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Education and Literacy: Community Development in Nicaragua

Trip Overview:

In 1980, the new Sandanista government in Nicaragua launched a campaign with ambitious goals: to eradicate illiteracy; and to encourage an integration and understanding between Nicaraguans of different classes and backgrounds. The Nicaraguan Literacy Campaign saw more than 90,000 volunteers trained in two weeks. Those volunteers, most of them women and the vast majority of them young (middle school to college age), spent five months living in communities other than their own teaching Nicaraguans typically older and much different than themselves how to read and write. The results of the campaign were historic, with some studies suggesting illiteracy dropped from 50% of the population to 13%. The campaign received a prestigious UNESCO award for their success and Nicaragua had contributed significantly to the global conversation on the eradication of poverty worldwide. Just as important was the new sense of nationalism and connection to their fellow citizens felt by the participants. The connection of urban and rural communities, the empowerment of women, and the fact that every class, race, age, and gender were involved changed the conversations about power and wealth in the country.

Today, while the Literacy Campaign remains a proud legacy, education and literacy challenges abound in Nicaragua. Because of widespread poverty in the country, many children are unable to attend school and high schoolers routinely drop out to look for work. Only one in two Nicaraguan children reach the fifth grade. Alleviating poverty and increasing access to education are two important priorities for the Nicaraguan government, and to development workers in Nicaragua.

This trip focuses on the many community development and education projects which PGL sponsors in and around Leon. Participants live with Spanish-speaking host families in León. A command of the language is not necessary, but some knowledge is helpful.

A passport is required and various immunizations are recommended; these costs are the responsibility of the participant, and are not included in the fee listed above.

About Project Gettysburg-León
Since 1989, the Gettysburg community has committed to being a sister city to León, Nicaragua. Through the siter-city relationship, hundreds of Gettysburg College students have worked alongside the people of León and surrounding communities to learn about third-world realities and participate in community development through PGL-sponsored projects.

PGL currently works with five active projects in and around León, mainly within the municipality of León and in a small rural village called Talolinga. These projects include: Taller Artistico Xuchialt (Children's Art School), Talolinga Agricultural Extensionist Project, and Las Tias afterschool program for at-risk youth.

Sample Itinerary:

Day 1: Travel from Gettysburg to Nicaragua; Visit Masaya Volcano Park; Travel to Leon; Meet host families

Day 2: Orientation to Leon and PGL; Tour of Leon; Painting class with Taller Xuchialt (art school)

Day 3: Visit Monte Horet preschool; Service project at preschool; Dance class led by Taller Xuchialt; Gettysburg students participate in cultural performance at Monte Horet

Day 4: Travel to Talolinga; Tour farm and organic agriculture activity; stay in Talolinga

Day 5: School activity planned by Gettysburg students; Return to Leon

Day 6: Visit Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Nicaragua; Lunch with Nicaraguan college students; Visit Las Tias, after school program

Day 7: Mangrove tour at Las Penitas; Poneloya Beach; Climb Cerro Negro; Farewell party with host families

Day 8: Travel to Managua; Travel home to Gettysburg

Project Leader:

My name is Elaine Negron and I am a sophomore from New Haven, Connecticut. I am majoring in Psychology and possibly double majoring with Spanish. After interning for Teach For America, I became very interested in education, not only in the United States but in other countries. I am beyond excited for this experience because of the great perspective we get to witness and the many things we will learn.