water and light education

When paths are woven together

When I am in the thick of the day to day, it is easy to focus on what has to be done for the future and dwell on everything that has yet to be accomplished.  Last week I took a quick trip to the States to visit donors and pursue some new opportunities for Water & Light.  Conversations with old friends and the 6 hours of driving between Portland, Oregon and Boise, Idaho gave me some time to reflect on what has been accomplished in Salinas Grande in the past year.  Sometimes it takes looking back to gain the momentum needed to push forward.   I became aware, more than ever, that the Lord began weaving our family’s story together with a small fishing village in Nicaragua a long time ago.   

One example is our computer teacher Yunior.  He finished high school and started on his computer degree at the university about 5 years ago.  When he rode the chicken bus to his first Saturday of classes, we were living on the Oregon coast and I did not know Salinas Grande even existed.  Fast forward to January 2019.  We had spent the last year building a children’s center, moved into a small home on the same property, and had 6 generously donated computers ready to be used.  The internet was finally hooked up and we were in search of a teacher.  I knew of Yunior from his work volunteering as a mentor for SuNica and so we asked him if he would be interested in a job as the Tribu Radiante computer teacher.  It turns out that after going to computer school every Saturday for the last 5 years, he was graduating and ready to find a job.  Over the years he had gone toe to toe with his father (a fisherman) who wanted him to quit school and work on the family fishing boat.  What’s the point, his father thought, there is no hope of ever getting a computer job that pays.  Yunior respectfully followed his dream while volunteering as a mentor and helping with the family business.  Our path collided with his in late January when we offered him a job using his degree in his hometown.  He told us it was his dream to come back to Salinas and teach young people about computers, but he had no idea where he would find the resources he needed.  You could say it's a coincidence that we found each other just at the right time, but I believe things happen for a reason.

La Tribu Radiante and an interview with Yunior

Some thoughts on education

I have been given the opportunity to teach in the schools here in Salinas Grandes.  It has opened up my eyes to how little education is happening in these small rural areas.  I wish I could paint a picture of the yelling, disruptions, lack of discipline, inconsistent school days, and overall chaos that the students who want to learn have to deal with.  Many of the teachers are caring but do not have the support of administration, parents, or the resources they need.  In the first grade class that Parker and Brielle attend, the teacher goes desk to desk and writes the math problems into their notebooks for the students to complete.  I still believe in helping kids stay in school as long as possible.  Statistically every year of school for a child creates more opportunity for them.   But I see a huge need for mentorship and further education outside of the school system for children who desire it.  I go and teach English each week and I can see the four or five kids in each class who are trying to learn through the noise.  We have been given a unique opportunity to help alleviate some of the poverty in Salinas by valuing and creating more educational chances.  English club and classes are just the beginning.  We hope to extend our classes to include a story hour for young kids to be exposed to books, computer classes, swimming and water safety classes, health in food preparation, and clean water education.  If we don’t start with educating the children and other people who desire it, then our attempts in the community will not have local support.  Real impact is a slow process but worth it.

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At English club each week we have an opportunity to get to know the kids apart from the chaos of school.  It’s just a small group right now of between 6-10 kids that are hungry to learn and absorb any education we can provide.  As the kids arrive they often head straight to the bathrooms in two’s or threes.  They don’t have running water or flushing toilets at their houses and they spend a few minutes cleaning up.  Sometimes the girls come out with wet hair that they have quickly washed.  It reminds me of the privilege of running water and helps me not to be annoyed that we start a few minutes late.  A few weeks ago as I was teaching, the Spirit led me to switch my English lessons so that the Nicaraguan students also had the opportunity to teach my kids Spanish as we were practicing.  It has made a huge difference in the dynamic and closeness we share.  It is not a one sided lesson, but a group learning from each other.  We truly desire to give each child a sense of dignity and respect.  We believe this kind of justice is what will have a lasting impact.