Education Plus Nicaragua is a grassroots organization that provides food, education, and love to the children of Pantanal, Nicaragua, who are among the poorest in the world. Today we serve over 200 children mentally, materially, and spiritually. We instill core values, teach life skills, and produce concrete results: higher school enrollment, improved grades, and elimination of malnutrition. In addition, we instill core values and teach the children life skills. Most importantly, we give the children the attention and love that they need to develop.
Education Plus Nicaragua believes that education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty in Pantanal. As any tourist to the richer parts of Granada will see, the phenomenon of children as young as 5 working late at night in the streets as beggars, cigarette sellers, prostitutes, and even thieves is endemic to the area. The key to keeping these children off of the street is to provide them with other options – the most import one being school. We currently provide classes and meals on the following schedule:
Preschool (ages 3 to 5): 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Session 1 (ages 6 to 9): 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm
Session 2 (ages 10 to 15): 2:30 pm – 4:00 pm
English (ages 7 and up): 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Subjects taught include math, geography, reading, writing, and human rights. In addition, in order to combat illiteracy, students who cannot read are tutored by our volunteers before and after our regular program. Classes are meant to supplement Nicaraguan public education, which operates on a half-day system. Classes are taught by a mixture of local staff and our extremely dedicated volunteers. Our students are hungry to learn – often begging for more homework.
We support our children materially with backpacks, school supplies, uniforms, and shoes whenever possible in order to facilitate their public school attendance. School supplies are earned by the student through good attendance and by completing homework assignments. In addition to academics, there is a concurrent emphasis on teaching practical life skills such as manners, interpersonal skills, environmental stewardship and a sense of discipline and responsibility. Students are taught to respect their teachers and peers, and punctuality and good behavior are requirements for the privilege of taking part in the program. Our students are amazingly well behaved and eager to learn! We also host activities such as baseball and soccer games, weekly trips to the local children’s library, art projects, Sunday Fundays (including anything from dancing to games of musical chairs and water balloons), fiestas on holidays, and field trips. We make sure that the kids have a fun time on a consistent basis, which is important for their general development and health, and is also a key element in our battle to keep the kids off of the streets.
Perhaps the project is summed up best in the words of a former volunteer, who stated that:
“In my eyes, one of the biggest things they do for the community is bring hope. On my first visit to the community [May 2012] , when Education Plus was just getting started, hopeful would not have been the word in my mind to describe El Pantanal. However, upon my return, just two months later, that is exactly what the organization had brought to El Pantanal.” – Leila Houshmand