Project Schoolhouse Team surveying the Bilampi Water Project
“Endurance must master every fortune.” This is the advice that motivated Eneis to leave Sicily and cross the last tiny bit of water between him and Italy, the object of his long search. I remember reading this passage in the Java Moon coffee shop years ago in Sheridan, Wyoming. It became a mantra I would carry with me through the years since. Perhaps it felt familiar because it echoed what I’ve witnessed throughout my life in that small town and in many people and places beyond there.
I’ve been blessed with excellent role models. My mother once commented about my father that he ‘had a lot of push.’ If you ever had the chance to stack sod with us in the snow in December on our small Wyoming farm, you’d know that she has just as much. I recognize it in the communities where we work in Nicaragua as well. It’s a big part of why I’ve always felt so comfortable there. That familiarity is an important factor in how we do our work.
It’s been fifteen years since Project Schoolhouse broke ground on our first school project in a very remote part of Nicaragua. We’ve been persistent in the years since then and have steadily continued building schools and water systems in that region. What’s notable is that we are doing it still today with the same Nicaraguan team we started with in 2007. The most important part is the people and without them and their determination and dedication, the difficult work we do would be impossible.
Directing a small nonprofit organization is draining and can exact a heavy financial, personal, and social cost. Ask anyone who has done it. At the same time, it is a beautiful life experience that I always recognized brought far more fulfillment and value into my life than it took.
In 2018, after 12 years of running Project Schoolhouse, I finally hit a wall and knew that something had to change. In a moment of total clarity, while driving to San Antonio for a job installing desks in a university building, I realized that it was time to step down and hand the leadership of Project Schoolhouse over to long-time board member Selina Serna.
In January of 2019, Selina took the reins of Project Schoolhouse as its new Executive Director and I became our Director of Operations. While her impact has been extensive and important, what I most admire is her tenacity, persistence, and obvious passion for the project.
This year, Selina and I received a humanitarian award from the Austin chapter of the United Nations for our work with Project Schoolhouse. I think it really is a recognition of the endurance that so many people have exhibited throughout these years to keep this project going. It takes endurance for Nicaraguan farmers to spend an entire year digging twenty miles of trench by hand to bring water to their families. It takes endurance for our team on the ground to figure out, year after year, how to move hundreds of tons of materials into projects accessible only by foot and by horse. And it is endurance that keeps our ever-growing team in the US working to raise the funds we need to pay for those projects.
I’m proud of this project and the people that make it go. I’m proud of my part in it and grateful for the dedicated people that lead it now. Project Schoolhouse is fifteen years old and is better positioned than ever to keep fulfilling our mission of delivering education and water projects to communities who are ready to step up and partner with us.