Building Up & Reaching Out – NFE New School Construction

Lavelle Freudenberg Blog Leave a Comment

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.  The goal is to raise the remaining $250,000 for Phase 1 by October 1, 2021 so that construction may begin in January 2022.  ALL donations will be eligible for an automatic MATCHING GRANT!!!!    The preliminary design for Phase 1 of the new school was completed in early 2020, thanks to the expertise and pro bono support of the nonprofit Building Goodness Foundation.  Phase 1 includes design of the site and utilities, the classroom building including kitchen, office, and multi-use classroom space.   “Phase 1 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, building, renovating, and …

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 …

Hurricanes Eta and Iota Flood the Ixil with Severe Impact

Leanne Sierra Uncategorized 1 Comment

Heavy rainfall from two back-to-back hurricanes in less than two weeks has devastated the Ixil region of Guatemala. Hurricane Eta, a Category 4 storm, hit the Ixil region around November 5-8th with torrential rain. A brief respite from the rain in mid-November allowed our Nicolás Christian School graduation to take place on a beautiful, sunny day with roads that allowed Professor Braulio (principal) and Ivan España (Country Director) to visit every graduate’s home in every village to bestow diplomas and offer congratulations. Circumstances changed drastically when Hurricane Iota hit Guatemala a few days later. Massive rainfall led to severe flooding that destroyed 65% of the cornfields, killed livestock, ruptured and collapsed roadways, and washed-out bridges. Mudslides killed several people, and entire villages were rendered uninhabitable. Sumal Grande and Sumalito villages suffered significant damage in Hurricane Eta. Even before Hurricane Iota hit, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) described the situation in the Ixil region as a “major humanitarian crisis.” IFRC planned a large-scale disaster response, but at least initially, most of the communities have were left to fend for themselves. Groups of Ixil volunteers helped to evacuate those stranded by high water. Hurricane Iota delivered the knock-out punch only a few days after NCS graduation with tremendous rainfall (more than five inches in 48 hours), flooding, and mudslides destroying essential roads and bridges. The villagers from Villa Hortensia 2 and Villa Hortensia Antigua evacuated to Cunen (where Professor Braulio lives). Villagers from Santa Avelina 1 and 2 walked for hours to reach refuge in Villa Hortensia 1. Several mudslides and flooding led several families to evacuate Cajixay. Some Cajixay families fled to VH1 and others …

Are you willing to be a Social Media Ambassador for NFE?

Leanne Sierra Uncategorized Leave a Comment

Hi, I am so grateful for our donors and volunteers for Nicolás Fund for Education! I am writing in hopes that you will agree to be a social media ambassador for NFE on Giving Tuesday, December 1st!   You choose when you post as long as you post on December 1st!  Post about WHY you support NFE in ALL forms of social media you use: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Encourage people to donate directly to NFE on our website, or you may choose to create a personal Facebook fundraiser that benefits Nicolás Fund for Education.  If you do run a personal fundraiser on Facebook, please reach out to thank these donors yourself. We are not given their names and addresses by Facebook. You can use your own trip photos and stories to explain why you support NFE, or you may use one of these three images (click the link to see and download the images). If you are at a loss for what to say, here is a suggestion: “Nicolás Fund for Education provides secondary education for indigenous Mayans in the mountains of Guatemala. In this region, less than 20% of children attend school beyond 6th grade. Free education stops after 6th grade and most families in this region cannot afford to pay tuition for students to continue their education. Nicolás Fund for Education donors give the gift of education to these students, providing excellence in education for these young men and women that will help them become the future leaders in Guatemala. Education is the #1 way to combat poverty.” Please include the two hashtags #GivingTuesday and #NFE in your posts so we can find them. You can also @mention us, so …

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 …

Exciting Key Performance Indicators at Nicolás Christian School!

Becci Merritt Blog Leave a Comment

Each year, the Guatemalan Ministry of Education administers standardized testing to 11th-grade students and 9th-grade students. Nicolás Fund for Education has only been able to access those results concerning Nicolás Christian School (NCS) since the 2018 results became available. Frankly, those first results were disappointing. None of our students passed the national standardized test. What was more disturbing was that very few students from any school in the Ixil area passed this test. Results in more urban areas were also surprisingly low. Academic Director Bill Safstrom cautioned, “It is important to remember that these tests are aspirational. It is expected that no one will achieve 100% on this type of test.” Bill Safstrom commented that these initial results were helpful because it provided much-needed information on where our strengths and weaknesses were at Nicolás Christian School and “…the data was a place to start”. The evaluation measures the learning of students throughout their educational history. It is not a curricular evaluation but rather an evaluation of basic life skills. NCS Math Scores Exceeded the Guatemalan Ministry of Education Expectations The difference in the students’ average score in relation to what was expected may be because of the work they do at NCS, which is related to the teaching strategies our teachers use in the classroom, Professor Braulio’s educational leadership as Principal, our Christian school climate, and use and creation of learning opportunities. The Ministry of Education takes into account the Socioeconomic and Cultural Index (ISEC) of our students’ families and, based on that information, our average math scores actually exceeded what was anticipated by the Guatemalan Ministry of Education. Challenge Accepted Being a Mayan female student is unfortunately associated with lower …