Andi and Sarah spent the summer backpacking through Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Read about their travel2change experience!
“As soon as we reached Nicaragua, we were amazed by the friendliness of the people, and the joy they seem to express 24/7 even though they are living in one of the poorest countries of the western hemisphere. With a stable government in the last decade, natural beauty and diversity that can’t be matched by a lot of other countries on the planet (especially regarding its small size), and the friendly people, Nicaragua seems to have great potential to become a major destination for sustainable tourism.
However, at the moment the country is still struggling: The school system is pretty bad, almost half of the population lives below the poverty line and malnutrition is a big problem as well. We did some research about social projects in the country, and decided to visit EducationPlus Nicaragua, a project in the Pantanal quarter of the major tourist city of Granada. Run by the two Americans Monica and Jim, the organization tries to offer nutrition, education, development and health to the children of Pantanal.
We got to meet with Jim in a café in Granada’s center, where he gave us some information about the organization and the work they are doing. Then we took a cab to Pantanal. We were depressed by the poor state of the whole quarter, there are no paved roads, almost no brick walls, and all you can see are little huts made from scrap materials, housing large families in tiny space. Trash is everywhere, and alcoholism seems to be a huge problem. However, as soon as some kids saw Jim and us, smiles appeared on our faces again. One of the families living in Pantanal allows EducationPlus to use their house, kitchen and small garden. The kids come by the house after their regular elementary school classes.
First, we got to help serve food to the kids. Fighting hunger is one of the major goals of the project. We were amazed by how polite all the kids were, they all stood in line and no one walked off without saying thank you. After lunch, English class started. Usually, EducationPlus employs two English teachers to ensure high-quality teaching. The kids seemed to love to study, and most of them had an impressive level for their age. A good level in English, together with politeness and an open mind should allow the kids to find jobs in tourism once they have finished school. There are more and more kids who want to go to EducationPlus’ afternoon school, therefore they had to be split up in three groups to fit in the small outdoors classroom.
Many of the children arrived long before their classes started, so we could play with them a little and help them with their other school subjects. They love reading and playing games, and they go crazy when you pull out a “Where’s Waldo” book. We are still amazed about how happy these children are with the little stuff they have, and how much they seem to enjoy hanging out at EducationPlus. The kids didn’t want to leave after their classes, and also we didn’t want to go back to our hostel and leave all those smiling little faces behind. EducationPlus is doing a great job, and the kids love it, visible also in the growing number of children who want to participate. We are very happy we could help out and get to know the project a little better.
If you are traveling in Nicaragua, make sure to drop EducationPlus a message and check it out, even if it’s just for a day!”