A Day in the Life and More (Empowerment International)

“A Day in the Life”

A photo journal of Empowerment International student Keyling’s day in Nicaragua

When I first started speaking to Keyling, to ask her questions about her day and life, she was quite timid. I showed her the photos we had taken for the article and she seemed equally delighted and a bit embarrassed at the attention. Her smile is captivating and her responses reveal a kind, thoughtful young lady. During our conversation, I was struck by the long pauses. To me, a North American, these pauses felt *too* long. But Keyling seemed unfazed; she took the time she needed to think through the question, then answer. It felt remarkably genuine, as if it was the first time she had been asked any of the questions (which included “what do you want to be when you grow up?”).

Keyling is 12 years old and in her first year of secondary school. She enjoys watching a modern dance program in her free time and dreams of traveling to other countries, specifically Costa Rica and Mexico. When I asked if she had any pets, there was one of the above-mentioned long pauses. She answered: “No, but we do have two chickens.”

Keyling’s days begin at 5:30 am.

She wakes up, dons her school uniform and prepares her breakfast of bread and coffee. She’s out of the house before her younger sister Deyling, 8, wakes up. Her school route includes a 40 minute walk through the neighborhoods, carefully traversing muddy streams during the rainy season, to the the bus that will take her into town. She arrives in Granada at 6:45 am, 15 minutes before the first bell rings.

Keyling is a strong student. Because of her academic talents, she was awarded a scholarship to attend a private school.

“My favorite part of going to a private school is that I have the opportunity to have a quality education to better myself and be someone in life.”

Keyling is like many first year high school students: she has a lot of different interests and ideas of what she wants to pursue in the future. Her favorite class is Language and Literacy. She wants to study Business Administration in the university, but when I probed deeper to find out what interests her about this she didn’t talk about business at all. Rather, she described a very clear interest in helping others. She told me she wants to help families, and in particular the children of families, to make sure they have food, clothes, and are enrolled in and attending school. She ended by saying “I want to help, like here [Empowerment International].”

I asked how this tied into the Business degree she mentioned earlier and she shrugged. She said she’s also interested in being a manager in a clothing factory. Based on her animated response about helping others, I think her true passion lies in the social service field, but factory work is what she knows since Keyling’s parents both work in the Zona Franca.

Zona Franca translates to “Free-trade zone” and refers to the foreign-owned clothing factories in the free-trade zones in Nicaragua. In 2015, textiles were the second largest export, following insulated wire, and before the famed Nicaraguan coffee, the country’s third largest export. These clothing factories have provided work for many people in the barrios in which Empowerment International works, however they also are known for bad working conditions and insecure employment.

Her school, like most public and private schools in Nicaragua, runs classes for half a day. She begins classes at 7:00 am and finishes midday. To return home, Keyling must walk to Granada’s famed “mercado” (market): a busy street full of vendors and stores selling everything from fresh fruit to electronics.

Keyling takes the bus home, changes out of her uniform, and prepares herself a meal, usually the traditional Nicaraguan dish of “gallo pinto” (or rice and beans). After lunch, Keyling heads into the Empowerment International Learning Center with her cousins and friends.

Keyling in one of Empowerment International’s tutors. To prepare for this responsibility, she participated in several training workshops during her school break to develop her academic tutoring and leadership skills. When I asked Keyling about it she told me she loves being a tutor: “My favorite part of the day is when I come to the activities center and help in tutoring. I get to become a young teacher and share my knowledge with the younger students. I remember coming to tutoring and how helpful the tutors were when I was little. Now it’s my turn to help younger students.”
After tutoring, Keyling hangs out in the center with her friends and works on her own homework. She uses the computers in the lab to do research and finish projects. Keyling is a member of Empowerment International’s Dance Club, so on Tuesdays and Thursdays she has practice from 3:30-4:30 pm. “I really like dance club because I get to share that time with my dance friends and interact with them. Me favorite part is when we dance to modern music, especially because the choreographed dances that Celeste* teaches us are really beautiful.”

On this particular day, Keyling and her friends start walking home around 5 pm, nearly 12 hours after she first woke up. As they started down the road toward their homes, Keyling quickly turned to see if we were still watching and, sweetly, gave us a quick good-bye wave.

*Celeste is a student leader with Empowerment International. She is in the 10th grade and she started, choreographs, and leads Dance Club.

Keyling is one of many dedicated students who attend Empowerment International’s Learning and Activities Center. At only 12 years old she is already giving back to the younger students in her community and the center!

Keyling is in need of a sponsor. To sponsor Keyling, or find more information on the benefits of being a sponsors to an EI student, please visit www.empowermentinternational.org.

All photos by EI staff member Olga Gutierrez.

An apple a day…

Chef Danilo Sanchez, visited Empowerment International’s rural community of Santa Ana to teach families tasty, nutritious recipes to incorporate more vegetables into their diet. Read on to learn more and try out one of his recipes!

A new joint initiative between the community of Santa Ana and Empowerment International (EI) is the growth and development of organic farming practices. In addition to allowing the community to grow a greater diversity of vegetables, fruits, and herbs in their community, a venture into organic farming may, in the long run, provide Santa Ana with a potential new revenue stream. A plan was hatched: in an effort to promote community development, organic and sustainable farming practices, and promote crop diversification, Empowerment International worked with the Board of Directors of Santa Ana and the Committee of Mothers to create the blueprints for community, school, and family gardens. The produce grown can be a supplement to the current school lunch of rice and beans, add nutrients to the families’ diets, and potentially provide surplus produce which could be sold to Granada area restaurants and hotels.

Knowing the success of this project will be heavily influenced by how the new vegetables are embraced and enjoyed by the community, EI decided to hold cooking classes to teach the mothers in Santa Ana how to prepare nutritious and delicious meals using the new produce. We were delighted to welcome Danilo Sanchez, an EI supporter and donor, to the community of Santa Ana to teach that vegetables can be delicious!

After the lessons were completed, the meal that was prepared during the cooking class was offered to the school students. While they were hesitant at first to try the meal, every bit was devoured and in the end only clean plates remained!

Curious what they cooked up in class? Check out the recipe below!

Sautéed Moringa Leaves Recipe

The Moringa tree originates from Southwest India.  Its leaves are high on antioxidants, Vitamin C, Lipid, protein, and beta carotene.  Some of the health benefits of eating moringa are:

· Lower blood sugar levels

· Reduce inflammation

· Maintain healthy cholesterol levels

· Protects against arsenic toxicity


· 5 Cups of Moringa Leaves

· 1 Yellow Onion

· 2 Tomatoes

· 4 Cloves of Garlic

· 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil


Remove leaves from branches, wash and pat dry.  Cut yellow onion in ¼ inch dice.  Chop garlic finely. Dice tomatoes into ½ inch dice. In a large sauté pan, add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and over medium-high heat sauté the garlic and onions until translucent. Next add the Moringa leaves and sauté until they release their moisture, and some of the liquid has evaporated.  Next add the diced tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.

Día de los Niños

Empowerment International’s celebration of Children’s Day.

Per a United Nation’s recommendation, Children’s Day, or Días de los Niños in Spanish, is celebrated in many countries throughout the world, including Nicaragua. Countries throughout the globe celebrate the day with activities intended to promote the well-being of children and raise awareness about their universal rights. The day is also intended to be a fun celebration of friendship and build understanding among children. Countries use child-geared, fun activities as an opportunity to generate greater interest and participation in important issues that related to children (as well as all citizens): education, values, and human rights.

At Empowerment International, Día de los Niños is an opportunity to celebrate education with our students and remind them of the value and importance education has in their lives. Funny how the same message we try to deliver everyday seems to carry more excitement when face paint and a piñata are involved!

Empowerment International staff, including Lisseth (pictured here), and many of our older tutors flexed their artistic muscles as face painters. As always, superheros were in high demand.
Relay races, a focus on team work, and a whole lot of laughs…before bringing the whole group together to talk a bit more about the meaning of the day.
One of the highlights of our celebration was a performance by Empowerment International’s morning dance team. This group was formed just this January when tutor and university student, Oscar (pictured in the photo on right, the tallest boy in the back row), noticed that the morning tutoring students couldn’t join EI’s Dance team as practices occur in the afternoons which is when they’re in school.

Without any formal dance experience himself, Oscar took it upon himself to learn dance routines and how to teach them to his newly formed team. The group has been tirelessly practicing every Tuesday and Thursday morning. And they’ve had a lot of fun integrating pyramids into their dance routines (pictures on the left).

And what a fantastic debut they had! Their beaming smiles and looks of pride were well earned and a testament to their hard work. Bravo to these hard working students!

Our mailing address is:

Empowerment International

PO Box 3158

BoulderCO 80307