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Puentes de Esperanza Newsletter
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Saludos, amigos!

We have gone through a number of changes since our last newsletter in 2017. Many of you are probably aware of the civil unrest in Nicaragua that has been ongoing for over two months. As Nicaraguans are rising up, taking to the streets, and speaking out against the repressive government, the government has been striking back, with over 250 killed and over 2000 injured - mostly students. The country is in mourning, but the people are not backing down. 

While Jiquilillo remains safe from the unrest and violence, its tourism economy - a major employer to the community - has collapsed as travelers are warned of the violence and uncertainty across the country. It is with great heartache that we have closed the doors to Rancho Esperanza after 14 years. We hope for the best for the future of Nicaragua, our adopted home of 18 years, but as of today, there is no end in sight.

While this crisis has personally hit home for us, the financial impact on the local community is even greater. Roadblocks are preventing fish from making it to the markets, creating an incredible rise in unemployment in Jiquilillo, all while prices on basic food supplies are rising, leaving even more people hungry. Rancho Esperanza will continue to pay all laid-off staff their normal salary through August, but without an end to the conflict in sight, we are urging you to contribute to an emergency food fund to help them feed their families as the crisis plays out. If these wonderful people stand out in your memories of Nicaragua - by practicing your Spanish while swinging in a hammock and sipping on a delicious licuado, or watching their adorable children run around the Rancho - please consider contributing through PayPal Giving Fund and noting "emergency food fund" as the reason for your donation so we can provide food for families who are unjustly impacted by this political and economic crisis. 

Rancho Esperanza is also Puentes de Esperanza's creator and largest funding stream and raises $1,000's each year from surf rentals and classes, yoga, and other tours. We have completely lost these donations unless and until tourism picks up again. In order to make good on our promises to send local kids to school and support them throughout their education, we are in serious need of donations to fill the gap that the disappearing tourism industry has left. We have minimized our reach to solely support the scholarship program and associated tutoring as we cannot host volunteers to run the other programs. Now more than ever we need your support to continue to provide educational support and scholarships to Jiquilillo's children. The country deserves to keep its youth educated so its future is bright. Please consider donating and join us in supporting the children of Jiquilillo so that together, we can help build a brighter future for Nicaragua. As always, 100% of your donation is directly applied to the projects as Rancho Esperanza continues to cover all administrative costs of running the organization.  

Gracias!

Shana Falb and Nate Yue
Shana with Ajriel David, Gabriel, Isaac, and Isaias at their primary school graduation and sponsored to attend secondary school this year, and Yeldrin, awarded best student in 4th grade. 

2017 Recap!

We had a fantastic year with scholarships in 2017, starting with 43 students with a few leaving the program. In a community where so much stands in the way of a successful future, we learn from their experiences and modify the scholarship program to meet the needs of the students. This year, we implemented a breakfast program into the secondary school scholarships to eliminate dropouts due a family’s financial inability to provide food to their children before school. It is a costly but useful improvement.

Any students who didn't meet the 80% requirement to continue their scholarship into 2018 attended our "summer school". We conducted review sessions throughout the school vacation and those who passed their test received their scholarship. Here are some year-end statistics of our scholarship program:
 
Five of the six 6th grade sponsored students were sponsored again for their first year of secondary school in 2018!
Wilmer received a 98% final average in 4th grade!
Alex finished 9th grade with an 89% average!

We are so proud of these kids and for all the donors who helped contribute to their success!
Marissa explaining Pangea to 7th graders,
Ajriel David, Gabriel, and Isaac, after they asked her about tectonic plates.
Full STEAM Ahead with Rockstar Manager, Marissa!

The incredible Marissa Aurora recently completed her six month term as Program Manager. Marissa  handled the day-to-day management of the entire organization since my departure to the US back in January. Her positive and spirited character kept the kids motivated and engaged. Her non-profit background kept Puentes organized, and her science and education background helped the scholarship and Kids Club kids understand the complexities of science in a way they have never experienced - through hands-on, fun science experiments that really drive the concepts home. I am eternally grateful for Marissa and her contribution to Jiquilillo!

During her time, she made an effort to integrate more STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, & Math) related activities into our after school programming. The kids created fun projects that also taught them about physics, light, biology, mechanics while fostering creativity and piquing curiosity. They made kaleidoscopes to learn about light, built solar ovens, explored botany through leaf rubbings, used natural dyes, built rubber band powered race cars, and more!
 
Nurse Milagro and the medical brigadistas with their certificates of completion.

Medical Brigadistas at work!

All eight of our medical brigadistas graduated from the program in August 2017. Since then, they have been helping with the medical and health needs of our community. They have been asked by the Ministry of Health to participate in the door-to-door vaccination campaigns, as well as assist in the local clinic. Their neighbors seek them out for treatment of minor injuries and health concerns. Alex also gained employment in a pharmacy in El Viejo. He and several others are now interested in pursuing nursing degrees. This program is providing an important bridge between the community’s health needs and medical care and we are grateful for their the brigadistas dedication to their community. 
Carlos focusing all his attention on creating a keleidescope.

Get Involved!

Without the stream of donations from surf rentals and other activities at Rancho Esperanza, our programming is at risk. We have minimized our programming to ensure that the scholarship program continues running into the future, and will continue to fund the medical brigadistas as much as we can to make sure the community keeps their basic healthcare needs met. Please strongly consider making a donation to see our community’s needs fulfilled. Remember, 100% of your tax-deductible donation goes towards the projects as Rancho Esperanza continues to covers all administrative costs and additional program costs. Please also consider contributing to our emergency food fund for unemployed workers so they can feed their families during the crisis. Here are some examples of how your donation can be applied:
  • $20 will provide enough plantains to feed 23 people for a month.
  • $225 will feed 5 large families, including 13 children, for one week.
  • $15 will support the scholarship breakfast program for one month.
  • $60 will completely sponsor a primary school student for the year. 
  • $170 will completely sponsor a secondary school student for the year.
  • $1000 will sponsor an outstanding student to attend private school in El Viejo for one year and remarkably improve their education.
  • $80 will cover the medical supplies needed for one medical brigadista to provide first aid and emergency health checks to the community.
Thank you again for staying in touch and believing in the work we do. Our community involvement would not be possible without your support. We hope you share our pride in all the improvements in Jiquilillo, and that you continue to enable this important work!
 
Until next time, saluditos cordiales del equipo de Puentes de Esperanza.
 
DONATE
We also appreciate in-kind donations and keep an updated list of needed supplies.

If you are interested in volunteering opportunities, check out our website for more information. 

Lastly, you can shop with Amazon Smile and Amazon will donate .05% of the cost of your purchase to us. It's not a huge percentage by any means, but every little donation helps.
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Puentes de Esperanza is a US-registered 501c3 non-profit organization.

Our mailing address is:

Puentes de Esperanza
436 29th Street
West Palm Beach, Florida 33407

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