A School that is part of ACECEN

El Viejo, located in the province of Chinandega, is the second largest provincial town after Chinandega City, with a population of approximately 100,000 people. After Hurricane Mitch came through in 1998, many people were displaced from surrounding rural and urban areas, having lost their homes and properties. The Red Cross (Spain) helped the people start again in new locations near El Veijo, such as the neighbourhood of Villa Espana.

The site of Villa Espana was purchased and developed through donations to the Red Cross. The government built a primary school and other spaces for recreation and sports.  The community once again began to grow, especially due to families in extreme poor conditions migrating from farms to the city looking for a place to live as squatters. The neighbourhood remains an outcast community where people would recommend not going due to a lack of basic services. The community is one of low income, with many women and single mothers working as maids and men working in the sugar cane fields during the cutting season. The community doesn't have its own economic activity that would generate jobs for these people. The majority of the adult population of Villa Espana never completed primary school themselves - most of them can hardly write their names. Government literacy programs are not accessible to this community because of distance and lack of public transportation.

Juanita Paniagua saw the needs in this community, and changed her life's goal from becoming a successful dentist to a social worker with the hope of helping the children she saw during her first visit to this community.  She founded a feeding center to help the hungry.  It soon became clear that less than 1/5th of the children being served were attending school. Centro Comunitario El Shadai (the El Shadai Community Center) was founded on February 4th, 2008 offering preschool to Grade 2 and saw an initial enrollment of 65 students. A recent survey showed that about 600 children in this community are of school age, with over a third of them attending Christian school at Centro Comunitario El Shadai. Two thirds of the children attend either a public school or no school at all due to lack of clothing, overcrowding in schools, lack of school materials or insufficient food. 

The school has been managing with support from the government and non-governmental organizations, which have provided funds for building classrooms, food for children, school furniture and teacher salaries. It is evident that the community respects Juanita and appreciates her work as well as the care she continually pours onto their children. It is Juanita’s prayer that the availability of the school will help change the children’s mentality of poverty and in the long run, help improve their lives for the future.

The long term vision is to prepare primary children with Christian principles so that they will find their calling in society, while impacting their families, community and country, as they recognize God as their Saviour. Juanita also has a dream that at some point El Shadai will be able to offer vocational training (hair styling, carpentry, cabinet making, electrical, etc.) to increase students opportunities for the future.

Currently the school provides education to Grade 6 only. Jaunita trusts that, as long as El Shadai is not yet able to offer higher education, the students will find ways to be able to move on to attend high school in the city, find jobs and help their families. 

 

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