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Expanding Education Opportunities in Rural Nicaragua, One School at a Time

Education is among the most important tools for development and motivation around the world, and the Lupisella family knows that very well. As Principals of two schools in the Greater Rochester Area, Robert (Avon) and Jeanine (Honeoye Falls-Lima) Lupisella truly understand the value of schooling, and hope to share its importance with communities in the developing world.

When Jeanine initially met Enlace Project board member Kris Dreessen in 2011, the idea of working on a project in Nicaragua began to take shape. Upon receiving Enlace Project’s newsletter, Jeanine saw they were looking for volunteers and contacted the organization’s director, Kellan Morgan.

After some planning and fundraising, Jeanine, Robert, their two daughters, Elise (10) and Caroline (8), and their son Brian (21), traveled to El Sauce to help with the construction of a school in one of the rural communities.This trip was especially memorable because the family was able to see a promotion ceremony and witness the community's response to the new school. Jeanine traveled back to El Sauce to attend the school’s opening in February 2012. On a second family trip in 2013, their son Jordan (23) and his girlfriend, Elizabeth Vogt, joined as well.

Now, the Lupisellas are preparing for another trip, and their third school construction—this time working on two schools in the communities of Buena Vista and Casa de Zinc. But this trip also incorporates a new group: students and community members from the Lupisellas' area, together called Avon for Nicaragua. The roster includes Avon high school seniors, their high school librarian two fifth graders, members of the Avon Rotary and a few of the family members, and two teachers and a retired school counselor from Honeoye Falls-Lima. Altogether there are 19 volunteers.

Fundraising is no easy task, and the volunteers have been hard at work preparing for the trip, which is scheduled for February 2014. A pasta dinner in September raised $1,600 for the cause, and a sale of Fuente de Pino baskets this past August and barbecue in June also helped to raise awareness and funds for the trip. More recently, a Potluck Dinner & Benefit for Nicaragua brought together members from the surrounding communities of Livonia, Honeoye Falls, and Lima and raised $1,400.

The community of Buena Vista lies six kilometers from the center of El Sauce in the community of Ocotal. Casa de Zinc lies even farther, 12 kilometers from the center, and has very limited road access. The main economic activity is agriculture, with the principle crops being corn, beans, and wheat. There is no electricity or potable water, but there are clean-water wells.

The current two-room school acts as a preschool and elementary school, with 29 children attending. As the teacher, Alvaro David Pichardo, solicited various nonprofit and government organizations for renovations, Enlace Project learned of the opportunity and secured the site for the Lupisella’s next project. Casa de Zinc does not have a formal school house, but instead teaches 50 pre-school and elementary school students in a community member's house.

Both communities are very enthusiastic and look forward to meeting and working with Avon for Nicaragua.

To the Lupisellas, their work is about much more than building a school. Jeanine comments that learning from the people and experiencing the culture of Nicaragua changed her perspective on what matters most. Robert adds, “We have been able to meet some remarkable people. They have enriched our lives in so many ways.” But in the end, interacting with the community is truly the greatest benefit, and the most memorable part of the experience.

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