Respect for and a desire to give back to the local community have always been an essential component of the Gran Pacifica Beach & Golf Resort philosophy. Time and again, Gran Pacifica has proven its commitment to corporate social responsibility by partnering with nonprofit charity organizations from near and far to improve the lives of native Nicaraguans.
Help Them Help Themselves, a local organization dedicated to providing resources for the most in-need populations to lift themselves out of challenging circumstances, is one such group that Gran Pacifica has worked together with to effect positive change. Their most recent successful initiative involved setting up an Internet receiving tower in the small, out-of-the-way village of El Zapote. In a place where many inhabitants have never left the village even to see the capital city of Managua, just over an hour’s drive away, access to the worldwide web opens up doors that would have been unimaginable just weeks ago. It’s no exaggeration to say that for many people in El Zapote, young and old, this new devlopment will be life changing.
The story of Help Them Help Themselves’ endeavors in El Zapote goes back at least four years, to when the organization’s volunteers built a school for the village children. It’s fitting that HTHT’s main collaborator in this recent project is also in the business of education: the St. James-Assiniboia School Division in Manitoba, Canada – miles away, but on the same page about the importance of giving children the tools to learn. Their remote contribution consisted of an Internet tower, routers, a laptop, and a projector – all essential components to establish a functioning online connection between El Zapote and the wider world. Thanks to their generous donation of the necessary technology, students in both Central and North America will benefit.
“Distance education” should be a familiar concept to most everyday Internet users, even if the term itself is new. In an era of unprecedented connectedness, anyone with online access can take classes in every subject imaginable, from a two-hour workshop on Photoshop tricks to a semester-long course in macroeconomics from professors at Stanford University, all without leaving the comfort of their own home. In the case of El Zapote, distance education will enable a direct relationship between Nicaraguan students and North American teachers, and vice versa.
Thanks to Skype’s video calling capacity, students in El Zapote can learn English and other skills from international teachers face-to-face (at least in a digital sense). While there are plenty of schoolchildren who will benefit from this exciting new technology, adults in the village will reap the benefits of distance education as well. As sugar cane harvesting jobs are being increasingly phased out by machinery, older Nicaraguans can take this chance to re-skill and find new ways to support themselves and their families.
Rather than this new distance learning arrangement being a one-way street, Nicaraguans in the village will also have the opportunity to become teachers themselves. As native Spanish speakers, they possess the unique ability to share their language directly with English speakers who might otherwise have to resort to books, websites, or classes by non-native speakers. They can also seize the opportunity for a cultural exchange, teaching far-off Americans and Canadians about woodworking, for example, or authentic techniques for cooking Nicaraguan food.
Should this first foray into Nicaraguan-North American distance learning go well, Help Them Help Themselves hopes to expand the initiative into other schools and villages in the area. Whether such an expansion takes off or not, El Zapote’s new Internet connection is certain to make waves in and around the village for years to come.