The 2014 school year began in February, including new programs in two communities outside of the town Somoto, Soní and Cacaulí. This year, SAT continues to prepare students for economic success. SAT tutors engage students in business activities to develop entreprenuerial spirit, in addition to providing excellent preparation for university studies and formal employment. In rural Nicaragua, lack of economic opportunity forces young people to migrate to urban centers to seek low wage employment. With quality education that teaches skills relevant to the rural environment, SAT helps talented youth succeed at home and develop their own communities. The two SAT student cooperatives also allow students to apply for loans and start small businesses. SAT promotes gender equity in all activities, and in 2013, 60% of the students involved in business initiatives were female.
Olvin, from the tiny rural community El Castillito, is one exemplary student who has benefitted from SAT's focus on relevant skills, particularly in agriculture. The SAT program has given Olvin a chance he never had before: access to education beyond 6th grade. Olvin had worked for seven years after finishing sixth grade, but when his mother attended a community meeting and found out about SAT, he enrolled immediately. This year, he will completed the program and receive his high school diploma in December.
In 2013, Fabretto selected Olvin for a scholarship to study a technical course in Administration of Coffee Farms in Jinotega, Nicaragua. Although the scholarship was originally intended for a Fabretto staff member, the staff nominated Olvin for his great potential. He completed the course and since then has provided technical advice as a consultant to the 5 de Junio Coffee Cooperative, originally created with Fabretto's support. Olvin's knowledge has helped the cooperative with crop diversification and the development of a new initiative to grow and export organic chia.
Olvin plans to continue working in agriculture, and SAT has opened up many opportunities to continue learning and progressing. This year, he will apply for a scholarship to study agricultural engineering at a university in the closest city. He currently is involved with a business initiative to grow strawberries and make strawberry jam with his fellow SAT students. Further in the future, he hopes to manage his own coffee farm in El Castillito using the skills he learned in the course in Jinotega and join the 5 de Junio Cooperative. In our interview, Olvin reflected, "All of us in SAT are young, but we have a vision: moving forward." With the SAT program, Olvin and his fellow classmates are driving economic and social development in their rural communities.
Coming straight from her classroom, Maura strode into the meeting room with confidence, a pencil tucked into her hair. “¿Comenzamos?” she said immediately. “Should we start?”
From that moment, she guided us through the story of her life, her strong, enthusiastic voice revealing her natural talent for teaching. With no reservations, she told us of struggles and heartache, but all that was overshadowed by her unflappable determination to move forward and provide a better future for her children. Maura knew from a young age where she wanted to go, and, with support from Fabretto, she is on her way there. As a parent, student, apprentice, and teacher, Maura has taken full advantage of the opportunities provided by Fabretto and has become a leader in her community. Her positive attitude and commitment to achieving her dreams is a true testimony to the spirit of Fabretto.
Maura’s life has not been easy, but she never stopped believing in a better future. Tears came to her eyes as she spoke of her difficult childhood in rural Nicaragua and moving alone to Managua to support her family as a young adult. Three years ago, Maura began attending Fabretto’s parent training sessions and enrolled her children in Fabretto’s educational programs. Later, she joined the vocational training program “to learn to make jewelry to make progress on her own.” But Maura didn’t stop there. “Since I was 6 years old, I had always dreamed of being a teacher,” she recalled. Over the years, she worked as a nanny, factory worker, and even a salesperson on the streets, but she never gave up on her dream. “Teaching is a calling,” Maura stated with conviction. “Fabretto was my path to enter.”
Now, Maura is entering her final year of her degree program to become a teacher. She recently completed a 3-month internship at a Fabretto’s Education Center, and when Fabretto’s director noticed her potential, she offered her a temporary substitute teaching position. “I had faith that I would find a job after my internship ended,” Maura explained. “I just wanted to learn… As a teacher, I am constantly learning.”
Maura became animated as she described her experience as a teacher at Fabretto’s Center. “The children are so sweet,” she said. “In just one week, there was tremendous love between us. The children’s love has also helped me grow.”
As we listened to Maura, we were not only impressed by her life experience, but also motivated for her future and the future of other Fabretto beneficiaries. “I want to show my children who their mother can be,” she said, her eyes bright with emotion. “With Fabretto, I have been growing, and my children too… and they are proud of me.”
In Nicaragua, receiving a quality primary education is so much more than just getting children to attend school. Fabretto creates a safe and fun environment for learning by encouraging and explaining to parents how they can support their child’s education, giving teachers like Maura the resources and education so they can make their passion for teaching more effective, and providing a daily lunch so they can grow and lead a healthy life. Together with your support, we can continue education programs so that the children like those that Maura teaches are not only be inspired by her, but have the opportunity to learn and develop the skills needed to reach their goals.
This December, Fabretto proudly celebrated the high school graduation of 52 SAT students. The SAT program acheived a 97% retention rate this year, a great achievement, especially compared with an estimated 75% retention rate in all Nicaraguan secondary schools. The 48 SAT tutors received continuous training throughout the year to improve teaching skills, knowledge of curriculum, and understanding of the program’s unique methodology.
This year, Fabretto's SAT program received international recognition as one of fourteen finalists for the WISE (World Innovation Summit for Education) Awards, sponsored by the Qatar Foundation to honor the most innovative education projects around the world. Helena Edwards, Fabretto Director of Programs, shared the SAT model on the global stage at the WISE Summit this fall (watch her presentation here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J805iHj04b0).
The SAT small business initiatives and the two student cooperatives are thriving. In 2013, SAT student business activities included baking traditional biscuits, growing fruits (strawberries, pitaya, pineapple), beekeeping, producing cajetas (Nicaraguan candies), buying and selling used clothing, and producing coffee. With the income generated by these businesses, students can contribute to the family income while continuing their studies.
One dedicated tutor, Danys , supported a group of students in executing a business plan, obtaining a loan, and purchasing an electric mill for the rural community El Carrizo near San José de Cusmapa in April 2013. The mill, owned and operated by two SAT students and their families, contributes directly to community development and enables other students to pursue business ventures of their own, including rosquillas biscuits and cajetas (traditional Nicaraguan candies). This summer, his fourth and fifth year students began a new initiative to produce pinol, a popular corn-based drink. Watch this short film to learn more about these inspiring students and their tutor: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWsKwPVc4Nk.