Becca’s Voice

(Rebecca Ahern is a Rayo de Sol volunteer, from New Hampshire)

I wasn’t sure what to expect coming to volunteer with Rayo de Sol, but I have learned so much in just a short week.

I first noticed that the office doubles as a safe space for children in the community. Kids are constantly stopping by to say hello and offer help however they can. It became obvious they love it here.

I also learned how Rayo de Sol is involved with the community’s education.

About 300 children receive scholarships, with funds raised through the organization and donations. These scholarships include transportation money, school supplies uniforms and shoes for students at seventeen different schools.

The staff visits the schools every week, providing workshops for teachers, programs for the children during and after school, and they keep up with community development. I have been able to go to several of these schools so far.

The first school I visited was a preschool, where we played outside games with the kids and spent time with the teachers in their classrooms. It’s obvious the children loved the Rayo de Sol staff and it confirmed their dedicated work here; every time Rayo de Sol is around, the kids light up with smiles that radiate through the room. I must admit, it’s quite contagious.

I also went to a school for young people who are training to become teachers. Rayo de Sol was conducting a workshop for the students to learn a method of teaching called Montessori. Here, I observed how the students were so eager to learn, invested in the workshop and thankful that Rayo de Sol was there for them

Although I walked through the community and witnessed harsh conditions, saw the completed water projects and got involved with community development, the education aspect of Rayo de Sol is undeniably important.

Overall, I’m walking away from my first week with this: Rayo de Sol makes a difference in the lives of hundreds of children and their families.

Darcys’ Voice

(Darcys Mayorga is a Rayo de Sol university scholarship student, studying accounting)

One of the reasons why I started participating in Rayo de Sol’s scholarship program three years ago, was because I really like Rayo de Sol’s approach, as a nonprofit organization. They strengthen and develop communities with great needs and I am proud to be a part of this great family.

Recently, I achieved one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. I won second place in a mural contest. I was so surprised, I had no idea that I would win second place. It all started four months ago, when I recevied a course in muralism through Rayo de Sol’s scholarship program. That was just the beginning and I have worked to put what I learned in practice, together with other scholarship students.

We have been practicing by painting murals in the different schools where Rayo de Sol works, to improve the learning environments for children. Making art on the walls, where the beauty of colors flow, is a way to make the imagination grow. It has been a great way to use what we have learned to improve education for younger children.

As a university scholarship student, I have been able to learn many things and share them with others. It has made me a stronger person and I am thankful for the opportunities that Rayo de Sol has given me to grow. I have been working with Rayo de Sol for three years now, learning and contributing in whatever way I can.

Through Rayo de Sol, I have found my true, inner self. I have been able to overcome my fears and have become a more positive person. I have improved as a person and have also learned to set goals. I know that I can achieve anything that I set out to accomplish.

If you ask me, this organization is a true ray of light in many people’s lives.

Scott’s Voice

(Scott Finlayson is a Rayo de Sol employee in Nicaragua)

In May of 2017, I left my job in Midtown, Atlanta doing digital marketing to start working for Rayo de Sol. I enjoyed my previous job, but it wasn’t something I was very passionate about, and I’ve felt for a while that God was leading me towards work in a nonprofit ministry. When I heard about Rayo, it immediately checked off several boxes of things I was looking for:

  • A nonprofit specializing in poverty alleviation and community development
  • Based out of Atlanta in the U.S. (where I lived), but located in Nicaragua, (where I had already spent a summer doing an internship with another NGO)
  • An approach that works with community members to empower them and preserve their dignity rather than simply providing handouts and creating unhealthy dependence/one-way relationships
  • The opportunity to work with children and youth in high-risk areas
  • A focus not just on physical needs, but on spiritual needs as well

From May to December of 2017, I worked for Rayo in Atlanta, maintaining the donor database and helping to plan a fundraising event. Then on January 1st of this year I made the move to Matagalpa to join our field staff.

I’m renting a small apartment from a sweet older lady named Alicia who loves to watch cheesy soap operas on television and also WWE wrestling matches. Her 17-year-old grandson, Darwin, has been my Matagalpa tour guide, and the two of them have welcomed me into their family with open arms.

Work with Rayo is off to a pretty great start as well. My official title is Discipleship & Scholarship Coordinator. I work with another Rayo employee, Martha Cortedano, to run our children’s Bible teaching program as well as our partnership with Young Life- an organization that shares the gospel with middle and high schoolers through camps, fun weekly meetings, and one on one mentorship/discipleship.

Nicaraguans are some of the most faith-filled people I have ever met, but there’s also a lot of cultural Christianity, similar to the southern United States. Sometimes church is something to do because it’s what families have always done, but it’s more a list of rules rather than a relationship with a loving Father. On top of that, many of the kids near our office come from rough neighborhoods and have heartbreaking family situations, so having mature Christian role models is critical.

I also help run our high school and university scholarship program. Public schools here are technically free, but many children have to drop out to provide for their families. Over 50% of primary students drop out before completing 6th grade, so we do what we can to remove the obstacles to education that exist.

Although there’s a lot of brokenness here (as there is anywhere else in the world that you find humans), there’s a lot of good as well. Just being here about two months, I’ve already met so many amazing community leaders, teachers, students, and parents that are working for the good of Nicaragua. Rayo de Sol does an amazing job of coordinating these resources as well as bringing in teams from the U.S. that partner in these community development efforts in ways that are healthy for both parties. I feel very blessed to be a part of it all, and I’m very excited to see what else God has in store!

A Successful Night in Nicaragua

We are pleased to announce that our fundraising event, Night in Nicaragua, was a great success. Held at Monday Night Brewing in Atlanta, more than 120 people attended the event to learn more about how God is working through Rayo de Sol to transform lives every day.

A silent auction was held at the event, as well as sales of handmade Nicaraguan crafts, from the businesses that Rayo de Sol has supported over the past several years. Products from the women’s sewing business and also the recently formed bamboo business were available, with sales contributing to helping these businesses grow in the future.

The highlight of the evening was a performance by Christian comedian, Kenn Kington, who had the audience bellowing with laughter. His message, however, was also very poignant. We live in an era of endless choices and the choices we make every day determine how successful we are at following God’s plan for our lives.

Although we did not meet our goal of raising $50,000 for a matching opportunity, the event was highly successful. It was great to see so many friends, who have been loyal supporters for many years, as well as so many new faces. We are so grateful to everyone who participated in making it our best event to date.

If you’d like to participate in our event planning committee in 2018, please contact us.

Click here to see the rest of the photo booth pictures!

Building Connections, Sharing Joy

This Thanksgiving, we receive and extra serving of blessings. Right before the holiday, we hosted a mission group from Atlanta, made up of three hardworking and compassionate families: the Browns, the Ewings and the Waggoners. We spent several days working at the school in the community of Llano Grande, building playground equipment out of recycled materials and also laying the foundation for a new kitchen.

In addition to the work accomplished at the school, the three families (including their combined total of seven children) also built incredible connections to students and parents in the community. There are universal languages among children: laughter, play and joy. The group and the community shared much laughter, played many games and the whole visit was illuminated with joy. It was incredible to witness the relationships growing and evolving each day.

The playground equipment was completed by the time the group left and the foundation of the kitchen was nearly ready, and the kitchen will be completed by the end of November. We are so grateful to these three families, and their commitment to sharing God’s love and blessings through service. Hopefully, they will be back soon!

If you are interested in planning a mission trip de Nicaragua with your family, school, church or friends, please contact us for more information.

Johanna Rostrán: One of the Fortunate Fifteen

Johanna is a member of a very select group. In just a few short weeks, she and fourteen of her classmates will be graduating from high school. We call them the Fortunate Fifteen because they represent the first group of students that have been in our program for five years and will earn their high school degree this December. We began our high school scholarship program in 2013, and although these students have faced many difficulties, they have persevered.

Johanna is an excellent student and has been a leader among her peers. For the past two years, she has provided tutoring for younger students in the program in math and science. Johanna has also done her community service hours in the health and nutrition program, visiting schools in Matagalpa to deliver nutritious food and also teach some basic public health classes to students and parents.

When Johanna receives her diploma next month, she will become the first person in her family to graduate from high school. Her parents are incredibly proud of her accomplishments. After high school, Johanna hopes to continue her education at the local university. Her dream is to study for a degree in accounting. We will be there to support her with a university scholarship.

If you are interested in providing a scholarship for a high school or university student, please contact us to find out how to get involved.

Fresh, Hot Bread!

One of the greatest successes we have witnessed this year has been the development of a bakery in the Nuevo Amanecer neighborhood. Six months ago, we began a training program with a local bakery. They offered to train a group of women in bread making, so that they might develop new skills for generating income. The eight women in the group successfully completed the training program and began to look for ways to create a sustainable business.

We have been accompanying the women in the process and thanks to the generosity of one of our faithful donors, their dream has become a reality. Last week Hilda, María, Francis, Carmen, Digna, Martina, María del Carmen and Marina are now officially in business. With the funding we received, we made a loan to the group to purchase an industrial oven and all of the supplies needed to get their business off the ground.

They are now baking different types of bread every day, and selling it in their neighborhood. Their neighbors are thrilled to have fresh, hot bread available every day. The women know that they will have to work hard, but the success of their business will also depend on their faith and commitment. We look forward to watching this business grow in the coming year. There is no doubt that these eight women will achieve great success.

Oscar Meets Bamboo

When we began working in Matagalpa, Oscar was in the fourth grade. He was a shy boy, with a bright smile and we were all sure he was headed for a bright future. After finishing primary school, Oscar began high school, though adolescence and family difficulties became obstacles. He dropped out of high school during his first year, which was sad and frustrating for all of us. He tried again a second time, the following year, though he again withdrew from school when some personal situations got to be too overwhelming.

Oscar began to work as an apprentice in a carpentry shop, but that option also proved to be unsuccessful. We were all concerned about Oscar and seeking new ideas, to help guide him in his development. He is a committed member of Young Life, so his faith is strong, though he had not found the right opportunity for his personal growth and development.

Finally, we found the solution: bamboo. We had a chance to send two people to a training program, to learn how to make crafts and furniture from bamboo. With his experience in carpentry, we thought that it might be the ideal opening for Oscar…and it was. He became immediately enamored with the bamboo project and demonstrated an incredible amount of skill. Oscar is now heading up our new bamboo workshop, and training five other young men to work with bamboo. They have already started selling some of their designs in local markets and fairs. We are so happy that Oscar finally found his niche and is making great progress towards becoming a skilled craftsman. We still hope that he will get his high school degree, though for the time being, he is steering clear of risks and working hard.

Let There be Rain

“Drip down, O heavens, from above, And let the clouds pour down righteousness; Let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit, And righteousness spring up with it. I, the LORD, have created it.”
Isaiah 45:8

After several months of planning and research, the rain harvesting project is finally complete. We had great support from our partner organizations, Sirviendo FAITH Foundation and Tin Roof Foundation, who helped to make it a reality. Although we had originally planned on installing water systems for 30 families, we ended up including 43, as well as both public schools in the communities Cerro de Piedra and Las Lomas.

Both of these communities suffer from severe water shortages and we determined that the most feasible way to provide some alleviation from this situation was by installing rain harvesting systems. This would allow the families to capture rainwater during the long rainy season and store it for the dry season. We developed a design that was both practical and affordable.

Installation of the systems began in July and were completed within a month. Since it has been raining heavily this season, most of the tanks are already full. The families are currently using the water, as it saves them from walking great distances to retrieve water for their basic needs. They will allow the tanks to fill up at the end of the rainy season, so they will have an adequate supply for the dry season.

We are so grateful to all of the individual and institutional donors that made this project possible. For a more detailed report of the project, download the final report here.

Juan Carlos and the New Books

Juan Carlos is five years old and lives with his mother and sister in the community Las Lomas. He should have been in preschool this year, but since the school in Las Lomas is very small, they were not able to open a community preschool this year. His mother works all day though, to support her children, so it was also difficult for her to find someone to care for Juan Carlos during the day.

After some creative planning with the school’s only teacher, special arrangements were made in order for Juan Carlos to be able to begin to attend school. Although the school year was already in session, he started classes in July, at the beginning of the second semester. His first day of school happened to be the day that our staff was creating a new reading corner for the school in Las Lomas!

That day, all of the students helped to clean and organize a corner of their classroom, in order to make space for a small library. Shelves were painted and installed, cushions were arranged on the floor and most importantly, our staff brought a collection of more than 100 books.

It’s safe to say that it was the first time that Juan Carlos had ever held a book in his hands. He marveled at the illustrations and listened attentively as the older children read him stories. We are certain that he will turn into a great reader before the end of the school year. We will have to work closely with the teacher in Las Lomas, to ensure that Juan Carlos gets a solid foundation during the rest of the year, but his enthusiasm is contagious.