Making a real difference: Educating school children in Nicaragua

The Cayuga Collection of Sustainable Luxury Hotels and Lodges has been the main supporter of Earth Equilibrium and its Learning is Change project for many years.  In July, the Equilibrium team headed to Nicaragua to teach children at the local school that is supported by Jicaro Island Ecolodge in Lake Nicaragua.   Below, you can read the personal impressions of one of the educators.

School Children supported by the efforts of Equilibrium and Jicaro
The children that participated in the workshop organized by Equilibrium and Jicaro Island Ecolodge near Granada, Nicaragua.

Friday July 4, 2014.   At 2:30 pm approximately, we were crossing the border to Nicaragua; it was my first time visiting that country.   The heat was intense; an indication of what the week ahead would be like in Granada. The first landscapes looked familiar to me, I felt like I was still in Guanacaste, but the Lake of Nicaragua with its volcanoes reminded me that I had already left behind my Costa Rica.

The different images of Granada quickly allowed me to take a liking to that country, but the image I will never forget is that of beautiful Lake Nicaragua once we were on the boat.   As the boat sped ahead, the lake stopped looking like a sea and turned into a village on water. The little houses on the islands, the people bathing in the lake, the small boats next to their tiny island; it all seemed to me like a sample of years ago, and I compared it with life in the countryside of Costa Rica, where instead of row boats there are horses, and instead of motorboats there are bicycles; it seemed rather cozy and idyllic.

The local kids have a great thirst for education.
Children anxiously awaiting arrival of the educators at their school. All very anxious to learn.

The arrival at the hotel was quick and with much to admire.   We were received by Carcache making a joke and giving us a touch of his merry personality that would make us laugh all week long. Gabriela received us kindly and shyly, and thus, little by little we met every member of the team, all key pieces of Jicaro Ecolodge, and all of them going way beyond the cordiality that is requisite of their daily work.  I can describe the team of Jicaro as a real family, united by the love for their town, their dedication to their work, and their availability and enthusiasm.

Saturday we spent at the market in town, picking up the food for the snacks and lunches, and on Sunday we made our way to the Padre Nello school to get ready for class. It was poignant to see the conditions in which you can come to work with boys and girls, seemingly unable to offer them anything better, in the sense of small details such as a clean space, order and organization, or interesting and stimulating material.  A bit of woe aside, we got to work, and many hours later after dusting, sweeping, and mopping, the four of us, had given the school building an air of happiness and levity.

Teaching at the Padre Nello School.
Class room at Padre Nello School. Michelle of Earth Equilibrium giving classes.

The first day of classes was wonderful.   I arrived with the uncertainty of the how the children would be. Would they like the activities we had planned? Would we meet their expectations? Everything turned out in the best way possible. It was inspiring to see, in their little faces, the curiosity for all the new things that we had brought to them.

The boys and girls took a little time to feel at ease and express their ideas, but little by little they opened up.   Although they were distant and quiet they quickly showed how smart they are thus revealing their need for more and more stimulation.   Every bit of information and curious fact excited them more and more, and this enthusiasm was one of the most rewarding aspects of the week.

Art work at the Padre Nello School in Lake Nicaragua
Proud children showing off their art work produced during the environmental education workshop at the Padre Nello School.

Every day was a different adventure. We endured inconveniences with which the teachers, students and lake population in general are faced; not having electricity nor running water, even though very probably, we were the only ones slightly uncomfortable because for them it is an everyday reality. We ventured along adapting activities, improving some ideas and techniques, like the relay games that ended with identification of kingdoms and uses of biodiversity.   Initially one of the relay challenges was to jump over a small box but the ground surface was too irregular to make it safe so we had to change it to drawing concentric circles instead.   Everything was part of getting to know the surroundings, taking advantage of the available space, and being creative enough so the activities carried out were sufficiently enticing for the boys and girls.

working with plants during environmental education
Hands on environmental education is part of the Learning is Change project.

The best rewards came from listening to them ask if they could stay longer,   inquiring as to when we would return, and seeing the shyest boys and girls come looking for us for a goodbye hug. There were many things we learned during our stay in Nicaragua, but the most important to me, is that there are neither boundaries nor limitations when things are done with passion and love for children.

This blog was written by Veronica Chavarria.   Veronica is an educator working with Equilibrium on the Learning is Change Program.   This blog was originally written in Spanish as a reflection piece about the one week long camp of Learning is Change that took place at the Padre NelloSchool with the support of the Jicaro Island Ecolodge team on the Islets of Granada, Nicaragua.

creative artwork of children at the school
Creative work done by the children of the school. Learn more about our efforts at: www.earthequilibrium.com

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