February 29, 2024

Thursday morning, we visited one of the 2022 scholarships recipient’s home. This was a special visit for Ms. Liogas, Mme Bousser and myself as Carla is the student we are supporting. On March 11, Carla will be starting the third year of her Public Accounting and Finance program. It was very interesting for Carla to share with us her experiences since starting university in Managua. A determined young woman, Carla opted to attend an accounting program offered every Saturday by a technical school in Granada during her summer vacation. She felt that enrolling in this program would allow her to review second year concepts before starting third year. As Carla spoke about this course and her university courses, we could hear the passion she has for her classes. 

Carla shared with us a typical school day. She gets up at 3 am so she can leave her home just after 4 am to ensure that she can be near the front of the bus stop line. By doing this Carla increases her chance of getting a seat on the bus which allows her to study during the two hour commute. Although she finishes classes at 1 pm, she often stays at the university till 6 so she could use a computer at the university. This meant she was often heading home in the dark. On one such occasion she had her phone stolen. On weekends, Carla needs to go to a cyber cafe and pay to use a computer to get her work done. Despite the long days and the difficulties, Carla is eager to continue her educational journey in a few weeks. It was wonderful to meet Carla, to hear about her university experiences thus far, and to be able to personally wish her continued success. 

During the afternoon, I led a professional development session with the two science teachers at the Diria Institute. Thanks to Mme Bousser acting as our translator, the four of us were able to talk about our classroom practices. I knew that the classes at the Diria Institute were large but I was floored to hear that one of the Grade 10 chemistry classes has 46 students in it! I think the Diria Institute teachers were equally surprised by the small size of my Grade 11 chemistry class (11 students). 

As a teacher, I take for granted that if I need supplies I can order them. The two science teachers at the Diria Institute do not have that luxury. For instance, hydrochloric acid which i use for many experiments is not available to science teachers in Nicaragua as it is deemed too dangerous and a controlled substance. I was able to share with them resources and materials had prepared for them. Let’s just hope my translated materials make sense! 

It’s hard to believe that our time in Nicaragua is drawing to an end. This trip is a wonderful opportunity for not only the students but also the teachers from The Study. 

Sarah Howard

February 28, 2024

Waking up 10 minutes earlier to walk to school is not my favourite activity. However, today I learned of the journeys most students who attend the Diria Institute must trek to get their education each weekday, and it has changed me. We had the opportunity to try to understand the length of one graduate’s walk in particular. Angela Patricia Dominguez Barrios, resides in rural areas. For our sake, we were only instructed to complete around 45 minutes of her walk, which is only a small portion. However, there was a change of plans, and we were only to walk 5-10 minutes. To reach the starting location of our little route, we picked up our buddies and drove for nearly 30 minutes. The ride itself was super enjoyable since we worked the language barrier with the help of Sophie (who is an excellent translator!) and we got to share our common interests such as music tastes and celebrity crushes. It was a good reminder that teenagers are all pretty much the same, regardless of their living situations or cultures. But these happy emotions dissolved pretty quickly once we started the walk. The sunshine sent droplets of sweat down my back within a few steps. I walked with a water bottle in my hand that was soon emptied. We arrived and our hosts were wonderful. However, I was so taken aback by the distance the scholarship winner had to parkour on the daily and how little we ended up walking that I could hardly focus. I was truly marked by her resilience to wake up and return home in the absence of light in order to gain her education. It made me rethink my attitude towards all the privilege I have, including my wake-up time. I am fortunate enough to only have to walk a couple hundred meters to attend my private school. I had access to as much bottled water as I want for the little bit of the walk she had to complete without such luxuries. It is, to me, impossible to comprehend the amount of effort these Nicaraguan kids must put towards just reaching the institution that is mandatory by law to attend. Especially since their commutes are done without all the nutrients I get to consume at will. Also, our planned trip was much shorter, and I believe it was not enough for us to think we can grasp the situation of this girl and others alike. This feeling is even more engraved since we would have been fully capable of completing the 45 minutes (which isn’t even close to the whole thing she had to do every. Single. Day. For 5 YEARS!) because we had a filling breakfast and are fortunate to be in good health. After this experience, I will no longer experience waking up early to get to school without thoughts of the hardship others my age face for the same purpose infesting my mind.

Lausanne K

We had lunch today with Candeleria, one of the scholarship winners. She spoke to us about her journey after graduating university where she studied finance and banking. Ava’s family had funded this scholarship, so it was particularly nice since they got to meet. Even if meeting her was a great experience, hearing about her family and living situation was difficult. We learned that she is having difficulty in finding a job, but we are planning on providing additional support to her to facilitate the process. We then went back to the school and got ready to learn traditional Nicaraguan dancing from our buddies. Before starting, I was definitely nervous to embarrass myself. However, I surprisingly felt very comfortable as time went on and it ended up being my favourite part of the day. I found it so fun to be able to learn about a new culture, through dance, that I previously knew very little about. I’m also glad to have experienced it with such supportive teachers. We then taught them a traditional Quebecois folk dance that we had learned back in Montreal. After that we were enjoying the dancing so much that we showed them some additional popular dances like the Cotton Eye Joe, Footloose and many others. We spent around 3 hours dancing and we were all drenched in sweat by the end of it. It was really special to be able to share our cultures with each other and bond in the process.

Alaina M

February 27

Ariana G.

If I was asked to choose one thing, from our few days here, to call my favourite, I would without a doubt say teaching my first technology class with Ava and Grace. Unlike the other classes given by our students, the tech group was given the task of teaching our buddies how to use the EV3 robots donated by our school. The catch? It had to be taught in Spanish. With our collective vocabulary being limited to grade 5 Spanish class and a jumble of French words, our class began its rocky journey. However rather than giving you a complete recap of our entire class, I’d like to focus on the moment that really stuck out to me, the moment that made it my favourite so far.

During our class, the girls were invested in the robotics, that they were even willing to give up their recess to stay and learn how to use them. Unfortunately, one of the robots’ motors that we had brought down were missing and the group had decided to come to the front and converse with us. Despite the language barriers, we managed to converse using our broken Spanish/French and pictograms we drew on the white boards. Within the cacophony of voices, Ava had noticed a girl mewing1🤫 and told me to look. This caught us all off guard because we were so caught up in their economic situation, that seeing this made us all realize that no matter the situation we are in, we are all the same. Teenagers will be teenagers (laughing at jokes that have no real meaning).

While writing this Ava is forcing me to include her quote “this made me laugh and she is so senorita awesome!!!!!!!!!! 🤩🤩🤩🤩🤩” – Ava. On the other hand, Grace leaves us with no words, instead she believes that actions speak louder, and leaves us with 🤫.

  1. Mewing is a new trend among most teens using social media. Mewing consists of shushing everyone and flexing your jawline. (not to be confused with meowing – Live)

Sophie L

Hi! So basically I’m blogging tonight and I’m gonna be talking about teaching. It was a lot of fun but I didn’t talk as much as I wanted to. It was a bit complicated with the Spanish- English thing but we figured it out by Gab saying like 200 random facts and then asking me to translate. The first class went horribly because it was like really hard to explain our into activity thing so we wasted time. The second class was the best because the students participated a lot and we laughed a lot. It was really funny when the one person who would always answer really loudly was asked to go to the board and write in English because their jaw would drop and everyone would laugh and stare at them.

9A had 100% the most participation and they were so nice and even asked for my insta. 9B  was not as participatory but we still tried our best and the students were nice. They boys were definitely participated than the girls but in a fun/annoying way. They were overall awesome.

Anyways, the last class was grade 11 and the class was pretty small but we tried our best. It was also hard because the lessons were for younger kids so it kinda felt like we were babying them. We taught them the most and had a few good laughs. It was fun and I really enjoyed getting a teacher perspective of class. OMG! I loved the power! I could call on anyone and make then go up to the board. Like this one boy scrunched his hoodie so you couldn’t see his face and because of that I called on him and another boy looked at me and then like smiled and looked down because he didn’t know the answer so I called on him. They were making it super obvious that they didn’t know, like they secretly wanted to be called on so it was great.

I loved teaching and for the most part the kids were nice and we spent most of the time laughing. This was an amazing day and I can’t wait for tomorrow.

Grace L

Visiting the scholarship winners’ homes was truly a meaningful experience for me. It was admirable the amount of work that the girls had done while studying and as well struggling for livings in poverty. One girl who lived in rural Diriomo had to wake up from 3-4 AM during the winter because it was rain season. The currents on the normal roads were so strong that anyone could be carried away by it, so she needed to take a back path to avoid the roads that were flooded. During the Summer she was able to sleep a little more, but the hot and humid climate was still a great challenge as she needs to walk a LONG way to school. She only got home at 7 PM and she had to study for another 3 hours after taking a small break and eating dinner. Attending school for this girl is a TREMENDOUS obstacle considering the sacrifice of her sleep. We wondered how she had the energy physically and mentally to keep on with her studies and her life. She has answered with a simple yet strong phrase: “Studying medicine is my DREAM.” Her yearning for knowledge touched me. I am so proud and happy that she was able to get the scholarship and accomplish her goal.

Another girl named Maria is the same age as us (which is 16). She is currently studying in the field of medicine. Being a student who has always follows the science path, I understand how hard it is to get into medicine in Canada (imagine in Nicaragua, it’s way HARDERRRRR) A sixteen-years-old girl entering university? Majored in medicine? THIS IS CRAZY. At the tour in her house, I see piles of books taking up two thirds of the only small table that is meant to be a kitchen table. Although the house was crowded and occupied by all the furniture and living necessities, they were still able to find a corner for books, to support Maria pursuing education. I still remember the way Maria talked about her university entrance exam with enthusiasm. It was a 200 question, 1.5 hour exam, and Maria finished the exam in 45 minutes, with a 94% result!!! I am REALLY impressed by her academic achievements, and I look forward to meeting future Dr. Maria.  

P.S. I HAVE TO MENTION THIS. After visiting so many washrooms in Nicaragua, I found that none of them has a separation between the shower and the toilet. I felt privileged that our hotel in Granada has a glass door separation in the bathroom. However, one night, when Lausanne and I finally returned to our room after a long day, we found that the door was GONE. Our shower door was taken away. A sudden breeze of grief sliced through me as my plan of a perfect shower got ruined. What stinged me more was the realization that most people here never had a glass door anywhere. I have been extremely lucky and privileged in many aspects and I hope one day everyone in Nicaragua gets a glass door (including the hotel room Lausanne and I stayed in).

February 26, 2024

We went to see 5 previous scholarship winners today and one of them won a scholarship this year. It’s very rare to be able to see the impacts or part of the end-results of donations or community service, but we (the students and teachers that go on the trip) were able to do so. After the end of the trip and March break, we will share how the donations are used and how The Study’s community helps impact the community and lives of the people in Diria. We should do this so that students, families, etc. continue to donate in the future and can understand how the little things they do can make a big impact all together, as a community. This effect models synergy where little pieces taken by individuals (ex. Toonies) can become something very impactful when everyone comes together. Although, the main purpose of this trip is to support the Diria institute, by visiting, buying products, and tipping staff (or people who aren’t staff but only work to get a tip) at Elsa’s, Tio Antonio, restaurants, hotels, etc., we are helping the Nicaraguan economy .

When we met the past scholarship winners, we gave each household one bag of groceries, except the home with two sisters that won a scholarship who received two bags. It was impressive to meet the different scholarship winners because they are able to take their studies more seriously in their difficult living situations, especially compared to other students who could be born into a comfortable life of luxury. The first student whom we met, Emely, is a law student who studies many hours a day. She studies while on the bus to Managua, which takes 1 to 1.5 hours, where she takes her classes that start at 11 am and end at 7 pm, then she studies from 9 pm-1 am at home. She has said that she prefers to study at her dining room table instead of in her bedroom, because she is more likely to fall asleep in her room. I can easily relate to this statement, but I could never imagine having to stay up late to study, every single day.

My mother decided to sponsor a girl’s education, because she felt that compared to the impact the scholarship would have, the money was not that much. Although, most of the scholarship winners were studying medicine, I felt that it was important for there to be more women having influence in the tech-world and the future of their communities’ advancements . So, I had asked my mom to ask Ms. Liogas to make her choice of the girl who would win the extra scholarship with an Engineering degree in mind. And as luck would have it, the second place winner wanted to study Engineering. Today, we met Josselyng at her grandmother’s home and I was able to meet her in-person and talk to her. The more I did so, the more glad I was that my mother came forward to finance her education. Her aunt and my mom are both accountants, so I asked Mme. Bousser to translate that I hoped more women would be able to pursue their passions for math and studying and that I believed she would make her family very proud. I hope Ava is also able to meet the girl whom her family sponsored.

When we went to the Diria institute for the opening ceremony and to meet our buddies, we were told to choose buddies as they weren’t assigned. A girl with a bubbly personality was standing next to me, so we looked at each other when Mme. Bousser told us to find buddies. My buddy, Maria, was coincidentally born on the same day and the same year as me. Maybe tomorrow I’ll ask her at what hour she was born. The chances seem so impossibly low because there are 365 days in a year and 16 buddies and 400 students in the school. It was very difficult to communicate with her as she spoke Spanish and I did not (I chose the Mandarin course instead of Spanish). This evening, I’m going to try to make flashcards/ a mini-Spanish-English vocabulary with Sophie L.

Live M

February 25, 2024

Today was a day for connection. From getting to know each other better to meeting incredible and wise people, we got to strengthen and make new bonds. We went to Tio Antonio’s café de las Sonrisas (smiles). After all, the most universal language is a smile. This business prioritizes creating opportunities for differently abled community members. The walls and tables are lined with sign language pictograms so patrons can communicate with the servers. Furthermore, at Tío Antonio’s they make the most thoughtfully crafted hammocks! We were honored to be able to meet recent graduates and their families at a luncheon. It was a delight to share a meal and conversation with these ambitions, intelligent and compassionate young women. From there, we went to meet the master potter Elsa. She showed us how she makes her gorgeous ceramics; I even got to try and make one myself! She was a well of wisdom and her grandchildren were adorable. All in all, today was a profoundly impactful one, full of people I will not soon forget. – Sophie H.

On our third day of our Nicaragua trip, we immersed ourselves in Nicaraguan culture. We started the day with a trip to the market. Unfortunately, there was a power line fire, so we made a pit stop at Tío Antonio’s. I had never visited a business like this. The walls and tables were lined with sign language symbols because this café was run by deaf mutes and thus ensure communication was easy for its visitors. Our guide also left us with one beautiful passage that described the café. “There is no language more universal than a smile.” I will hold that line with me for the rest of my life. Following the market, we headed to the lunch in where I was sat next to an older gentleman who didn’t speak a word of English. My broken Spanish allowed me to communicate a bit however most of our conversation relied on kind gestures and genuine smiles. Though I didn’t learn much about his life, I learned infinitely about his kindness and humour. At the end of the day, I felt so much more connected to this magnificent country. Through exchanged smiles and silly faces, we can find connection and mutual interest and kindness. That is what creates friendships and bonds.  -gab Tessier

Sunday morning, we went to visit the Café de las Sonrisas. Over the years, this has been a favourite stop in our visit of Granada. We heard that they had fallen on hard times and needed to close. I was pleasantly surprised to see them open. More importantly we were able to meet Tio Antonio, the man behind this incredible social project. Every trip, we meet at least one changemaker. Tio Antonio certainly fits this category. 18 years ago, he saw a need with the street kids of Granada. He wanted to give dignity to the blind youth of Granada. According to him and of course the UN’s SDGs, everyone should have access to dignified work and a fair wage. That is what they do at the Café de las Sonrisas. Having taught the SDGs to students for over 9 years, it is always so impactful to connect with someone who is actively making a change. This is the first time that we had the opportunity to have Tio Antonio talk to our students. His message echoed what I have been trying to share with my leadership students. It is not the end goal that counts but the journey. One needs to acknowledge every step of their journey. Success is being mindful of our journeys. And of course, no success is worth it if you are stepping on others to obtain your goals. Needless to say, he was my “rose” of the day!- Ms Bousser