Our scholarship students in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, continue to work hard on their academic and personal goals. We’re especially excited by the number of students now graduating from high school and studying at university. Our program is now in its eighth year. Our students have challenges, however, including uncertainty about safety on roads they travel to school due to ongoing political unrest. Nonetheless, our students forge ahead with resilience and express deep gratitude that people far away care about them and their educations. In the photo, Freddy and his mother receive his monthly stipend from Jacky, a caring administrator of the scholarship program.
It is always a happy day when books arrive for students in two-room schoolhouses in rural Nicaragua! Many new books were delivered this year. Teachers reported a surge in morale when these books and much needed classroom supplies arrived. More than half of the students borrow books to read at home with their families and 90% of the schools we serve have regularly scheduled reading activities as part of the curriculum. This is new for these students, and Opportunity Tree donors have made it possible for ten rural schools. We thank you!
Opportunity Tree’s new partnership with Limitless Horizons Ixil in the highlands of Guatemala is off to a wonderful start. Four young women are excited to be able to study at a respected university to become secondary-level teachers with the goal of serving their hometown of Chajul. The library tutoring program is helping secondary students succeed in science, math, and English courses. This program is especially helpful in encouraging girls to stay in school. Your support has also provided seed money for a nutrition program, as the corn-based diet in Chajul needs to be supplemented with protein and nutrients for growing students. Thank you for your support!
2018 has brought challenges to the people of Nicaragua, as there has been political unrest, disruption, and violence in parts of the country. Unfortunately, as of mid-summer, there is no solution in sight. Our scholarship program students are continuing their studies, though some universities suspended classes for a few weeks in the spring. Opportunity Tree students and in-country program staff are doing their best to move forward. The library project has been able to continue its work, and we are hopeful that peace will be restored.
Opportunity Tree’s programs are expanding for 2018! We will be sponsoring three new in-school libraries and providing additional books for the seven existing school libraries. Teachers and students at the new schools are excited and grateful. We are also happy to expand the Matagalpa scholarship program to include several new secondary students, which is where demand is greatest. These students come from quite a few different communities, so the ripple effects of their educations affect many others. Thanks to our donors for their support!
If you haven’t seen it already, please check out the short video on our home page that explains Opportunity Tree’s work and introduces some of the students impacted by our programs. Thanks to our own Beret Strong and Landlocked Films for making and donating this film!
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!