By Conor Sanchez
Last week was a big week in Nueva Guinea’s 50 year history. On Wednesday, May 13, U.S. Ambassador Phyllis M. Powers came to town.
In what we are pretty sure was the first time a high ranking diplomat from the U.S. has ever visited Nueva Guinea, Ambassador Powers delivered remarks at a fairly low-key ceremony announcing the start of a new $1.1 million literacy initiative, $700,000 of which is coming from USAID. The initiative, known as the BASES Project, is being executed by Fabretto, a non-profit based in Managua that seeks to empower children and youth to reach their full potential through education, will end up benefiting over 5,000 Nicaraguan students in the Región Autónoma del Caribe Sur (RACS).
Fabretto aims to serve some of Nicaragua’s most remote regions, so naturally they looked towards RACS. Nueva Guinea is one of four cities that were selected, along with Muelle de Bueyes, El Ayote, and El Rama.
According to Fabretto, the purpose of the project is “to increase access to education, improve retention and promotion rates, and offer quality education for children and youth in the RACCS region. The project focuses on three key Components: (1) Strengthening early grade reading through enrichment classes and teacher training; (2) Providing access to secondary education in remote communities through Fabretto’s SAT Program; and (3) Encouraging community participation through parent training.”
It was a great ceremony. The auditorium was filled with students, teachers, parents, and other community leaders. We were happy to attend and are excited by the prospect of working with Fabretto and USAID on this project throughout our service. One of the teachers who spoke during the ceremony is the sister of my counterpart teacher, Freddy, which shows you how small this town becomes when you work in education.
At the end of her speech, Ambassador Powers shared a quote by Malala Yousafzai, the 17-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner and author of I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. She said, “A young Pakistani girl who fought for her right to receive an education once said, One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen, can change the world.” This made Michaela’s ears perk up as she is currently working to form a girls group that’ll read Malala’s book and discuss human rights issues.
Following the ceremony, Michaela and I were invited to have a private lunch with the Ambassador. As Peace Corps Volunteers it is always a pleasure to get to speak about our work. It is especially encouraging when the U.S. Ambassador takes an interest and for that we were very thankful and honored. It serves as a real morale booster for those of us working in fairly remote places like the department of RACS.
Coincidentally, while we were having lunch with Ambassador Powers, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Laura Farnsworth Dogu as his next ambassador to Nicaragua to replace Powers who has served in this post since 2012. This was by no means a surprise. In fact, we talked about it at lunch, so it was funny to learn later that an announcement was literally being made as we ate rice and beans at a local hotel.
Dogu sounds equally as qualified for the job. She’s a career member of the U.S. Foreign Service, currently serving as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. All she needs to do now is get confirmed by the U.S. Senate…
Which means it could be a while before we call her Ambassador.