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Monday, March 7, 2016

Graduation Day 2015 in Nicaragua Christian School

Nicaragua once was considered the "breadbasket" of Central America. Through the end of the 1960's and into the beginning of the next decade, money could be made in cattle, coffee and cotton. A lot of things happened from then to now, among them, the grim realization that cotton was no longer viable in Nicaragua, and the soils where it had been farmed were now laden with heavy loads of pesticides. These brownfields lined the roads in Leon and Chinandega departments in western Nicaragua. Other things happened as well, such as the realization that many people really did not benefit from any of the supposed prosperity previously lived in the country. Large numbers of people have no reasonable place to live, where they can work, and provide consistently for their families.

Some of the former cotton fields, lying fallow for decades, have been converted to residential neighborhoods for poor people. These lands have been divided into lots about 15 per acre, and people moved onto the plots into shacks made of scrap metal, plastic, sticks, cardboard and other materials improvised into houses. Electricity was supplied through pirated connections on the edge of the neighborhood, using uncoated barbed wire instead of real electrical cables. Water mains were inexistent initially, and people were subjected to purchasing water from trucks, filling open barrels they maintained on their properties. Little by little, these people invested in construction materials to build walls and roofs, piece by piece.
A former cotton field has become home for many people living in marginal conditions in the Ruben Dario neighborhood in Leon. Beyond the residences, peanuts are cultivated. 
Nicaragua Christian School
Staff and members of the board of directors of Nicaragua Christian School. 
Children and parents are assembling in the auditorium at Nicaragua Christian School, for the 2015 graduation ceremony. 
Nicaragua Christian School
Murals with inspiring messages have been placed in several classrooms with the help of volunteers from the United States.
Many happy children (and parents) could be found on graduation day.

In this neighborhood, the mayor of Leon and the board of directors of Nicaragua Christian School agreed to place a school. The people living in this neighborhood can find work these days in a variety of sweatshops, where clothing and other light assembling industries are found in free trade zones. The salaries start at around 88 dollars per month, and do not include any benefit such as lunch, coffee, or even transport to the workplace. The more fortunate people in this neighborhood, the ones who can get and keep jobs in factories, have hard lives. Other folks have harder lives.

Anyone who enjoyed a stable childhood with a loving family realizes the importance of the school as a pillar in the process of growing up. The role of a school extends far beyond learning math and reading; it has a role in the spiritual and emotional health of the adult which each child becomes, even more when so many disruptions are part of the family experience. Families who migrate are often responding to disruptions in their family life and moving is, for the children, yet another huge disruption which can make growing up very difficult.

Migrants in humble circumstances are all too often received with indifference or hostility, as one humble family learned over two thousand years ago. The difficult experiences of the parents and children of Nicaragua Christian School parallel those lived by Jesus and his humble family. It is hard to overstate the difficulties facing the parents and children of Nicaragua Christian School. All the families are migrants from what must have been even worse situations, into a problematic, impoverished neighborhood. What were cotton fields during the economic boom of the 1960's and 1970's had long since become useless, contaminated brownfields which no one wanted. A free trade zone with factories making clothing and other articles for the US consumer markets has recently developed along the margins of this abandoned farmland, and the fields have been filled with low-cost housing. Tens of thousands of the poorest Nicaraguans have migrated into this area in search of a better life, some of them poor, others poorer. Several sections of the neighborhood face dismal circumstances, in which people live under nothing more than a plastic sheet suspended by sticks. The factories employ unskilled and semiskilled workers and provide dismal wages, which nonetheless far exceed any other economic opportunity for most people in the area.

It is precisely this impoverished neighborhood which the Nicaragua Christian School serves as an anchor in many ways beyond an ordinary school. The success of Nicaragua Christian School is easily noted by the way the community is involved there. Parents of the students clean, cut grass, and perform all kinds of chores at the school. School events are always well-attended by family members, who take an exceptional interest in their children. The students are particularly orderly and respectful, in contrast to other schools in Nicaragua. Sundays, the auditorium is ringing with songs from a church service, attended by many families in the neighborhood. Local sporting events and community meetings are often held on the campus, bringing the school to the larger community in the neighborhood.

The students and the school have won a few notable awards for scholastic activity, too. But, the best awards are children who grow into adults whose despair is replaced by hope and faith. A strong education under the guidance of principled, well-qualified teachers in a program which emphasizes Christian values is a great attraction to the parents throughout the neighborhood. The school has often been visited by mayors, ministers and even members of the National Assembly, but the school’s teachers and administrators are clear that the most important people at this school are the parents and children of this poor neighborhood.

Every person associated with the Nicaragua Christian School is aware that someone gave from their savings to provide the books, the salaries for the teachers, the electricity and the buildings. The good will demonstrated by so many from afar is sensed by the parents who respond willingly by helping in all kinds of ways, as they can. Not everyone who donates has the opportunity to visit Nicaragua Christian School, but those who do can confirm that gratitude and love abound among the students and families of the school. The school has become an important pillar for their fragile existence in a new neighborhood, as they seek to create a more stable life for their families a day at a time. 
No better title to the school can exist than, "Sharing God and his love", as is emblazoned across the website for the Nicaragua Christian School. The children learn that they are loved at all moments in a very positive atmosphere. If you would like more information about Nicaragua Christian School, write us at Gaia or directly to the folks at the school here. We believe in this project, which is transforming lives and families materially, academically, and spiritually. Below are some videos from the 2015 graduation experience.

Nicaragua Christian School

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