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235 challenges

March 26, 2008

What do you do when asked to help in an area that is frustratingly remote and painfully difficult to work in? If you are a member of EI, you collect all the essentials, rent a pickup truck, and hop in its back to deal with the challenge head on!nina de maize

In fact, this is exactly what happened when EI was approached by community leaders at Santa Ana de Malacos, a rural location, often accessible just by horses and mules. It didn’t matter that no one wanted to work in this remote location; the team at EI took up the challenge.

Their first task was to distribute school supplies like backpacks and uniforms to the children of Santa Ana de Malacos. On February 3rd, the distribution was successfully completed with the help of the Rotary Club. Students as well as parents showed their interest by being present in large numbers.

Anielka, the EI Nicaraguan program director, says about the distribution program, “When we started the program, the children and their parents listened intently to the instructions and were very friendly with the staff. Once the work was completed the parents helped in the cleaning of the classroom and asked questions about the program”.

This overall participation from the community is what EI aims to achieve because only when every child as well as parent participates actively, will there be sustainable progress. It is, therefore, always heartening to see the enthusiasm and interest of the children and parents.

What is even more heartening is that those students, who once were being helped by EI, now help EI with the tasks! Margarita is one of the young girls who graduated from high school against many odds and is about to attend university via EI. This talented student is now an intern at EI and assists new children in receiving education and support. When the distribution of supplies to school started, she was one of the main team players. It is touching to note what she had to say on the day after the distribution.

“When I saw the children wearing the new uniforms and carrying their new backpacks, I was overwhelmed with happiness. I am sure I will never forget this experience and pray to God that someday I start a program like this and help many children.”

On the distribution day, not only did EI distribute backpacks and uniforms to children at Santa Ana de Malacos but also distributed supplies to 200 children in Granada, the main location where EI works.
No challenge was big enough for the brave volunteers.

If there was a lack of funds – “we found everything at the lowest cost after scouring all the markets”

If there was too much work – “all parents came over to the office to help in the packing of the supplies which were going to be awarded”.

When hungry and tired – “we looked at the beaming faces of the kids and knew that this was the best compensation we could receive”.

EI not only provides all the school supplies to the children but far more importantly, provides the much needed support and guidance.

Each family needs to be convinced about the importance of education so that all guardians help their kids with their education. EI uses a special “contract” to ensure that each child completes his education. According to these contracts (which every parent must agree to before receiving all the supplies), the parents need to agree to complete the year, support the child in the best way they can, work with EI and learn, and make an effort to keep the child’s attendance high. The parents are also required to attend a monthly community meeting where everyone shares their stories and problems.

Inscription day is always an important function for EI. Teen volunteers, parents, and EI staff work tirelessly, often more than 10 hours per day, to give the new supplies, and cherish, what Carla terms as, “the beautiful smiles of happiness” of kids. Carla is another young worker in EI who started out as a volunteer, hoping to build up her computer skills and her passion and enthusiasm earned her first right to a position when EI needed a new employee.

A week after the inscription in Granada and Santa Ana de Malacos, Anielka went to distribute supplies to 46 children in Costa Rica, a country much more successful than Nicaragua in development and literacy. This is where EI first started. Today, after 9 years, the families there understand the importance of education and are confident and capable of handling the education of their children on their own. The fact that they “get” the need of education is definitely a high point and EI aims to achieve that and more in the impoverished and neglected communities of Nicaragua.

This year EI has more than 230 kids in Nicaragua. They need to be provided with the school supplies like uniforms and backpacks as they are too poor to purchase them. They must learn to be resourceful, using community and more educated family (often older siblings) as support when school presents challenges, as many parents are uneducated and often illiterate. They have to be encouraged and supported throughout the year to attend classes as the temptation to drop out when situations get tight is strong. Their parents have to be counseled on the need for continuous encouragement and ways to check their child’s progress.

This process, which needs to be carried out for each child, may become frustratingly slow and painfully laborious at times. However, for the team at EI, it is work as usual as they prepare for the new set of (more than) 230 challenges.

– Neha Singh

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About Empowerment International

In Nicaragua 50% of the kids that start 1st grade never make it to 5th grade. It is our goal to make this percentage drop significantly.

$30/month is what it takes us at Empowerment International to put a child in school. If you would like to help a child stay in school and get better life, please click on the link below or contact us

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One Comment leave one →
  1. September 6, 2011 11:04 pm

    Thanks for every one of your hard work on this blog.

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