The Scholarship Program Funded by You!

The ability to change the direction of your life–the opportunity to choose a different path–is what it means to be free.  It means being able to leave a job you don’t like to pursue one you do.  Freedom means we can dream of a better world and make it so. 

To be free we only need a few things.

We need to know we’ll survive.

We need education.

We need credit.

We need accountability.

Here’s how your donations helped bring more freedom to a large group of children in Nicaragua, and how you can help deepen that impact for years to come.

 

A playground in the relocated community of Villa Guadalupe

20k in my pocket

The first time I went to Nicaragua, you sent me down with $250.  The second time you sent me with $775.  We did some cool things, and we learned a lot about the people. 

This time, you sent me with a whopping $1,440, donated from 27 people, ranging from PayPal transfers to upturned coin jars.  I was astonished and humbled.

Finding somewhere to donate those funds was a challenge, bigger than ever before.

I could give $275 to three people and not have a lot of questions to consider.  I could give $775 to a few people directly and the rest through a nonprofit and feel great about it.  Over the past few years, I’ve studied many nonprofits and fell in love with the idea that a donation can become so much more than that donation, if it’s used well.  $100 can make a small or a big difference, for good or for bad, depending on how its given.

$1,440 would pay rent for a family in the US for one month, and maybe put some groceries in the refrigerator, but in Nicaragua it equates nearly 9-months of income for the average person (according to the World Bank).  Put in terms of the US economy, where the average individual income is $26,695, it would be as if I were walking down the streets of Austin with $20,000, looking for someone to give it to.

(disclaimer: my economics isn’t perfect here.  I’m comparing the amount of time it takes to earn a certain amount of money, not how much goods that money will buy.  Put in terms of PPP, $1 in US is $10.36 in Nicaragua, so $1,440 would be $14,918.   My point is that I went down with 9 months of income). 

 

Carpenters in the Mercado Oriental, one of the biggest markets in Central America, making doors.

 

Roots of the program

Three years ago, on that second trip to Nicaragua, I met Rosa.  She was working in La Chureca as a nurse and a social worker, and she requested my help to send a couple of children to private school outside of the landfill.

She said it provided a much better opportunity for the children–smaller classes, more discipline, periodic drug paraphernalia checks, English lessons, a computer lab, and exposure to life outside La Chureca.  We looked into it, and in conjunction with the jewelry cooperative, in which we would sell jewelry made from recycled materials by women of La Chureca, we determined we could make a commitment to support two or three children long term.  I wrote about their stories, and some of you sponsored the children.  Four have been going to private school ever since.

 

Rosa, buying paint for the classroom in the Mercado Oriental.

New opportunities

Rosa never rests.  On this trip to Nicaragua, she had a new vision for the children in the community.

La Chureca has changed.  The people have been moved t Villa Guadalupe, a large neighborhood of concrete housing built specifically for them and other groups of the extremely poor.  They were given a home, streets, police safety, playgrounds, and an occasional health clinic.  Some of the most bitter parts of the cycle of poverty have been removed, but they still face many challenges, including education.

 

One road among many in the Villa Guadalupe community

In a highly competitive country where childhood education isn’t mandatory, only 9% of children complete secondary school (the equivalent of Middle School and High School in the USA, grades 7-11).  Many children drop out to help support their family, and often school is seen as a drain on the family’s resources.  Uneducated, they’re less able to respond to their environment, and often follow the same occupational path as their parents.  They have children early, have to find a way to support them immediately, and become stuck economically.

Private school alone doesn’t beat the 9% statistic.  It helps in a massive way, but there are more obstacles than the classroom, and Rosa knew that.

Rosa doesn’t rest

Rosa wanted to rent a room outside of school where the kids could study and receive help with their homework.  She wanted them to have a computer, internet, a printer, some books to read.  She wanted to have a place where she could check on them daily.

I said I’d think about it.  With higher fixed monthly costs, it was going to be more difficult to find sponsors who were able to support the kids; this was a large ongoing commitment; I wasn’t involved enough to give it the oversight it would need; and I wanted to find a way for the families to pay to be a part of the program.

I met each of the kids in person, and talked with some of the parents.  After talking with a mother and father of the youngest girl on scholarship right now, I wrote in my journal:

“These are strong people that want the best for their daughter.  That is the best agent for change, and a place to study is superfluous.  We can give opportunity by providing scholarships, but it is up to these families and individuals to make the most of it.  If having this room provides a 10% increase in opportunity, but having private school provides a 75% increase, it makes more sense to use donations give more kids the opportunity for private school.”

I took a few days away from Managua to think things over, to consider why it didn’t feel right.  I studied, wrote, talked with mentors, and let it settle in, not willing to make a large ongoing commitment without believing in it 100%.  I knew the funding would be available, from the generosity I’ve seen from you all in the past.  The question was in missed opportunities, engagement from parents and children, and effectiveness.

I didn’t want to just help the first people we ran into, and ignore the rest.  I didn’t want to give something away for nothing in return, because I knew that when people pay for something they not only value it more but it’s also more effective.  I didn’t want to start something we wouldn’t finish.  On the other hand, in saying “yes” I would be responding to a strong “voiced need,” both from Rosa and from the students and parents I had talked to, and that’s the way I like to do things.

I had stalled for as long as I could – the trip was almost at an end.  I had a whopping $1,440 available to me and didn’t think I’d be able to find a place for it, but I was OK with that.

I said no.

Rosa had been thinking, too, and together we made some tweaks to the idea that brought everything into place.

We increased the program to 10 students to offset the increase in fixed monthly costs, and still make the scholarships accessible, and Rosa came up with a great way for the students to “pay.”

So now I present to you our work, Rosa’s vision, and one of the nonprofit organizations I hope you’ll choose to support continually.

Unidados en Esperanza (United in Hope)

United in Hope is an educational program that reaches out into an entire community, providing opportunity for those who want it the most.

We will provide Private-School scholarships to ten children in Villa Guadalupe.  There, they will receive more personal attention, more discipline and structure, exposure to life outside their community, and overall a better and more safe education than they would in the community’s public school.  They’ll learn English, they’ll have access to computer labs, they’ll be surrounded by children who value school as much as they do.  They’ll also be known in the community as a recipient of this scholarship.

To be a part of the program, a child can apply with Rosa.  To stay in it, they must keep their grades above 80%.  Best of all, and the reason we’re able to reach much farther than 10 children, each child will spend an hour every school-day tutoring other kids from the community.  If anyone needs help with their math homework, they’ll find Hector waiting there, willing to help.  If anyone needs help with a writing project, Cristina is there.  With them all, Rosa is there to help whoever she can and oversee the program.  Each student will be able to give their unique talents to help other kids in the neighborhood.

 

Ana Yanci tutors another child from the community
Ana Yanci tutors another child from the community

We rent a small room in Villa Guadalupe, part of one of the concrete houses built in the relocation program.  While I was there, we spent a few days equipping it with what they would need: paint, book shelves, a computer, a printer, a portable wifi signal, a door to close it off, and a lot of supplies.  Later, Rosa and the kids painted it and made it look great.  The building is rented to us by FunjoFudes, who, among many other things, provides pharmaceuticals to adults and children in the community.  It has a good courtyard in front where kids can sit, and a big playground next-door.  We also provide a decent compensation for Rosa ($100-$150/month), who will be traveling to the community each morning to work with the kids.

 

Three students and some of their parents, the core to the informal scholarship program over the past few years.
Three students and some of their parents–the core to the informal scholarship program over the past few years–posing before working on our little study room.

“United in Hope” was the name chosen by Rosa and the students, and I think it’s perfect.  All of us–students, parents, other kids in the community, Rosa, and us donors–are acting together to help bring children in the community the future they hope for, whatever that future may be.

Scholarship costs are $70 per student per month.  We would love you to join with us by providing a full or a half-scholarship for one of these children on an ongoing basis until they have completed their secondary education.

If you’d like to sponsor a student, write to me here (click).  Within the next couple of weeks, I’ll post the applications of the students and help match you with your student.

Look for an update within a few days for a specific breakdown of what your $1,440 paid for, and thank you so much for joining me in this experience.

 

Ana and Gretel starting the paint on those gray brick walls!
Ana and Gretel starting the paint on those gray brick walls
Rosa, her taxi-driver friend, and me, driving around to pick up supplies
The courtyard in front of the study room, where kids can pick up the wifi signal, study, and receive tutoring help.
Picking up Wifi!
Loading up the bookshelf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donate to a Nicaraguan Through Us — Round 3!

Hello, strangers!

 

It has been a long time, and time creates distance.  Some of you may be trying to place me in your memory, to remember why this blog sounds familiar.  Allow me to help.

 

IMG_2229

 

I’m a guy who travels and writes when he can, exploring the world and asking questions to those who give.  I’ve been to Nicaragua twice, and some of you came with me.  Together, we did some pretty cool things.  We got a wonderful man a new bed along with some baseball swag from his favorite team, we placed four (now five) kids through private school for the last three years, we bought and sold jewelry made by the women of La Chureca to help them create a new source of income, we bought a bike for a girl with Polio so her dad could take her to her therapy sessions, and we did a lot more as well.

 

We did what we could with a little of what we have, and we were all lifted because of it.  Those who received our gifts got something special – care and love from strangers thousands of miles away, in ways that helped them in their daily lives.  And we, in return, learned of their stories, received some of their strength, gained inspiration from their courage.  We connected, and we were all made more happy because of it.

 

Mariselda

 

And now it’s time to do it again!

 

Britney and I leave for Nicaragua in a couple of days, and we’d again like you to come with us.  With $250 on the first trip we did some great things, with $775 on the second we did even more.  My goal for this trip, like last time, isn’t to raise a certain amount of money, but to involve as many people as possible.  On our last trip we were joined by 33 people.  This time, let’s shoot for 40.  Donate $5, 10, $25, $100, it doesn’t matter how much.  Remember that 100% of your donation goes straight to a Nicaraguan.

 

Here’s how it works.

  • Donate:
  • Let me know that you donated so I can keep a tally and let you know where your donation went!  Click here to send me an email.
  • Share it on Facebook, email, or whatever you want.  Let’s see how many people we can get involved with this!  Something like “I donated $25, you guys should check it out and donate too!” with a link to this article so they can read what it’s about.
  • Subscribe to this blog, if you haven’t already, to receive the followup articles about the people you helped.

Thank you for everything!

 

Jefferson, The Weekend Philanthropist

 

“My mission is to experience the world of charitable giving through study and direct involvement in order to find an under-served people and arrive at a clear, informed, and bold focus that will define the organizations I help create. Oh, and to have an amazing time while doing it.”  

All Four Kids Are Going to School!

Happy news!  All four of the children now have a sponsor and will be attending private school!  Thanks so much to all those who offered to sponsor – we have the great problem of having too many sponsors and too few children ready to receive the scholarships!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

If you’d still like to help the community out, Manna Project International is doing some amazing work with them.  Also, I may have a few things up my sleeve for later this year . . . so stick around.

More on La Chureca:

Managua Nicaragua La Chureca Scavengers

Two Kids from La Chureca Looking For Sponsors

For the past year, my mom and I have sponsored two children from La Chureca, paying so they could go to a private school outside of the landfill.

The kids worked hard, but private school is difficult and there has been a lot of change going on around them, including the community being moved to concrete homes together with people from other extremely poor areas of Managua.

This year, our scholarship director in Nicaragua, a nurse who has been serving the people of La Chureca for over a decade and who volunteers her time to help administer these scholarships, has two more children who she thinks are up for the challenge of private school – all they need is the funding.

Benefits of private school over public school:

  1. Smaller class sizes.
  2. Higher discipline.
  3. Access to a psychologist, a library, and a computer lab.
  4. Incentives to be the best in their class (half-tuition paid for).
  5. ENGLISH!  This is huge.

Here’s how it works as a sponsor:

  • Just $25 each month for tuition
  • $80 at the beginning of the year for supplies, books, and a yearly fee from the school.
  • You’ll receive letters from your student and progress reports on how they’re doing.

There is a little bit of a time crush – If these two kids are going to attend private school this year, we actually need to get the money to them this weekend . . . . sometimes communicating back and forth via email is a little difficult, so I just received the student’s pictures today.

Without further ado . . . here are the potential students!

Ana will be going into first grade :)

 

This is Ana, and she will be going into the 1st grade 🙂

 

Nicaragua Scholarships

And this is Cristofer, who will be going into 3rd grade!

Let me know if you’re interested in sponsoring one of these promising children and I’ll get you some more info!

As you may know, a good education is one of the number one ways to help end the cycle of poverty.  In the words of Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Also, a little fact – your donations helped kick-start this whole program in 2012.  Thanks again for your help!

Christmas in La Chureca: Be Awesome and Buy Some Jewelry!

When I think about developing countries, one of the first things that comes to my mind is busy, hectic markets, people haggling for lower prices, and some serious pressure to buy every single thing from every person you pass.

Millions of different people search for their own ways to make a living, copying each other when someone finds something that works.  A guy hops on a bus to sell soda, riding with the bus for a few kilometers and shouting “Gaseosa! Gaseosa barrata!” over and over again, then gets off and rides another bus back, making a profit of 4 to 8 cents from each soda he sells.  People copy him and soon there is a vibrant market around buses: people selling nuts, ice water, bandanas, jewelry, candy, packets of fruit, everything you can think of.  (It’s a simplistic way of viewing it, but you get the point).

La Chureca

The tough and highly competitive economy is one of the things that drove people to the trash dumps to find a living – some of them went there and found that they could sell enough trash to survive, and others copied.  After a huge earthquake in the 70’s which left hundreds of thousands of people homeless, some people went to “La Chureca” and many have stayed ever since.

They’re at a crossroads now: the dump has been closed and one person from each family has been given a job at a recycling plant.  It’s very exciting!

But . . . there are still many problems, the largest of which is that they’ll actually be making less money per family than they were before.  They’re working hard to find new sources of income . . . and you can help.

Four months ago, Manna Project International brought some of the women together, paid a Nicaraguan jewelry-maker to teach them to make beautiful jewelry, and gave them supplies to start.  So . . .

This Christmas, buy the gift that keeps on giving!

Ha, I almost died putting that cliche on the computer, but . . . it works.  I’ll show you how.  With every piece of jewelry you buy, you:

  1. Help these women in their goal to find new income.  I really liked the jewelry I saw from them and want them to do well.  The more of these that sell in the States the more income these women have available to them, the more opportunities they have to get better at jewelry crafting.
  2. Are connected more to their story.  With how unique this jewelry is, people are going to ask you questions.  It’s a great chance to let more people know about poverty in Nicaragua and one great way of helping them pull out of it.
  3. Um . . . well, you look awesome, of course.

Every cent of revenue I get from this will go back into the community – either by buying more jewelry from them or by donating to Manna Project International.

So there ya go!  Be the awesome flower child you are, buy some amazing jewelry, and help out some of Nicaragua’s poorest (and great) women at the same time.  What more could we ask for?

Here’s my attempt at an awesome phrase for this whole thing . . . are you ready?

“Buy it because it’s beautiful.  Wear it because you’re . . . beautiful?  A hippie with some amazing taste in jewelry?  Awesome?”   Um, well . . . ya, that’s where my awesome jingle comes to an end.  I’m still ironing out the details, as you can tell.

Click here to go to the store:

Since you’re awesome and you made it this far in the blog post, here’s a coupon!  Use the code “ChurecaBlog” and you’ll get free shipping on anything over $18.  Yes, $18 seems random.

Some pics for your viewing pleasure

🙂

Do you want your jewelry shipped straight to someone else for Christmas?  Send me an email when you order and I’ll do that, include whatever personal message you want, and even gift wrap it for you.

Whew, giving just got easy.

4 Donation Projects Funded By You!

On my first trip to Nicaragua I asked you to donate a few bucks through me; I would keep my eyes open on my trip and get something nice for a random person along the way.  You donated $250 that went to three great people, and that article has become one of the favorites on this blog.  It showed many of us how far even a small donation can go in making someones day a little better and, I feel, connected us to those people in a real way.  When I opened up the donation pool for this trip 33 people were involved–family, friends, and readers–donating a total of $775!  The smallest donation was $5 and the largest was $100, and every one of those dollars counted.  Here are the stories of the four little projects we did we those donations.

Mariselda Bonía Martín

Buying a girl a bike in Nicaragua

Mariselda lives on Ometepe Island in the community of Los Ramos with her two parents and three siblings. She is 10-years-old, loves math and reading, and she also happens to have polio. Polio has affected her ability to walk normally, giving her stiff limbs and tight tendons that don’t respond well. Her parents started taking her to therapy when she was two-years-old, a long and expensive trip across the lake to Rivas.  The treatments went well and she learned to walk on her own, but over time her tendons have tightened again.  She can no longer walk safely, especially on steep and rocky paths around her home.

We approached their house with Ever Potoy, our new friend who was showing us around the community, and sat down to chat.  It took a little prodding to get her to talk with each question we asked, but we slowly got to know her.  After talking awhile with her mom and explaining what we do, I asked Mariselda what she would like us to do for her. She didn’t answer for a couple of minutes, but we waited, wanting to get her what she wanted more than what we thought she should have. I said, “If we could get you anything, what would you want?” At this point I hadn’t used any of the money in the donation pool – though I wasn’t going to use it all on one person, I wanted to do something important for her if I could.

Finally she answered: “To be able to walk.”  We spent the next twenty minutes asking what we could do to help her with that.  What she probably needs is another medical operation that could cure her of polio, but since we couldn’t afford that we went with the next best thing.

We used $184 for Mariselda (4,416 Córdobas)

  •  A new bike so her dad can take her to therapy – 2,000 Córdobas ($83)
  •  A seat for the back of the bike that Mariselda could sit on – 180 Córdobas ($7.50)
  •  A wrench for the bike – 100 Córdobas ($4.20)
  •  A new bed (she was sleeping on a wooden board with foam on it, we figured she deserved something nice just for her) – 1,500 Cóordobas ($62.50)
  • Some spending money for a few other things (tubes for the bike, a charger for her school computer that has educational games and stuff like that on it, and books) – 500 Córdobas ($20.80).

At her young age there still may be a chance that therapy will enable her to walk, but she needs to go twice a week.  With how busy both of her parents are it was impossible for them to do that on foot.  To help you understand their family’s income, every year Mariselda’s dad rents an acre and half of land for 2,500 Córdobas ($104). He plants beans, rice, and corn, and then sells that, earning about 5,000 Córdobas from each harvest ($208). I think there are two or three harvests each year.  Buying that bike on his own is probably something he never would have been able to do.

Mariselda with her bike, Ometepe

My friend Ever is going to continue sending pictures as she goes to therapy. I really hope her therapy works! She is a bright girl with a lot of potential, her family just didn’t have enough money to do this themselves.

La Chureca

The next three donation projects were all in La Chureca, Managua’s city dump, where over 1,000 people live, sorting through trash and selling what they can.  There are already some nonprofits doing great work to assist them with living healthily and transitioning to a different life. There are a lot of needs there.  The following three tell the story of La Chureca well, showing a variety of the issues that confront the people and the things that can be done to help.

Santa Reina

Santa Reina in La Chureca

Santa Reina was 6-years old when her family moved to La Chureca, coming in from the mountain farmlands of Matagalpa shortly after her mother died.  When her father couldn’t find any work they moved onto the trash dump to make enough money to survive.  Her father was abusive and negligent.  Santa Reina and her sisters had to find their own food until they got boyfriends and left home, Santa Reina at age 15, but they didn’t move away from the dump: it is home, it is the life they know.  Santa Reina told me,  “Even though it’s a house of plastic, here I am with my companion and my two children.”

A few months ago, Santa Reina became very pale and started bleeding from her gums.  The bleeding wouldn’t stop, she became increasingly weak, and finally went to the hospital where she stayed 42 days before leaving to be home with her kids.  She was diagnosed with a rare blood condition called aplastic anemia, an extremely dangerous disease in its advanced stages with Santa Reina.  Her doctor believes she only has a few more months to live.

Anemia, in its general and less severe form, is a condition that affects the usefulness of red blood cells.  Sickle Cell Anemia, for example, is a specific type of anemia in which red blood cells are crescent-shaped, inhibiting them from doing what they’re supposed to be able to do.  Anemia is common in impoverished areas.  Without enough nutrients like iron, B12, and folate, our bodies can’t produce the red blood cells it needs to operate healthily.

Aplastic anemia is an advanced and rare type of anemia affecting not only red blood cells, but the production of white cells and platelets as well.  Without enough red blood cells to carry oxygen, enough white blood cells to fight infection, and enough platelets to stop bleeding, those in advanced stages of aplastic anemia don’t live for long without treatment.  While many people in La Chureca are diagnosed with Anemia due to malnutrition, three have been diagnosed with aplastic anemia.  They happen to all live next to each other.

With a probability of 1.5 people out of 1,000,000 for someone to contract aplastic anemia (in the US, but it’s the only stat I have), the likelihood that three people who live next to each other will all contract the disease is almost impossible unless it was caused by a toxin common to all three.  The dump is very toxic, but John Doty, a doctor from Austin who helps fund the clinic, thinks the cause was likely lead.  Residents of La Chureca breathe fumes from burning trash, touch the toxins directly that are left behind on old trash, and have been known to fish and do laundry in the highly polluted pond by their community.

Pond in Managua's trash dump
Decades of trash runoff has accumulated in the pond. The highest toxicity levels have been found in the people who lived closest to it.

At this point, Santa Reina’s treatment is just about trying to help her have a comfortable life before she passes.  The permanent solution to this in the States is a bone marrow transplant or a treatment based specifically on the toxin that caused the condition.  Even with a bone marrow transplant, which would be very expensive, she probably wouldn’t live longer than five years more.

By getting blood transfusions, Santa Reina’s blood is replaced with the healthy blood of someone else.  Temporarily her body all the blood cells it needs again.  Volunteers say she’s instantly happy, energetic, and talkative after returning from the hospital.  As the days pass she becomes weak, begins bleeding from her gums again, and starts to faint easily.

Children in La Chureca
Yoanna and Sarah playing behind me while talking with Santa Reina. Sarah is one of the children with aplastic anemia

We used a total of $271 to fund the clinic in doing the following things:

  • To provide extra medical care for Santa Reina.  Right now she’s receiving a little more than one transfusion a month.  We wanted to help her have more frequent transfusions, if possible.   We hope more transfusions will mean she’s at home with her kids more often, something extremely important to her (when she was hospitalized for 42 days she eventually just got up and left because she didn’t want to be away from her kids for that long).
  • To pay for tests to see what caused the blood condition.  Though Santa Reina is at the end of her life, it’s possible that something could be done for the neighboring kids. With a better understanding of what caused their aplastic anemia more effective treatment can be given.  MPI has a volunteer who is a pre-med student, JJ, who has taken special interest in Santa Reina.  JJ will work with Dr. John Doty, sending him information he needs to do remote tests from Austin, TX.
  • To provide iron supplements, mouthwash, and milk for her and the kids. Iron competes with lead and other toxins in blood cells, decreasing the amount of time it takes for the body to remove toxins, as well as being a main nutrient needed in red blood cells.  Mouthwash is for those times when Santa Reina’s gums are bleeding and she can’t brush her teeth.

This video is eight-minutes long, I didn’t have time to cut it, but just wanted to let you hear her voice and see her personality.  I’ll subtitle it later.

Right now volunteers have been paying for some of the things for Santa Reina out of their own pocket.  She’s technically outside of their mission, but they all love her, she’s very nice and always happy to see them, and they want to help.  Hopefully this donation will help alleviate some of that cost.

Scholarships

Esmeralda is the head nurse and social worker in the clinic within La Chureca.  Being Nicaraguan herself, and with 10 years of experience in giving medical and social care to residents of La Chureca, I’m not sure there are many people who understand their needs better than her.  In our candid conversation about issues in La Chureca she brought up an unmet need – scholarships for promising children to go to private school outside the dump.

Scholarships to 2 kids in La chureca

As she and the principle of the school explain it, going to private school means more opportunity for the children: smaller class sizes, higher discipline, access to a psychologist, a library, and a computer lab.  Also, children are given incentives to be the best in their class – the top student in each class has their tuition cut in half.  They begin English courses from preschool all the way through 15-years old, an absolutely huge competitive advantage for them (there are many telecommunication companies that pay very well in Managua, and more opportunities to come as Nicaragua develops).

We used $210 on scholarships, giving two children the opportunity of a better education

  • $80 each for beginning of the year costs (books, supplies, uniforms, etc.)
  • $25 each for the first month’s tuition

Meet the students:

Scholarships in La Chureca

Judith Mercedes Contreras Betancur – 11 years old, in 4th grade of primary school.

Scholarships to private school in la chureca

Roberto Antonio Martinez Chavez – 15 years old, in 1st grade of secondary school.
We’ve only provided the first month’s tuition for these two students – if you’d like to become one of their permanent sponsors please let me know!  It costs exactly what is above – $25 a month, $80 at the beginning of the year.  Esmeralda will be coordinating all of this in her spare time – I’ll send her the money each month and she’ll send me receipts, grades, and she’ll also send letters from the kids to the sponsor so you can be up to date (again all her idea).  Also, if one of the kids gets the best grades in their class and earns half-cost tuition, we’d like to do something special for them.  Kids have two breaks each year–one in summer and one in winter–and Esmeralda would like to give them the money they saved on tuition as spending money.
The impact of a good education can make a huge difference for a child – consider signing up to support one of these two 🙂

Jewelry Cooperative

Jewelry made in la chureca
Picture courtesy of Manna Project International

There are a lot of challenges facing the people of La Chureca.  With the Spanish program almost at completion, residents will be moving into their new homes shortly.  It’s a great opportunity, but presents a lot of challenges as well.  For example, they won’t be able to bring their animals with them, they’ll have less income, and they’ll have to pay electricity and water bills for the first time of their lives.

Four months ago, Manna Project International launched a jewelry cooperative, bringing women together to learn a new skill and have the chance for more income throughout their lives.  MPI received a $27,000 grant from Walmart to get started, but will soon be self-sufficient from sales.

handmade jewelry from nicaragua

They’re selling the jewelry in local malls and in the Airport, and are constantly looking for new retailers in Nicaragua, but so far haven’t found anyone to sell it in the States.

I’d like to help with that.

Jewelry from Managua Nicaragua
Made from cans and bottles

We purchased $105 worth of jewelry with your donations and brought it back with us to get started, and are working on being permanent retailers, hoping to provide consistent demand for their jewelry to help them have a better life.  More details to come 🙂

Special thanks

First of all, thank you so much to everyone who donated!  I hope you enjoy these stories as much as I do.  I’ll do my best to keep you up to date with our new Nicaraguan friends so you know how things are going.

Also, thanks to the nonprofits and people who helped me while in country.  Outmore Adventures, Manna Project International, Austin Samaritans, and the many others I’ve come into contact with since.

If you’d like to help

This trip was part of my continuing goal to understand philanthropy and find the type of nonprofit work I want to focus on.  I’m looking for an unmet need that matches my skill-set, something that I believe in passionately enough to [hopefully] make a long term impact.

I’ll be going on more trips, every 4 or 6 months.  I pay for the trips myself, but open it up to you to donate through me.  100% of every donation goes to the people the donation was meant for – I pay all the PayPal, ATM, and conversion fees.  If you’d like to be a part of it next time just send me an email and I’ll let you know when I’m accepting donations!

Also, if you’d like me to take a look at your nonprofit or an organization you think is doing some great work, I’d love to hear from you!

Check out the album on Facebook

Thanks for coming, and please – share this story with your friends 🙂