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About Us > FAQs
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q: How did you select the 10 families for Project Chacocente?
A: We interviewed 79 of 125 families who lived in the dump at the time. We selected these 79 because they had no other option for leaving the dump. We evaluated the first round of interviews, looking for families with several children, who showed a desire to work and who would move to a rural location. We then did a second interview with those 30 families, and from that group selected 10.
Q: Has there been any turnover in the families?
A: Yes. We have asked a few families to leave the project because they refused to fulfill the requirements. One family has left because they decided it wasn't worth the effort.
Q: What does Chacocente mean?
A: We selected the name Chacocente because it is a name indigenous to Nicaragua; it's the name of a sea turtle reserve on the Pacific Coast. In the same way that they protect the sea turtles while they lay their eggs and until the tiny turtles crawl to the sea, we are protecting a vulnerable sector of society until they can stand on their own.
Q: Aren't you afraid that giving the families food, health care and education will cause the families to develop an unhealthy dependency?
A: Dependency is already a part of many Nicaraguans' lives. This country has been plagued by natural disasters (earthquakes, tidal waves, floods, etc.), as well as by war, a 43-year dictatorship and corrupt governments. Some 80% of the people live in poverty, yet there are virtually no government programs to help people better their situation. The people have lived off the kindness of foreign aid for generations.
What we are doing is saying, yes, depend on us for three years. Learn everything you can to become independent, and then in the fourth and fifth years begin to take on more and more of the responsibility for your lives. The official goal is total independence by the end of year five. However, we believe only a near-independence will actually exist at this time. Once the families receive their house and land, we believe they may need as much as two years "of practice", "of trial and error" before they can be successfully independent.
The model we're using is you. You depended on your parents to walk, to ride that first two-wheeler, and perhaps even to finish college. Then it was your turn to support yourself. But many people found they weren't ready for total independence, and moved back in with mom and dad, or resorted to some sort of "Plan B" until they could better prepare themselves for true independence.
Q: Why did you choose to educate the children and not send them to public school?
A: We enrolled the children in the local government school the first year we lived in Masaya, hoping we wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel. The government would have left two teachers teaching more than 150 children in six grades in morning session. We paid the teachers to work in the afternoon as well, so they could have smaller classes broken out by grade level: In the morning, they taught 1st grade and a combined 3rd-4th grade; in the afternoon, they taught 2nd grade and a combined 5th-6th grade. However, the classes were still large (roughly 40 children to each teacher), the teachers spent more time disciplining the children than teaching them, and our kids began to drop out of school. But that was just half of the problem.
The Nicaraguan school system is antiquated. Teachers are grossly underpaid, exhausted by mandatory classes of 40+ students, and teach by rote. If a child needs individual attention, he or she usually must pay the teacher to stay after school to help them. Most children don't have the money for extra help, fall behind and drop out. The goals for children and teachers in Nicaraguan schools are pathetically low. There is no creativity, dynamism nor incentive to do well. There are no art, music, reading or expository writing classes. No computer classes, few language classes. We believe if we want our kids to succeed in life, they must have a different kind of education.
We taught the children of Chacocente ourselves in 2005. (The school year runs from February to November.) Although we basically taught "under the trees," we had small classes, taught the teachers how to incorporate creativity and fun into their classes, and set higher standards for both students and teachers. We also began educating the parents as to why education is important to their children. We faced many problems, and yet had near-perfect attendance, strong teacher-student involvement, several field trips and better grades. (Not to mention, we had books!)
Q: How is your school different from public school?
A: To begin with, we have teacher-student ratios of no more than 1:20. We believe that the learning environment should be stimulating and fun, and that the parents should collaborate by preparing lunch and maintaining the building. In 2006, we added daily reading and writing classes, Christian education, English and several classes in the Arts to our curriculum. The next year, we began to teach computer skills. In 2009, we hope to build a library so the children will have a comfortable place to get lost in books. We want to continue to educate our teachers about what is possible in education, and about different teaching/learning styles. Our goal is to show children that learning is a life-long process that enriches your life experience. In a country where almost no one reads a book after high school, that's a novel idea.
Q: Is there a plan for Chacocente II?
A: Our hope is to buy land near the current site so that the new families can take advantage of the school and other resources that have been built or established.