Students International is an organization of full time missionaries working in occupation-based ministry sites who host short-term teams that partner with them throughout the year. Our full-time missionaries work in their field of expertise, whether it be dentistry, agriculture, or one of seventeen other fields, with the aim to transform a community by meeting the physical, spiritual, mental and emotional needs of the people. The short-term outreach participants have the opportunity to discover their calling and put their passion into practice as they minister along side our staff on long-term projects. We hope to see the outreach participants and the poor we serve transformed into the likeness of Christ. We work in four countries in Latin America: Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Guatemala and Nicaragua. In each of these countries we have intentionally worked with the same groups of poor communities with a holistic, long-range approach.
"At SI Nicaragua I saw hope springing up from the most dry, barren ground: Valle de Volcan. “Valle” is a place that could appear hopeless from the outside. To get there, you drive up a long dirt road which dead ends at the city dump. Right behind the city dump is the community of Valle. You get dropped off on dirt roads with rows and rows of shacks made out of whatever sort of wood or metal is available. There are no cars; no one can afford them. There are no shops or restaurants. There are stray dogs, kids running around, and neighbors handing their babies over the fence to be watched while someone runs an errand. There is a church and by church I mean some wooden posts with straw on 3 sides with an open “doorway.” There are no schools… except the one that Students International has started. One of the things SI does so well is meeting tangible needs in the communities where we serve. Our staff started building relationships in Valle and saw many needs – one of them being a school.
Elianor has a passion for education. She started talking to families in the community and a school was born – a school that meets in the backyard of a student named Marvin. It’s a two-sided tin shack with a roof. You may be picturing desks and a chalkboard at school. Not in Valle. Elianor walks the neighborhood before school and calls through the fences of each student’s house that it’s time for school. Within 15 minutes, about 20 kids balancing plastic chairs on their heads are making their way down the dirt road to Marvin’s backyard. They put their chairs that they’ve brought from home in a semi-circle and face one of the tin walls where Elianor tapes up lessons. When it’s time to work on something, the students get on their knees in the dirt and use their chairs as desks.
When I was there, I had the privilege of working with Carmen. Her family had recently moved to Valle and Elianor is getting to know them. Upon building a relationship with them, she discovered that Carmen is 12 years old has never been to school a day in her life. The week before we arrived in Nicaragua, Carmen had started attending school. I got to work with her on writing her letters and learning to spell her name. You know what that is? It’s hope – springing up from dry and fruitless ground. Without Elianor and her love for these kids and their families, Valle would have no educational opportunities and without that, we all know how hopeless a future can seem for these kids. But God sees them, he knows them and through SI and our unbelievable staff, he’s bringing hope to communities like Valle."