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

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!!


Camilla with one of her favorite students, Yorgina, and one of our other great volunteers, Lisanne

Camilla with one of her favorite students, Yorgina, and one of our other great volunteers, Lisanne

Volunteer Spotlight – Camilla Werle

Watching the children that we serve learn and grow is very exciting, but also watching our volunteers learn and grow is just as exciting. This is the case with Camilla Werle, a young woman fresh out of high school who came to us last September from Lustenau, a little town in the west of Austria.  Here Camilla shares a bit with us about her experiences with Education Plus:

What has been the best part of your experience at Education Plus?

I don’t have only one best part of my experiences by Education Plus, there a lot! One of them was to see how the children changed and developed so much in only 6 months. For example Gabi (5), first she was very shy, didn’t talk a lot, and wasn’t able to write letters and numbers.  Now she talks a lot and has the will to learn new things. Another example is Yorgina (12). When I visited the project the first time I met her as a very shy, malnourished girl that wasn’t able to read and write. Now she can read and write and her physical condition has improved a lot.

I also see a marked improvement in the behavior of the children since we started with the “Principios”. The first month I stayed in the project the children didn’t show a lot of respect towards the teachers or their classmates. They were yelling during the lessons, contradicted against the teacher and talked very bad about each other. Today they respect a lot more their teachers and the classmates too.

Additionally I was so stunned and stirred how much confidence and love the children gave me since the first time I was in the project. They hardly knew me, but immediately they took me in their hearts.

Furthermore it makes me every day so happy to see, how happy the children are that you are coming to the project, attempting to teach them new things about the world that they had never heard. Most days they are very early at school, usually already an hour before lessons begin, only because they want to welcome you and spend a little bit time with you before the lesson starts.

What motivated you to do this type of work?

After the last stressful year at high school, I wanted to take a break before starting university.  But I didn’t want to take this break in form of a well-paid employment, instead I wanted to help people that haven’t the possibility to study and do a gap-year as I am able. Also I wanted to improve my Spanish and get know to a new culture as well a new mindset of the people.

How would you say you have grown during your time with Education Plus?

I have grown personally and emotionally. The new experiences about the culture, the mindset of the Nicaraguan people, and the beauty of the landscape made me think a lot, and changed my way of thinking about many things. First I was really annoyed and angry about many of the local ways [littering, hitting, etc.], and I didn’t understand their behaviors in certain moments, because they were so different than my ones. So I first had to learn to deal with this dissimilarity. Today I don’t approve things I view as wrong, per se, but I know why they commit it and I don’t take so much offense about them.

What would you say to someone who is considering volunteering with Education Plus?

You should definitely take the chance to volunteer with Education Plus. In any case you will profit from the experiences that you definitely will make about the children, especially you will be amazed about their lovely way, the ways of the people and the culture. You will also see the poor part of a country and their people with their zest of life, even if they are poor and sometimes don’t know how they will pay their food or bills for the next days.

What is the most satisfying experience you have had during your time with Education Plus?

The most overwhelming experiences I had with Yorgina (12). When I came to the project I was very shocked when I first saw her. Her physical conditions were very bad. She was malnourished, had scabies, seemed to be scruffy and was definitely too tiny for her age. Furthermore she wasn’t able to read or write, even not her name. During my period at Education Plus she developed physical and mentally. I am exceptionally pleased about the fact, that the one-to-one lessons deliver fast results. Now Yorgina is able to write her name and to read easy texts, she has grown a bit and has a well-groomed appearance; especially you can see a significant improvement to the condition of her hair [which was once lacking pigment due to malnutrition].

The many time and effort I invested in her, she gives me back with a lot of love and affection, which is more valuable than money. And I am always so happy to see her everyday more and more developed, happy and with more zest of life.

So what are you going to do now?

I am going to visit my grandmother in Brazil, because I miss her so much after not seeing her for 3 years. The time in Nicaragua enhanced these feelings more. After this time I’m going to study at university medicine or chemistry, at the moment I’m not completely sure which exactly.

What suggestions do you have for Education Plus to improve its program and services to the children?

Because of the good communication between the volunteers and Monica and Jim the suggestions of the volunteers directly flow into the project. So my only recommendation that I think that should be valued a bit more, is that Education Plus should find a building or a property to build up a new school, without a family that lives in it. I’m sure that Marta’s family loves to help us and the children, but after some time it would disturb every family and person to let 150 kids in his own house every day, and not to have a quite minute from 9:00 till 17:00.

 Thank you Camilla for all of your time and effort helping the children of Pantanal!

The children reciting our shared values

The children reciting our shared values