Our goal this year was to organize a new Young Life club, and that is close to becoming a reality! We decided to prioritize the community Llano Grande, because we have a large group of scholarship students there and a strong parent’s committee. We held the first organizational meeting in mid-October and the club’s first official meeting was held on October 30th.
More than thirty students and parents attended the first meeting, to learn about Young Life and the clubs that we organize together. We now have Young Life members who have come up through the ranks and have received leadership training. They did an amazing job of talking about their own experiences and encouraging the new students to take advantage of the opportunity to be a part of the new Young Life club. They talked about growing in their faith, which has helped them to grow in other areas of their lives.
We are excited to see how this new club develops in the coming months. We are sure that it will be a great success. Hopefully, we will be able to send a group from Llano Grande to the Young Life camp in January.
In the last week in October, we organized a reading and recycled art fair at the 15 de Septiembre school, where all of our programs began. There were students, parents and teachers from four different schools that joined together to share their talents and their passion for reading and arts. Each school did theatrical presentations of their favorite books and also created works of art made from recycled materials.
We have continued to work to organize reading clubs in each of the 18 schools that we serve. Reading is one of the most fundamental pillars of education. If students don’t develop reading comprehension skills in their first few years at school, the likelihood of their abandoning school before finishing the sixth grade is much greater.
The fair was a great success, with more than 150 children and adults in attendance. A gallery was set up to display the art work from each school. The pride on the children’s faces was priceless as the visitors viewed their creations. These activities help to build self-esteem and confidence in children, which has an enormous impact in their lives.
In September, we began screening children for dental problems, after reports from our medical team indicated many urgent needs. We began working with a local dentist to perform the screenings at each school, in order to identify the children with the greatest needs.
Ashlyn is six years old and lives in the community El Jícaro. She is in first grade at the school in her community and participates actively in our education program. Her mother came to the school on the day of the dental screenings, to ask for our help. Our dentist soon discovered that Ashlyn had severe problems and needed emergency treatment and she was scheduled for the first week in October.
The following week, Ashly was treated by our dentist. She had six extractions and six fillings, a very difficult visit for such a young girl. Unfortunately, poor nutrition and oral hygiene are common in Nicaragua, affecting many children. With the economic crisis, it is difficult for Ashlyn’s parents to purchase toothpaste. However, we will be working to promote more public health activities in each school.
Despite the pain and discomfort that she experienced, when we ran into Ashlyn a few days later, she was wearing a brand new smile.
One of our goals this year was to provide more vocational education opportunities for young people and adults. Last year we created an alliance with the National Training Institute, Ministry of Family Economy and Infancia sin Fronteras to offer vocational courses in the neighborhood near our office, where poverty levels are high and employment is scarce.
Over the past several months, we have had more than fifty adults enrolled in sewing, cooking, baking and hair styling courses. They have learned valuable skills that will increase their possibilities of finding formal employment or help them to start their own businesses. On October 25th, we held a graduation ceremony for all of the students, many of them single mothers, who worked so hard to complete the courses.
It was so amazing to see the satisfaction and expectation on the faces of each graduate. They proudly received their certificates and also displayed their work for the public. We organized a small fair at the ceremony, where the students exhibited garments, baked goods and typical Nicaraguan dishes. Our next challenge will be the help guide some of the participants in the creation of small businesses.