Our mission is to break the cycle of poverty before it is transferred to yet another generation, by building more educated and productive communities. Our vision is to enable every child to go to school and achieve the level of education they desire.
Empowerment International (EI) was founded in 1998 by Kathy Adams.
EI’s approach addresses the root cause and the plight of many street children in the slums (‘barrios’) in both countries.
Street children generally come from poor families. They cannot attend school even where public education is free due to lack of funds for mandatory uniforms and school supplies. They also lack emotional support from their families. Instead of being educated, they are sent out to work on the streets selling fruits, vegetables, and trinkets.
EI reverses this trend by working with the children and their families to enable them to attend school. We provide financial and emotional support.
When these children receive an education, they are able to stay off the streets, find better jobs, and eventually break the cycle of poverty that has haunted their families for generations.
We work with children and families in two impoverished communities in Nicaragua to instill the value of education. This is done through daily home visits carried out by EI staff. During home visits we encourage parents to send their kids to school, train them on how to enhance their children’s education and provide counseling and emotional support to help them find solutions to barriers, physical or otherwise, that prevent children from attending school.
Imagine getting up at 4am to weave reed mats till 11am, then going door to door in scorching heat to sell them. After which imagine getting back home to make more mats – a backbreaking job – and to continue this daily cycle just so the family can have a simple meal at the end of the day. This is a reality for many children, as young as 6yrs old, who live in the communities we work in.
Most of the families live on less that $2/day which necessitates the entire family to do extreme hard work just to survive. As a result of this, education is not a priority. Though most children enter the school system, many drop out due to financial constraints or at the first sign of difficulty in their studies. For the families, the long-term benefits of education are weighted lower than the short-term financial benefits of children working to add to the family income.
EI’s approach is to reverse this trend by working with the children, their families and the community as a whole to making a positive shift in attitude towards the long term benefits of education.
WHAT WE DO
Every child enrolled in the communities we work is enrolled in the home visit program and assigned to a staff member, who visits the home of that child and his or her family on a regular basis.
Our novel hands-on approach with daily home visits emphasizes to the community the long-term value of education. The goals of the home visit program are to instill in families the value of education, empower children and their families to find solutions to their own problems and provide them with support along the way.
In addition to working through social pressures and medical issues during the home visits, the staff members demonstrate ways for the parents to help or supervise the children’s schoolwork, even if the parents’ level of education is below that of the child.
Since implementing this program in the communities a little more than two years ago, EI has witnessed a paradigm shift in the view of education as well as a dramatic decline in the number of students dropping out of school.
In 2008, EI staff found that some students were having difficulties in reading, writing and math. In an effort to increase retention rates as well as improve the grade-level performance of students in our program, we implemented peer-to-peer tutoring. The program matches secondary school students with primary students every day before or after school in one-on-one or small group tutoring sessions. This has met with incredible success, with several children showing grade-level improvements in just one month. There is also a noticeable boost in self-esteem among all participants, especially the teen tutors, who take great pride in their tutoring job.
By giving students access to tutoring and other activities, EI fosters a learning environment where students motivate and mentor each other. The new program has not only boosted students in their school studies, it has also allowed room for community participation and ownership.
Special Secondary School Program
Many schools in the communities we work in are overcrowded, lack adequate school supplies and have uncertified teachers who sometimes do not attend lessons. In addition to this, many students lack the drive to succeed and often drop out of school because of negative peer pressure.
The objective of this project is to enroll secondary school-aged students in a school that provides better quality education. The school has certified teachers, proper infrastructure, less overcrowding and adequate school supplies.
EI started a pilot program in 2009 in which 8 students were sent to a better school once they entered the 7th grade. This school has a lower teacher-student ratio and more qualified teachers who come to teach consistently. Because of more personal attention from the teachers and positive peer pressure, all the 8 passed the year and began to exhibit positive behavior changes.
For the 2010 school year, over twice as many students, 18 in total are enrolled in a similar program. We believe these students will meet the same success and their predecessors. They will also be better prepared to enter universities and vocational training colleges after completing high school.
EI Education and Activity Center
The students have a space at the EI Education and Activity Center for study groups and games. The children all live in a near-by slum and come in every day to spend time studying and playing. The centre provides them with a child friendly space, safe from drugs or street violence. We also provide them with a small library with books in Spanish to read and reference books for their school work and a room full of games and toys. Most children come in early everyday to read and play with their friend as this is the only source of books or games for them.
EI’s NICARAGUAN TIMELINE
*With a successfully established program in Costa Rica, with 100 children enrolled in schools, Kathy Adams decides to expand the program to Nicaragua
** EI worked with Casa de Ninez to carefully identify 76 young candidates in a small barrio outside of Granada, Nicaragua called Villa de Esperanza (Village of Hope) to launch the first program in Nicaragua.
* Kathy Adams receives an e-chievement award certificate for her inspiring efforts in Central America.
* In February 2005, these 76 children were provided with uniforms, shoes and supplies so that they can participate in the state-sponsored education system.
* In March 2005, a grant was given to EI by US retired nurse Lowell Smith to continue a pilot program of providing medicine to children in need. Simple medicine, such as antibiotics, are often financially unobtainable to these children and their families. Not having access to these can lead to devastating effects.
* A volunteer teaches 10 children English in one of the families homes.
* 5 girls from EI were selected to take computer classes sponsored by a new grassroots program called Pronat.
* Established a team of 5 parent volunteers led by former teacher Anielka Gutierrez Meza. The parent committee are learning how to monitor the children and how to educate both them and their families on the perils of working in the streets and the advantages of going to school. The committee also manages the emergency medical program and is working on creative ways to improve the quality of life for the children in the community, such as creating a soccer field and soccer leagues.
* The program is expanded to enroll 180 children in schools.
* 202 children are enrolled in schools.
* Retention rate of participants is 85% by year-end.
* Rural Community Santa Ana de los Malacos approaches EI to request assistance for their children
* EI lays groundwork for expanding into rural barrios in Nicaragua.
* Kathy Adams makes the decision to transition her efforts full-time to further expand EI in Nicaragua and create a portable and reproducible program.
* EI moves it’s office close to the barrio in order to better serve the community
* EI starts a pilot program in rural community Santa Ana
* EI started working in rural community of Santa Ana de Malacos, funded by a grant awarded by the Weyerhaeuser Family Foundation.
* First year ever retention rate went well over 90% (96%!)
* EI starts a peer-to-peer tutoring program
* EI’s first student Margarita A starts the university.
* Teen group was created to support teens with everyday challenges
* Partnership formed withIxchen for psychology treatments for the children in need at a reduced rate as well as free informational lectures for mothers in the community.
* Anyelo and Jeaneth start the university studying pharmacology and hotel management.
* EI starts a bike club for teens after the first annual Empowerment Challenge (bikes were donated!)
* Census taken of EI communities and 81% of all school age children (ages 5-16) in school (up from 55% since the program began)
* Started taking preschool kids into the tutoring program
* Started hosting interactive exchange tours such as photography and cultural tours which help EI with sustainability.
* Partnership formed with EEF.
* Photo gallery opened so the photography students have a place to display their work
* Census taken in the Villa Esperanza and Santa Ana. 87% of all school age children in school (initially started at 55%)
* A high school student initiated a computer class to teach her peers as well as the rural community children.
* EI starts the year with a record 340 children from both communities.
* Hotel management student Jeaneth got a job in Hotel Dario while finishing her last year of the university.
* Students Anielka, Olga and Abagail pass the entrance exam for UNAN, one of the most prestigious universities in the country. (Note: only 20% of the students that took the exam passed).
MAKING OUR MISSION AND OUR VISION REALITY
There is a correlation between a community’s quality of life, ability to address basic human needs and achieve transformation. We believe education is the key link.
We see our role as “bridge builders” between the kids, communities and donors. We encourage the communities to make our program their own and we empower them to raise their voices and tell their own stories.
In Nicaragua 50% of the kids that start 1st grade never finish 5th grade. It is our goal to make this percentage drop significantly.