Nicaragua Community Development

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Visit to the Padre Nello School

 Our consulting project with Cayuga ended with an incredible stay at Jicaro Island Lodge. This marked the first visit to Nicaragua for both Soraya and me. Approaching Jicaro Island during the boat ride, I immediately fell in love with the design of the buildings on the island. All buildings on the property are constructed of downed trees after the devastation caused by Hurricane Felix in 2007.

 The isletas of Granada formed when the Mombache Volcano erupted thousands of years ago, tossing huge rocks into Lake Nicaragua. Today, those islands are occupied by a community of about 1200 people, many of whom make their livelihoods as fishermen, frequently passing by the hotel as they go out for their daily catch. Often, entire families occupy a single island, living in simple structures made of tin and wood. The lake serves as their washing machine, shower, and back yard.  The majority of the island community is made up of native Nicaraguans who live in this manner, many without basic resources like running water.

Jen and Soraya sitting in the swings of the new playground Jicaro helped to install.

Jen and Soraya sitting in the swings of the new playground Jicaro helped to install.

 To help their local community, Jicaro works with the nearby Padre Nello School, an elementary school for children who live on the islands. Currently, the hotel is raising money to install a solar array, water filtration system, and audiovisual classroom. At the time of our visit in September, the ecolodge had raised nearly $5,000 out of the $20,000 necessary to implement the projects, relying solely on donations from guests who stay at the lodge. Jicaro has supported the school with various projects since the fall of 2012, including painting desks and chairs and installing a new playground.

 Padre Nello is one of three public elementary schools in the vicinity of Jicaro, with a total student body of 210 (preschool to 6th grade) and nine teachers. These schools do not have the necessary resources to teach basic reading, writing, and math skills. They lack basic supplies and materials and infrastructure, like desks and chairs, and classroom space to teach..

 Carcache, Jicaro’s Sustainability Coordinator took us to visit Padre Nello so we could view the property and meet the children.  Unfortunately, the school was closed that day for a holiday, so the grounds were quiet and still. Had the children been in class, we could have had the opportunity to volunteer in the classroom to help with their English or play with them.

Typical homes for native Nicaraguan island residents.

Typical homes for native Nicaraguan island residents.

 The solar array and water filtration system will greatly improve the children’s educational experience. Currently, the school does not have electricity. Solar energy would offer the school an inexpensive way to generate power and provide advanced learning material for the students through the use of an audiovisual classroom. Without potable water on site, the students drink the unsanitary water directly from Lake Nicaragua, resulting in high illness rates among the children. A water filtration system would provide clean water for the school and result in fewer sick days for the students.

 We were impressed by and grateful for the work Jicaro does to improve their community. Their efforts with Padre Nello School prove that a hotel can serve its community as well as its guests and that guests can play a part in improving the lives of the communities they visit.

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