“Out of the midst of the beautiful Lake Nicaragua spring two magnificent pyramids, clad in the softest and richest green, all flecked with shadow and sunshine, whose summits pierce the billowy clouds.”
On the busy streets of Granada, Nicaragua, it is common for tourists to walk past a group of young children asking for food or córdoba—the Nicaraguan unit of currency—during school hours. Education is not a requirement in Granada, so many parents send their young children out on the streets to panhandle as a way to provide for their families. Next to Haiti, Nicaragua is the most impoverished country in the western hemisphere.
There is esperanza— hope—for the children. La Esperanza Granada is the nonprofit organization that funds all of the schools in the city. Six young women from Western Connecticut State University (WestConn)’s World Languages Club, LETRA, are volunteering in three schools in Granada the week of March 25. Esperanza operates entirely from donations and volunteers.
The students hope to carry suitcases full of donated arts and craft supplies to the Esperanza schools so they can decorate cards with the children. LETRA organized a card-exchange program with The YMCA Children’s Center in Bethel— the WestConn students visited the Center and taught the children key Spanish words that foster education and exemplify what kids love most about school: libros (books), amigos (friends), maestros (teachers), creatividad (creativity), and much more. The cards decorated with Spanish words, colorful drawings and glitter will be hand-delivered to the Nicaraguan students as a gift.
This is WestConn’s second time volunteering through Esperanza. In summer 2009, over a dozen students volunteered in the schools in Granada for four weeks. 2011 WestConn graduate, Jessica Pullara, says that her experience working with the children in Granada was challenging yet extraordinary. “They all smile and that is the greatest thing to see,” she said in an interview. Pullara loved her experience so much that she considers relocating to Granada.
The LETRA members are working hard to raise money for the funding of more schools, supplies, and Nicaraguan teachers’ salaries, which are less than $2,000 per year. The students fundraise by selling neon green “Esperanza” wristbands and holding weekly bake sales on campus.
The LETRA members also have a goal of presenting six violins, one for each student to offer to The Luisa Mercado Foundation in Masatepe, Nicaragua. The complimentary school for children gives them the opportunity to attend music classes, view artwork, read in the library, and receive tutoring.
Alba Skar, Ph.D., WestConn’s passionate faculty advisor for LETRA, calls Nicaragua the land of lakes and volcanoes. She recognizes the natural beauty of the country, but she is also aware of the poverty, and she values the importance of fostering education in the young lives of children. “The children there marked my heart forever and I am grateful now to return to Nicaragua with another group of volunteers, even for just a short time, to share the land of lakes and volcanoes, poetry and revolution, and hope with compassion to make the world a better place, one child at a time,” said Skar in an interview.
The LETRA members hope to continue receiving donations of arts and craft supplies and violins up until Thursday, March 21. Those seeking to donate to Esperanza can use PayPal at http://www.la-esperanza-granada.org/payment-options/ or write a check to:
ICAS/La Esperanza Granada
2111 Latham Street, #219,
All brand new art supplies and gently used violins can be mailed directly to
S. Alba Skar, Ph.D.
Western Connecticut State University
Berkshire Hall 215A
181 White Street, Danbury CT 06810
For more information, call Alba Skr at (203) 837-8485 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.