Archive for the ‘Education & Nutrition’ Category

Recuerdo

By: Kali Venable

In July of 2013, on my second week-long trip with Amigos, I worked in the community of La Chuscada digging ditches for their water system.

We were one of the first mission groups to work on the system so we spent the week in a part of Chuscada that was directly off the main road. I remember the spot vividly, I remember the people – mainly the children – and I have photos that serve as reminders when I start to forget.

During these past two weeks I got to go back to Chuscada – where the water system has been on for over a year now and each home has a Modern Bathroom – to help build a wall that will surround a large, model public school for northern Nicaragua.

The work site was in a part of Chuscada I remember walking through two years ago and photographing a few desks covered by a tin roof that served as the community school. Today, there is a six-room school in place of it and 10 years from now there will be an even bigger one.

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The extensive progress that’s been made La Chuscada since I last visited made it hard for me to believe that it was the same place.

Last Tuesday I brought two photos of a few boys I’d spent time with on my previous visit with me to the community. I didn’t think I would be able to find them because I had yet to see them, but I thought I might be able to ask some of the community members near our work site if they knew any of them and could take me to them or at least give the boys the photos to keep.

In the morning I showed my photographs to a family I whose house I was visiting and felt discouraged when none of them recognized the kids. Having pretty much given up on reuniting with the boys, I volunteered to go get bags of concrete mix from the Amigos Complex that afternoon.

When we pulled back up to the school in the truck, I was in awe. Two of the boys in my photographs were standing right in front of me talking to some of the Amigos staff members.

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I hoped off the truck, ran to my backpack to retrieve the photos, and returned to the front of the school where the boys stood. I told them that I played with them two years ago when I was here helping install the piping for their water system and handed them the photos I had. They both smiled and said “recuerdo” – I remember.

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Most of the time the work God is doing in my life is hard for me to understand and requires more trust in Him than anything else. But when I pulled back up to the school and saw them standing there that day in La Chuscada it was so apparent He’d placed the boys in front of me, or I in front of them, so that we would meet again.

Our reunion was a reminder that the relationships I build here are not momentary, that when I tell someone “I’ll see you again,” it isn’t just out of comfort, it is out of trust in God and His ability to bring people back to each other despite the odds.

Partnering Up

If you’ve been around Amigos for more than a day or two, you’ve probably noticed we love the word “partner.” We use it all the time to describe, well, just about everyone, from our big governmental partners here in Nicaragua, to our friends in the communities, to you, our supporters.

 

Why, you ask? Because we believe that by creating partners instead of simply donors or beneficiaries, the impact of our programs will multiply far beyond anything we could do on our own.

 

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The Education Team leads a Consejera de Familia training class in La Chuscada.

 

Take Consejera de Familia, or Family Counselor Training, a new program designed by our Education Team to empower women in communities to lead small group studies on faith and family values. The small groups cover topics ranging from fostering respectful relationships, to proper nutrition, to steps parents can take to support their children’s education, all supported by a biblical worldview.

 

Our first Consejera de Familia class, composed of seventeen women from La Chuscada, celebrated its graduation just a few weeks ago. The celebration marked the completion of eight weeks of intensive training in both faith and family values as well as techniques for facilitating small group discussion and conducting follow-up visits with individual families. Now, instead of relying on the Education Team to lead small groups for all 130 families in La Chuscada, there is a network of women who are fully equipped to lead small groups in their own neighborhoods.

 

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La Chuscada’s first Consejera de Familia training class celebrates its graduation.

 

“If someone from Amigos for Christ can’t come, we don’t want them to be unable to continue the program,” explains Gloria, our Director of Project Impact. “It is important to train community leaders because it allows programs to be sustainable, and we are giving them all the tools they need to make that possible.”

 

After all, we’ve always believed in the power of each individual to create positive change not only in their own life, but also in the lives of their family and community. Now, through Consejera de Familia, we’re building partnerships that empower more women to make that happen.

 

To learn more about our Education Team, visit www.amigosforchrist.org/projects/education-and-nutrition.

Thank You for an Amazing 2013!

With your help we made a huge difference in 2013. We installed 3 clean water systems.We installed 78 Clean Air Kitchens!We prepared meals for 895 students. We provided 72 micro-loans!We hosted 1407 volunteers!

The Opportunity to Learn

In 2005, Nance Burrell met Jacque, a little girl living in the community of Villa Catalina. That meeting marked the start of a relationship that continued to grow and deepen over the next several years, eventually leading Nance to sponsor Jacque’s secondary school education in 2008. Now, it’s a story that has been in the making for almost a decade and that has changed the trajectory not only of Jacque’s life, but of Nance’s as well. We’ve loved watching this story unfold, and so we asked Nance to share it with the greater Amigos Family, too.

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Nance and Jacque in 2005, the year they met.

 

I met Jacque in the summer of 2005. Side by side, we dug ditches and did other manual labor. In December of 2005 I was back with Amigos as a nurse on an orthopedic brigade. We had gathered money to help with the festivities of the Feast of Mary for Villa Catalina. I remember going with the group of medical folks to Villa Catalina and Jacque and a couple of other girls greeting us. Jacque gave me a plastic ring with a solid star on the top (which I still have). It was a simple gesture, but touched me deeply.

Jacque braiding Nance's hair after digging trenches in 2006.


Jacque braiding Nance’s hair after digging trenches in 2006.

 

The following summer of 2006, Jacque and I worked side-by-side digging water line ditches in Villa Catalina. Although she was only 12 years old and I’m certain less than half my weight, she could outwork me any time. In December of 2006 the houses were dedicated and I was back in Villa Catalina and visited with Jacque and her family.

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Jacque, her mother, and her grandmother at their house dedication in 2006.

 

Jacque graduated from primary school in November of 2008. I flew down for a surprise visit and to be present at her graduation. In her class of five, she was the top student. On that visit, Amigos employee Chris Dubas was the coordinator of the sponsorship program. He knew of Jacque’s potential and encouraged me to sponsor her for private school if I was able to so that she could receive the best possible education.

Jacque helping her mom cook corn tortillas in 2008.

Jacque helping her mom cook corn tortillas in 2008.

 

So, through interpreters I talked with her mother and father to insure (as best I could) that they were supportive of her continuing school. Jacque was a regular “worker” for her family, riding her bike from village to village to sell corn tortillas that he mother made. Being in school had the potential to interfere with her part in the family income generation.

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Jacque and Nance spending time together in 2008.

 

Here parents were supportive, however, so in February of 2009 Jacque started at Colegio Ruben Dario Chinandega. I have continued to sponsor her through her five years of attending private school there. Every year I would visit Nicaragua with an Amigos trip through the summer of 2011 and always would see Jacque even though we weren’t working in her community.

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Nance and Jacque painting the school in Villa Catalina in 2010.

 

I think that my story as sponsor is very unique as I know Jacque personally, which is probably why I am so committed to sponsoring her. However, I think sponsoring a student is worth doing because there is a great return on our investment, even if we don’t directly see it. I have continued to sponsor Jacque because I can and because I believe that she deserves the opportunity to continue her education.

To walk alongside a student as they strive to realize their dreams, visit www.amigosforchrist.org/giftsofopportunity and give the Gift of Opportunity today.

Journeying Together

One of the ways our Education Team impacts lives is by building into the students who benefit from our scholarship program. This summer, they took the students on an overnight retreat. By all accounts it was an incredible couple of days, and so we asked Danny Duggan, one of our summer Servant Leaders who accompanied them on their trip, to share his reflections below.

By: Danny Duggan, 2013 Servant Leader

As the sun peaked over San Cristóbal Volcano, we pulled away from Monserrat, where the Amigos Complex is located, at 5:25 in the morning with students from the neighborhood. We continued our journey by making our way to El Chonco, Villa Catalina, Los Rotarios, and Santa Matilde. As each student shuffled on the bus – still with sleep in their eyes but nevertheless accompanied by a loaf of pan dulce, some nancites, a few bags of Ranchitas, and countless bottles of fizzy Coca-cola – they joined the journey.
 
Vólcan Casita, known as the location of the most devastating effects of 1998’s Hurricane Mitch, was afterwards transformed into the beautiful conference center where we hosted the retreat. The very top of the volcano – where 15 years ago the hurricane broke saturated soil and rock loose and started a debris avalanche of 60 mph – was the same top we were so pleased to summit after over an hour riding in the bus paired with another 45 minutes of hiking.
 
The retreat, organized by the Amigos Education Team and supplemented by the energizing force of Vida Joven (Young Life), hosted over 60 high school or college students who receive educational scholarships through Amigos. These 60 students represent just half of those who have applied to be on scholarship, and each has achieved in school and put forth a noticeable desire to continue their journey in being a leader for their families, friends, schools, and country.
 
The retreat was centered on the reflection of how our sins move us away from the Lord. As Carla, Leader of the Education Team, and Doña Gloria, Director of Spiritual Enrichment, presented different ways to look at this theme, students listened intently to each and every word they said.
 
During meal times students were eager to goof off with their friends, kick the soccer ball around, sit and gaze off into the beautiful view that we had been gifted with at the top of Vólcan Caista, bombard me with questions about Barack Obama, or intently pick my brain about why I was spending time in Nicaragua. The memories hold vividly in my mind: during the day the sun shone brightly through the trees and at night the moon glowed gently to light our paths as we walked between the houses in which we stayed.
 
Friendships occurred so naturally. Although there were students from five different communities, we gathered together as one unit, all recognizing the gift that being there was. As the night grew later the air became cooler and we all gathered closely to hear the closing talk for the evening.
 
As people felt called, they would share bits and pieces of their life stories: how God has blessed them, how they had followed or ignored those blessings, and the journey they had traveled to get to where they are now. We listened in appreciation as we received the gift of the stories of those around us. Listening to folks share the journeys they had walked, we each felt in our hearts that we had now walked each and every one of those stories with each other. Even though not everyone’s story was spoken aloud, each was understood and appreciated.
 
Afterwards, we each took our own time to relax and reflect. As we were doing so, two simple lines from a song played over and over and over again in my head: “Toma mi tiempo, es para ti/ Dame el camino que debo seguir” (Take my time, it’s for you/ Give me the path I should follow). I sat under the Nicaraguan night sky praying these words, “Lord allow these moments to be for your greater glory, allow me to continue on this journey that you’ve given me to follow.” And, as I looked around at each person propped up in a different way – sitting on the grass, leaning against a pillar, leaning back in a chair, or standing with a fixed gaze on specific stars in the sky – my heart was filled with the recognition that we all have given that time and are on that journey.
 
But that wasn’t all; we were giving, enjoying, struggling, journeying, and living juntos (together). This continued journey for each scholarship student, member of Vida Joven, or Amigos employees was taken with the greatest appreciation that night; we felt “raw love,” or the gift that comes from fully appreciating the worth of another’s soul. And now the volcano that once marked a place of tragedy is forever marked as one of hope since we, staff and students, showed our dedication to the continued opportunity that exists in our every step.
 
Read more by Danny on his blog at http://dannydoogs.tumblr.com.


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