A SCHOOL FOR SIVIWAS
There is a small river in northern Nicaragua known as the Rio Bocay. Its strikingly lovely valley runs north to Honduras through the lush green mountains of Jinotega province. For most of its length it is the only “road” in the region - its long dugout canoes, powered by small outboard motors and young men with poles, are the only public transportation.
If you disembark near a certain two-room school, climb the high mud bank, and then walk into the mountains on horse trails and cow paths for four hours, over steep hills and muddy gullies, you may arrive at a small farming community known as Siviwas. Perhaps 30 families live in small wooden houses they build themselves of chain-sawed boards cut from the forest. They are subsistence farmers, growing maiz and frijoles (corn and red beans), some of which they bag and sell for their small cash income. The fields run right up the steep hillsides. Planting, tilling, harvesting is all by hand – they have no equipment, not even horse-drawn.
A couple of years ago, a young man from Siviwas, Noel, asked at the Kayaskita clinic (which we helped build) if we could help the men of Siviwas build a school for their 50 or so children. The community had made rudimentary attempts to educate the kids themselves, but most of the adults are barely literate, if that, so they needed a better way. In Nicaragua, if a community provides a school building which meets government standards, the Ministry of Education will provide a teacher.
I have worked since 2009 with Ronnie and Angi Hopkins, a missionary couple who have been active in the remote communities along the Rio Bocay valley. Ronnie worked with Noel and the villagers of Siviwas to form a school committee, formally acquire a plot of land in the center of the community, and make a plan to build a school. They put out the word that they needed financing for the new school project, and I responded. The opportunity to make such a difference for these children and their families was too much to pass up! I told Ronnie I would agree to provide $15,000 to purchase cement and other materials, and to pay a construction leader to work with the local men to build a two-room concrete and wood school house in Siviwas. And also to equip it with desks, books, and other supplies to make it a real school. Elvin Veldon, from Kayaskita, agreed to lead the project; cement, rebar, roofing tin, etc. were brought in by a six-by-six truck over horse trails, in the last days of the dry season. Sand for concrete was dug from the creeks, screened by hand, and over a thousand cement blocks were molded, one at a time. The site was leveled with shovels, trenches dug for footers and the walls begun.
As I write this, four months later, the building is almost complete – walls are up, the roof is on, the concrete floors are hard and smooth. The Ministry of Health even held a clinic in the unfinished building, seeing over 300 patients, and vaccinating 90 dogs against rabies! We will soon be sending the final $5,000 to equip the new school.
With the generosity of our Holley church, and a few other caring individuals, we have been able to help build a school that most of us will see only in pictures, in a part of the world we will never experience. A blessing to children we will know only in our prayers. And surely to us, as well.
A wise young pastor once told me, “the Lord doesn’t call the qualified, He calls the willing. And then He makes a way.” Mysterious, indeed!
Don Welch, August, 2020