On the morning of July 21st, I was picked up at my hotel by La Esperanza Director Pauline Jackson. Accompanying her was Leslie, a new volunteer set to start teaching that week. It was 9:30 in the morning, and already the heat and humidity was off to a furious start. By now I had started to get used to the fact the air conditioning was something of a novelty down here, reserved for the few upscale hotels. There was little I could do to condition myself for the relentless pursuit of the sun and steam. Weeks in Thailand helped my realize I would eventually adapt, but having been in Nicaragua for just two days, I was still acclimating. Despite my discomfort, I kept my complaints to myself. Together we set out for a tour of a few of the seven schools currently supported by La Esperanza Granada. On the outskirts of the city, we abruptly departed the pavement and turned onto a dirt road. The ride was horribly uneven, the road besieged with potholes, rocks and pools of water. As we crested a hill, I got my first glimpse of the what could only be described as a sullen and forgotten landscape. Lining the hillside and into the valley were sheds of corrugated aluminum scraps forming the walls of homes the size of walk-in closets. Most of these structures sat without electricity and running water. Some without windows or doors, and still others without a fourth wall. No plumbing. No lights. No…anything.
There were hundreds of these structures, stretching as far as I could see, eventually disappearing into the trees. My heart sank immediately. This was where thousands called ‘home’.
There I was, just minutes earlier complaining about the heat, and now I was finding myself photographing a man, disabled in both arms, barely able to hoist his baby daughter, and he was smiling. His home of four barely stretched eight feet by eight feet. The floor was compacted dirt. There were no windows, lights or a bathroom. There was so little of anything, except what literally sat twenty feet directly across the dirt road.
A beautiful blue and white school.
I could already hear the laughter from the school, and it was then that I understood why the man was smiling. He was so happy his children had been given an opportunity that he most likely never had. The view from his front door was of a beautiful shrine, consecrated towards a better future for his children.
For the first time since setting foot in the village, I felt a sense of relief. I was glad there were tough, determined and dedicated folks out there like Pauline and Leslie and the dozens of other volunteers who paid their own way to come here and help make a difference. For weeks at a time, the volunteers, hailing from all corners of the world, poured their hearts out to the children of this village and other less fortunate children all around Granada. Change, no matter how gradual, was taking shape.
The good news wasn’t over. A quick drive further down the road brought us to the site of a new building, still under construction, that was to be a high school. This was significant in that it would provide advanced education in a country where so many children stop attending school somewhere in the early grades. Here they had a chance to prepare for college. A simply amazing accomplishment in a village that had so little.
Leaving San Ignacio, I was filled with a sense of hope. I could tell in the faces of the children that they were going to be all right. They already knew what I hadn’t before, that a future was to be found in those rolling hills. It didn’t matter that their homes were made of scrap materials. It didn’t matter that they read by candle light. What mattered was that they were full of intelligence, resolve and determination. And given the chance, they would prove it.
The village of San Ignacio, on the outskirts of Granada, home to the some of the poorest people in the city. A family looks out from their small one room home.
The school in San Ignacio, two wings with multiple classrooms. Children attend a summer class.
This little guy was intense, working the entire time I was there. Local kids hard at work, and having a little fun, too.
Another sponsored school, on the outskirts of town. Director Pauline Jackson, a tough, no nonsense Australian who came to Nicaragua more than six years ago and never left, speaks to one of the school’s directors.
From the ground rises a new school, and with it, the hope for many children. A chance at an education and a way out of their circumstances.
The complete photo set is found here.