Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Educating Kids

We just renovated and expanded a school just outside of Granada, Nicaragua for 450 kids. When we started they had four severely storm-damaged classrooms and no bathrooms or clean water. The staff was teaching classes in neighboring makeshift buildings and the students were using the bathrooms, such as they are, in neighbor's houses. This week, they have seven safe, clean, wired, and dry classrooms (four renovated and three new), bathrooms for the boys and girls, a water system, and a safe waste treatment system. In a few more weeks, we'll have repaired existing furniture and acquired additional furniture, we'll stock the school with books and supplies, and we'll make and deliver hundreds of school uniforms.

Before We Started - June, 2010

Storm-Damaged Classroom

A diverse group of eighteen people participated in completion of the school: men and women; professionals, retirees, and students; Rotarians and non-Rotarians; with ages from 22 to 72. The common bonds amongst this diverse group are enthusiasm, commitment to service, and willingness to work. I was amazed by the team's completed work in our five day building blitz.

New Classrooms Under Construction

Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere (behind Haiti). The South Granville Rotary Club has completed six service projects here because the need is great and we have amazing partners at the Granada Rotary Club. We partnered to build four school libraries and a medical clinic prior to this school project and we plan to continue our service work in Granada in the future.

We found a broad base of support for this school. Six Rotary clubs, two congregations, two companies, the Rotary Foundation, Rotary District 7710, and 21 individuals all contributed to make up the total budget for the project. No single donation was more than 1/6th of the total budget. We are grateful for the generous support, in money and effort, of all the participants.

When we deconstructed the damaged roofs on the old classrooms, I saw some of the fastest and most direct re-purposing of materials ever. The cementious roof materials immediately - literally - became fences, roof ridge caps, siding, and (the smallest pieces) road gravel. A great example of frugality-based green building.

I find that I get completely immersed in planning, arranging supplies, paying vendors, working with local contractors, and doing the work that I sometimes do not see as much of the kids and community as I probably should.  This trip was no exception. Teachers come by the building site with the school children and sing us a song or read a poem or ask for the notebooks and colored pencils and school supplies that we bring. I noticed and smiled and focused right back on the work. On the last day, though, a group of elementary-school-age students walked to the site and presented a thank-you poster. Then they did the sweetest thing.  Four or five of the girls went went down the line and gave us a carefully practiced "thank-you" (in English) and a kiss on the cheek. Turned us into putty. What a gift.

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