This year has certainly been an interesting one, challenging us in ways we could not have imagined, but also revealing how resilient we are. If you have ever visited Nicaragua or gotten to know Nicaraguan people, you will surely agree that Nicaraguans are truly resilient people. They have overcome so much, and through it all show incredible humility, hope, and hospitality.

As far as Covid-19 goes, here in El Sauce, as I’m sure you can see in many places, some people are taking things very seriously, only leaving the house when necessary and using masks, social distancing, and washing/disinfecting hands, while others act like there is nothing wrong and go about their daily lives without using masks or any other methods to prevent the spread. Most businesses have now installed hand-washing stations at the entrance to their business and require people to use masks, and restaurants have shifted to primarily take-out meals, although social distancing is quite naturally implemented. There have been confirmed cases here in El Sauce, and a few deaths because of Covid-19 as well.

Schools were theoretically in session in April and May, though after mid-May (when the first death caused by Covid-19 happened here in El Sauce), practically everyone stopped going to school. School directors told us that only about 5 students were showing up per class, sometimes fewer. If you remember from our last update, we officially started our program in March (shortly after the beginning of the Nicaraguan school year in February) and continued until the first school break at Holy Week, at which point we temporarily suspended the program to evaluate if we would be able to function in-person and still ensure everyone’s safety.

After much thought and planning, we decided to open the program during the second half of April (after their first school break) and first half of May, though with a split session. We chose to split the students into two groups since we had 38 students and considered that it was not ideal to have all of them present at the same time as it would be very difficult to ensure social distancing and keep everyone safe. As a result, we worked in two different sessions with a modified schedule and extra hand washing and cleaning to keep everyone safe. While this was certainly not ideal, we felt that it was necessary to ensure that we could safely provide services to our students while ensuring that everyone stayed healthy.

In mid-May, we made the difficult decision to suspend the program again for in-person classes, and shifted to supporting our students through Whats-App. This decision was made after much thought, especially considering that at that point, there were more confirmed cases in El Sauce, and attendance at both the program and regular classes in the public schools was dropping due to parent’s fear of their children and families getting infected. Almost all our students have access to a phone with Whats-App, so this method was our best bet for maintaining contact with our students and providing them with support while keeping everyone safe; it assured us to know that the schools were also using this method to keep in touch with students’ families. Beginning in mid-May, the schools provided paper copies of guides for the students to work through to continue their schoolwork for the rest of May and June. We supported students using Whats-App to help them complete their guides, using video calls, messages, and recording videos explaining concepts – especially new math concepts that are difficult for them to learn on their own.

Almost all of July was their mid-semester break and everyone was on break. Usually their break is two weeks long, but the Ministry of Education extended it an extra week. Students were supposed to go back to school during the last week of July as normal with in-person classes, but attendance was extremely low again. Many parents are scared to send their children to class and prefer to keep them home, even if the schools do not continue sending work home. During the month of August, we have continued to support our students using Whats-App, and at the time of writing this update, we are evaluating options to see if we will be able to safely re-open in September.

We know that everyone is struggling this year but do also have to recognize that our program runs entirely because of donations. If you are able to support us with a donation, we would be deeply grateful. No amount is too small, and 100% of donations go directly to supporting the program, thanks to the incredible support that JOS provides. If you would like to make a donation, you can follow the link below for more details – be sure to designate Amigos en Accion as the recipient of your donation:

Thank you all for your support of Amigos en Accion!

Ashley Sullivan and Martha Rojas