Education Plus Nicaragua Needs Help

I’m way behind on posting because we have not had good internet but this post needs to be done in any case. It isn’t about our recent activities, it is about Education Plus Nicaragua which we visited back in May last year.

I didn’t give this organization enough mention in my May 15, 2017 posting. We visited the school and talked at length with a couple of staff members and met some of the kids. The children love going there each day, if for no other reason that they get a decent meal. But most of them appreciate the supplemental education that they get as well.

I received this email today and feel compelled to post it and ask anyone who reads this to consider giving $5, $10, $25, or more one time or on an ongoing basis. I can just about count the monthly contributions that I do regularly on one hand and this is one of them.

“Dear friends and family,

Where to even begin.

Last week, political protests erupted all across Nicaragua, leaving more than 30 dead so far.  Protesters are sick of what they view as their corrupt and inept government, and government forces have met peaceful protests with guns and mortars.  New laws were announced increasing income taxes, higher taxes on social security payments, and decreased medical coverage.  At the same time social security is almost insolvent, its funds having allegedly been used by the main political party, the Sandinistas, to purchase luxury housing and private businesses for themselves.  Censorship has kicked up – news channels that are not pro-government have been shut down, and things only seem to be getting worse.  “President” Daniel Ortega has announced he will be rescinding the social security reforms, but the number of protesters is still growing, with some police forces disobeying orders and joining the side of the people. Businesses in the capital are on strike today, demanding the release of political prisoners and an end to censorship and violent repression.

While the social security reforms were the main trigger of the protests, this really has been a long time coming.  Several other issues have caused the protest, including the government’s inept handling of a recent natural disaster in the Indio Maiz region, and because the people are sick of a public education system that says it averages 25 children per classroom but actually averages 50 or more.  Now, a common protest against non-profits such as Education Plus is: “why are you educating that children?  That should be the government’s job.  If you provide the education, then the government has no incentive to do their job.  Therefore, you are actually contributing to the problem.”

Well, in Nicaragua, the endemic corruption is so bad that even if there were more funding for the school system, little would find its way to the children.  More fundamentally, the current government does not want its people educated.  University students are a main faction of the protesters.   The government knows that with education comes greater awareness and a decrease in the sense of powerlessness.  Uneducated people are poorer – so the government can buy their votes cheaply in election years by going around giving out sacks of food and cheap building materials to repair homes.  Additionally, it is the poor and illiterate who are the easiest to manipulate.  We have firsthand accounts of the police going into our community of Pantanal and paying men 200 cord (about 6 USD) to attack peaceful protesters.

This is not the e-mail I wanted to be writing.  But big things are going on right now in Nicaragua, and I want to let you all know that with Education Plus, things will be business as usual as much as possible.  While public schools are closed for now, our doors will be open.  Our employees do not want to stay at home, in fact, they say they feel safer at Casa de los Sueños.  We have arranged transportation so they can get to and from work safely.  If the power is cut across the country as is rumored (in order to prevent communications of what is going on to the outside world), we will keep our doors open.  We will cook with wood and teach in dark but still enthusiastic classrooms.  We will remain a safe place for the children to come and be children throughout the crisis. 

If we start to argue about “government responsibility”, it is the children who will lose.  It falls to us who actually have the economic power to make a difference, to educate the children who will be the future leaders of their country.   As Cardinal Obispo Silvio Baez recently told a gathering of university students at the Metropolitan Cathedral, “The students of Nicaragua are its moral reserve.”

To make a donation to help us continue feeding the children during the crisis, please click on the button below:

Click Here to Help us Feed the Children During the Crisis

Thank you for standing with us during these heartbreaking times.

With hope and gratitude,

Monica, Jim, the staff, volunteers and children of Education Plus

Monica Loveley
Executive Director
Education Plus Nicaragua

Courtyards in Nicaragua

The Garden Cafe. Good food at reasonable prices. The tables are under the roof to the right and left of the photo. This courtyard seemed unusual as it had more plants and dirt than any others we saw.

Courtyards are a necessity in Nicaragua (and should be elsewhere as well). The air in the courtyard flows into the rooms which surround it and help to keep the temperatures tolerable.

All of the courtyards that we saw were full of lots of plants and sometimes a fountain or pool. They were very pleasant to see and to sit in.

My only question about this practice is that it means that the majority of all land is covered by impervious cover (concrete, asphalt, buildings, etc.) so I’m not sure how much of an issue rainwater runoff is.

Here are just a few of the many ones we saw. In the pictures we took from the bell tower, you can see that almost the only plants you see come from the courtyards.

Granada Nicaragua

Granada is the oldest mainland city in the western hemisphere, founded in 1524. We did a couple of different types of tours in the city, including seeing the remains of the original market place, built in the 1500’s.

While very much a tourist town, it is enjoyable because of the history associated with many of the inner city’s buildings. Because of the heat, homes were, and still are, built around a courtyard which allows ventilation and airflow, making it fairly comfortable in the buildings. The town is fairly safe; we were comfortable walking from one part to our hotel after dark. There is a restaurant section closed off to most traffic where pedestrians can walk up and down and hear music and choose where to eat.

There are very rich people in the area and very poor people (see prior blog). $200 per month is not an uncommon income for many people. $500 is a high income.

Food is good however we were careful to eat at places where we either didn’t eat raw veggies or tap water/ice or knew that they used purified water. We have a device to purify our own water and used it a lot on the trip. Beans and rice (gallo pinto) is a staple here well as Costa Rica. We had excellent corvina (sea bass) many times in various restaurants. Fish from Lake Nicaragua was usually tilapia and we didn’t eat it much since the lake water isn’t that clean.

  • Tour of the historic city: we saw old churches, the remaining wall of the original market, and lots of old buildings. Architecture varied: churches often fairly ornate as were some government buildings. Residences were originally built as a long structure with the inner courtyard for ventilation. As the family grew, sections were added on or separated off.
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    Now, individuals own sections which are usually designated by a given color, hence very colorful streets. You have no idea what an interior will look like based on the exterior. Some are very well done with all of the modern conveniences. We also went to a Granada museum, which has a lot of ancient carved statues.

  • School tour: Walking down the street we met some realtors with whom we chatted for a while. One is engaged to a woman who works at the after school program in the poorest neighborhood. We took a tour of the facility (modest but highly functional with 200 students) and the neighborhood. The neighborhood is heartrendingly poor. Some streets are neat and clean even though they are dirt; others are not. Because Nicaraguans don’t think anything about littering (I only saw one sign on the island and none on the mainland about it) the school is very strict in hopes of changing this attitude. Kids are sent home if they are seen littering and it is making a difference…a small change in attitudes. Kids get a meal, play time, access to books, and schooling for half day (public schools only teach 1/2 days so the kids come here the alternate half). The program has been around for 4 1/2 years and is making a difference in these lives. Emaciated dog in barrioGate made of bedspringsThe poverty in the barrio is heart wrenching.
  • Historic house tour: we saw 3 homes and they weren’t really that old although they were representative of how the older homes were built. Note the large pots on the floor in one picture. Those are funeral pots…yes, they put an entire body into one pot. Pots varied in size, presumably based on the size of the person. Don’t want to think much more about this. Pay special attention to the narrow streets, in one the bus can barely turn and also to the various modes of transportation. More on that in another post.
  • Private tour: We hired a young guide to take us around and show us some non-traditional places including Apoyo Lake, Catarina Market (cleaner and less hectic than Granada’s), and some other areas.
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  • Bottle House: This building is built primarily of glass and plastic bottles and is sponsored by the French. It is a place for artists to live and be trained in the street arts. A friend of our tour guide says he is much safer and happier now that he is involved with this group. They are trained to do juggling and acrobatics but I was concerned that when they left this home they couldn’t earn enough to live independently. At least it gives them improved self-esteem.