A new level of education

Pauline Jackson - Operations Director La Esperanza Granada 

Where have you lived before you moved to Nicaragua? 
I was born in the UK, then I lived in Canada and after that in Australia. My parents moved there so I moved with them.  I moved from England to Australia because of the climate. I still own a house in Australia which someone is renting from me.

Are you married, do you have children?
No, I’m not married and I don’t have children.

When did you make the decision to move to Nicaragua and why?
Three months before I came here I was in Nicaragua for business. Then the founder, Bill Harper, died. I knew him before. After he died they asked me if I wanted to work for La Esperanza. Since the 25th of May  I’ve been  here for seven years.

What do you like about Nicaragua?
I like the fact that we are doing something useful here. I think it is very important to do something for the children. The organization is running well. 

What do you like about your work and what do you not like?
I like different things. If you ask me what I really love to do, that would be working in the schools to help the children. But if I would work in the classroom, I can’t do my job at the office. There always has to be someone who works fulltime. That’s why I need volunteers who come here to work in the schools.

What makes La Esperanza a successful organization?
I think La Esperanza is so successful because we focus on education. That main focus is very important. When you are doing a lot of different things, it is often difficult to continue focusing on your long term goals.
In the beginning it was a really small organization with only a few volunteers. So I can say that we grew a lot in 10 years.

What is the worst and what is the best experience that happened during the time you are working for La Esperanza?
The volunteers are the best and also the worst. Most volunteers are wonderful and do a really great job, but some are not so wonderful. I had fights with volunteers about their rent, some lose their keys and lie about it. It happens all the time. For example, there was once a volunteer that made a copy of the key and gave it to her boyfriend, who was not working for La Esperanza. She left and her boyfriend still lived in one of the volunteer houses, without paying rent. Sometimes it is really frustrating.  Besides these kind of situations, the volunteers are doing a really great job and that means a lot for me!
It is always a good experience to open a new school. It is great to see what that means for the high school students. 

An important consideration in our work is that our work depends on the rules that the government sets. We have to be very non confrontational.

What are your goals for the future?
The goal for myself is to stay healthy enough to keep continue my work. I am 63 years old now, so I will see for how long I can do this job.

For the future of La Esperanza I would like to have more volunteers, more ayudantes and built more classrooms. Besides that, I would like to start a program for teenage mothers and their children. There are a lot of teenage mothers in Nicaragua and there are not really any facilities for them. Once they have a baby, they have no expectations, no plans for the future and their consideration of themselves is very low.

The idea for the program is the following:
The teenage mothers have to come with their children to the kindergarten. The children will learn basic things there as counting and drawing. The mothers will participate with their children. Eventually, we will try to get the teenage mothers back to school.

I really believe in the concept. I am sure that if the program becomes a success, two out of ten mothers will go back to school. In the schools they give education about sex and contraception, but that doesn’t break the cycle of young girls getting pregnant. It is a good thing to learn, but it is not enough. If the mother goes to work or back to school, she is going to make sure that her child is not going to do the same things she did. In that way her kid will have the chance to a better future.

In short the mission is:
a new level of education 

The first kindergarten has to be in the outskirt San Ignacio. I am planning to write about the program so we can get a ground for that. If  the donors give money for not something specific, we can use that money to support the program.

Do you want to stay in Nicaragua for the rest of your life?
No, I definitely want to go back to Australia one day. If I can’t do my work here anymore, I will go back. But I will see what happens!


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