It was after the three mile hike up a muddy hillside that we met. With a group of Project Schoolhouse volunteers, I was coming to Martillo, a community of about 20 families in remote Nicaragua, to break ground on Escuela Cien Amigos – 100 Friends School.
Olvin was in route to school with his brother. While other children danced around with excitement caused by the visitors, he observed me silently, as if my presence was more unusual than the fact that he was taking a chicken with him to school.
The week in the village was filled with both emotional and physical ups and downs. I was sleeping in a hammock (with a hen under my bed), in a dirt floor hut, with no electricity and only public faucet for a “shower”, eating beans and rice for every meal. Only one thing remained constant, Olvin’s quiet, observing presence.
Each time I return to Martillo I meet another child that has a spark, some gift beyond explanation given the very rural village many have never left. Each time I know that we have to continue to support these families that have been forgotten by everyone else, because they are really no different than all of us. The parents want safe, successful, happy lives for the children. And the students want to do more, be more, learn more and explore more than the circumstances they were born into might otherwise allow.
Olvin graduated from Escuela Cien Amigos in January, completing sixth grade at age 14. With the help of a Project Schoolhouse scholarship, he is now the first in his family to go to middle school and I’m sure far beyond. He will be boarding with a family in town a few hours walk from his home, attending school five days a week, returning home on the weekends to work in the bean fields with his father, earning the standard $3 / day.
There are graduates each year from each of Project Schoolhouse’s eight schools that are willing to travel the two plus hours and do the work to continue their schooling. Girls choosing school above teen marriage and children. Families making sacrifices to keep their child in school instead of working six days a week in the fields.
Just last month I spent a week traveling to several Project Schoolhouse schools. Olvin joined us, taking pictures, teaching art classes, practicing his English (and helping me with my Spanish). As I was leaving, I told him to let me know anything he needed. He said, “Only one thing. I need a tie.” “A tie?”, I asked. “Yes, a tie. I’m going to be a businessman and I am going to need a tie.”
These kids have the dreams, drive and desire. They just need the dollars. I’m sponsoring Olvin’s scholarship because I can not imagine anything I could invest my $50/month in that would reap a better return. Return on investment and return on happiness.
And oh yeah, I’m getting him a couple really cool ties too.
Written by Alicia Smith