There have been so many changes since the beginning of 2006! Empowerment International and the communities it serves have moved forward in every way. Amazingly the increase of parental meeting and event participation rose from 35% to 98%. We now have active local and community volunteers as well as our amazing international volunteers. We continue to grow our partnerships with other organizations to leverage our combined resources. With a wonderful collaborative effort from our ground team in Central America (Dan Boyer, Kevin Boxer, Anielka Gutierrez, Marshall McCormick, Kelly Meeks, and Darcy Phillips) and the program participants (the children and their families), Empowerment International’s program is something we believe our donors and supporters can truly be proud of. Our program has continued to shape itself into something much more powerful than just providing scholarships.
Over this past year, we have witnessed a revolution in the interest of the children and their parents in school and education. There is a shared passion for education and the opportunity it brings. It is wonderful to walk through Villa Esperanza and see children outside their homes with their school books studying, often with their older siblings and parents sitting with them and participating. Children will often proudly run up to volunteers and visitors to show them their notebooks and exams.
The parents often will stop a volunteer or staff member to share concerns and questions. In the past year, we have learned techniques and processes for fostering this passion, interest, and investment in the future of the participants in the community. We feel we are getting closer to establishing a true community-maintained program in Villa Esperanza which will allow us to dedicate our personnel resources to other needy communities.
The gains this year have been due in large part to the dedication of our program volunteers. These volunteers have given three months to over one year of their time (and often over 40 hours a week) and their passion and dedication shines through in all they do. Along with the increased community participation, they have also built an infrastructure, such as a web-based database with participant information and a streamlined Sponsor a Child program that can be readily scaled as we expand to other communities. In addition, we have an annual Nicaragua Adventure Tour which all donors and interested supporters of EI are invited to attend. In the United States, our Board and volunteer staff continues to grow as does their dedication to the program, amidst their busy lives.
I am very excited about 2007 as we look toward continuing to refine our program to meet the needs of these communities and start the process of creating a reproducible program for another location in Nicaragua. I would like to thank each and every one of you for your ongoing support and belief in us and, most importantly, in the future of the children of Costa Rica and Nicaragua.