United in Hope Scholarship Program: 2016 Annual Report

We connect US sponsors with Nicaraguan children who grew up in La Chureca, providing the funds and structure needed to allow these students to have a better education and more opportunity. Specifically, we pay for tuition to private school and university; provide funds for books, school supplies, and uniforms; and provide a small classroom within their community to study and receive tutoring help.

2016 Financial Report

In 2016, we provided $7,794 worth of financial support, broken into six main categories.
  • Approximately $797.50 in initial setup costs. This included renovation of a small room in the community to use as a study hall (installing a door, purchasing paint, and furnishing with desks, chairs, a bookshelf, a computer, a printer, ink, a wifi router, etc).
  • $982 of ongoing office expenses, including: $202 for ink, paper, etc; $360 rent for the study hall; $420 for internet.
  • $100 in donations for medical supplies for the adjoining medical clinic.
  • $48 in fees for sending money internationally.
  • $1,380 in wages to the Program Director in Nicaragua.
  • Approximately $4,486.07 in annual tuition expenses and graduation fees.
Sources of Funds
  • $1,440 donated by 27 different individuals towards the end of 2015.
  • $1,854 in recurring donations.
  • $4,500 in a start-up grant.

Roots and Where We Are Now

Towards the end of 2012, Rosa, a nurse who had worked in La Chureca for over a decade, asked us to help support two students by providing funds for them to go to a private school outside of the landfill where they lived. She explained that it would provide a much better opportunity for the children: smaller classes, more discipline, periodic drug paraphernalia checks, good English classes, a computer lab, and exposure to life outside La Chureca. We started with two students, and have added a student or two each year. Over the decades, La Chureca had become a destination for most financially destitute in Nicaragua: if all else failed, they could move into the landfill, collect trash, and sell what they could. This persisted for generations, and most of the children in our program knew no life outside La Chureca. La Chureca has changed — new cinderblock homes were built for the families outside of the landfill and their old homes were bulldozed. Many things have improved, and many things have not.
In late 2015, fueled by the generous donations of many individuals, we expanded the program to make both a deeper and broader impact with those we sponsor. Rosa, seeing that many children still had trouble studying at home (where they live with many relatives and would have to pay by the hour for internet to do research) envisioned a study hall–a small room in the community, equipped with basic supplies, internet, a computer, and a printer–where she could go to work with the kids each day. In order to distribute the fixed ongoing costs of that room and make a wider impact, we expanded the program to support 10 students.
2016 was a great year! The students did very well in their classes, and we had our first graduate, Hector. We are very proud of everyone’s effort and grades, and look forward to seeing what they’ll accomplish in this year!

In 2017

  • We will become a 501(c)(3) organization to give tax-deductible benefits to donors.
  • We will seek to help raise English scores by providing an English tutor six hours a week (and we’ll evaluate the impact that has after 1st term grades are released).
  • We will improve the amount of updates to donors to keep them informed of how their student is doing, by sending an iPhone for pictures that will automatically upload to the cloud.
  • We will begin gathering more information to understand the relative impact of the program, as compared to other very low-income public schools (statistics currently provided describe the entire country, which encompasses a vast rural area with very different patterns than cities like Managua, and within the cities our community represents some of the poorest of the poor).
  • We will seek to raise funds through direct sponsorship (in which a donor or donor family is linked with the student their funds support), smaller ongoing donation options, and one-time social media campaigns to raise whatever else is needed.
Thank you so much for your support in helping this program come to be. Please consider sponsoring a student for $70/month, a partial sponsorship from $35 to $10 per month, or a one-time donation to help the entire program.

2016 Student Report

Prepared by Rosa Esmeralda Diaz, Nicaraguan Program Director
In 2016, the ten students passed their classes very well. The subjects that were most difficult for them were Mathematics and English, so all this year we’ve been working on strengthening what they learn in school and helping them with assignments.
It’s worth mentioning that among our students is Héctor Ñamendis Mendoza; he is the first grandchild or child who graduated in his family. They are of scarce economic resources, who lived together in the largest landfill in Nicaragua, known as La Chureca. Today there is a Waste Plant where they continue to work but the money they earn isn’t sufficient to have their children in school, much less prepare them. It’s because of this that Héctor’s dream is to study Engineering Systems, for which I ask that you continue to support him in higher education. He is very good with Mathematics and he helps strengthen the other students with their Math. Héctor has been a part of the program for three years.
Ana Yanci Cano Castaño, who is going into 10th grade, is a young woman who has little support from her parents, since they are separated. Her mother is a Home Assistant (cooking, cleaning, etc), her father is a taxi cab driver. She lives with her grandmother and two brothers in Villa Guadalupe (the community of new housing built to relocate those who lived in La Chureca and other very poor neighborhoods around Managua). She often works on the weekends selling jewelry to help sustain the home, buy things she wants, and help support the school costs of her brothers. She went to the study hall frequently, and ended the year without any issues in her grades.
Daysi Madriz, a young woman who is going into 8th grade, was one of the best students in the program. The school gave her a diploma of recognition as the best student in her class, and she excelled in all subjects. She’s a person who is always willing to give her best, she’s intelligent, and always happy helping the other students in the program who can’t complete something. Her family is of scarce economic resources. Her father is the one who sustains the family, working as a Loader in a company. Her mother is a homemaker.
Jade Gonzales was elected Miss Congeniality in her school. She is a strong young woman, and was on the Honor Roll throughout the year, the second highest scoring student after Daysi. Her parents help her in her school obligations. She is dynamic, cheerful, always looking for ways to better herself in her studies. She wants to become an architect, to help the most poor in society of Nicaragua by planning social homes and buildings. She likes English like a second language.
Melany Picado is a young woman in 7th grade. She has very little help in school from her father, a taxi driver who works both shifts and is a single father. Melany lives with her maternal grandmother. She received a lot of help in math from Héctor, who helped her with her homework and to make it to the study hall. She completed the academic year with a lot of her own strength as well.
Nohelia Cortes is in 7th grade, a daughter of a single mother who works as a Home Assistant. This young woman worked very hard in her classes, the most difficult of which was English. She always asked for help in study hall, and always receives the help of her mother. She wants to study to be a Veterinarian.
Cristina Delgado, a young woman who is studying Journalism, is going into her 3rd year at University. She’s works very hard, coming from a very poor family which sells slow-cooked beans to sustain themselves. There are four children in total, who pass through many difficulties for daily living.
Yasser Castro, a young man going into 10th grade, worked weekends or free moments to complete tasks for neighbors, like sweeping the patio, going to the store, or going to the market to make a little money to help his mother with maintaining the house. They are a family of scarce economic resources. His mother doesn’t know how to read or write, and goes to houses to wash and iron clothes. He’s a hardworking young man who likes to read and is a very good student in Language and Literature. He would like to graduate and become someone good in Nicaraguan society.
Cristian Alvarez Silva, a boy going into 6th grade of Primary School, will graduate into Secondary School this year. His mother provides for the family alone, washing and ironing clothes, and selling ice cream and ice from her house. They are of scarce economic resources who don’t receive much help from anyone. Cristian takes care of his youngest brother when his mom leaves home. He’s a very hardworking boy and did well on his grades.
Eveling Escobar Rodríguez, a young girl who is going into 3rd grade of Primary School, did excellent in her classes. She receives help from her parents, who work in the Recycling Plant close to the community. She’s an introverted and very cheerful girl. Now that she knows how to read, she loves to read stories, and looks for books and anything else to read.
Please become part of the community in 2017, by supporting a student at whichever level you are able to, and thank you for helping make 2016 such a great year!


Provide a full scholarship:

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$20 recurring:

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$10 recurring:

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Jade, crowned Miss Congeniality
Jade, crowned Miss Congeniality
Hector, Eveling, Nohelia
Hector, Eveling, Nohelia
Melany, Daysi, Nohelia
Melany, Daysi, Nohelia
Daysi and Jade
Daysi and Jade
Yasser and family
Yasser and family

Where Do They Go From Here?

For me, the most important thing I can give someone else is opportunity. To be free–to have the opportunity to choose what our lives will look like–we need the basics (food, shelter, healthcare), and then just two more simple things – education and credit. So much of the landscape of our life is decided by when we start to go to school, what our teachers think of us, and how long we stay in. I think every child deserves the best education we can give them.

Because of how important early and ongoing education is, that’s where we’ve decided to work – more on that coming on Monday! For now, read this local perspective on education in Nicaragua.

Rewired and Retired in Nicaragua

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” — Henry Ford

In Nicaragua, the academic school year starts in February and ends in December. Ron and I were invited to be a part of two graduation ceremonies this December. The first graduation ceremony took place at our La Paloma elementary school, which has 88 students, 4 teachers, and now the librarian that I hired for my library in the school.

The second graduation ceremony took place in Urbite High School, where our god-daughter graduated. The education statistics are frightful and the state of education in Nicaragua is and has been in crisis and stagnation for many years.

I can’t help but wonder where the graduates will go from here.
IMG_96072014 statistics report that Nicaragua has 1,389,000 pupils enrolled in primary and secondary education. Of these pupils 940,000 (67%) are enrolled in primary education.

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2012 in review

2012 has been a year of blogging – I’ve started five blogs this year (OK, so . . . maybe six or seven), but have only consistently contributed to two:  The Weekend Philanthropist and The Accidental Atheist.

For this blog, I traveled to Nicaragua twice, interviewed six philanthropists (abroad and local), and did a lot of reading.  I’ve found a lot of joy in learning to express myself more clearly and look forward to another year of writing in 2013.

As a cap to the year, here are the 2012 articles from this blog I’m the most happy about, along with an annual report from WordPress down below.  Enjoy!


1) The 3 Donation Projects Funded By You! and 4 Donation Projects Funded By You!  Two days before my first trip to Nicaragua I had the simple but powerful idea to have others donate through me.  $10, 25, or 100 at a time (or whatever they wanted), we pooled together $250 on the first trip and $775 on the second.  I looked for chances to use that money for donation projects while in Nicaragua, and the result was amazing.  I feel like I’ve learned so much from those experiences and have gained lifelong friends in Nicaragua as well.  What started as a simple and random idea has become the best part of traveling and has given me, donors, and recipients some of the best memories from 2012.

2) A Plane, a Reader, and an Alien Country.  I’m always trying to get better at expressing my wonder for nature and for the people I meet in a way that captures my feelings and thoughts in a sincere and meaningful way.  This article is one of my favorites so far.  Writing the first draft was very clunky and disjointed, but I gave it a few days and was very happy with the result.

3) Travis and Sophie – Hippie Capitalists – PW #3!  Half-way through the year I decided to dabble in some quasi-journalism.  I wanted to give a spotlight to people who were doing great work as well as have a good excuse to ask them a million questions.  The first article I wrote was so difficult.  I sat with writer’s block for about an hour-and-a-half with the fully transcribed interview and notes in front of me before the words finally started to flow.  As I did more of these interview articles it became easier and more fun.  This one, on Travis and Sophie’s business, Teysha, was the most popular by views.  They and the other philanthropists I wrote about have become great mentors and friends, full of great advice as I approach the launch of my first nonprofit.

4) Chapter 2 – Volcanoes, Drunks, and Polio.  When I got back from my first trip to Nicaragua I had a lot I wanted to write about.  Life and distractions slowly but surely distanced me from the memories, and I never got around to writing my experiences down in full.  I didn’t want that to happen again, so on my second trip I pushed myself to do a five-chapter memoir including interesting and boring detail, I’m sure.  In my fixed pursuit of the goal to write it all in a week, I went too quickly and didn’t make the memoir as good as I would have liked, but it still turned out OK.  This chapter was the reader favorite (and yes, I still have one more chapter to go to finish it).


As 2013 approaches there are many new exciting plans I have for this blog.  Thanks for being a part of it!  Please let me know what you think about it, what you’d like to see, or whatever else you’d like to say.  🙂

If you’re curious, you’re welcome to read the full report from WordPress that shows some of the stats from The Weekend Philanthropist.

Also, again if you’re curious, you can check out the annual review of my other blog, The Accidental Atheist, along with the four posts I’m the most happy about and the things I’ve learned from them.

A Large Mouth and a Big Platter

Sometimes you bite off more than you can chew.  At least that’s what people say – I’ve always had a heinously large mouth and luxurious cheek space. Other times you get addicted to Breaking Bad and lose a week of your life. I’m neither admitting or denying anything here . . . but I didn’t put out a Philanthropist of the Week article this week.

Big mouth and a large platter
A large mouth AND good looks! What DOESN’T this kid have???

I know, I know, your work-week was dull and your sitcoms unsatisfying without my wisdom-instilling publication, but hey, a man’s gotta veg sometimes, right?

Well – I’m back on track and want you to know what track that is. If I tell you all what I’m going to do then I have to do it, right? I think that’s the way it works anyways. So here’s what to expect from your favorite philanthropist-a-be here at TWP:

Philanthropist of the Week

I have five or six people lined up for interviews to be featured in Philanthropist of the Week, which I think is pretty great! Next week I’ll have Travis Breihan from Teysha who works to open up trade in the US for skilled artisians in Panama, giving them a great market and us a great product. Then I have Tab Barker who builds schools and wells in Nicaragua and has a very sustainable and well-built program; Chuck Winckley, who raises funds and donates gifts to underprivelegded families each Christmas; Theresa Alvarez, who helped start Futuro Fund; and Liana Mauro, a local Pilates instructor who built giving into her business model, supporting the Texas Advocacy Project and others.

This is just the beginning! Later I’ll be interviewing Carole Keeton Strayhorn, who ran against Rick Perry for Texas Governor and dramatically cleaned up the foster care system in Texas and set up a trust fund for future underprivileged youth. She is quite a personality and I’m so excited for the quotes I’ll get from her!  These people each have a great story we can gain from, and I want to tell it well.


Nicaragua round-two is coming up in November! I’ll be going back to deepen my relationships with a couple of groups there and also explore “La Chureca” and other fascinating things in Nicaragua – all accompanied by my beautiful and trusting girlfriend (she’ll be completely lost about 90% of the time unless we get her Spanish going fast). We’ll be revisiting the three people you readers helped donate to and see how things are going with them, and are planning some new mini-projects that you can help with again!

So – I have my work cut out for me. Between working, reading, studying and interviewing for Philanthropist of the Week, and getting ready for Nicaragua, I have to fit in Breaking Bad, random naps, stretches of laziness and apathy, and all that other good stuff I’ve learned to deal with.  Hey, if I haven’t become perfect in my first 26 years of life I may as well just enjoy the ride, right?


I’m writing this blog for me, because it’s really fun and rewarding, but also for you.  I hope you’ll gain something with each article you read. So . . . I’d like to know what you’re looking for and what you’re interested in. What types of groups would you want me to write about? What aspects of philanthropy would you like me to explore?

One of my questions is about doom-and-gloom advertising by non-profits — you know, showing an African kid on the front of every web-page and saying “Donate 5 cents or this kid will die,” kind of stuff. I’m sure it works, and the urgency is important, but I just want to see what the impact is. Does this raise more money than positive philanthropy ads? What impact does this have on our long-term view of developing countries? Are there negative and long-term side effects to this type of advertising?

To study this I’ll be reading a few books that I’m super stoked to find time to read: Portfolios of the Poor: How the World’s Poor Live on $2 a Day, Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa, and The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time. I’ll also be looking for official studies that can get me real and quantitative answers – if you have suggestions for reading material let me know! And let me know what YOU would like to hear about!

Also–because what good does it do to self-promote if you don’t shamelessly self-promote–take a second to subscribe to this blog (the “follow” button in the upper right hand corner), “like” my Facebook page (right-hand side), and if you’re feeling extra amazing today post about it on your Facebook or twitter! The gods of Karma will be pleased, and so will my big mouth.