During our trip to Nicaragua in March, 2017, we had the opportunity to visit both of Opportunity Tree’s projects. While there are still many challenges, Nicaragua has undergone some uplifting changes since our last visit. There are many new latrines at rural homes and a new focus on minimizing deforestation and properly disposing of trash. With these changes comes new civic pride. Nicaraguans are also extremely proud that their country was recognized this year for the greatest increase in happiness among 157 countries surveyed, as measured by a United Nations index. This civic pride and the optimism it brings with it were reflected in many conversations we had with students, teachers, and Opportunity Tree project staff.
During our recent visit to Nicaragua, we observed the preparation of four new in-school libraries and the delivery of one of them to the Barbudos community. Thanks to donors in Colorado, we brought hundreds of Spanish-language science, nature, social studies, reference, and fiction books to contribute to the libraries. Students received the books joyfully. Teachers whose schools received in-school libraries from Opportunity Tree in 2016 shared with teachers at the new schools that their students’ learning and social-emotional skills have been greatly enhanced by books. The excitement was palpable.
A highlight of our recent visit to Nicaragua was meeting with many of the Matagalpa scholarship program students. We met first with university students and a recent, happily employed university graduate in the city of Matagalpa. The university students are thriving and they are deeply committed to overcoming obstacles to completing their studies. For example, to get to the universities located in Matagalpa City, some students travel two hours each direction, on foot and then on buses. We also met with quite a few secondary and primary students, who expressed great appreciation to Opportunity Tree donors far away for their scholarships. They shared their hope that Opportunity Tree scholarships will enable them to pursue their dreams of helping their families, communities, and nation.
We are excited to share news about five students who started high school with Opportunity Tree scholarships when we began in 2011. These students defied the dropout odds for their communities and graduated in December of 2015. We’re very proud of their perseverance to get their high school diplomas, and even prouder that they have started university studies this year with our scholarship support. The students are thrilled to be pursuing careers in law, business administration, systems engineering, public accounting and finance, and agricultural engineering. Many thanks to our donors for helping create opportunities for these determined students!
We send a big “Thank you!” to students in the Global Education Network (GEN) Club at Longmont High School in Colorado. This compassionate group of students chose Opportunity Tree as their project for this year, with a goal of supporting a full year of studies for two high school students in Nicaragua. In January, the GEN Club students planned a week of “random” and fun activities at LHS to increase school spirit and raise funds, including a salsa dancing class, a jazz band performance, a photo booth, a geography game, and a teacher lip sync competition. During that week’s efforts, the GEN Club exceeded their goal and raised more than $500 to support Opportunity Tree’s scholarship program for students in Matagalpa. Thanks again to the GEN Club and its generous supporters at LHS!
Scholarship students take the initiative to design and present educational programs for their peers and lead discussions of issues of social, emotional, and physical health. In the photo, two high school students present their poster on gender roles related to work, gender-based violence, adolescence, sexuality, HIV/AIDS, and the importance of self-protection.
The in-school library at El Capulin Elementary School is up and running! Parents and teachers got together to paint the room and set up the bookshelves. Books have been delivered, and students are already starting to enjoy the benefits of having library books at their fingertips right in their own school.
Opportunity Tree is thrilled to have received grant support for 2015. For the second year, First Congregational Church of Boulder will be supporting scholarships for a group of high school students in the Matagalpa area. We’re grateful for FCC Boulder’s philanthropic focus, their compassion for Nicaraguan youth, and their support of our work. After a difficult year that included earthquakes and heavy rains, the students are very happy to be able to continue their studies thanks to the support of this grant and the ongoing generosity of all of Opportunity Tree’s donors.
Opportunity Tree is excited to announce that it is sponsoring the first stationary in-school library among rural elementary schools served by the Mobile Library Project. At the request of teachers at El Capulin Elementary School, a permanent collection of books will be made available for students to read at school and borrow for home use. This will give students access to many more books than before, and will encourage book-related discussions and read-alouds, and make possible a range of critical thinking and creative class projects. This pilot project may be expanded once it has been implemented and evaluated over the course of 2015. Opportunity Tree’s highly successful Mobile Library Enrichment Program will continue at all of the schools it currently visits. Thanks to our donors for making this new library possible!
Secondary students in the Opportunity Tree scholarship program are asked to find fulfilling ways to share their knowledge, skills, and personal development through community service projects. In this picture, Sharo, in her fourth year of secondary school at Aguas Amarillas School, assists in a “Dental Brigade” to bring much-needed dental exams and care to children in rural Matagalpa.