About Rayo de Sol
Rayo de Sol is a nonprofit organization, based in Atlanta, Georgia. The organization was founded by a group of concerned Christians, committed to putting their faith into action. The organization is founded on Christian values and the belief that the Gospel is a call to action, a call to love and service. Rayo de Sol believes that development is a collaborative process, requiring meaningful participation of beneficiaries and communities. Successful development programs are created by constructing partnerships among donors, volunteers, community members and local leaders.
Motivated by God’s mission in Isaiah 58: 1-10, Rayo de Sol envisions communities in which resources are shared to help break the cycles of poverty, through improved health and education services, and the creation of sustainable economic alternatives.
The values that guide Rayo de Sol are faith, humility, integrity, professionalism, encouragement, perseverance, excitement and enjoyment, education and stewardship.
Since 2007, Rayo de Sol has worked to implement education, public health and nutrition programs in impoverished communities on the outskirts of the city of Matagalpa, located two hours north of Managua. One of the key elements to promoting community development is the construction of partnerships with both public and private organizations. The organization works diligently to develop productive, working relationships with the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Municipal Government, the Ministry of the Family and a variety of local and international nonprofit organizations. Rayo de Sol recognizes the inherent value in partnership, particularly in order to offer the highest quality program services possible.
Rayo de Sol’s team works closely with parents, teachers, community leaders and young people in the community to address key issues and better understand the community’s strengths, weaknesses and priorities. Often, community development initiatives are designed based on needs, without taking into account the existing skills and knowledge. Rayo de Sol is in the process of building lasting solutions that will improve social and economic conditions, as well as empowering community members and building self esteem. Poverty affects individuals, families and communities on many levels, and community development solutions need to respond to the multiple impacts of chronic poverty.
Nicaragua, a country of nearly six million people, is juxtaposed between beautifully inspiring scenery of volcanoes, pristine lakes, and beaches with the harsh reality of extreme poverty that tarnishes the country’s cities, towns and villages and burdens its people with difficulties unconceivable in the developed world. Nicaraguans, a mix of European, indigenous and Afro-Caribbean ethnicities, have long struggled to overcome these difficulties, and promote social and economic development. Unfortunately, Nicaragua offers little in the way of a social safety net for the disadvantaged. Today, Rayo de Sol has become a vital partner in providing many Nicaraguan children and families with a more just and dignified life, offering new opportunities and new hopes to those in greatest need, through actions in education, health, nutrition and community development.
Nicaragua is named so after the indigenous tribal leader, Nicarao, that lived around Lake Nicaragua in the late 15th and early 16th century. The country gained independence from Spain in 1821 and became an independent republic in 1838. After almost 150 years of cyclical civil wars due to political strife, Nicaraguans have lived in relative peace since 1990.
Nicaragua’s GDP in 2012 was $10.5 billion, with a growth rate of 4.5%. According to governmental sources, the country’s per capita GDP is $1,650, the lowest in the Central American region. The service industry accounts for more than half of Nicaragua’s GDP, followed with manufacturing and agriculture. Tourism has been growing in Nicaragua for the past decade, as the country has been promoted in international travel publications as an undiscovered treasure. With destinations such as San Juan del Sur, Granada, Ometepe, and several active volcanoes on the Pacific Rim’s “Ring of Fire”, Nicaragua attracted more than one million tourists in 2012. In addition to tourism, Nicaragua’s economy depends on coffee, seafood, sugar, beef and industrial products. Key trading partners include the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Guatemala and El Salvador.
Nicaragua is the 2nd poorest country on the continent, suffering from some of the worst poverty conditions in the Western Hemisphere. Official unemployment rates are reported at 9%, however, underemployment is rampant with over 60% of the work force laboring in the informal sector, where they receive minimal pay and no social benefits. Education in the country is also deficient, with only 43% of those enrolled in primary school making it to the 6th grade according to UNICEF. Of the students who manage to finish primary school (6th grade), only a third will graduate from high school. In high poverty areas, that number drops significantly. In many impoverished communities, less than ten percent of young people finish high school.
An estimated 75% of Nicaraguans are trapped in the cycles of chronic poverty, with roughly 48% living on $1.25 a day and another 27% on $2.00 a day, crippling the ability of a typical family of four to provide even half of the basic food, hygiene products, and educational supplies necessary to subsist and provide a healthy livelihood for their children. As a result, more than 20% of all children in Nicaragua suffer from some form of malnutrition affecting not only their physical abilities but their learning capacity as well (in high poverty areas, as many as 70% of the children are malnourished).
Under these conditions, Nicaraguans are constantly struggling to subsist and live a more dignified life. At Rayo de Sol we are dedicated unconditionally to equipping and aiding children, adolescents and families with the necessary tools to break the cycle of poverty so that they may improve their lives, their communities and their country. With your help we can accomplish this.
Where We Work
The city of Matagalpa is located 140 kilometers north of the city of Managua, in a mountainous region where most of Nicaragua’s coffee is produced. The municipality has a population of approximately 135,000 and is the capital of the department of Matagalpa. Although Matagalpa produces nearly half of Nicaragua’s coffee, the country’s main export product, poverty levels in the region are among the highest in the country. The coffee industry generates significant wealth for large plantation owners and exporters, though the employment created for workers is very low quality and poorly paid. As a result, more than 60 of the population of Matagalpa lives in conditions of chronic poverty, surviving on less than two dollars a day. Education levels are low and access to basic social services is limited.
On the outskirts of the city, Rayo de Sol works in El Tule, La Colonia and a neighborhood called Nuevo Amanecer, which was originally established in 2005 as a resettlement camp for families that lived in areas that were at risk of natural disasters. The families that were relocated to Nuevo Amanecer already lived in poverty, and by moving them to the new area, they also had to abandon their income generating activities, primarily agricultural. The neighborhood is built on a hillside, with very small lots for each family, making any kind of small scale agriculture virtually impossible. Poverty levels are considerably higher than in other areas of the city of Matagalpa. Many families in the neighborhood have limited access to potable water and electricity, and have only rudimentary latrines. There are two public, primary schools in the area, though both are overcrowded and lack the infrastructure and learning materials necessary to provide quality education for children.
Adolescents also face many risks, as they have little access to educational opportunities or employment. Many students do not continue their education after completing primary school (6th grade) and only half of those that enter high school end up graduating. There is often little supervision at home, as many adults are forced to leave Matagalpa to work in Managua, Costa Rica or other Central American countries. As a result, teen pregnancy rates are alarmingly high, and many young men turn to drugs and alcohol, to numb the frustrations of living in poverty. These conditions ultimately lead to community wide problems, as crime rates are increasing in the area and youth gangs are beginning to take form.