Our 2013 Projects

Community members and international volunteers will build seven new classrooms this year.

At the end of 2013 SOL will have built or remodeled 159 classrooms in 58 communities in Nicaragua and El Salvador. All of these communities are grateful for the support that SOL is giving to help bring a dignified learning space to their communities. Additionally, these communities appreciate and value the friendship and solidarity of the volunteer work groups that work alongside them to make these dreams a reality. They know and remember that SOL and its supporters care about them as human beings, and the rights that they and their children have to achieving an education.

Asiento Viejo, Ciudad Darío, Nicaragua

Asiento Viejo

SOL started a relationship with the communities of Asiento Viejo, La Remonta, Casas Viejas and Las Mesas over the past two decades while working to serve rural communities in the region. In 1994, SOL facilitated the construction of a single-classroom school in the La Remonta community, with the participation of the community and US volunteers. Later, in 2004 an additional classroom was built in the same school. In 2002, an old and dilapidated school building in Las Mesas was rehabilitated to hold a community kindergarden. In 2003, SOL also worked together with the community of Casas Viejas to refurbish another school building and establish a community pre-school. And in 2005, the school of Asiento Viejo was included in SOL's Sister Schools Program. The school construction projects have been the point of departure for SOL to establish a long-standing relationship with these communities around different programmatic activities. These include scholarships for 11 students to attend high school in the municipal capital (Ciudad Darío) and universities in Matagalpa and Esteli, participation of 10 teachers in training seminars facilitated by SOL, an active participation of the four schools in the Sister Schools Program, which promote exchange and solidarity between schools in Nicaragua and the US, and the collective development of this proposal with a wide participation of inhabitants and leaders from the four communities.

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The Learning Resource Center is an integrated solution to provide improved educational opportunities and resources for the shared benefit of these four communities. Phase one of this project in 2012 included the construction of a new indoor and outdoor structure for a volunteer driven library, arts and culture courses, technical training and educational activities. The LRC was furnished with tables, chairs and bookshelves and supplied with a start up collection of books, educational games and curriculum.

This year, SOL volunteers are working in cooperation with Students Offering Support (SOS) to expand the existing infrastructure (one more room), establish trade and vocational training courses, and establish additional resources for the center including more books, computers, courses offered and increased scholarship awards.

To view current photos of the project, click here.

Casas Viejas, Ciudad Darío, Nicaragua

Casas Viejas

The community of Casas Viejas is located just over 15 Km. West of Ciudad Dario in the Matagalpa Region of Nicaragua and has an approximate population of 450 inhabitants, who make up over 100 families. The community is located in a cluster of four communities west of Ciudad Darío and is accessible by a rugged all season dirt road.

The inhabitants of this area earn income primarily by subsistence farming (the cultivation of corn, beans, sorghum and some vegetables) and/or the raising of a few cows, chickens or pigs. Other forms of sustenance include field labor (when available), fire wood gathering, livestock tending for larger near by ranches, or working outside of the community in domestic labors or as night watchmen in Ciudad Darío. Others are involved in microenterprise or commercial activities within or outside of the community. Roughly 25 percent of the adults in the area are illiterate, although the government has been promoting adult education through its "Yo Si Puedo" literacy program during the past several years. All of the communities served by the newly established high school in Casas Viejas have had occasion to work with SOL on educationally focused infrastructure projects in their communities and/or on on-going educational programming at on time or another during the past 15-20 years.

None of the communities in this area have ever had adequate access to high school facilities, teachers or education. Anyone having a desire to further their education beyond the 6th grade has always had to travel the over 10 mile distance on foot, by horse or in the back of the "twice a day" truck service that connects these communities to Ciudad Darío and to the areas nearest high school. Until now, acquiring a high school education has come with much more sacrifices and expenses than most people are able to afford.

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The initial phase of this project will be the construction of 1-2 additional classrooms to house the newly established Rural High School in Casas Viejas. Each classroom will measure 6 meters wide by 8 meters long. The final proposed design of this construction will depend on an emerging analysis of the current and projected educational needs of the community, including the current and projected primary school enrolment, current high school enrolment, as well as a projection of future enrollment figures for Casas Viejas and its surrounding communities. Currently, the school enrollment is vacillating between 75-85 students between 1st and 4th year. There are four paid and at least two volunteer teachers assigned by the Ministry of Education (MINED) to the newly opened high school. The high school is operating on Sundays. The Darío Mayor's Office is providing transportation for the teachers to and from Casas Viejas every Sunday and the MINED is providing limited meal provisions and minimal school supplies. There are still many needs in the way of sufficient and adequate supplies, furnishings and infrastructure.

These classrooms will be constructed of brick and steel-reinforced concrete: with a galvanized steel roof, cement tile floors and sidewalk, wooden panel doors, glass louvered windows, and metal protective grating. The interior and exterior walls will be stuccoed with cement and painted. The project will also include basic school furnishings as well. SOL is once again working with SOS, which are supporting the construction of the Casas Viejas rural high school.

To view current photos of the project, click here.

Guadelupe Arriba, Matagalpa, Nicaragua

Guadelupe Arriba

The primary school in Guadalupe Arriba is in need of infrastructure as the population of children in attendance has grown significantly. Additions needed include extra classroom space, a kitchen, storage space, and bathrooms. Photos of the community can be found here.

Currently, the school runs in two turns, with 5th and 6th graders receiving classes in the afternoon in two separate classes. The concern for the safety of children who travel crossing rivers that swell and become dangerous in the afternoon.

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The community of Guadalupe Arriba has approximately 2600 (2012 census) habitants and 400 families. Children come from the communities of Guadalupe Arriba, Siares, Santa Rita and La Curva to attend school. The economic base of the community is agriculture, farming coffee, chayote, passion fruit, dairy and cattle farms. The teachers in the school are from the neighboring communities of margin:5px 25px 5px 10px;, La Curva and Samulali.

There are also a large number of students going to San Ramon for secondary school education. The community places a high value on education and is very interested seeking ways to provide their children with improved conditions and opportunities. There are also seven children with physical and/or learning disabilities enrolled in the school.

In the past, the Guadalupe Arriba school has been supported by a Spanish NGO called Infancias Sin Fronteras (ISF), who had a kitchen and food program that ran out of a private ISF-owned building in Guadalupe Arriba. However, as of this year, ISF has discontinued their services of food service, since the MINED food program is distributing food. However, their building in Guadalupe Arriba will still be in operation (without the use of the kitchen) and will continue to provide a space for preschool in the Guadalupe Arriba school. The closure of ISFs food program also creates a need for Guadalupe Arriba to have their own kitchen, as most school buildings do. Therefore, the construction of a classroom and a kitchen and storage area are of high priority in in order to prepare the government supplement of one hot meal per school day. Current student enrollment is 193 primary students and 34 preschoolers, totaling 227 students.

To view current photos of the project, click here

Tepeyac, Matagalpa, Nicaragua


The current school is overcrowded and school enrollment is anticipated to grow. The primary school in Guadalupe called "El Tepeyac" needs an expansion of their school building, as the population of children in attendance has grown. SOL plans to help the construction of 1 classroom, a kitchen with large storage area, latrines, and possibly some rehabilitation of their existing school building. Currently, the school runs in 2 turns, with 5th and 6th graders (1 multi-grade class) receiving classes in the afternoon. The concern for the safety of children who travel across rivers that swell and become dangerous in the afternoon rains. Also, the family unit is split and families struggle without the assistance of elder siblings taking care of their younger siblings. The objective is to build enough classroom space so that all primary grades and preschoolers can attend classes in the morning, at the same time. Current student enrollment is 71 in primary and 19 in preschool, with a total of 90 students.

This project will benefit the community as a whole while especially benefiting its children by giving them an adequate and dignified space to learn. SOL works in partnership with local communities who themselves are committed to volunteering their time to help build the needed community school infrastructure; thereby creating a sense ownership in these SOL supported projects. This community ownership and participation will ensure the success of this project and encourage community involvement for the long term, as it is something that the community deeply cares about and has worked hard to achieve.

The direct beneficiaries of this project will be the students and families that live within the community of Tepeyac, consisting of approximately 539 habitants and 151 families. Children come from the communities of El Tepeyac (Guadalupe), La Bajada, Los Roques, and Castil Vanega Cardon to attend school. The economic base of the community is agriculture, farming chayote, passion fruit, dairy and cattle farms.

90 students at El Tepeyac will all have classroom space and improved school facilities. The children will all be able to attend at the same time, unifying the school students. The families of students will also be able to bring all kids to and from school at the same time and will have the benefit of elder children helping with the care of younger children. School meals will be prepared in the school kitchen, facilitating the food prep and service. Sanitary conditions will be improved for the 90 students with new latrines and hand wash station. The community will be more motivated to have children attend school and anticipate future enrollment and attendance to increase. 4 teachers will also benefit by having class session all in one turn and each teacher will have their own classroom, improving teacher collaboration and improved work conditions. 2 of the teachers in the school are actually from Tepeyac.

The community has already organized work teams and is committed to building the school. They have waited 24 years (since the school was built) seeking improvement, and are happy and anxious to see success in making the educational conditions better for their children. The community places a high value on education and is very interested in providing their children with improved conditions for education and educational opportunities. SOL is working with One Dollar for Life (ODFL), which is funding the classroom.

To view current photos of the project, click here

La Laguna, Matagalpa, Nicaragua

La Laguna

The Community Learning Center and preschool project that SOL has been constructing in La Laguna has been in the works since early 2012. It is a rehabilitation of an existing building in the community that had served as the coffee co-op community's government-run day care center during the 1980's, when coffee production in the community was high and prosperous. Over the years, the coffee production has declined and the community fell victim to a loss of their assets with the closure of a national bank, as well as challenges with plagues to their coffee crops. The old community day care center became the official pre-school, currently staffed with one Ministry of Education supported preschool teacher. Unfortunately, the building has been untouched since the day it was built.

In 2011, the Ministry of Education delegates from San Ramon approached SOL staff in Matagalpa to consider building a completely new preschool structure, since the existing structure was in poor condition and in disrepair.

SOL began conversations with the community members and soon discovered that they had big dreams for their children, and a great value for education. After bringing a select group of La Laguna community members to visit the SOL-Dario Learning Resource Center, the community began to conceptualize something much more than just a preschool. They asked SOL staff to work with them to transform their old multi-room building into a community center/library/pre-school — a new Community Learning Center.

Currently, the building is at ¾ completion of Phase 1 (construction). The construction process will yield a finished preschool area, and a partially improved library, multi purpose, and dance room).

In an effort to explore alternative building techniques, SOL has taken the opportunity to use plastic bottles as part of the construction materials for a portion of the La Laguna Community Learning center. The community was put to work collecting plastic bottles over the past few weeks — which were filled by community members and Cardinal Newman High School students. Once the bottles were collected and filled with dirt, they were laid down to form part of the base foundation of the Community Learning Center's entryway. The experience was one filled with amazement and astonishment. The filling process involved children, youth and adults. They spent hours patiently packing, tapping, scooping and pouring, packing, tapping... the tedious process resulted in a mountain of bottles. Then, as the ground was prepared, support rebar and side columns went in, and the trenches were filled with rocks and then cement — these marvelous bottle brick were laid into place — beautifully, quickly. Smiles were infectious, as we all knew that we were taking part of a moment — a first time experience.

The use of bottle bricks is first for SOL. We will continue to research and improve our techniques. In rural communities like La Laguna, Nicaragua, the challenges are great. Communities struggle to survive — to have the basics for survival AND they struggle to have educational opportunities for their children. More than 60 students of this community walk over 3 KM, just to attend secondary school. They clearly want and value their education.

Construction in such communities also proves to be a challenge. The community, perched in the mountainside, has limited access for trucks that would normally deliver construction materials. Solutions such as bottle bricks help SOL lower the cost of construction materials needed AND help us express our belief in creative solutions using recycled materials.

La Laguna still has a few months before Phase I of the building process is complete. It is considered a long-term project (3-5 years) where SOL will work along with the community to help them furnish, administer and improve the space to realize their needs and dreams in education.

To view current photos of the project, click here

Pedro Arauz, Tipitapa, Nicaragua

Pedro Arauz

The community Pedro Arauz is located 20 minutes north from the municipal capital, Tipitapa, and 20 minutes from Mundo de Fe Retreat Center, where SOL volunteers will stay. There are 90 families living there with about 380 inhabitants. People are very poor and live in huts made with plastic, wood and zinc. They live in a land formerly owned by a state mega-project established during the 80's. When the project (a sugar-mill) went into bankruptcy, the land was distributed among formerly soldiers of the Army and the Contras. After a long wait, they received land property titles last year. Every family owns between 5 and 9 acres of good land. However, they lack credit and technical assistance to make this land productive. They currently plant small areas to produce staple food for self-consumption. However, considering the quality of these lands, the area has a good potential to produce value crops (sesame, vegetables, rice, forests) if education, credit and technical advice is provided and a development strategy is designed.

A small multi-grade school operates in the community. This school is a satellite center of a bigger school located in a bigger neighboring community, which provides one teacher. Every year, the school starts with up to 40 students from first to sixth grade, but at the end just 25-30 students finish the school. The main reason is the lack of proper conditions for a school. There is no infrastructure and the school operates in the ruins of a former laboratory, where the community built a provisional and unsafe roof. During the dry season, the students have classes under the trees around these facilities and during the rainy season they move to a family house or a church. Classes are irregular due to that situation and the lack of supervision.

The community owns a five-acre plot to build community facilities. The inhabitants have decided to donate 1.7 for MINED to build a school. Although initially the inhabitants thought about the possibility to refurbish part of the existing dilapidated laboratory, they consider the best solution is to build a new building with proper conditions for a school, including a big classroom for multi-grade classes, sport areas, toilets, and land for students to learn about gardening and agriculture techniques, including the production of food to improve the existing state-funded food program.

Facilitated by SOL's staff, the community held a meeting where they showed their interest to establish a partnership with SOL to build the school. They organized in that meeting a committee who would coordinate the community efforts to ensure proper support to the project according to SOL's parameters. The attendees enthusiastically offered their support to build together with SOL the school.

To view current photos of the project, click here

Villa Japon, Tipitapa, Nicaragua

Villa Japon

Villa Japon is a large rural community located about ten miles from Tipitapa and four miles from the volunteer group accommodation at the Mundo de Fe Retreat Center. The road to the community is totally paved, which ensures access during the dry and rainy season. The population in the community is about 2,000 people who live in extreme poverty in huts made of plastic wood and zinc metal sheets. Most of the inhabitants are agricultural workers who work in large farms owned by national and foreign companies. The community already has a school with three classrooms where 200 students from first to sixth grade study. The land is legally owned by the MINED.

The schools initial capacity has been exceeded by the growing demand. The school had initially just two teachers and a pre-school volunteer. The school now has six teachers paid by MINED and one pre-school volunteer. Although some classrooms have been split to provide room to teachers, they are crowded. Presently, three groups of students are receiving classrooms outside the building in provisional rooms made of plastic, wood and zinc, with dirt floor. As the walls are made of plastic, these facilities are hot. Conditions for teaching are really poor. The toilets walls are in bad condition and need replacement. There is no water supply in the school.

SOL proposes the construction of 2-3 additional classrooms as well as a school kitchen and bathrooms. SOL staff are finalizing he specifics on the scope of the project as the work with the community members and the MINED to determine the appropriate long term solution for this community.

To view current photos of the project, click here