In the late 90s, Rob Buscaglia was a new Spanish teacher at HGP. He had served in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua but always felt that “words” couldn’t convey his experience. He would have to take people in country to help them understand. And so was born Ayudanica. Rob ( a charismatic teacher) recruited about a dozen students to take to Nicaragua for about 10 days in the summer. The first year, he invited me to join the program but I was already committed to teaching at Holy Family University. In year two, I didn’t teach at HFU, and became part of the Ayudanica team. Rob and I began to “train” kids during the school year modeled on out Peace Corps experience. Rob led language, culture and history; I did a lot with team building and a bit of teacher training.
For ten years we took about a dozen students to Nicaragua. Each year we worked in the same sugar cane village, Monte Rosa, not far from the city of Chinandega where we stayed in a small hotel. Our project involved establishing a library and computer center in a complex of buildings and courtyard owned by the Sandanista political party. Over the years, we brought books, computers, set up a library, gave computer classes, engaged the village kids in story hours, craft classes, photography classes, sports. All the time our American students worked with and passed on their training to a group of Nicaraguan teens. The concept was that the Nica teens would run the center throughout the year. We hired a director to run the program.
After about five years Rob left teaching at HGP. Although the school liked the program, they had never made a financial commitment. Students paid and were required to fundraise. And our fundraising efforts were pretty successful. The school administration wanted us to scale back the program. Basically we said no. Rob went on to his new teaching position; we formed the non-profit, Ayudanica, and expanded our recruitment beyond HGP. We also went co-ed. I think the first year all the girls were sisters of male participants. Usually three adults went with the kids; female teachers joined the team.
Despite going to Nicaragra for about 10 years and trying to learn Spanish during the school year; my linguistic abilities were minimal. So I communicated with my camera. I took literally thousands of slides; similarily thousands of color prints; and the last few years digital photographs. I’m sorting through the prints and will create a photo albulm of the Ayudanica experience. I will also share some pictures online. Here are some pictures of team members from the latter years.