Sitting under a tent away from the hot sun, talking, smiling and enjoying a plate of rice and chicken is a group of teachers from Fey Esperanza Child Development Center before the beginning of another afternoon with the children.
The teachers are having a good time with each other, but after they finish their lunch, each of them go to their classrooms with excitement to prepare for the afternoon classes.
Seventeen people work at the development center. Most of them have been serving the children since the center started two years ago, and more are being added as more poor children are registered.
Each of these workers were carefully and prayerfully chosen by the pastor. Before selecting staff, he wrote a list of names to present to the church committee, which considered each one. The committee considers each person’s vision and commitment to working with poor children.
Each worker must have at least one year of high school and a good relationship with God because it is in their hands that the life of the children will rest while working at the development center.
These workers are ideally church members, but if the partner church is too small, then applicants from neighboring churches or from the same denomination can work at the student center. Each person is interviewed by the pastor and committee about their willingness to work at the center.
Child development workers are volunteers who receive an “offering” every month, not a salary. They have limited job opportunities and are at the center because they love God and love to work with poor children.
Reyna has been an active member of the Hermon Baptist Church for 13 years. Since the center started in November 2006, she has worked as a teacher and coordinator of the cognitive area. Reyna shares,
“I love the work of the Lord and when the pastor spoke to me about it, I accepted because I love children and because of the spiritual and emotional need they have.
“At the development center, children have a new opportunity for their life. They can be instructed in the Bible and they gain new friends.”
Ana is one of the youngest teachers. A smile bloomed as she shared about the reason why she is at the student center.
“It is a privilege to work here. Since I was little I wished to be a Sunday school teacher, but the Lord allowed me to begin working at the student center. Now, I also have a group in Sunday school.”
Ana has been a member of the church for three years and has worked for the student center for a year and a half. “Ana continues to grow spiritually, academically and she also has an excellent relationship with everybody at the development center,” says Pastor Pedro.
One of the difficulties, says the pastor, is the lack of teaching experience of workers at the student center.
“Some of the student center members are empirical, meaning that some of them did not finish their elementary or high school studies or do not have experience related to teaching but they have acquired experience through the practice. When implementing new things, training has been necessary, and that’s how we work.”
By now, most of the personnel have a high school level. In Nicaragua, out of 100 children who enter elementary school, only 29 of them finish. Only 11 complete high school. Six go to university and only two graduate.
In 2006, 830,000 children did not go to school (Special Ministry for Children and Adolescent, 2007) Even when education is free, the high unemployment rate affects parents and they don’t send their children to school.
Reyna shares that working with poor children is a high calling, “There was fear at the beginning because in our hands there is not just anything, but the life of the children.”
The pastor says of Reyna, “With her experience as a regular teacher, she has given a lot of new ideas for the work at the student center and has facilitated the teamwork.”
For Ana it was not easy to fill out the children’s file or to help them write letters. However, “I got help from the teachers. Some people believe this job is easy but it is not. However with God’s help, it can be done!” she says.
The Compassion Nicaragua office has a list of requirements for when the children write to the sponsors, so learning how to include all of those requirements takes the teachers some time.
The requirements include things such as making sure the letters answer the sponsors’ questions, making sure the letter has the date and sponsors’ name on it, and making sure the children have thanked their sponsors for any gifts received.
Getting home safely, and health and finances are some other struggles the workers face. “It is obvious these people have a commitment with God, with the church, with the development center. They are motivated, they are doing something all the time,” says Pastor Pedro.
“As a development center, we stay motivated by the harmony among the group. We also clear up doubts with confidence as soon as they arise, talk about differences. If something provokes incompatibility, we explain to them the reasons why those actions are being taken, that is all for the good of the work as a whole.
“We try to talk and encourage them all the time. Personal and group devotions, spiritual retreats are also done to keep the workers motivated. Once a year a special dinner and a small gift is presented to each development center member to let them know they have done well throughout the year.”
“We don’t waste time here. We get encouraged when we see the change in the children’s life and their families. Many parents have come to know the Lord and are now serving and attending church regularly.
“I thank so much the support and love God has put in the heart of people for the children in our country. Be sure we do our best. The children are being educated and reached for God. Keep on supporting the children of Nicaragua and all over the world.”
“I am thankful with God for this privilege of working with children. I want to thank also those who make possible this support for the children of the community.”
Pastor Pedro concludes,
“To the people that make this possible, we ask them to be patient. Not long ago we had the visit of a 45-year-old man from Bolivia, with a beautiful family and a successful ministry. This man was assisted by Compassion when he was a child, and when I heard him talking, I pictured our children in him, with a great preparation and success in life.
“We thank God and this ministry for considering Nicaragua for the work with children. We are very thankful for their disposition to give their time, finances, prayer and for giving all they can. Thank you.”