A blue-and-white wooden schoolhouse sits in the center of Taleno—a fitting spot for a building that has become the heartbeat of this small, rural town on Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast. On weekdays, 42 students gather inside for classes, while their parents and other local residents use the space as a community center at night.
Although it’s difficult to imagine Taleno without this hub of activity, that was the reality two years ago. There was no school or teacher, and sending children to another community for classes was nearly impossible due to distance.
For years, community members repeatedly requested support from the local government to build a school in Taleno and appoint a teacher. Eventually, the Ministry of Education agreed to hire one but only donated some construction materials toward building a place where students could learn. Without a school, the teacher gave classes in local homes for five years. Children sat on the ground as he attempted to teach them without a chalkboard or books.
In 2015, Project Concern International (PCI) came on the scene to help address the challenge. As part of its McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, conducted in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the local Ministry of Education, PCI organized and trained local parents and other community members to identify their most pressing educational needs and develop an action plan. Parents were organized into sub-committees and received training and support to implement their planned activities. As a result, Taleno sprang into action.
Committee members secured donations of materials from local businesses, while other residents contributed their labor and supplies. Finally, the community accomplished their dream of building a proper schoolhouse.
The structure, which they named Luz y Vida (Light and Life), houses a spacious multi-grade classroom complete with desks, a large white board, books and other learning materials. They also constructed two latrines (one using all local materials and another using materials provided by PCI), built a school kitchen/cafeteria and dug a well to provide the school with water. A school feeding committee was established too, which organizes local pick-up of commodities donated by the project (e.g. rice, beans, and oil) and prepares a nutritious daily meal for all of the schoolchildren.
Now, school attendance is up and parents feel empowered and committed to sustaining the community’s progress.
“PCI awakened us,” said Juana Geleno, a local mother of two schoolchildren. “They encouraged us and made us realize that we were able to change our situation.”