A Special Visit

Kathy Riper & Estuardo Sánchez Blog 2 Comments

On my recent trip to the Ixil in November, I had some extra days to visit friends. I loved catching up and learning what was new in their lives. One special visit was to Ana Sajíc’s home in the Los Angeles village. Ana is the widow of Nicolás Toma Cruz, the man for which the Nicolás Fund for Education was named. Only a few days earlier Ana was present at two of her granddaughters’ graduation ceremonies from junior high, Cristel, and from senior high, Ana Elcy. Ana’s youngest son, Miguel Angel, graduated from high school in 2015.  He received a scholarship to continue his education in nursing.  Ana shared with me that Miguel Angel graduated from his nursing program two years ago and was offered a job in Guatemala City. Ana said that he turned down that job offer. He didn’t want to live so far from his home in the Ixil. Soon after turning down the first job offer, he got a job in the Ixil serving four villages. He absolutely loves his work and the team that he works with. Miguel Angel’s English-speaking cousin, Estuardo Sánchez, was my translator during my visits.  Estuardo helped me communicate with Miguel Angel after I returned to Seattle. I had three questions to ask Miguel Angel. Here are those questions and his responses. What do you like best about your job?  “In my work as a professional nurse, I like to care for the people of the Ixil region. This was one of my dreams and today it is being fulfilled. I am in charge of a good (medical) team, and we are providing good professional care.” What are the challenges you face in your job?  “The challenge I …

Nicolás Christian School Receives License for Vocational Training Courses

Becci Merritt Blog Leave a Comment

Nicolás Fund for Education has a strategic plan to offer vocational technical training as an extracurricular activity! Nicolás Christian School just received approval to begin offering those courses through a Guatemalan Ministry of Education program called CEMUCAF. The program provides and certifies technical occupational training to create a “semi-skilled workforce.” This program benefits local small and medium-sized employers by training graduates in alignment with local labor market needs. CEMUCAF works closely with municipal mayors and coordinates strategic alliances and partnerships with national and international organizations offering employment programs and projects. After finishing the program, the student receives a certificate documenting they acquired knowledge, abilities, and skills in that field.  Nicolás Christian School will add programs slowly. NCS will likely offer carpentry as a course. Potential additional course offerings could include agriculture, dressmaking, crafts, pastry making, cooking, computing, beautician, embroidery, crafts, art and painting, electrician, bakery, blacksmith, piñata-making, and community health. We plan to have dedicated space for onsite vocational training on our new school campus. The Nicolás Fund for Education Capital Campaign is ongoing. A generous donor has agreed to match your donation up to $112,000 toward the full campus buildout.   The reality is that some Nicolás Christian School graduates need to work immediately after high school graduation to help their families. Their families have already financially sacrificed the help of their son or daughter to allow them to study at Nicolás Christian School. Surveys of the few students who had to drop out of Nicolás Christian School state the number one reason for dropping out was financial.  Even though Nicolás Christian School is free, these students need to earn money to help their families. Some students are not interested …

Ivan España’s Dream for the Ixil

Becci Merritt Blog Leave a Comment

Ivan España, National Director for Niciolás Fund for Education, was interviewed on TV about his hopes for the Ixil region of Guatemala.  Ivan stated that his dream was “… of a region free of youth suicide. That we can have our young people developing in the area without having to emigrate in search of the “American dream.” I dream that every man, woman, and child in this beautiful region of my country can put into full practice all of the gifts that God has given them from the beginning. I dream that one day this region will be taken as a good example and that I can export this development model, this model of leadership, of integral development to all areas of my Guatemala and the entire world. Building a ladder that goes from extreme poverty to complete well-being, in which leadership is a horizontal axis in each of these stages. We are building a convergence center, a “HUB,” which will be the midpoint of development for the entire region and from which we will radiate well-being to the entire Ixil area.”

Double Your Donation in 2021

Becci Merritt Blog Leave a Comment

With matching gifts, it’s possible to double or even triple your gift!  Many employers including Boeing, Microsoft, and Costco will match employees’, employee spouses’, or retirees’ charitable donations made within the last year to Nicolás Fund for Education. Most matching donation requests are due by the end of the year of the donation. December 31st  is fast approaching! Now is a great time to submit your matching donation request before the wonderful distractions of the holiday season. It’s Quick & Easy Instantly find out if your employer has a matching gift policy. We’ve compiled a list of Puget Sound employers that offer matching donations. Double click the link in the list to visit the employer’s Matching Gift Program information. Most of the time, it’s as easy as filling out a form online.   If you don’t see your employer listed or if you don’t live in the Puget Sound area, check with your benefits department to see if your company will match your donation to Nicolás Fund For Education. Double Your Impact If your employer matches your donations, now is the time to DOUBLE YOUR IMPACT by applying for matching donations! Sixty-five percent of Fortune 500 companies have matching gift programs. Be sure to check if your employer will match your gift!  Don’t waste this opportunity to double your donation and make an even bigger impact on educating the next generation of leaders in the Ixil region!

Building Up & Reaching Out – NFE New School Construction

Lavelle Freudenberg Blog 4 Comments

On a plot of land just under 5 acres between a ‘bad milk tree’ and a ‘pito palo tree’[1], the new Nicolás Christian School will open its doors to potentially 300 students from grades 7 to 11 within 3 years.   “That’s double the number we serve today in the leased building near Nebaj, Guatemala,” exclaims Becci Merritt, NFE President.  The land purchase was made possible in 2018 by a grant from a generous donor. The site is in the town of Cotzal which is much closer to our students in the neighboring villages. The Capital Campaign to raise funds for New School Construction is well underway.  Thank you to all the donors who have contributed so far. Thanks to your generous donations, we have met the required minimum budget to begin construction in 2022. We are still working to fully fund construction of the full campus designed by Building Goodness Foundation. The preliminary design for the new school was completed in early 2020, thanks to the expertise and pro bono support of the nonprofit Building Goodness Foundation. This includes the design of the site and utilities, the classroom building including kitchen, office, and multi-use classroom space.     “The first building to be constructed will be approximately 14,500 square feet and we expect it to be sufficient space to allow the school to be fully functional (using some multi-purpose spaces) when it opens, even though other phases will eventually follow,” says Heidi Reynolds, NFE Board director leading the project. “Heidi has spearheaded our partnership with Building Goodness Foundation (BGF),” says Becci. “We are so grateful for her leadership.” Building Goodness Foundation has a stellar reputation in the construction industry for designing, …

Thank You for your Faithful Support!

Becci Merritt Blog Leave a Comment

Nicolás Fund for Education not only met but exceeded our fundraising goal for our April Fulfilling a Dream event! Thanks to our donors, we raised over $230,000, which positions us to meet about 65% of what we need to operate Nicolás Christian School and Nicolás Fund for Education programs in 2022. We will still need to raise $100,000 more by November 1 to fund all our programs in 2022. Thank you for your incredible generosity and faithfulness! You have proven your dedication to these Ixil students by providing education as a means to escape poverty. Building Up, Reaching Out Capital Campaign We are also publicly announcing our Capital Campaign to build a larger, permanent home for Nicolás Christian School!  Please be on the lookout for our brochure arriving in your mailbox soon. We are eager to start construction on this energy-efficient structure that can accommodate twice as many students as our current leased location. Our property, located near Cotzal, will be much more convenient for families to attend school events and reduce our transportation costs.  Our goal is to raise another $280,000 by October 1 so that we can break ground during the dry season next January to complete Phase 1. This building will also serve the entire community of Cotzal through adult literacy classes, online university classes on the weekend, and “weekend school” for students who must work during the week (allowing them to achieve a junior or senior high completion certificate).  This building could also host large meetings such as the Global Leadership Summit, Teacher Professional Development meetings, lectures, concerts,  and alcoholism recovery meetings. We are partnering with a US-based nonprofit, Building Goodness Foundation, that will provide onsite construction management …

Letter from Nicolás Fund for Education’s National Director

Leanne Sierra Blog 6 Comments

Dear Partners in the ministry: This year was special in many ways. We said that our building was closed but our school was not. And it was real. I just returned from the Ixil area a couple of hours ago. In spite of the disaster created by Hurricane ETA, thanks to your donations, we were able to celebrate the graduation of thirty-eight students from ten different villages! In some cases, like in Villa Hortensia I, these students are the very first graduating class ever in the history of that village! Seven eleventh-graders and two ninth-graders celebrated with close family members. Keeping the COVID-19 safety protocols, we visited the homes of each one of the graduates and performed a mini-graduation ceremony. In the presence of parents and some close family members, we prayed for our graduates and blessed each student’s home. After several days and 25,000 steps, I can tell you, this wouldn’t have been possible without your past support.  In the middle of this pandemic adventure we celebrated. Thanks to you, every one of our Nicolás Christian School students was able to access the gift of education through the use of tablets and the first off-line educational platform of the region with NICO (New and Innovative Learning Content Off-line). In the San Nicolás Village, we had a brand-new graduating class from our preschool. This is the first class of students under the age of six graduating from preschool in the history of the village. In one of the villages we visited, Jacinto Pasá expressed his Joy because his daughter, Maria Isabel, had just graduated from the eleventh grade. I saw that smile and I couldn’t resist staring at him. Jacinto immediately said,  “I AM VERY …

Knowledge First Aid Kit

Shirley Kinsey Blog 1 Comment

The vast majority of the parents of Nicolas Fund for Education (NFE) children are illiterate subsistence farmers who often speak only their local Mayan language. Spanish books help to increase their children’s vocabulary and background knowledge in Spanish, the language used in Guatemalan public and private schools. Our children’s villages—and the entire Ixil Triangle—lack public libraries, and families rarely own books. In response to this need, NFE has started a book drive program that allows these children—who have never seen a library until now—access to books. This week, we opened our first library—with 103 books—in the village of Belen (Bethlehem in English). We ordered the books, which donors chose on our book drive page, at Sophos bookstore in Guatemala City. Our national director, Ivan España, picked them up and delivered them to Belén. Antonio Lazaro, a village father, generously donated the space from his former barbershop for the small library as well as painting and preparing the room with shelves, a table, and so on. The villagers named their library El Botiquin del Saber which translates to Knowledge First Aid Kit. A lovely sign hangs outside the door. Oneyda, a Nicolas Christian School (NCS) 11th-grade student, will act as the librarian by building enthusiasm for reading, tracking books, and quarantining books between users. The principal at NCS, Professor Braulio Bach Cabrera, spoke at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on opening day. Access to books will help village children succeed in school and in life. It will also impact overall literacy and reading comprehension in the area as the children translate these books into Ixil for their parents and as older children read them aloud to younger siblings. Thanks to our generous donors, …

A Sparkle in Her Eyes

Kathy Riper and Lavelle Freudenberg Blog, Student Spotlight Leave a Comment

Juana (Juanita) Córdova is 24 years old and lives in the village of La Bendición. She is one of three daughters and was born with spina bifida. She is very bright and attended the village primary school through the sixth grade. Juanita’s parents are poor farmers. In Guatemala only primary school is free to attend. Even if her parents could have afforded to send her to junior high and high school, it would have required traveling to the larger town of Cotzal. Mobility is challenging for Juanita and she gets motion sickness when riding in a vehicle. Juanita runs the tienda (small store) on her family’s property. She made a space in the tienda for a library with the books that she has received from teams that have visited her over the years. She started checking out books to the village children and encouraged them to read. Knowing how much Juanita loves to learn, Nicolás Christian School began its first distance learning effort in 2014. A tutor, Ricardo, came to Juanita’s home and she eagerly began her studies for 7th grade courses. “I did not talk with anyone before and I was always afraid. But Ricardo looked for the way to remove my fear and I was able to conquer it,” says Juanita, looking back. She made a little study space in her tienda. This allowed her the opportunity to study and look after the tienda during the day. She completed 7th-9th grades in just two years. In Guatemala, senior high school is 10th and 11th grade. Juanita completed both grades in one year. She was able to participate in the Nicolás Christian School graduation in 2016 and receive her …