I had the most incredible, transformative experience in San Juan del Sur this past January thanks to the Free High School for Adults and the Newton San Juan del Sur Sister City Project. It is remarkable in its ability to transform the lives of community members in regards to education. It is the most impactful and efficient nonprofit that I have ever had the pleasure of working with.
I interviewed numerous students who go to the Free High School. It serves some of the most hardworking, dedicated, and driven people that I have ever met in my life. Each story that I heard was characterized by perseverance and determination. Some people were unable to complete their education as a young person because of work, the birth of their children, or even the inability to purchase school supplies. They truly value their education. The students at the FHS have an intense desire to learn and grow as people: parents, employees, etc. Attendance is purely self-motivated, which makes for a serious learning environment. FHS graduates are leaders in their communities with very respectable jobs. They are confident, humble, and they take pride in their education and their standing as FHS alumni.
I've been volunteering with the Newton Sister City Project for years. This group is doing cutting edge work in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, in both education and health. The Free High School for Adults is a one-of-its-kind treasure, offering high quality secondary education to those not welcome in the public high school--pregnant women or mothers, married people, anybody over 18. Newton's work in "Appropriate Technology for Public Health"--BioSand Filters to purify water in the home, EcoStoves for smoke-free cooking, Composting Toilets, etc--reaches high standards and have produced valuable innovations. Dozens of volunteers work for the Sister City Project during the year, and give rave reviews. So do I.
The Free High School serves a pressing need in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua--a huge number of people (over 18, or pregnant or with kids, or who have had to work) are simple not allowed to attend the "public" high school. The FHS is a lifesaver for them. They get to complete a secondary education, either in their villages, or by coming into town once a week and studying all day in the Sabatino or Saturday School. And because they follow the national curriculum, their degree has the same value as a public school diploma. It's been wildly successful, so much so that they're bursting at the seams, with enrollments rising steadily year after year. People know a good thing when they see it. Until the government Does The Right Thing and starts to fund secondary educations for EVERYBODY who needs it, we all need to support the FHS, which has been called "a model for the rest of the country."
My husband and I are living in Nicaragua, and are witnesses to the amazing effects that the Newton San Juan del Sur Sister Project has on this part of the world. We volunteered on a project in which they created a school for a community that otherwise had no schoolhouse to teach their young children. Now, the kids have a place to learn! That schoolhouse has real value, and has had a profound impact on their lives.
The Sister City Project is an inspiration. It is helping the community of San Juan in the most powerful way possible -- by educating its people. Once armed with an education, graduates of the Free High School are able to find new or better jobs, pass on their learnings to their families, and enrich their lives. The change is real, and it's pretty wonderful to witness.
Review from Guidestar
Through this nonprofit, I was able to travel to Nicaragua four times between the ages of 16 and 20. Our group participated in a variety of projects including building a preschool, building eco-friendly stoves and water filtration systems, digging wells, and delivering school supplies. I feel so lucky to have gained so many wonderful experiences early on in my life through this amazing nonprofit.
The Free High School for Adults in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua is my favorite non-profit. I don’t know of a more effective project to provide educational opportunity anywhere.
The Free High School for Adults is a non-profit that creates the opportunity for adults to get a high school education. Adults in Nicaragua, anyone over the age of 18, have no possibility to attend high school without this project. Many of these people had to leave school and go to work to support their families at the age of 14 or 15. They are still working, but on Saturdays from 7:30 in the morning until 4:30 in the afternoon they can attend this intensive high school program and get a real education. For this opportunity, many people get up before 5:00 a.m. and travel by foot, bicycle and bus to reach the high school. All the money for this program comes from donations to the project and all the fund-raising is done by volunteers. Each student in the program commits to helping at least one other person improve their skills. The Minister of Education has proclaimed this a “model program for the nation”, but the government provides no funding for the program.
The number of students completing high school through this program has grown from 12 in its first year to 63 in December of 2012, with a total of 482 graduates plus 60 in the Technical Program. Some of the students have gone on to university on scholarships. Others have found new, better-paying jobs based on their new skills and some have begun their own businesses.
That’s why the Free High School for Adults in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua is my favorite non-profit.
There is no way to quantify the good that the Newson San Juan del Sur Sister City Project has done over the course of nearly 25 years. Many volunteers and organizations come and go, but this charity has remained dedicated for the long haul. As a result at least 20 schools have been built and maintained, hundreds of water filters have been distributed throughout rural communities, and families have received EcoStoves to prevent respiratory diseases. The Free High School for Adults has provided a top notch government recognized education to hundreds of teens and adults who have no choice but to work during the week and receive their secondary education on Saturdays.
I have just started my volunteer job here, at the Free High School, as a teacher of computer science. I teach two groups of young adults who have taken the opportunity to improve their well-being through attending the program in hospitality and tourism that the School offers. This is only my second week on the job, and my initial impressions are very positive. The school staff is helpful and the computer laboratory is well organized and maintained. My students are very enthusiastic learnes. Many travel from other towns and villages in order to attend the classes. They have also expressed interest in learning English, and I now teach English to them as well. From my personal experience and observing some other programs and initiatives, I believe this school makes a real difference in lives of many people around here, and I´m happy to be able to contribute some of my time and effort to this good cause.
As an officer of the Sister City program in Quezalguaque, I have worked with various programs with San Juan. We have exchanged trainning in library, housing, stove building, and education. The free High School, with its 550 students returning to education stands out for its effectiveness and community support.
San Juan del Sur may not be the poorest community in Nicaragua but that does not make the poverty of the poor there any less burdensome than elsewhere. The Free High School gives these people the opportunity to work they own way to a better life for themselves, their families, and their community
Review from Guidestar
The Sabatino, or Free Saturday High School, is HOPE for hundreds of people from in and around San Juan del Sur. My role as a volunteer has been to provide needed supplies for students and to assist with teaching English classes. I have also chaperoned high school students from Newton , MA as they were teaching and volunteering in the community there.
Over the past ten years, my volunteer work with the Newton San Juan del Sur Sister City Project has included making and installing ecofogones, smokeless ovens, building and installing water filters, building and repairing local schools, a start-up girls' softball team, and work with other organizations like VOSH-Volunteer Optomitrists Serving Humanity.
I have learned that what we bring in our suitcases does make a difference. Mine have been packed with everything from roof caulking to Motrin to baseball gloves and school uniforms.
Review from Guidestar
The Free High School is amazing! Every Saturday it is PACKED with students, who come from far and wide and spend the entire day in school. Some students sit in chairs out in the hallway, looking into the class through the windows because the classes are so full. It is truly inspirational to see how dedicated these hardworking people are to getting an education. The endeavor would not be possible without the help of volunteers and donors, both from Nicaragua and around the world.
Review from Guidestar