(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 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 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!