I’m Going to Build a School in Nicaragua with buildOn

In May of this year, just around the time my life was turned upside down, I presented with the opportunity to travel to Senegal Africa. I was so excited. I immediately started a grass roots campaign to raise $4,000 ($2,000 for the school and roughly $2,000 for my travel expenses) in just 4 short weeks to help build a school so that I could go.

In the months to follow I managed to clear myself of Cervical Cancer, successfully run a conference, raise roughly $900 of the money needed for the school, and continue working a full time job with ADP so that my salary could go to the remainder of what was needed for the school. I had found just a few months ago that the group I am going with to Senegal was not ready for their trip – so I am being placed with another group going to Nicaragua.

To Build a School in Nicaragua

In addition to my passion for Africa and the people that live there, I am a huge animal lover. Not the kind of animal lover that hoards cats or dogs (though I have been close to it), but the kind that has a passion for the fish, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and yes even arachnids, that all thrive in their natural habitat. I have known to strike up a conversation or two in regards to the depleting rain-forests.   From educating my children on how frogs are sensitive because of their means by which they absorb moisture through their skin and their dwindling populations are noted when determining imbalances in the environment. I have been known to lecture on the theories that the depleting of the rain forests have led to the decrease in the frog population, therefore contributing to the increase in mosquitoes and infectious diseases like Malaria (as mentioned: “Frogs are an important part of the ecosystem with a role for insect and pest control including mosquitoes.” and “Studies have shown that 50 frogs can keep an acre of a rice paddy field free of insects (13). Thus, frogs can keep a check on insect populations including mosquitoes.”) and given that in my past life I raised parrots (I can attribute the scar on my lip from a Yellow Naped Amazon) and worked as a “Parrot Behaviorist” helping people understand their unruly birds so they could live in harmony. So, just as I have a passion for Africa, I have an equal passion our neighbors to the South.

The country itself is rich with life, color, and beauty beyond what anyone could imagine but sadly where only 29% of children complete primary-level education and it takes 10+ years required to complete that education it would be almost a crime not to want to help. Nicaragua is limited in it’s access to safe water and sanitation coverage, particularly in rural areas and those with dispersed populations. Access to rural areas is often impossible due to impassable roads during the rainy season, and telecommunications and Internet service is not available in rural areas. Litter fills every road in Nicaragua and communities are very limited with access to basic materials or supplies available to teachers for instruction, and books and desks are virtually scarce to students.

The Education of Nicaragua

buildOn School in Nicaragua

buildOn has worked with many countries throughout the years to build schools and bring education to impoverished areas. For two decades buildOn has mobilized rural communities in some of the most deserving countries to build over 500 schools. They choose schools within villages that have historically:

  • Had no adequate school structure
  • Where students are squeezed into dark and crumbling shacks or huts
  • Are taught outdoors when the weather permits
  • Have to walk many miles to a neighboring village
  • Haven’t been able to attend school at all

buildOn’s classrooms are constructed in partnership with the community and the people that will be benefiting from them. Every dollar donated goes to provide the funding, engineering, materials, skilled labor and supervision that each project requires. The community will provide a gender balanced leadership team, thousands of hours of unskilled volunteer labor and a promise that girls will attend the school in equal numbers with boys.

Before the project is started the communities are required to form a gender-equal Leadership Team. A Covenant is then signed between buildOn and the community that outlines each party’s obligation. buildOn then agrees to provide the materials, skilled labor, development, and project supervision. The community is expected to contribute up to 3,000 volunteer work days and a promise to send girls to be educated along with each and every boy. Each school includes 2-3 classrooms and when completed buildOn’s staff continues to monitor and evaluate the school throughout the following year. After the school is fully populated and they have demonstrated their commitment to sending both boys and girls to school, they then build the same community a second school structure. This approach not only ensures the success of the school, but has in many cases illustrated to villages what can be accomplished by teamwork and equality. This year alone over 20% of the schools built are second construction.

Traveling to Nicaragua Central America

Photo From – TransWorldExpedition.com

Just where is Nicaragua? What is this country I am going to?

Nestled between Honduras and Costa Rica (one of the more popular destinations) has a History of corruption with a future full of hope. The name “Nicaragua” comes from the Nahuatl-speaking tribe who originally inhabited the country; their capital city was Nicarao. Later, when the Spanish arrived, the combined the name of the capital with the Spanish word for water: “agua.” There are ancient footprints that suggest Nicaragua was inhabited as far back as 6000 years ago. The Spanish first entered Nicaragua in 1522. Francisco Cordoba entered in 1524 with the intent of colonizing the area, which lead to the city of Granada. Cordoba became the namesake for Nicaraguan money (which is dealt in “cordobas”). After multiple wars with the indigenous population. Nicaragua was considered “complete” by 1529. As usual at the time, the native Nicaraguans were abused, sold into slavery, put to work in farms, and generally treated as less than human.

Nicaragua struggled but became officially independent from Spain in 1821, but suffered through many more dictatorships and foreign rule. Augusto César Sandino is Nicaragua’s martyr and hero. He protested US military occupation in 1927 to 1933, and was assassinated when he went to negotiate a cease-fire. He was only 39 years old. Sandino remains to this day a symbol of resistance and national identity. The man who had him assassinated, General Somoza, who had seized power in a coup d’etat, began a brutal dictatorship that passed to his son, and his brother, that lasted 43 years. Somoza was overthrown by a rebel group, then Sandinista guerillas (name taken from Sandino) in 1979. They formed a new government. One of these Sandinistas was Daniel Ortega, who would go on to be a major figure for Nicaragua.

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan condemned Nicaragua for many reasons, one due to the country supporting Cuba’s revolution. He, among other countries, authorized the training of anti-Sandinista guerrillas, also called counter-revolutionaries. This was shortened to the term “Contras.” The Contras camped out in neighboring Honduras and Costa Rica. Local anti-sandinistas joined these camps and thus guerrilla warfare began, known as the Contra War. The foreign-funded Contras went to war with the Sandinistas throughout the 80s, resulting in deaths all across the country. Nicaragua in shambles from the never-ending corruption: many dead, many more displaced as refugees, uneducated, poor, and scared. There was no health care and no education system to speak of. Human Rights violations were country-wide, from kidnapping, to torture, to the burning of villages and more. These violations made international headlines and the foreign-funding was cut off, forcing the Contras to retreat and eventually disperse by the late 80s.

Nicaragua limped through the 80s and 90s as various politicians, including Daniel Ortega from 1984-1990, tried, with some success but mostly failure and more corruption, to get the country on its feet. Ortega failed to get re-elected in 1990, 1996 and in 2001 but was re-elected in 2006.

Prior to the earthquake in Haiti, in 2003 Nicaragua surpassed Haiti as the poorest nation in Central America. Daniel Ortega has recently been taking great strides towards making health care, education, and work more accessible to the masses – which is where organizations like buildOn come in.

With education and health care more readily available, there is much hope for Nicaragua’s future. Tourism, for example, has risen more than 70% in the last ten years. As the country stabilized politically, people began to take notice of the stunning landscape and history in Nicaragua. From soaring volcanoes to white sand beaches, and Spanish colonial buildings around every turn, it is a country with much to offer. It touches both the Caribbean and the Pacific ocean, with lakes and valleys and jungle in between. It is home to resilient, humble, honest, beautiful people. It is becoming known for its rum, cigars, and world-class surf spots. Exports such as Fairly-Traded coffee beans are beginning to provide stable income and work for farming families.

I’m Getting Ready


I can’t say enough how excited I am. How truly privileged I feel at the opportunity to make a difference in this beautiful country. I leave in just a couple of weeks and I have already bought my Survivor inspired Buff, my cargo pants that zip into shorts should it get too hot (though not around the community as they are very conservative and don’t like women having pants above the knee), I purchased a sleeping bag, a new back pack, water proof bags for my camera, and a case for my phone. I asked my friend Phillip W. Shepherd (AKA the Specialist) if he had any advice for me. His one important piece is to stop eating sweets a week before I arrive – it tends to keep the Mosquitoes away. Well Phillip – I’m trying to start now, but man is it hard to cut out sugar and sweets.

Comments are closed.