Honoring the Legacy of Bill Safström Visionary Educator and Beloved Friend

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We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Nicolás Fund for Education’s Vice-President and Chair of the Education Committee, Bill Safström, on February 25, 2024 from a brief neurological illness. Bill died of  CJD (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease), which is always fatal and for which there is no treatment.  Bill’s visionary spirit and unwavering commitment to education have left an indelible mark on Nicolás Christian School and the entire Ixil region of Guatemala. With his extensive experience founding Christian schools in the United States, Bill played an instrumental role in establishing the Nicolás Christian School as a beacon of hope with full-day, high-quality education for impoverished Mayan children in Guatemala’s Ixil region. His forward-thinking approach led to the development of diverse educational programs, fostering excellence at the school’s junior and senior high levels.  A passionate advocate for digital literacy, Bill introduced innovative educational technology to students and teachers. This included facilitating access to digital books and educational curriculum via tablets, implementing digital record-keeping for teachers, and creating a tutoring program for sixth graders to prepare them for Nicolas Christian School utilizing RACHEL devices—portable repositories of educational content available offline.  Beyond the school’s premises, Bill’s passion was creating nine village community libraries, collectively housing over 7,000 books to encourage a love of reading amongst the Ixil community. He also initiated annual teacher professional development workshops for Ixil region primary and secondary school educators, covering pivotal topics from classroom management to teaching strategies. Bill’s commitment to inclusivity and expansion of knowledge throughout the Ixil region led to hosting these workshops virtually, thus broadening accessibility. More than 150 teachers attended these annual workshops in a region devoid of teacher professional development resources. Bill’s insatiable curiosity about the world, and his …

Atole de Elote Recipe | Enjoy Guatemala’s Traditional Corn Drink

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Atole de Elote is a traditional Guatemalan hot beverage made of corn and milk that is served across Guatemala for a warm snack. This is a great easy-to-make snack for the whole family! In Guatemala, women pulverize the fresh corn on a grinding stone or metate to achieve a silky, creamy consistency. Prep Time: 15 min | Cook Time: 45 min | Serves: 8 Step 1: Blend corn one can at a time & 1 1/2 cups water divided evenly in a blender until smooth. Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a large saucepan, pressing pulp against the mesh to release liquid. Discard solids. Step 2: Stir in sugar, cinnamon and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; stir occasionally. Step 3: In another saucepan, bring milk & remaining water to a boil. Stir into corn mixture; remove from heat. Remove cinnamon. Pour into mugs & garnish with reserved corn kernels. Serve warm.

Empower a Dream: Lesly’s Quest to Escape the Cycle of Poverty

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María Lesly Dayana: An Aspiring Attorney Living in the farming village of Los Angeles in Guatemala’s Ixil region, eighth grader María Lesly Dayana juggles adversity and ambition daily. Despite hailing from a low-income family, Lesly is fiercely determined and dreams of getting an education to escape the cycle of poverty. With dreams of becoming an attorney, she aspires to combat injustice, inspired by the unfairness she has witnessed in her community. She said she has seen people be accused of things they have not done. Every day, Lesly grapples with hardships that most of us can’t even imagine. Her father works in a metal roofing factory in a town three hours from home, Santa Cruz del Quiché, and can only afford the time and cost of the journey home once or twice a month. Lesly helps her mother care for her three younger siblings—5-year-old Isabel, 11-year-old Juana, and 2-year-old Pedro Abisai. Even while helping her mother at home, Lesly works hard on her studies at Nicolás Christian School (NCS). Nicolás Christian School strives to deliver a high-quality, full-day educational program – a rarity in a region like the Ixil.  Faith, Hope, and Nicolás Christian School Lesly’s faith plays a crucial role in her life. She said that God spoke to her to tell her that she would have the opportunity to attend NCS. Lesly said that a particular class she is taking at NCS on Christian leadership has really deepened her spiritual connection to God. Specifically, she learned more about God and how to pray. As a result, God has become more real to Lesly because of this class. The school’s full-day regime, while initially challenging, is no longer a …

Invest in a Brighter Future for Underprivileged Children with Recurring Donations | Nicolás Fund For Education

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Nicolás Fund for Education is dedicated to ensuring that the most disadvantaged children in the Ixil region of Guatemala have access to quality education. Through your support of our programs, you provide high-quality education, tutoring, library books, and entrepreneurial training, empowering these kids with hope and opportunities they would never have had otherwise. Recurring monthly giving provides NFE with a reliable revenue stream, which can be especially beneficial in times when we’re not able to gather or throw in-person fundraising events. Having revenue we can count on helps us to ensure the sustainability of the Nicolás Fund for Education. Giving monthly donations allows the Nicolás Fund for Education to plan more effectively for long-term projects and initiatives.  Set up your recurring donation — be sure to select your giving frequency!  We thank our God for your faithful support for transformative education for kids in the Ixil region of Guatemala! Make your recurring donation today and give Ixil region kids the bright futures they deserve! With your monthly support, you can stand with us in making sure every child has the chance to become educated to reach their God-given potential. 

Celebrating Success: Graduation and Teacher Professional Development Workshop at Nicolás Christian School

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With great thanksgiving, we announce the graduation this month of four students from Nicolás Christian Preschool, 22 from Nicolás Christian Junior High School, 25 from Nicolás Christian High School, and two adults from our adult literacy programs! Your generosity made this possible! Commencement ceremonies will take place during mid-November, weather and road conditions permitting. November is typically a stormy month and recent flooding has posed a challenge getting to outlying villages. We are also delighted to announce that 83 teachers participated in an in-person Teacher Professional Development Workshop hosted by Nicolás Christian School in August, and a total of 125 teachers participated in the online professional development presentations that preceded the in-person conference. This workshop was certified by Seattle Pacific University, and San Carlos University in Nebaj, Guatemala, for the first time, provided certification. The workshop featured a number of international speakers on topics related to education. This workshop advances Nicolás Fund for Education’s mission to improve education for ALL students throughout the Ixil region. To God be the Glory! You have the power to transform lives through education. Nicolás Fund for Education is making a real difference in the Ixil region of Guatemala and breaking the cycle of poverty for students who are thriving. Your support is essential to our mission of tearing down barriers and providing educational opportunities. This month, as we celebrate the students’ accomplishments, we invite you to join us in changing lives with a donation that can make an immediate impact. Instead of traditional gifts, honor those graduating this November with a generous contribution. Witness the joy that unfolds when education becomes accessible to this remarkable community. Together, let’s create a brighter future.

Fulfilling a Dream 2023 Annual Fundraiser: Together we can build a brighter future for our students

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Dear Donors,  On behalf of the Nicolás Fund For Education (NFE), we sincerely thank you for your generous support at our annual fundraiser, Fulfilling a Dream 2023. Your contributions have been vital in helping us secure the operational budget for the Nicolás Christian School (NCS) in 2024. Nicolás Fund for Education raised $325,000 through Fulfilling a Dream 2023 thanks to generous donors like you. Together, we are making a lasting impact on the lives of underprivileged children by providing them with Christ-centered education and resources to ensure they have opportunities for success that they never thought possible. The Power of Education: Strengthening Our Programs Although we met our immediate goals for the NCS’s operational budget, there is still more work to be done. The comprehensive approach of our educational initiatives requires additional funding to maintain and expand essential programs such as: These initiatives ensure that the children in our care receive an education that empowers them to break the cycle of poverty and become leaders in their communities. By supporting these programs, generous donors like yourself further enhance the transformative impact of a Christ-centered education in these young lives. Help Us Reach Our Full Budget Goals We kindly request your continued support as we strive to raise the necessary funds for the comprehensive development and maintenance of our educational initiatives. Your heartfelt contributions, big or small, play a crucial role in providing hope and a brighter future to these children. Here’s how your donations can make a difference: A Call to Action: Share the Love of Education and Christ At NFE, we believe that education is the key to transforming lives and unlocking potential. We warmly invite you to join …

Thank You For Standing with NFE to Provide a Brighter Future for Mayan Children

Becci MerrittBlog, Financial Transparency and Accountability, Fulfilling A Dream Leave a Comment

Dear Fulfilling a Dream 2023 Attendees, The Nicolás Fund for Education board wishes to extend our heartfelt gratitude for your incredible support at our Fulfilling a Dream fundraising event at Mercer Island Presbyterian Church on April 22, 2023. Seeing so many new faces in the audience filled us with hope and excitement for the future of our organization. Your unwavering generosity has truly made a difference for our cause. We are incredibly grateful to announce that we have raised over $135,000 at the event, with donations still coming in! With each gift, we come one step closer to empowering Mayan youth in the Ixil region of Guatemala to break the generational cycle of poverty through Christ-centered education. The impact of your contribution is undeniable—you are helping us create tangible, lasting change for these young students and their communities. Your support provides access to essential educational opportunities and resources to transform lives for the better. Thanks to your kindness, generations of empowered, educated Mayan youth will transform their communities. We are also thrilled to welcome 28 new supporters to the Nicolás Fund for Education family. Your commitment to our cause strengthens our efforts and inspires us to work harder to make a difference in the lives of these children. We are eager to keep you involved and informed about the progress we make together, thanks to your generosity. Once again, thank you for standing with us in our mission to provide a brighter future for Mayan youth in the Ixil region of Guatemala. We couldn’t do this critical work without partners like you, and we look forward to sharing updates and stories of success in the coming months. With gratitude, The …

How Nicolás Fund For Education is Helping Ronaldo Overcome His Challenges

Becci MerrittBlog, Student Spotlight 1 Comment

Ronaldo is a determined and ambitious young man from Guatemala’s Ixil region. He is working hard in his final year at Nicolás Christian School with the dream of one day becoming a civil engineer and owning his construction company with his father. But, this journey isn’t without obstacles; financial and health challenges stand in the way of him accomplishing his goals. However, through help from Nicolás Fund for Education, he remains hopeful that he can make it happen! Family life is an important value in Ronaldo’s world. His father, Domingo, works as a mason while his mother, Rosa, devotes all of her time to the home and weaving. This strong bond between child and parent has created even closer ties for Ronaldo with his four older brothers – Diego Eduardo, Sergio Nicolás, Juan Ariel, and Domingo Alexander who are adults living in San Juan Cotzal, like himself. He enjoys the beautiful scenery around his neighborhood, Canton Tu Poj, where he lives alongside rivers and waterfalls. The rivers provide a fun swimming spot when he finds some free time. More often than not, Ronaldo chooses to help his father with masonry projects because it involves assisting his father. Ronaldo works without pay. He gives his time out of pure love for his father! Ronaldo was a stellar student throughout primary and junior high school. Even at a young age, he was looking for ways to take his education even further. He found what he was searching for at Nicolás Christian School – an advanced institution full of tools and resources like tablets, microscopes, and TV screens in each classroom! When it came time to hone in on the most challenging subject …

Breaking the Generational Cycle of Poverty: NFE Transforms Lives of Mayan Indigenous Ixil in Guatemala

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For over 400 years, the Mayan indigenous people of the Ixil in Guatemala have experienced systematic discrimination, culminating in a civil war that resulted in genocide. This has left these Ixil families locked in poverty for generations. However, one organization is working to break this cycle: Nicolás Fund For Education (NFE). NFE is a 501(c) 3 non-profit dedicated to helping the Ixil youth break the cycle of poverty, injustice, and prejudice. Before NFE came into existence, parents were unable to afford school after 6th grade – leaving children without an education and no hope for their future. Free education stops after sixth grade in Guatemala. The most powerful way to permanently break this cycle of poverty is through education. NFE operates Nicolás Christian School which currently has about 150 students enrolled. They also offer PreK, Kinder, and tutoring for 5th and 6th graders as well as university scholarships. It all began with 13 students. Now there are 85 high school graduates and 17 have earned a university degree. This is particularly significant because only 20% of high school students in the area graduate, and less than 1% graduate from university. To double its impact, NFE is building a larger school that is scheduled to open for the 2024 school year! “We are so proud of the incredible strides and challenges our students are overcoming,” said Becci Merritt, President of NFE. “Our goal is to provide a high-quality Christian education that encourages faith-based values that will help them lead successful lives.” With NFE’s help, these children can look forward to brighter futures than ever before – free from poverty and injustice.

Keren Shares How She Will Fulfill Her Dreams with Nicolás Fund For Education (As written by Keren, herself)

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My father is fifty-three years old and my mom is fifty-two years old. My mom works at home and my dad is a teacher. I have five siblings. I am currently studying at the Nicolás Christian School, and I am in the 11th grade. I live in San Juan Cotzal, which is a place full of culture and tradition where each season is celebrated with joy, especially when the corn is harvested. Cotzal is also a place full of tourist attractions.  All the Cotzalenses (people living in Cotzal) live as a family. I would like to attend university next year. I want to explore and express myself, just like I do at school. I would like to be able to help and serve people who need my help, in the spiritual field. My goal is to be able to worship in a better way and to serve God. Time management is a challenge for me. I feel that there is never enough time. I see how important time management can be. My frustration is that sometimes I don’t do my best at certain points and I feel that I can’t do more. The achievement that makes me proudest is that I can sing and I can also play the piano. I feel proud of myself, as do my parents. At the moment I’m taking more music lessons.  Note: Keren sings in the Praise band at her church, Full Gospel Church of San Juan Cotzal. Keren is a good student but struggles a bit with math.