Hands across the hemisphere: students helping students

Convinced that empowering girls in developing countries is one of the most effective ways to promote environmentally sustainable economic development, local high school students created a program to support the Escuela Vera Angelita (EVA), a new non-profit boarding school for girls in Nicaragua. . Gracey Dodd and Aanchal Chaudhary, students at High Bluff Academy (HBA), a small college preparatory school in Rancho Santa Fe, founded the Hands Across the Hemisphere Club. The HBA club is raising money for the $5,000 annual tuition for Tatiana Leonor, an eighth-grader who aspires to be a teacher, to attend EVA.

“It is very important that girls get an education. We’d like to think we’ve progressed further than we actually have. Around the world, there are still places where girls have little or no rights, and it’s important to give them the resources to pursue their dreams,” said Chaudhary, a senior at High Bluff Academy.

The HBA club is raising money for the $5,000 annual tuition for Tatiana Leonor, an eighth-grader who aspires to be a teacher, to attend EVA.

(Rita Szczotka)

EVA, an initiative of the American non-profit organization Visions Global Empowerment in partnership with philanthropist Robert D. Friedman, is an environmentally sustainable boarding school for girls in grades 5-12 from underserved and vulnerable communities. The campus spans 437 acres in the community of La Grecia in San Ramón, Matagalpa, Nicaragua. When the project began in 2019, it employed 600 construction workers from surrounding towns, helping the local economy and families struggling for their livelihoods. EVA opened its doors to students in January 2022 with an inaugural class of 82 and 170 full-time faculty and staff.

“It has been a dream come true for me to witness the Escuela Vera Angelita progress from a mere vision to a reality. and resources, but it improves the local community and fulfills the 17 United Nations Sustainability Goals. I am grateful to Rob Friedman for his generosity and vision, and to Greg Buie for his leadership, and I am honored to chair the Board Board of Directors of this exceptional nonprofit humanitarian organization,” said Tamara Lafarga, Chair of the Board of Directors of Visions Global Empowerment, and resident of Rancho Santa Fe.

Girls’ education can be a powerful weapon in breaking the chain of poverty. According to UNICEF, “girls who receive an education are less likely to marry young and more likely to lead healthy and productive lives. They earn higher incomes, participate in the decisions that affect them most, and build a better future for themselves and their families.

Nicaragua is the poorest country in Central America and the second poorest in the Western Hemisphere with a population of 6.6 million, about twice the size of San Diego County. UN-Women estimates that in Nicaragua, 35% of women are married or in union before the age of 18 and nearly 10% before the age of 15.

Girls’ education also has a wider impact on societies. Evidence from multiple development sources demonstrates that educated women strengthen economies and reduce inequalities, contributing to more stable societies that give all citizens, including boys and men, the opportunity to fulfill their potential. Similarly, failing to promote girls’ education has consequences: a study conducted by the World Bank in 2018 indicates that “limited educational opportunities for girls and barriers to completing 12 years of schooling cost to countries between US$15 trillion and US$30 trillion in losses. lifetime productivity and income.

Girls’ education is also essential to protect the environment. Nestled between the Caribbean and the Pacific, Honduras and Costa Rica, Nicaragua is considered the “second lung of the Americas”. Home to 24 volcanoes, 70 unique ecosystems, and rainforests and cloud forests, the preservation of Nicaragua’s environment is essential not only for the nation but also for the Americas and, ultimately, for the world.

“The fact that EVA focuses on eco-education is great. It’s so important for our generation to learn how to protect the environment, something we talk about a lot here in California, but needs to happen everywhere. Supporting the girls at EVA will not only help them, it will also help us,” said Dodd, a junior at High Bluff Academy.

Not only are eco-education and environmentally sustainable development central to the EVA curriculum, but the girls will actually experience it. EVA’s unique campus has the capacity to harvest its own water, energy and food, and process much of its waste onsite. Ongoing efforts to restore the watershed and primary reforestation have already had an impact on the resurgence of plant and animal life. Great attention was paid during the campus design process to protecting the natural environment and minimizing its long-term ecological footprint. EVA is also on its way to becoming the first LEED-certified school project in Nicaragua.

HBA students hope to encourage other schools to support EVA’s unprecedented efforts by creating their own Hands Across the Hemisphere clubs. There are still girls who need sponsorship, and in the not-too-distant future, EVA hopes to offer internship opportunities and experiential service trips to American students on its campus.

If you are interested in starting your own Hands Across the Hemisphere club to support the girls of Escuela Vera Angelita, HBA student leaders would be happy to help. For more information, please email [email protected]

To support the HBA Hands Across the Hemisphere club’s efforts to raise funds for Tatiana, donate through High Bluff Academy’s gofundme.com page. For donations of $50 or more, you will receive a t-shirt. — Ellen Sullivan is a teacher at High Bluff Academy

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