Settling into the new normal
We would like to share with you an update of the Covid-19 virus in Nicaragua. On March 26th we had just two confirmed cases and as of April 21th, according to statistics from the Ministry of Health in Nicaragua, the current data suggests there have only been 10 cases so far, 6 have recovered, and 2 died. They state there is no local transmission. However, citizens have expressed their concern about possible local spread of the virus, particularly since many Nicaraguans work in Costa Rica where there are more cases, thus opening the opportunity for more transmission. Unlike most countries in the region where residents are forced to stay at home and keep tight control of quarantine to prevent the Covid-19 spread, Nicaragua continues in normal social activity, and children are expected to attend school normally.
Because we realize the importance of social distancing and proper hygiene, we have been working carefully and relentlessly with the families and the communities we serve with continuous education and by offering them washable face masks. Due to the living conditions of the families, it is even more vital to prevent the spread, as many families live in very close quarters, and most share a bed with other family members, and other issue arise due to poverty such as there may only be one or two towels for the entire family to use and share. Unfortunately, for our families, staying at home is just not an option, or they literally will not be able to survive, and this especially true of those with informal street jobs. Since tourism has been the mainstay for Granadian’s for many years, with both the political crisis and now the virus, the meals we are offering the children may be the only meal they have each day.
In order to support the communities but not promote the transmission of the virus, the EI team continues to look for alternative ways to support the families while staying true to our mission, within the realm of our limited resources. Because of the trust that has formed over the years the families receive very well the information we offer and they also are willing to be flexible with us during these precarious times. In Granada and other parts of the country, many NGOs have decided to close temporarily to prevent contagious effects of their collaborators and beneficiaries; however, the EI team consciously and unanimously chose to look for alternatives that would allow us to continue serving the students and their families in a safe and responsible manner because the reality is, they need our support more than ever now. For this reason, we use the necessary protections in the middle of this pandemic to serve meals and attend families, and we constantly assess the situation in daily meetings, making adjustments as needed.
Since starting with our Covid-19 emergency plan, many achievements have been realized, in spite of the fact that in the beginning it seemed almost impossible with so many risks and challenges. The results so far:
1. The Home Visit Team has temporarily replaced all barrio home visits with phone calls, text messages, and group broadcasting. Over 500 calls have been made thus far, and with these calls we work continuously on educating parents and children about virus facts and how to prevent getting infected, and best ways to isolate and seek treatment if infected. Besides this, we also continue to assist them with family challenges and counseling and use this time to encourage parents to get closely involved in their children's education and support them with the assignments we send home.
2. Over two thousand meals have been served since we started our emergency plan. Each day more than 85 children come for food and homework delivery. We always promote social distancing, hand washing, and provide them with masks to avoid possible getting infected by COVID-19.
3. Education packets have been a really good tool to keep our children learning at home in both rural Santa Ana and our Granada barrios. Math and Spanish Homework comes with detailed guides to help parents and children to understand the topics and complete the exercises. On average, of 95% of the students are completing and submitting their homework on time.
4. Family health is being monitored carefully, and we offer them medical support with our partner organizations.
5. The EI team is fully following WHO and CDC protocols, and we have added extra internal protocols, specific to the situation of the country and our organization:
The team has agreed to not utilize collective taxis or take public transportation or put themselves in other risky situations.
The entire team has agreed during this period to not to attend public gatherings or church services.
Hand washing upon entering is required, as well as frequently throughout the day..
The team brings a change of clothes each day to avoid cross contamination upon leaving the center.
The use of gloves and face masks are mandatory when attending the community or when errands in public.
Surfaces are constantly being cleaned with alcohol. Social distancing is always being used when possible.
6. We continue coordinating with other Nicaraguan Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) on joint actions so as to not duplicate efforts and discuss the best ways to help during and after the crisis. Our commitment to the students is stronger than ever as we continue to guide them with love, patience, and perseverance.
As events develop, we will continue to keep you posted. Thank you for your support, and please note that we are very sensitive to the unique challenges each of you are facing during this incredible time. We pray that all of our friends around the world stay healthy. Thank you.
Lisseth, Marcia, and Kathy
Sincerely, Marcia, Lisseth, and Kathy
A Hunger For Knowledge
Empowerment International News
A Fanny is 7 years old and in 2nd grade. Shy and very sweet, she has had a hunger for learning which we have seen as early as age 5 when she used to show up at the EI Center with her older brother Norvin, andjoined our supplementary kindergarten group before we was actually enrolled in school. She also started attending art classes on Saturdays around the same time. Her reading and writing skills are excellent for her age group.Fanny loves to play with her 3 cousins who live near her and also participate in the EI program. Her family has always been proactive and participative in all of the EI activities, they truly understand the value of education, which really helps contribute to the successful outcome of students in our program. While they live quite far from the EI center, this does not deter them in the least, and the arrive daily, sometimes on bike and sometimes on foot.
7 Years old
Fanny is 7 years old and in 2nd grade. Shy and very sweet, she has had a hunger for learning which we have seen as early as age 5 when she used to show up at the EI Center with her older brother Norvin, and joined our supplementary kindergarten group before we was actually enrolled in school. She also started attending art classes on Saturdays around the same time. Her reading and writing skills are excellent for her age group. Fanny loves to play with her 3 cousins who live near her and also participate in the EI program. Her family has always been proactive and participative in all of the EI activities, they truly understand the value of education, which really helps contribute to the successful outcome of students in our program. While they live quite far from the EI center, this does not deter them in the least, and the arrive daily, sometimes on bike and sometimes on foot.
Click here to see a video of Fanny.
A hunger for Knowledge
Each day, Olga greets each member of the team with a cheery “Good morning” and then you may not hear that soft sweet voice again until day’s end if you don’t join her in the barrio. We call her Olguita, affectionately. She was a sponsored student with EI for 6 years, starting at the age of 14. Since the day she entered the Center, she dreamed big. She always took advantage of every program opportunity possible, fueling a life-long passion for photography. She graduated at the top of her class from a competitive technical high school, applied to university, and is now in her final year of Law School.
Midway through her university, Olga had a unique opportunity to serve as a missionary in El Salvador. Upon her return, while waiting for the new university year to commence, she volunteered with EI. The home visit team soon learned how capable she is and hired her as one of the Home Visit Coordinators, along with hours that would be suitable for her to study and work. Her education, coupled with her background as a former EI beneficiary, gives her deep insight into issues families face and a powerful ability to guide them to overcome those barriers. She is a great resource and a great role model for families and students.
As a home visit coordinator, Olga is much beloved by the children and the teens. Although she is only about 4’10”, you can always tell where she is in the barrio by the knot of children around her, bending toward her to hear her quiet voice. Her introverted personality just strengthens her capacity to find the right words in the right moment, and when she does express her opinion it is always worth listening to. Her rare and fleeting smile lights up the room with her authenticity and transparency. In our monthly meetings, she always comes with ideas of how to improve our health and home visit program, to help us stay on track with our mission of educating children and youth to break the generational cycle of poverty.
Empowerment International has a passionate and committed team. Thanks to the long term support of so many of you, we have been able to integrate former program participants like Olga. These former students truly understand the power of the EI programs and education. Having walked on both sides, as a beneficiary and as a contributor to the community, no one could be more appropriate for this role.
By Marica Miranda, Nicaragua Country Director
Leadership from within
"Dare to walk the path that others have feared and a leader shall then be born." - Robert Hensel
We are immensely proud to support Empowerment International, and the incredible work they do to lift up the young people in Nicaragua.
Since we first encountered EI and their staff on our first visit to Nicaragua over five years ago, it has been our honor to support and work with the amazing people there, and assist them in their work helping the kids and families of their community.
We have walked the barrios, and sat in the humble homes of the resilient and ever-smiling people of Granada and Santa Ana. We have been lucky enough to spend time at the education center and watch the children dance and sing while taking part in the enriching cultural programs; to assist in designing and delivering art classes to enhance their education; to provide small-group and one-on-one English language tutoring, and to be a small part of this hugely impactful organization.
EI is truly incredible. Working with a very small budget, and with an entirely local staff, they have an immense impact on the lives of hundreds of young people. More importantly, and this is indeed part of their “secret sauce,” they work directly with the families – often single mothers – to ensure that the home environment is conducive to learning. The help they provide goes way beyond simply helping the kids, as important as that it. They are raising up the entire community.
This strange time of pandemic and quarantine allows us to reflect on the many blessings we have. Here in California we live on an acre and a half in the wine country and are surrounded by our gardens and trees. Though by no means rich, we are immensely privileged. For all that we have, we are truly thankful, but would like to especially thank everyone at Empowerment International for offering us the opportunity to be a part of this incredible organization.
We hope everyone reading this will join us in sustaining, growing and enlarging their support of Empowerment International. For a very small amount of money, you, like us, can invest in the future of this incredible place and its young people. Your generosity is literally changing lives.
Doron Amiran and Cheryl Wallace
Sebastopol, California, USA
According to the new CARES Act, 2020 tax filings will now allow taxpayers who take a Standard Deduction to further reduce their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) by $300 for a charitable donation made in 2020. Please talk with your tax adviser for more information.