Empowerment International Newsletter – April 2017

In this month’s newsletter you will:

  • See student photos of a vibrant Nicaraguan street parade
  • Learn how our popular art class is teaching students to accept change
  • Meet our student spotlight: outstanding tutor and first year law student, Oscar

Painting outside the lines

Art classes on Saturday morning have continued to be one of the most popular activities offered at the center. Ronn C. Perry, an Empowerment International donor, sponsor, and volunteer began the art classes with the intention of building self-esteem, self-confidence, and cultivating a joy of sharing ideas and resources.

Instead of teaching traditional art class techniques such as mixing colors, Ronn pushes the students to expand their ideas and focuses on developing unconventional thinking. He shared this story of the change he has seen in many of the students: “When classes first began, the students generally drew a known shape such as a heart, tree, mountain, or fish. They were concerned with whether they were doing it ‘right’ or ‘well’.” As the weeks have gone by, Ronn has encouraged artistic confidence and “outside of the box thinking” in his students. He has challenged conventional ideas and pushed students to decide for themselves “what is beauty?” by considering balance, color, flow, form, darkness and light, bright and quiet colors.  

To push students out of their comfort zone, Ronn has continually changed the shape of the canvas on which the students paint their creations. The most popular shape has proven to be the newest shape. Ronn appreciates their willingness to accept – and even flourish with – change. Additionally, Ronn has put an emphasis on teaching the students there are no mistakes; one experience leads to the next. He is eager to generate awareness that less can be, and often is, more. He encourages the students to slow down, focus, and enjoy the process. A relevant lesson for all of us!

Ronn’s methods have pushed students to confront their fear of starting, something that Joy Vaughan describes in her book Off the Edges and Outside the Lines. As Vaughan explains, too often we think of ourselves as unimaginative. We need to be responsive to our creative power. Ronn agrees with Vaughan’s belief that the visual arts are a way of seeing and revealing ourselves in a symbolic and creative manner and a process of liberating our spirit. It is also a way of believing in ourselves. Ronn hopes the students find themselves accepting Vaughan’s teaching that they will end up wherever they end up, without having to know where they are going. He explains that there is a great deal of growth that can happen when this idea is accepted and the students feel comfortable off the beaten path and outside of the lines.
He’s seen an evolution from fear, to courage, to confidence in many of the students. Those initially paralyzed by their fear of doing something “wrong” were unable to have fun. “For some, a blank page is overwhelming. I have had to draw some free flow lines to help get them started. But, after a few tries, they sometimes start asking for a blank page. And while sometimes I get a mountain or a heart, I also might get an original ‘something’. That is progress,” Ronn shared.

The students love taking one of their creations home. Once they pick the piece to bring home, Ronn points out something truly unique and special about the piece to the student. Their is a great deal of pride in their work; Ronn describes seeing the students’ eyes light up in response to his comment. In a country where rote memorization is a main teaching technique in the public schools, Ronn’s class is empowering creative and unlimited thinking. Empowerment International expresses our deepest gratitude to Ronn for his dedication and thoughtful involvement with the students!

Student Spotlight: Oscar
Last December, having successfully completed his secondary school education, Oscar was excited to learn he had passed the entrance exams for university. “I knew I wanted to study law,” Oscar said, “because I like that laws protect the rights that people deserve. Eventually I want to be a judge, but, first, I’ll need to practice as a lawyer and get experience.”
There was a problem, however. Oscar’s mother had been helping him pay for his studies and he was devastated to learn that she would be unable to continue assisting with the cost of his education. While trying to determine how he could pay for his education, a friend told Oscar about Empowerment International (EI), and he came to the center the next day. Even though EI supports students from preschool until university, the program had never taken on a university student with no prior involvement with EI. “When I heard this, I thought EI wouldn’t give me a chance. But, Anielka told me that in special cases, EI may be able to make an exception, and she gave me a form to explain my case.”

“I filled out the form but I was worried EI wouldn’t be able to help. Then on the 5th of January they called to say they would support my education in exchange for my work in the center. I was so excited.”

Unfortunately, by the time Oscar called to enroll at the university, matriculation had closed – just one day earlier. He called EI to give the disappointing news and was told by the education coordinator to come in later that afternoon. When he arrived he was presented with EI’s proposal: EI would support him to attend a private university, and in exchange, Oscar would volunteer in the center four days a week to support home visits and tutoring.
When speaking about tutoring, Oscar says: “I love working with the kids. I give time to all the students but in the special cases where they need extra help, I give them more attention. One student was unable to hold his pencil. After two weeks of working together, he was able to pick up the pencil and write with it. Now, this student can write out the letters of the alphabet.” Oscar is also proud of how he’s built trusting relationships with the younger students in just a couple of months. “I ask all the students everyday if they’ve done their homework. One of the students, who is seven years old, was having a harder time so I asked him to show me his homework and found that he hadn’t done any of it. I knew I had to develop a relationship with him so that he would trust me. He has changed a little by a little. At first, he only did his alphabet homework. Now he does all of it.”

Oscar is taking three classes in his first year of studying law at the university: Introduction to Rights, Written Expression, and History of the State and Rights and Laws. His classes are on Saturdays and require a significant amount of reading during the week. To balance law school and working with EI, Oscar explains “I keep a schedule: In the mornings I support Lisseth with home visits and in the afternoon, I have tutoring. In the evening, I study. I do this everyday.”

Despite how busy his week is, Oscar added as a final thought “I very much like what I do. I feel very thankful for the opportunity from Empowerment International.”

We are quite grateful as well! As the photos show, he is an engaging, exciting tutor for our younger students, very professional, and a true pleasure to have around the center everyday!

Photography students on the town

For one week in February the streets of Granada come alive with parades, poetry readings, and concerts for the annual Poetry Festival. EI’s photography club captured some of this year’s lively, colorful parade. Enjoy seeing the event through their eyes – and lens!

Art class photos taken by Abigail.
Photos of Oscar taken by Josselin.
Parade photos taken by Armando, Maynor, and Guadalupe.
Meet Yensi 

Yensi is a sweet girl who likes to make new friends and go to school. Her favorite color is pink and in her free time she likes to listen to music and play with her cousins. She’d like to be a police officer when she grows up.

Yensi does not yet have a sponsor. Please contact us to inquire about sponsoring Yensi or learn of our other students without sponsors and how you can support their education.
Sponsor a Child

Our mailing address is:

Empowerment International

PO Box 3158

Boulder, CO 80307