Pinolero IN USA By Leyder Lopez

Nicaragua Initiative for Community Advancement

NICA is a non-profit organization with offices in Managua, Nicaragua and Dallas, Texas. They work in rural communities in Nicaragua. They look at communities as a whole, identify the core issues and then work to resolve the problems using responsible initiatives. They are currently deploying opportunities in El Transito, Nicaragua, which is the place where I am from.

El Transito is a small fishing village located on the pacific coast of Nicaragua. El Transito has 2500 inhabitants, one health center and a public school, which is used as an elementary and a high school. The available work opportunities in El Transito revolve around fishing. Other opportunities may become available soon because it is a beach community and many tourists are beginning to visit, but even with the great potential El Transito has, the lack of motivation and vision to change the situation of the locals has impeded its development and progress. NICA has been in my community for more than 10 years, and they have been a crucial factor in the success of many young dreamers who have the potential to make a change in their towns but not the resources. NICA has mentored me and other youth since we were in high school.

NICA sponsored my English courses, and they encouraged me to achieve my goals. In my second year of high school, they paid my tuition to attend one of the best English academies in my country. In exchange, I had to volunteer for them and worked with the volunteers from the United States. Also, I tutored students who were struggling with their classes. This was an enriching experience because I was able to practice my English, know more about the U.S., and teach the American volunteers about the beautiful culture of my country. Additionally, this people I met were the ones who introduced me to the real world and encouraged me to work hard for my dreams. In my town, there are a few chances to know more than what we have at hand. The opportunities for a better future are few or none since most of the students drop out of school when they reach high school. This is because they become drug addict, alcoholics or responsible for the household.

This organization has focused on Education which is a big deal in my town, only 10% of the students who enrolled in school might finish high school, and only 2% may get accepted at college. This is a problem that is facing the whole country. It makes sense when it is the first poorest country of Central America and the second poorest country of the entire Western Hemisphere after Haiti. NICA has started a program that allows students to do “online reinforcement” in the afternoons through webpages like Khan Academy that is free and available in Spanish. I was one of the many students, who enrolled this program. This helped me to gain knowledge in unknown topics. I have to admit that if it had not been for the volunteers that NICA brought down to my town and NICA by itself, I would not have been where I am today; here at JBU.

Traveling Stories: Transforming Reluctant Readers into Confident Ones

Traveling Stories is a non-profit organization that builds libraries in rural areas in different countries around the world. Emily Moberly, a JBU alumnus, founded this organization. Nowadays, they have built more than 5 libraries in different countries such as Nicaragua, the Philippines, Cambodia and El Salvador.

Library in El Transito, Nicaragua

In 2011 Scott and Hannah Key, young professionals from Texas, approached Traveling Stories about joining efforts to bring books to the village of El Transito in Nicaragua. Scott & Hannah were already connected with El Transito Centro de Artes (ETCA) and NICA, two organizations already active in the area, and coordinated efforts between everyone. Julie Sim Edwards, the founder of ETCA, donated a shed on her land to be converted into the library.

"Haven't I commanded you? Be BOLD, STRONG and COURAGEUS" Josh 1:9

Scott and Hannah recruited friends Emily and Eric Hughes and the four moved to Nicaragua for the summer. They renovated the shed, built shelves and tables, bought books with money they raised earlier in the year and created the community’s first public library. Hannah, Scott, Emily and Eric were former JBU undergraduate students. I was part of the construction of this library, and I became the first librarian. During this time, I was in my second year of high school, and my work was basically to read with the children and to help them do their homework.

This was one of the most exciting stations in my life because I realized that “reading is sexy.” I feel very proud to say that I was part of the project because this library opened the mind of many young people in El Transito. Since Internet was hard to get, the library became the first and only source of information for students. In the afternoon, the local library would host more than 80 students who needed to find information for their homework. Before the library existed, the students had to find a solution to get the information they needed. In most of the cases, they ended up not doing their homework or research. The library is still working with 3,000 books of different topics and categories. They have 2 librarians, and it is visited for more than 200 students form El Transito, and the communities nearby.

Walton International Scholarship Program: A lifelong Dream

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you GREAT and UNSEARCHABLE things you do not know” Jere. 33:3

The Walton International Scholarship program is a blessing in the life of every single person that has it. First of all, WISP is a program that gives scholarship to people from Central America and Mexico so that outstanding students can attend one of the three Christian colleges in Arkansas: John Brown University, University of the Ozarks, and Harding University. The students attend the four years of college, then they have to go back to their countries and stay there for unless four years.

My Story

Since I was in my second year of high school, a crazy idea came to my mind: Study in the United States of America. It was an insane idea because most students who graduate in my town have many troubles to get into college in Nicaragua because there are not a lot of resources, and college is expensive. Many people, even my teachers, made fun of my dream that later became my main goal. I never gave up with that dream even though it looked impossible in the eyes of many people.

I worked hard to get this scholarship. It was not easy at all. The first time I applied online, the WISP director sent me an email saying that I was not accepted. This really discouraged me because I thought that I was not good enough that they did not even give an interview. Terri Marlett, NICA foundation executive director, never stop believing in me, and she encouraged me to apply once again. This time, they did not reply me, so I thought I was accepted. I gathered all the paperwork I needed, and I took them to the WISP office in Managua.

They called me for the first interview with the Walton Alumni. I was super nervous because my dream depended on this interview. If I happened to pass that interview, I was going to have another interview with the WISP directors, which also made me more nervous. I did not give my best in that interview because I was astonished by the amount of questions they asked. They called me for the second interview, and this time was with the directors. I did my best in this one, and I talked like crazy. I am sure they were exhausted of listening. Then I had to wait for them to contact me in February. On December 24, 2015 at 3:36 pm Mr. Ronald Johnson, director of the Walton Scholarship at John Brown University, called me to notify me that I had won a Walton Scholarship for JBU!!!!!!

I was super happy, and words could not express my excitement and happiness. I remember I cried and yelled. My neighbors thought that I had an accident. That day, I prayed to God because he was who gave this scholarship, and my church came to my house to have a worship night.

My Experiences at JBU so far

Studying at JBU is not that easy. College by itself is not easy. I have to study hard because English is not my first language, and I struggle a lot when writing. I still have many mistakes when I speak, and I have presentations to do for some classes, so I am always concern whether my audience understands or not. All this has not made me give up yet.

I have been in JBU for three months, and I have learned how to lean on God every single time. I am so grateful that here at JBU I have the opportunity to know more about God and rely on him in every minute of my life. I really love that the professors are very friendly and reachable. Something that I like from JBU is that all the students and professors have a unique story of how they ended up in JBU. All their stories have a phrase in common, and it is: “God brought me here; I never thought I was going to end up at JBU.” As for me, I ended up at JBU because that was God’s plan; he brought me here to know him better and go back to my country to share the gospel. In a few words, being at JBU has been a renewal and a life-changing experience. Being here has allowed me to give hope and inspiration other people in my town who think that dreams are just crazy ideas that come to our minds while we are sleeping.

About the Author:

Leyder J Lopez is a freshman at John Brown University. He is majoring in Communications with an emphasis in Public Relations. He has always been a crazy dreamer, a hard worker, and a media lover. He is from Leon, Nicaragua. His goal is to inspire other kids in rural areas of Nicaragua to follow their craziest dreams.
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Leyder Lopez

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