“My name is Darling Díaz, and I live in the Colonia Apoyo al Combatiente neighborhood in Matagalpa. I have four children, and one of them has a disability. Marlon is 7 years old, and he was born with a psychomotor retardation. Because of his condition, Marlon has continual medical needs and requires special nutrition and care. For five years now, Rayo de Sol has unconditionally supported me with my son. They have made certain that he gets medical attention, fortified nutrition, and they’ve even helped with diapers and other supplies. My husband doesn’t have a stable job, and it’s difficult for us to cover the basic necessities of our family.
Last year, I was able to get a job through Rayo de Sol to help me cover my household costs. I participated in a vocational education program and was able to get a job. Rayo de Sol continues to help me, but now I can cover some of my children’s costs with what I earn from my hard work. I’m very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had through Rayo de Sol these past few years. It has definitely changed my life and the life of my family.”
Marbelly is a single mother who lives with her three daughters in the Nuevo Amanecer neighborhood. Since the social and political crisis that affected Nicaragua in 2018, she has been struggling to cover the family’s basic needs. With so little formal employment available, she decided it was time to start her own business. Six months ago, she came to our office to request a loan, and her life changed dramatically.
Marbelly set up a small business at home making snacks like potato chips, plantain chips and other types of chips made with local vegetables. It was not easy to get started and generate enough sales to support her girls, but little by little she has built her business with help from her daughters. Had it not been for the loan, Marbelly would likely have had to leave her family and migrate to Costa Rica or Panama to find employment.
“This business kept my family together,” she told us. “If I hadn’t gotten a loan from Rayo de Sol, I would have had to go to Costa Rica to find work as a maid, like so many other women in my community. I am so grateful to be earning enough money to support my children. This is truly a blessing for my family.”
“My name is Juan Carlos, and I am 19 years old. A few years ago, my life felt pretty meaningless, and I was caught in a life full of different vices. But in those most difficult moments, the Rayo de Sol team offered me a scholarship to start attending high school. I wasn’t too excited, but I decided to try it out. When I started to get more involved in the Rayo de Sol scholarship program, I became a lot more excited to continue my studies and create a different future for myself.
Three years ago, I also started participating in a training program through Rayo de Sol about carpentry. I’ve really enjoyed learning this trade, and me and the other guys from the training program decided to start a Rayo de Sol carpentry workshop. Now, we work and we study.
Thanks to these opportunities, I finished my high school degree in December of 2019, and I’m now starting to study in college. I’m also the leader of the carpentry workshop, and that allows me to earn some money to help my mom, since she’s a single mother. I plan to keep studying in order to be able to help my family more and become a professional.”
Throughout the 2018 school year, we have worked with teachers, parents and students to develop methodologies and materials to improve the quality of education for nearly 3,000 children in eighteen public primary schools. In order to showcase the results of these efforts, we held an Education Fair on November 21st.
The fair was organized by our staff, students, school principals, teachers and parents. Each school prepared a display of the projects they had worked on during the year and the learning materials they had created. Most of the work was done with recycled or local materials, making them easily replicable in other schools.
Although the original idea was to organize a small event with the schools we serve, it soon turned into a substantial affair. There were more than 300 people in attendance and the fair was covered by the local media. Groups of students from each school also prepared songs, dances and poetry for the audience. All in all, it was amazing and historic day for all involved. We will certainly make it an annual occurrence.
One of the most amazing aspects of our work is being able to observe the physical and spiritual growth of the children and young people that we serve. One of the students in our scholarship program that has most impressed us this year is Magdiel Gómez.
Magdiel is eighteen years old and lives in the Nuevo Amanecer neighborhood. She lives with her mother, who works as a nurse in the local health center. Magdiel’s mother is dedicated to providing her with the best education possible, though her salary is barely enough for their basic needs. When Magdiel finished high school, her mother didn’t think she’d be able to afford to support her college education, but she was quickly approved for a scholarship in our program.
We were very pleased that Magdiel decided to study for a degree in Early Education. She is now finishing her second year and has begun to do her community service hours in our Early and Primary Education Program. She has shown a natural aptitude for teaching and is kind and compassionate with children.
In addition to her studies, Magdiel has also been involved in the local Young Life club for several years. She is one of a select group of young people who has been included in a leadership training initiative. She is now helping to lead the Young Life club in her community. We are so proud of Magdiel’s growth and development as teacher and a leader among her peers.
This year, we decided to wrap up our kids discipleship program in style! Well, Middle Eastern style, that is. Our Christian Education coordinator, Martha Cortedano, had the great idea to close out the year by having the kids dress up and act out the Bible stories they’ve learned about all year long, focusing especially on the birth of Christ. We were thrilled to have thirty-seven children and seventeen parents participate in the festivities, and they really went all out.
The theme verse for the day was Proverbs 22:6, which says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” This perfectly exemplifies the heart behind our children’s ministry program. Through all the silly games, messy crafts, and loud songs, our desire is that something of what’s being taught would stick. We share the gospel with young hearts, teaching them about the character of God and the way that leads to true life. It is our firm conviction that the Word of God does not return to Him empty, and we pray that the seeds planted today will one day blossom and produce spiritual fruit down the road.
It was a beautiful thing to see such excellent coordination between teachers, students, parents, and the Rayo de Sol staff, and we pray that this celebration would serve to more deeply embed all the things the children have learned about God throughout the year.
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.