features two classrooms, two bathrooms with flush toilets, a storage room, a modern and sanitary kitchen, a playground, and a covered eating area. Education Plus is now teaching not only English, but Spanish literacy and mathematics as well.
Although it was a rainy day, the weather could not dampen the spirits of over 300 people who filled the grounds. Parents, family members, community partners, and invited guests were given tours of the facility along with a brief meeting outlining the program’s new schedule and services. Everyone was treated to a delicious lunch and the children laughed and played on the brand new playground equipment.
It is hard to believe that in only a year and a half Education Plus Nicaragua has transformed and grown from a dirt floor classroom in the hot sun with 2 classes and about 30 students into a beautiful, brand new building and grounds with 9 classes a day serving nearly 200 children!
All of this certainly could not have been accomplished without the support of donors, community partners, volunteers, and friends. Education Plus’s challenge now is to create and maintain sustainability. With continued support, there is no doubt that the future is bright for Education Plus and our very special children and their community.
Education Plus feeds the children daily and teaches English and academics, social skills, values, and provides recreation, but the program’s leaders believe that the most important factor in the children’s success is that everything that is provided for them is applied with unconditional love and absolute respect. The students pass this along to each other and their families on a daily basis. The reward to those involved with Education Plus is in observing this loving and respectful behavior along with seeing the students’ positive educational and social growth.
Thanks to everyone involved for making this new beginning happen and for loving the children of Education Plus Nicaragua! We look forward to more great news and progress to come!
On January 31st 2014’s Friday Activity Day we welcomed Maida Berenblatt, therapist, counselor, and professor. She set up an activity with the children along with a song, “Why do you love yourself?” She is an expert and author of several books on self esteem, personal growth, and wellness planning. Maida has appeared on several TV talk shows, including twice on the Oprah Winfrey Show.
“Think of six people in your life that you love, trust, and value. Don’t take too long, just the first six people that fit this description. One, two, three, four, five, six. There, now you have them. Consider these six people, did you make the list? Do you love yourself?”
This is how Maida started off her visit with the kids in Pantanal, with the help of volunteer translator Laura Leibold. The visit continued like this, as she asked the students if they loved themselves, and why. The kids really took to Maida’s presentation, the watched, silently engaged, taking in all that she had to say. She called out individual students and asked them to list a few things that they loved about themselves. For most students, it took a few moments to find an answer; this isn’t a question that most of them are usually posed. While it took a bit of coaxing, the results were spectacular.
Each child was given their own piece of paper where they wrote down a few things that they loved about themselves along with a picture. Their answers ranged from Jorge’s, “I love that I play soccer well” to Yuleydi’s, “I love my soul and form of being.” Watching seventy children try to express what they loved about themselves really brought the room alive.
We will continue to implement Maida’s concepts, asking the students who show us completed work what they like about what they have done.
Here are a few examples of what the kids said:
“I love myself for my eyes and for my hair and for my skin and for my fingernails. And I take care of myself so that I’ll always be safe and healthy” -Maria Esperanza
“I love myself how I am.” -Pedro
“I like my eyes and also my heart because it helps the people. And I like my hands and my head because it always thinks of the poorer people.”
“I love myself for my intelligence and for the way I am. And I’m also proud because I speak a little English and I’ll do everything possible to learn English.” -Jenny Massiel
“I love myself for my eyes and also for my smile, and my heart, and my soul and life.” -Keyla
“I love my intelligence.” -Wendy
Thank you Maida for starting this important dialogue with the children of Pantanal!
Happy New Year from Education Plus Executive Director Monica Loveley and Intern Keeley Walsh!
We are thrilled to start 2014 with the happiest news we’ve ever had to share. Christmas 2013 was for sure the highlight of what has been an amazing year of growth for Education Plus and the children we serve. After months of fundraising, planning, and organizing, weeks of identifying uniform and shoe sizes, and hours in Managua’s Oriental market, everything finally culminated with our Christmas events on December 24th and 25th.
We finally began to see our hard work pay off on the morning of the 24th as we moved backpacks full of school supplies and gifts for 98 students, 39 of their brothers and sisters, and 2 entire families to the school in Pantanal. Even though we had told the children to arrive at the hour their normal class times, the whole barrio seemed to be there before the first class had even begun. The day was full of joy and surprises as the kids opened their backpacks to find school uniforms, new shoes, notebooks, colored pencils, pens, stickers, pencils, scissors, pencil sharpeners, blankets, pencil cases, cups, story books, clothes, coloring books, art supplies, socks and much more. The way the kids walked out of the room with their new backpacks on their back and proud grins on their face really said it all. Thanks to our generous donors we were also able to provide Christmas presents for 23 girls from an orphanage in Granada, as well as 50 children from another program at the other end of Pantanal. All in all, we were able to provide something for Christmas for over 200 children! Thank you sponsors!!!! Those of you who sponsored individual children will be getting personalized e-mails with photos as the kids finish their thank you notes this month.
December 25th started out the way it always has in Pantanal – the streets empty, silent and dusty. However, by 1pm the party company and volunteers had arrived and the children of Pantanal were lining up behind brinca brincas (or bouncy houses) as they were inflated. Jim noted how the behavior of our kids had significantly improved from last year as they patiently waited in line; most likely at least in part due to our program, which encourages behavioral improvement by providing structure with both consequences and rewards. The party included music, dance competitions, four piñatas, two bouncy houses, face painting and was full of excitement! Vigoron (a traditional Nicaraguan meal), cotton candy, and popcorn were served for 300 people, with over 500 community members attending the party throughout the day and beverages provided for all. The fiesta was definitely one of the highlights of our children’s lives and was made possible thanks to your support and a huge contingent of Christmas volunteers!
Click on the collage below to view more photos from this special day 🙂
Thank you all so much for making these amazing things happen for the children of Pantanal. We look forward to sharing even more smiles and successes with you in 2014!
Wishing a very happy 2014 to you all,
Monica, Keeley, Jim, and all of the children and volunteers of Education Plus
Short story about Jose Luis, October 2013, by Dissa Ahdanisa
It was sunny and hot in Pantanal, and the kids were having their English class with Francis, the beloved teacher. Like other volunteers, I was helping some of the kids finishing their exercise. We went to some tables to sit down and help them if they have some questions. We were doing numbers in English. Professor Francis wrote down some number and the kids had to write it in English. Some kids did know what they were doing, so they came to us to confirm their answers, which mostly were correct. However, some weren’t that fortunate. They didn’t know how to say the numbers in English, let alone write them down. And José Lopez was one of them.
This cute 8 year old boy can write well and understand the what he needed to do to finish the exercise. He can spell 1-10 in english, he can say 100, 200 and other big numbers, but when we mix it, e.g 432 or 215, he gets confused. Instead of writing “two hundred fifteen”, he wrote “twenty one five”. So to finish his exercise, I tried to explain (with my broken spanish, of course) to him what to write and how to say “215”.
There were 10 questions and although it was a bit slow, we managed to finish all. He looked very happy and I was too! Not only because I get to help him finish, but also because I get to learn how to say these numbers in Spanish, win win indeed! 😉
Anyway, what I didnt expect was at the end of the class, he came to me and gave me a folded paper. He didn’t say anything and left straight away after I took the paper. I read it and this is what he wrote:
Te mando esta carta y este corazon
(I send you this letter and this heart)
Te amo Dissa mucho mas
(I love you Dissa so much)
Jose y Dissa
(Jose and Dissa)
Te mando esta carta porque te quiero mucho mas.
(I sent you this letter because I love you very much)
Te amo mucho mas y te mando esta estrellas.
(I love you very much and I send you these stars)
Te amo mucho
(I love you so much)
Guess what? It’s a love letter! Yay! Hahaha I got my first love letter from José :). He drew a heart, lots of stars, and our name in every available space. He is such a sweetheart and his letter made my day. I didn’t know why our simple tutoring session can make him write this cute letter..
On 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.
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:
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:
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!
For more information on Neighbors to Nicaragua see:
Education Plus Annual Beach Day
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.