by Lucía Hodgson
US Board of Directors, Fundación A. Jean Brugger
Several years ago, having a university diploma was the only element necessary to make you competitive in the labor field and stand out from other candidates in Nicaragua. More recently, the basic skills expected of a professional have changed significantly.
In the same way that our society grows and evolves, so do job profiles. Some of the trends that have influenced these changes, although not the only ones, are the internationalization of companies/organizations and the incorporation of new technologies to execute daily tasks.
It is necessary that our youth have access to opportunities that allow them to develop practical skills, outside of traditional classrooms. This can mean internships, professional apprenticeships, vocational workshops, and courses that ensure proficiency in the most commonly used technological tools and programs.
Many students about to graduate don’t know how to write a resume, how to behave in a job interview, or what questions to ask the future boss; much less how to negotiate a salary and employment terms. Some do not yet have confidence in their capability to learn more complex computer programs, and therefore do not apply to certain job vacancies.
These capacities apply to employment for someone else, but what if we want to be entrepreneurs? Although it is seen a little more often now, entrepreneurship courses and workshops are not commonly accessible, and not all curricula include such a component.
For many of us, internships, workshops and extra courses were part of our academic path, but what happens when the internships available aren’t available in the municipalities or rural areas of the country? What happens when the cost of acquiring practical skills is very high for a family? We are leaving behind a significant number of outstanding young people, and taking away the opportunity to acquire certain skills that they could then replicate in their communities.
In the last two years, and as a result of the socio-political crisis that Nicaragua has suffered since 2018, we see a worrying trend regarding the number of available jobs and the number of people looking for work. The Fundación Nicaragüense para el Desarrollo Económico y Social - FUNIDES estimates a growth in the unemployment rate of almost 4% in three years. From 3.7% in 2017 to 7.3% projected for 2020.
Similarly, a publication of the newspaper La Prensa about job opportunities available in the country analyzes how, in the last 3 years, there has been an increase in unemployment. At the end of 2020 there will be 116,000 more Nicaraguans looking for work than in 2017. In addition, the requirements to qualify for vacancies are increasingly demanding and more competitive than in times of economic growth, and wages are lower.
These elements are alarming, but at the same time confirm the validity and urgency of increasing investment in youth, and of strengthening initiatives in favor of education in Nicaragua. As a Foundation, this information pushes us to continue thinking about more and better opportunities for our scholars. Professional practices, vocational guidance workshops, and close monitoring and counseling can give that added value to the curricula and professional perspectives of our scholars.
To counterbalance these imbalances and alarming data organizations such as Fundación A. Jean Brugger (FAJB) and others in the country, strive to provide scholarship opportunities to young people from municipalities and rural areas. In the case of FAJB, in the municipality of San Juan del Sur.
In these programs the impact of university scholarships can be maximized if combined with capacity-development programs for scholarship students. This is the case of Fundación A. Jean Brugger, which in addition to providing resources for young people to complete a university career, seeks to increase the chances of employment and development of their students. These processes occur as part of the community service program that offers a space for young people to develop work experience in their field of study and, at the same time, replicate their knowledge in the communities.
These internal processes have given a significant advantage to the capacity building of students that have graduated in FAJB’s 20 years of operation, ensuring that 70% of our graduates in 2019 were employed despite a deep national economic crisis. In 2017, 95% of our graduates had full-time employment or owned their own businesses. It is here that we can confirm the need to continue innovating, and the effectiveness of the efforts made in these two decades.
In these efforts to continue opening doors and deepening our strategies, in 2020 the FAJB has found an opportunity for two humanities students to do a 6-month internship at the Colegio Nórdico Internacional (CNI) in Managua.
Students will be teacher’s assistants for children in the first years of education (from preschool to third grade), and would learn from the experience of the Center for Educational and Social Research (CIASES), which has developed a comprehensive early childhood educational system, the “Chiqui Gym” educational project, which is implemented in the CNI.
This is the first step. This year it will serve both parties as a pilot project, to refine and improve collaboration. We look forward to continuing benefiting talented young people and supporting their professional growth.
This week we welcomed 10 new students into the Fundación A. Jean Brugger scholarship program. This brings the number of students with scholarships in 2020 to 47!
On February 5 the new students were welcomed by founder Jean Brugger and Program Director Alvaro Novoa. The students learned about Fundación policies and the community service program which they will participate in as part of their scholarship.
Congratulations to: Yendri Pérez (teaching), Nancy Ruiz (veterinary medicine), Marjeling Delgadillo (nursing), Judy Gómez (teaching), Jackeline Vanegas (banking and finance), Alicia Monjarreth (psychology) Sergio Cordero (communications), Carlos Zapata (special education), Jeyson Pérez (electrical engineering), Junior Carmona (electrical engineering).
We are still looking for sponsors for other excellent scholars. If you are interested, please click here
We are turning 20! YES, it's been 20 years since Fundación A. Jean Brugger began its work in San Juan del Sur with the Uniform Project.
Soon after she arrived in San Juan, Jean Brugger started working with Lilliam Reyes to provide school uniforms and shoes to children in rural communities. The very first delivery was in February 2000 to the children of the communities of Papaturro and Bernardino.
At that time, if a child did not have a uniform, they could not attend school, which made it difficult for the children from families with limited resources to learn and gain skills.
Lilliam had created a local women’s group called Asociación de Mujeres Bahía, which empowered women by teaching them new skills, including sewing. For the Uniform Project, the women would go to a community, measure the children, purchase fabric, and sew the uniforms. The day of delivery was celebrated by the entire community.
In 7 years, the Uniform Project provided uniforms to more than 1000 children in 21 rural communities and 3 of the poorest neighborhoods of San Juan del Sur. In 2006 Nicaraguan law changed and uniforms were no longer a requirement to attend public schools in the country.
In celebration of the anniversary, we visited El Carrizal, where uniforms had been delivered in 2006. We contacted the young people who had appeared in a photo with Jean and they all enthusiastically agreed to meet and take a new photo. Thank you to Esperanza Toval and Belkys Guillen for helping organize the celebration in El Carrizal.
The Uniform Project was supported by various donors, including the Sunrise O’Fallon Rotary Club (O’Fallon, Illinois), which continues to support the Fundación to this day.
Fundación A. Jean Brugger has a new opportunity for sponsors in 2020! FAJB provides university scholarships to young people of the San Juan del Sur area. University is quite affordable in Nicaragua, yet the cost of a full scholarship is high enough that many people haven’t been able to experience the joy of helping a young person achieve their dream of a professional career.
In response, we have started a new tuition-only scholarship, for those students who will attend a university in Rivas. Now, for just $50 a month, you can help a young person become a nurse, or teacher, or accountant. And as a bonus be welcomed as a new member of your student’s family. To learn more about the students, click here and scroll down to the tuition-only scholarships.
The construction of the new offices for Fundación A. Jean Brugger has begun. We are proud to say that 5 of our current or former scholarship students are part of this project. Engineer Aurora Perez is working for the contractor, MultiServicios, as assistant engineer. Henry Sevilla, who is close to graduation as a Civil Engineer, is doing his internship with MultiServicios. Engineer Luis Mendoza, Engineer Kenneth Avendaño, and Engineering student Jordan Marin form the Supervisory staff, who will assure that the procedures and materials match the construction plans. We feel that the skill these young people are bringing to the project is a mark of the success of the scholarship program and of the university system of Nicaragua. And it is a fulfillment of one part of the dream for this project, that our graduates would be part of making the dream a reality.
Luis Mendoza, Supervisor, Jordan Marin, Quality Control, Aurora Perez, assistant to resident engineer, Henry Sevilla, intern, Kenneth Avendaño, Quality Control
Fundación A. Jean Brugger fosters a sense of community service in our scholarship students, and we are excited to report that a group of former students have formed a committee to help their 70 fellow graduates continue to serve.
The group’s first initiative was to jointly sponsor a student. In 2018, 18 graduates committed to make monthly donations to support Jorge Ramos study Civil Engineering in Managua.
Another objective of the Graduate Committee is to support construction of the new Fundación offices.
This group of young people is motivated and excited to support Fundación as a token of thanks to Mrs. Jean Brugger, for all the support she has given to the children, youth and seniors of San Juan del Sur.
You can also support the objective of this group of young people by donating for the construction of the new offices of the Fundacion.
Fundación A. Jean Brugger’s new Board of Directors is made up of graduates of the scholarship program.
President German Sandino Pérez, attorney, has his own law office in San Juan del Sur; Vice-president Karla Membreño, Physiotherapist, works at Zen Yoga; Fiscal Nadiezdha Ibarra, graduate in Banking and Finance, is administrator at the new Plaza La Talanguera; First Treasurer Belkys Guillen, graduate in English and currently studying Public Accounting, works at Discover Realty; and Secretary Francisco Tellez, graduate in Language and Literature, is a teacher at San Juan del Sur’s public high school.
In addition, long-time resident of San Juan del Sur Kathleen Knight will serve as second Treasurer. Kathleen has sponsored Fundación students for over 15 years and is also a member of the Fundación’s U.S. Board of Directors.
The new members of the Board were elected on April 11. A welcoming reception was held on May 3, at which founder Jean Brugger told the new Board members, “Part of my original vision for the Fundación was that the sponsored students would be inspired to transmit the values of education to the next generation. I am thrilled that this dream is being realized with this new Board, and feel confident that the Fundación is in good hands for the future.”
Together with Jean we welcome the new members who will work closely with the staff to further the vision of Fundación A. Jean Brugger.
On April 28, the economic sciences students received a training on reading comprehension. This group will be doing a weekly program promoting reading and writing with 30 children in the Cebadilla community.
The training was given by Professor Freddy Baltodano Meza, whose specialty is Pedagogy. The scholarship students were given instruction in the methods of teaching reading.
Currently, a large percentage of children face serious difficulties in learning to read and write. This constitutes a serious obstacle endangering their success in school. This group of Fundación A. Jean Brugger scholars developed a community service program in order to combat this problem.
Both the medical science and economics science students attended second training sessions in the first week of May.
In their community service, the medical science students give talks on reproductive and sexual health to women in rural communities around San Juan del Sur. In this latest seminar they learned about the risks and complications of teen-age pregnancy and the importance of breastfeeding in the first months of life.
The seminar was given May 4 by Dr. Álvaro Cortez, a specialist in Reproductive and Sexual Health, in collaboration with Dr. Kim Priebe, an obstretrician/gynecologist from the United States.
The economic science students are implementing a reading program in Cebadilla for their service project. Their seminar, on May 10, was about methodologies and didactic tools that are beneficial in teaching reading comprehension and writing to children.
This seminar was given by Professor Freddy Baltodano.
We are pleased that our scholars are working so hard preparing for their community service projects, so that their work can have the maximum impact on the people they are serving.
Assisting San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, through education and opportunity