It’s 5:30 am on July 2nd and I am sitting outside on the porch of the villa where we are staying. I am struck by the absolute quiet and the intense noise of the morning. I know, more of the usual contradictory pronouncements I like to make. But let me explain a little: When I say quiet, I mean quiet to a city-dwelling American. No cars – none at all – no sirens, trains, busses, stoplights that ding or speak, or belching semis. It’s not that they don’t exist, it’s just that they don’t exist, now.
What I do hear is the earth. There is a beautiful breeze and it whispers through the leaves of the trees. The birds are singing in a call and answer, changing the pattern ever so slightly with each round. And insects – oh insects galore. Something that sounds like a cricket, mosquitoes humming in my ear, a very large spider making scritching noises on the stones, and a bee sounding like it is eternally struggling to stay in the air.
Okay, enough waxing poetic. I am trying to decide how to tell you about yesterday. I could detail all the moments as they passed –
telling you about the bus ride in the pouring (and I mean pouring) rain; about the smells of cooking fires mixed with wet manure; or the 2 lane road that our bus driver navigated with the skill of an indy driver (although not the speed – we are talking school bus here.) But I think what is more important is the way I am just beginning to understand the rightness of this charity. I use the word rightness because I think it fits, and here’s why:
Many of you asked me why I had to raise $5000, and my answer was “to qualify to go on the trip”. But that’s not really it, not exactly. This trip is about the money, as crass and blunt as that sounds. At dinner last night, I learned more about how Random Acts chooses the projects they want to support. It is very different from what I understood. It is also something I don’t think I could have ever understood from just reading about it. But (dear reader) since that is the only way I can help you understand, I will do my best to explain.
It starts with a community leader who has a vision and a need. I would like you to meet Dr. Rosa Elena Bello.
This project is her vision. It originated with a frustration over poor health and nutrition. Infants and children suffering from chronic dysentery and malnutrition. Rosa understands true and lasting change requires education (For example, if you can’t read how do you know the dosage of a medicine to give to your child? Maybe someone told you, but you forgot. What then?) So she began an educational movement. In a matter of three years, hundreds of women earned sixth-grade diplomas. But learning is contagious and begins to demand more. Some of these graduates wanted to continue to a secondary education – creating a moment in time for a historical change. At the time, the ordinary daily high school in Nicaragua would accept no woman over 18, pregnant or who had a baby.* Flash forward to the established school – the Free High School and the Technical High both operate in San Juan proper as Saturday Schools, allowing tradesmen, working woman, and those living at a distance to attend. That is Dr. Bello’s vision recognized.
Now, let’s talk need. They need their own building – buildings – campus. They currently share a space in an elementary school. Imagine your last parent-teacher conference with your child’s kindergarten teacher. Think about it… Got it… Yep – knees up to your chest, cramped, butt cheeks maybe hanging off the sides of the chair. Funny right? Not so much. They need their own school – and for many (and better reasons) then just the uncomfortable small desk.
Enter Random Acts – stage left. Random Acts found this project through a fairly convoluted path – but it really isn’t important how they found the need – they did. And in true Random Acts form, they decided to help fill that need up. The construction crew is 100% Nicaraguan with general contractors Austin and Michelle Drill.
Austin and Michelle moved to San Juan del Sur seven years ago and started Casa de Tierra, which specializes in green construction. Together they are building the campus that will truly make the Free High School, free. Radom Acts and other similar charities provide the funding for salaries, supplies, etc. We do not come in, change the projects, slap down what we think the locals need, and then leave. Nooooo. The $5,000 that each of us raised, for a total of $89,930 will go a long way to funding this building. There are 2 more buildings planned, but that is another discussion.
So the answer to the question, “Why do you have to raise $5000 to join the team?” is – you don’t. You raise $5,000 to pay for food, rent, children’s medicines, cooking fuel, transportation, etc.- you are paying someone’s salary – funding their livelihood. Being on the team and getting to come to Nicaragua is a bonus – and a way to really understand what this amazing charity does. We do get to build, but really, how much can we accomplish in a week? (Look for that in a future post.) But when we leave, we are not leaving behind our own vision, or concept, or morals, or socio-political agenda. We are leaving behind a school to support a local visionary’s dream. Be proud of your participation. Your support has already gone a long way.
1 building up (kinda), 2 more to go.
Now, the human side of San Juan del Sur is waking up – and beginning the day. And I need to join them – as I have so much more to learn today.
*For more specifics go to https://sanjuandelsursistercityproject.wordpress.com/adult-education/
Follow the link below to see the daily video diary by the Random Acts team.