One of the hardest challenges in development work, and really any work that involves humans, is being pliable enough to be lead and yet strong enough to lead with confidence when necessary. Often, the biggest mistakes we make when doing mission work is imposing our own ideas of need on the people we are working with. Overcoming this obstacle creates an opportunity for truly sustainable work to be done. The more time we spend in Nicaragua, the more we have come to understand, in new ways, that our job as SuNica is to facilitate Nicaraguans to take care of Nicaragua.
All of this sounds great in theory but what does it look like in real time, in practice?
We spent the last 2 weeks in Nicaragua. We purchased a much-needed vehicle, held many meetings, and even hired our first Nicaraguan employee, Rydder Hernandez. That last part is super important. We literally cannot work in Nicaragua successfully without a Nicaraguan’s perspective. I will have the benefit of working closely with Rydder and Gilma Del Posso, a native of Ecuador who has lived in Nicaragua for 12 years and is currently keeping our books and doing admin work for us in Nicaragua.
We saw the benefit of having a local Nicaraguan on staff during a meeting with the parents of the students that we sponsor in El Limonal. El Limonal is a community in the city of Chinandega, Nicaragua. It is situated between the city trash dump and the city septic system. This sounds like an awful place and, on one’s first visit, it seems that way. The reality here, though, is that it is a community bursting with opportunity and begging for the chance to reframe its bad reputation.
What’s the benefit of education?
Our purpose in having these quarterly meetings is to engage parents on a personal level and maintain good rapport. Rydder led the meeting while I stepped in only when needed, which wasn’t very much. We started off asking questions about the purpose of education and writing their answers on the whiteboard at the front of the class. It’s incredible how much people will own a situation when they are given the opportunity to be a part of it. We ended up with a list that would satisfy any college professor.
Who benefits from a child’s education?
We then asked the question “Who benefits from a child’s education?” This question truly opened up the room. It was a blessing to be able to listen to the hearts of the mothers and fathers who truly believed in a better and brighter future for their children. We heard one mother say that a child’s education benefits society as a whole. She talked about the process of her son one day growing up and going to college, moving out of El Limonal, and starting a family as a professional man. She dreamed of him engaging and affecting culture for good and creating an even better opportunity for her grandchildren. All of that can happen when her son gets an education. Right now, he is still in elementary school but imagine 10 years from now when he is finishing high school, about to start college, all of the hope in his eyes and heart, imparted from his mom.
We want to facilitate parents supporting their children
She understands what we understand: the responsibility of education falls on the shoulders of the parents. We, as SuNica, want to facilitate her in carrying out that responsibility. We provide uniforms and school supplies for her son, so she doesn’t have to worry about whether he has what he needs for school. She can focus on sending him to school every day, helping him with his homework, and reading with him at night.
Traveling for education
We then got to share our vision for a new part of our program that we will be implementing in the coming months. As North Americans, we understand that traveling is an important form of education. You can learn a lot about yourself when you travel. Most, if not all, of the kids that we work with in El Limonal have not been outside of their city, much less traveled to learn and experience new things.
We will be implementing small, short trips that will involve camping, surfing, rappelling, and other activities led by experienced leaders with the purpose of opening the minds and hearts of the kids that we work with. New experiences give new perspective and provide opportunity for God to work in our hearts. We want to give this gift to the students that we work with as they keep their grades and attendance up in school.
All of this was made possible not by telling the parents what to do, but by providing space for them to see the possibility of what they already want for their kids. We love what we do, and we love Nicaragua. This is the point of what we do. God is glorified in human flourishing and we want to be a part of His work. God calls us in and invites us to join Him in his task of redemption and the renewal of all things. This is one example of how we are doing that as SuNica. There are many others and we would invite you to continue following to hear more of the ways that He is working through us in Nicaragua.
written by: Josh Pease