Relationships in the Time of the Pandemic

Kathy Riper Blog Leave a Comment

Nicolás Fund for Education has always been a relational ministry at its core. During our mission trips, our friendships, cultural exchanges, and worship experiences with the Ixil and Quiche people have enriched our lives and strengthened our faith. We have provided prayer and encouragement to many students and families on our mission trips. Nicolás Christian School students and families look forward to our team visits. During this pandemic, we haven’t been able to travel to Guatemala since February 2020 to provide this encouragement because of travel restrictions. How can we encourage Nicolás Christian School staff and students when we cannot be there in person? One way would be to compose a short note of encouragement to a student. We see from the prayer requests submitted by our students for our monthly prayer meetings some common themes and concerns that you might address in your letter: Strong desire to get good grades Fear of their family contracting Covid Prayers that God will intervene in alcoholism of father Managing teenage emotions (frustration, anger, loneliness) Fathers who have found jobs far from home, and are missed  Illness of a family member You will notice from these themes that many are universal concerns that many of us have experienced in our own lives at one point or another. Would you consider composing a short letter drawing from your own experience to comfort or encourage a student? Was there a particular Bible verse that helped you? How did God help you overcome those hard times?  “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.”   1 Thessalonians 5:11 Let’s resolve to be encouragers for these students in 2022! Send your notes to bmerritt@nicolasfund.org. We will translate them …

A Special Visit

Kathy Riper & Estuardo Sánchez Blog Leave a Comment

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 …

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 …