The Newton (MA) – San Juan del Sur Sister City Project has been working with folks in San Juan del Sur for over 25 years in the fields of Health, Education and Green Building. The project specializes in providing clean water systems, smoke-free cook stoves and buildings with minimal carbon footprints to families in need. It also provides secondary education opportunities for those left out of the public high school system and supports numerous schools in the outskirts of town. The foundation is pioneered by the tireless efforts and dedication of Kathy Knight.
To get to the heart of the impact the project is having in the region, we interviewed Daniela Rodriquez at the preschool in the El Oro neighborhood. The school is just one of several schools built and supported by The Newton (MA) – San Juan del Sur Sister City Project.
Daniela Rodriquez is the only teacher at the school. She started teaching classes as a volunteer when she was 16 years old without a university degree. Every Saturday she travels to Jinotepe to attend Saturday school at the university of Ricardo Morales Aviles, a government supported school specifically focused on educating teachers. She’s now 24 years old, in her 3rd year teaching at the preschool and expects to graduate with her teaching degree next year, at which point she will finally receive a salary (1500 cords per month or $60 USD per month).
Before the school was built, classes were held in a nearby house and occasionally the local church. Now, she was proud to tell us, they have their own classroom, decorated with whiteboards and colorful learning simulators such as the alphabet and numbers.
All the children in attendance live in El Oro, a community of 40 families and around 300 people. The 2014 list of students totals 18 and is growing. The school consists of 3 levels of classes, running 8-12 on weekdays, and serves students ages 3-5 years old. In the afternoons Daniela Rodriquez returns to the school from 2-4pm to teach free literacy classes to adults in the community who can neither read or write.
We visited with Creighton University’s volleyball team who volunteered with the preschool students for the day. Before visiting Nicaragua the team collected donations and held a bake sale to raise money.
With the money raised they purchased supplies needed and requested by the preschool. Items like white board markers, backpacks, notebooks and crayons for each of the 18 students. Every student received a notebook with their name on it to use for the year to offset the extreme shortage of school supplies and lack of local funding for education.