Aug 31, 2016

Ayudante profile #1: Juan Carlos

This is the first in a series of profiles of our ayudantes. Ayudante means ‘assistant’, and is the name we give to the young people receiving university scholarships through La Esperanza Granada. Alongside their studies, the ayudantes are long term interns who give 5 hours of their time every weekday to support La Esperanza Granada. Our ayudantes are so much more than assistants – they are critical to our success. More information about our ayudante programme is available here.

Juan Carlos first heard of La Esperanza Granada when he was around 17 years old. He had always dreamed of going to university, and of the opportunities higher education would bring. But as a student at Pablo Antonio Cuadra (one of the schools where La Esperanza Granada is now most active), he had found his options limited.

“At that time, Pablo Antonio Cuadra was only able to offer three years of high school education, instead of the normal five. So after three years I had to move to technical college, where I studied to become a mechanic.” 

Two years after graduating and starting work as a mechanic, Juan Carlos heard about the scholarships offered by La Esperanza Granada from the Principal of his old school. He jumped at the chance to apply.

“When I heard that I had been accepted on to the programme, I was so happy I almost didn´t know what to think. I´ve loved reading and writing ever since my mother taught me when I was small, and the chance to continue studying and learn a new language was a dream come true.” 

Just a few months later, Juan Carlos began his degree in English at Unadenic in Managua, and started volunteering 5 days a week for La Esperanza.

Juan Carlos´ first role was as an ayudante in Jose de la Cruz Mena school. He spent a year supporting international volunteers working with pre-schoolers, before switching to the team teaching English.

“For me, working in the English team was perfect. When I started my degree I spoke very little English, but working with volunteers from all over the world taught me lots of vocabulary very quickly.”

Around four months ago, Juan Carlos moved from the school to La Esperanza’s office. He is involved in almost all areas of the office’s work, and is responsible for answering queries from future volunteers, organising airport pickups for new volunteers, and many other things. The switch was challenging, but Juan Carlos sees it only as a positive. 

It is an amazing opportunity. Working in the office involves lots of reading, writing and speaking in English, which is tough but great practice.”

When asked about the importance of local and international volunteers working alongside each other, Juan Carlos is forthright.  

“It´s essential. The ayudantes are here for up to five years, which is far longer than most volunteers. This means that we really get to understand how the organisation and schools work. That is good for us, and good for the other volunteers.”

Juan Carlos has two years left of his studies, and is considering becoming a high school teacher when he graduates. Whichever career path he chooses to take, working with volunteers from all over the world has given him a new dream – to save money, travel and see more of the world himself.