This is the third 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.
When speaking with Teodora, it quickly becomes apparent that you are talking to a smart, determined young woman, confident of her direction in life. This is someone who is going somewhere.
Teodora is currently in her second year as an ayudante at La Esperanza Granada, supporting the teachers and volunteers in Pablo Antonio Cuadra school. Her first year was spent working with kids on computers in two schools, Nueva Esperanza and Escudo, and her desire to succeed and to see the kids progress has given her a firm preference for working with small groups.
“Although we can do a lot of good in the classrooms, we are most effective when working with small groups, or on computers. Kids focus better with fewer distractions and more dedicated support, and we have a chance to tailor our methods to each child.”
Having worked with numerous volunteers, Teodora is also willing to offer an insight into what makes a good or bad volunteer.
“Most volunteers are great – they are enthusiastic, hardworking and make a real difference to the kids. The very best are those who bring skills and experience with them, or who come up with new ideas.
“The worst are those who think this it should be one big party and who don’t take the job seriously, turning up late, sometimes hungover, and not paying attention to or remembering what we say. When that happens, it’s a real missed opportunity, for both them and the kids.”
Teodora is in a good position to appreciate the value of the opportunities we can sometimes take for granted in more developed nations. Like Juan Carlos, Teodora´s High School was only able to offer three years tuition instead of the normal five, so she had to switch to technical college.
Encouraged by her father, she studied construction, and dreamed of going on to study engineering at university. However, this would have meant studying at a particular university in Managua, and their fees proved prohibitively expensive.
Instead, Teodora went to work in the office of a construction company. Her work there included all aspects of office administration, and she found a natural instinct for managing the company´s books. A career as an accountant began to look like an increasingly attractive option, and she signed up to study accountancy at university.
“The first year was really tough, because I had to work constantly to be able to pay the fees. I don’t even remember how many different jobs I did that year! But I do remember how exhausting it was, and how little time I had left for studying.”
After hearing about La Esperanza Granada through a friend, Teodora became involved with the project and was soon lucky enough to receive a sponsorship from Project Pulsera to fund the rest of her degree. Although balancing her studies with her duties as an ayudante remains a challenge, Teodora is clear on the benefits it brings.
“It’s made an enormous difference to me, and I’m hugely grateful. Without sponsorship, I don’t know how I would have been able to carry on studying.”
Unlike most students with another two years of studying to go, Teodora already has a clear plan for life after university.
“I hope to be able to start a business with a couple of friends. We are all either accountants or lawyers, and we’d like to create a professional services company, providing legal and accountancy services and advice to other businesses.”
Although common in more developed countries, this sort of integrated services company is a rare thing here. Having spotted this gap in the market, Teodora could be just the person to bring it to Nicaragua.