The Latinx community living outside of their Latin American countries is particular about their habits. For one, our ethnocentrism becomes elevated to heights never explored in our respective countries, and the need to show up for our home towns is ever-present. Well, at least that’s what I’ve seen.
Another thing has also been prominent during my own immigrant experience — taking education for granted.
In the States, children are expected to go to school, do well, and graduate. For the most part, this occurs. Though the education system is not always as equitable to all communities due to systemic racism, we all know that we can access opportunities.
Sadly, this isn’t the case in our beloved Latin American countries.
Countries such as Colombia, Nicaragua, and Peru are well aware of this. Thankfully, a handful of them have been exposed to programs that can help them succeed — programs derived from the United States. One of those organizations being Facilitate Network Empower International (FNEI).
As per their website, FNEI partners with communities in developing nations to identify opportunities to advance housing, health, and education. They accomplish this by facilitating collaboration and networking with local and international organizations. They also strive to seize opportunities and empower individuals to do the same as engaged members of their community and the world.
The program provides any willing volunteer the opportunity to visit either Nicaragua or Peru to be part of their initiative.
I wasn’t aware of FNEI until my former college professor and Tengo un Sueño (TUS) program co-founder, Professor Sendin, mentioned it to me.
At first, I was hesitant to join in, but something told me this would be life-changing. A few months later, I made my way to a little town in Nicaragua named Chacraseca.
Nicaragua greeted me with the type of hope and patience many would envy. But the most breathtaking part was the abundance of eagerness from the Nicaraguan students who were part of TUS, which is also included in FNEI. TUS participants, or “soñadores,” were given one task – possibly the program’s most important aspect — to graduate from high school and go on to get a college education.
It was evident that the soñadores were empowered through their education to be able to excel in life. They also understood that their success was linked to the further development of their town. It might seem as though this type of responsibility would discourage anyone, but they trekked forward. The soñadores knew graduation would continue to pave a better future for their community.
The team at Tengo un Sueño is made up of local staff who support the youth in various capacities. Huguette Ulloa, a school counselor for the students and their families, emphasized its importance.
“It’s really essential that we [the staff] are from Nicaragua. Witnessing the recognition of the work of local community members will encourage the youth to strive for success and contribute to their communities, country, and society,” shared Huguette.
There were also plenty of volunteers and interns from all over the world, facilitating FNEI’s vision. My role, in particular with the soñadores, was to offer them guidance with their learning.
For instance, we read I Am Malala, where we engaged in sophisticated conversations about feminism in English and Spanish. Aside from helping them grow academically, they were also exposed to the importance of body positivity. We learned about eating disorders, how to identify them, and the value of loving one’s body.
The soñadores also expressed their dreams to me.
Some wanted to be lawyers, others wanted to be doctors, and one of them said she wanted to be successful enough to have a house overlooking the ocean.
In countries such as Nicaragua, dreams like these can seem far-fetched. But FNEI has been helping them build the bridge to their destined excellence since they were in elementary school.
There was no doubt that these selected few were going to make a dent in their community as well as in the world.
Recently, fifteen of these soñadores graduated high school.
My social media feed was inundated with excited and proud students leading to the moment of their graduation. They knew this was one of the most significant achievements on their path to success.
Wendy Pamela Granera Ojeda, one of the dreamers who just graduated, told me about her plans to start med school in March. “From a young age, I have been in love with the idea of healing people. I want to dedicate my life to that,” she shared. “I want to help my community but also hope to serve as an example to people so that they see that challenges are more difficult if we do not face them.”
The power of education is mighty. The United States can learn a thing or two about that. Nevertheless, it is great to see anyone in the world flourish.
Featured in the video are Guadalupe “Lupita” Perez and Diana Ojeda
“Since its inception eleven years ago, TUS has cultivated a spirit of civic engagement amongst the dreamers. Nicaraguan youth have been empowered to build strong and educated communities of peace and non-violence. With young people like Lupita at the helm, the future is hopeful,” said Professor Sendin.
Los soñadores will now embark on a journey filled with even more milestones to accomplish, one of them being college, and FNEI will stand beside them every step of the way.
With your help, the organization will continue to financially and emotionally support the students and their families.
To help them move forward with their global vision, you can donate here. Even though they are a self-sufficient bunch, progress can still incur costs, as many of us know. Please know that a few dollars can make a world of difference.