It is best to introduce Belen through Ashley Sullivan, one of our contacts in El Sauce.
I have known Belen for two years, ever since she was selected as a Ciudad Hermana scholarship recipient when she was in fifth grade. Students are selected as scholarship recipients for this program based on financial need and motivation. In Belen’s case, the school director recognized her family’s need for financial support due to the fact that Belen was being raised by a single mother who travels to Costa Rica to work because she has been unable to find work in El Sauce. While Belen’s mother is working (she goes for three months at a time, then returns for a short visit to see her children before having to return to work), Belen lives with her sister, brother-in-law, and niece. They all look out for each other, and their mother checks in with them often to make sure they are doing well. Belen has no contact with her father, as he left the family when she was young and formed another family and has never supported her family financially. While it is not ideal for a pre-teen to be raised by her 20-something sister, I truly believe that Belen is in good hands and has a lot of potential to do well. Her sister is very responsible, and is studying on Saturdays, which provides a great example for Belen of the importance of education. Her mother stays as involved as possible, and Belen seems to have matured quickly and well, taking more responsibility than most 12 year olds.
Belen has also participated in the Amigos en Accion program this year, and she is another student that I have come to love working with. She is a very respectful person, both of adults and of her classmates. She works very hard to do well in all of her classes, taking responsibility for her work. She also looks out for her classmates and is very empathetic. She notices when a classmate is struggling, either with classwork or with a difficult family or friend situation, and is willing to do what she can to help her classmate. Belen also works very hard in English class and has done extremely well in picking up on such a difficult language! Even though Belen can be a more introverted, quiet student, she stepped outside of her comfort zone during a 7 week music program that we were able to offer during Amigos en Accion with two volunteers from the US: she agreed to sing a solo in one of our songs, which she performed beautifully during the concert in front of all of the families and teachers! I am very proud of all that Belen has accomplished this year, and I believe that she has a lot of potential to do well in secondary school and beyond. Since her family is surviving on the income that her mom is able to earn working in Costa Rica, I think that receiving a ONE scholarship will be extremely helpful to the family in providing for Belen’s educational needs.
When we met with Belen and her mother and the rest of her family, it was clear that the family is careful and respectful. Their house is well arranged and clean, and the land around it was clean and carefully tended. Belen was quiet and a bit shy, but very serious about answering our questions carefully. We are excited to see where she goes in her schooling and in life!
Belen’s application letter to us included a very sweet drawing. Even though she has never seen a snowman in her life, Christmas calls for snowmen, apparently!
Dear patrons, I hope this finds you well and together with your families. This letter is because I want to ask for a scholarship because my family and I have very few resources.
I would like to obtain this scholarship to be able to move forward with my studies and make my dream a reality of being a professional when I am an adult.
I hope that you help me to continue and I promise you that I will fight to help my family move forward.
Sincerely, Belen Alexandra Monge Rocha
I will wait for your help, thank you and may God bless you. This year I learned a little English and next year I hope to be able to learn more.
Belen has been doing well in English, and the classes she is taking in El Sauce are really helping her university classes! We received this video from her that was an exam she had to do for school, and we think she just aced it! We’re really proud of her and how well she is doing in university.
Christa made a quick visit to Nicaragua to see all our students there. She was able to visit quite a bit with Belen, since Belen is working for the month of December with our contact, Marina at her clothing store. December is the busiest month for sales, so Marina needed Belen’s help. So every morning Belen would come over to get the key to the store, and she and Christa could talk about her year. Belen is such a lovely woman. She’s very humble and kind and calm. And she says she’s enjoying school, even though it’s hard.
Belen is studying only on Sundays in Leon. We wish we could support her to study daily, but the cost to rent a room in Leon is more than we can afford. This year, she took all basic courses. The courses changed every 8 weeks. She took things like philosophy, history, math, Spanish communication, and literature. She also took phonetics and basic English. Next year, in her second year of school, she will begin to take upper division courses only for her major: English grammar, conversation, etc.
Her course of study is five years. She passed all her classes this year and is able to move on to second year. Unfortunately, she had a little hiccup which we hope will not be too hard to remedy. She was sick the day she was supposed to go register her grades, so they weren’t noted, and it is as if she didn’t take any classes at all. She’s very discouraged, but once the vacation is over she will go talk to her teachers and to the university. We are certain she will be able to fix this, but what a disappointment after the entire year of work!
After talking with Belen (and hearing how much Karina’s English has improved after taking the English classes offered in El Sauce), we decided to support Belen in taking those classes as well. Since she only studies on Sundays at the university, she will have time during the week to go to these classes, offered by a local NGO called Enlace. Karina’s English has really improved, and for about $100 extra, we feel that this is an excellent investment for Belen. Since she doesn’t have a chance to practice every day in the university, this will give her a boost in her English. So we are very excited to help her be able to do this.
Belen’s year-end letter and accounting is translated here:
El Sauce, 27 December 2022
Good afternoon, dear foundation. A warm greeting and hug to all and to each one of you.
This is Belen, and I want to tell you what I enjoyed the most about my first year in the university. First of all, it was a little strange in the beginning, but eventually you get used to it. I was able to make new friends, I learned more about what’s outside El Sauce and I could recognize some abilities that I have not yet mastered.
The university is much different and more difficult than secondary school. It’s a more advanced level but also faster. There are new people, new classes and other forms of work and you have to fend for yourself in your classes.
The most difficult thing about studying at the university level is that the majority of inscriptions are online, and at times it is very difficult or you have problems with the system. Also that some of the people are completely different and don’t adapt to their social environment.
I’ll teach you a lesson from my classes. I am going to teach you how to introduce yourself in English:
Hello, my name is Belen. I am 17 years old. I am from El Sauce. I study first year of English. I hope to have been kind to you and we can relate.
I also wanted to thank you for this new opportunity to continue with this university scholarship. Thanks to all of you I can study and be a professional. I owe that honor to you. I send you all a warm hug again and I wish you all blessings and a happy new year.
My expenses were the following:
I used 250 cordobas every Sunday for transportation to the university, and sometimes 40 cordobas more for field trips. Lunch and workbooks equal from 70 to 280 cordobas for each subject. I have 4 subjects and in each one of them I buy workbooks or books. The other part is for supplies. I change subjects every three months. I have to change books and at times the covers for the classes. And at times incentives for the teachers when there are activities, such as in December, we have to give toys to children in the street. At other times we have to buy tickets to help the university.
Adding to my university studies I want to ask for a computer to make my work easier and save it, since in the internet cafes I can’t preserve my work.
We have accepted Belen for a post-secondary scholarship! We received her application and voted as a board to accept her for her university years studying English. We are so excited for her, and for the world to have another university student working to help her community and the world. The responses to her application questions are included here so you can read what she wrote in applying for the scholarship.
SECTION 1: Your personal experiences.
What is a challenge you have faced and how did you overcome it?
⁃ One of the challenges has been the covid-19 pandemic since this caused us family losses and also made us miss school. At first I was discouraged. I thought that my dreams of being a university graduate had ended, but then I told myself I can do it and I started school again with the necessary protection and I did what I could to save my school year and that’s how I was able to save my school year. I proposed it and I could.
Tell us about someone you admire and why you admire this person.
⁃ Well there is a very special person for me and she is the one I admire so much her name is Christa she is a great woman and is an example for me and for all the people around her she has a huge heart full of love that is enough to all of us is one of the most important women in my life she had the courage to help us along with all of the foundation Christa is more than a great person is like a mother to me.
SECTION 2: Your influences
Who has most influenced your life and why?
⁃ My mom has been one of the people who has always been influencing my studies in my life and her advice and lessons have helped me a lot, and what she longs for is for me to be someone to admire more and feel proud of me.
How has your education contributed to who you are?
⁃ A lot, it has made me a considerable person, above all it has taught me the value and respect for life.
SECTION 3: Your career
Why are you interested in this profession?
⁃ I am interested because first of all I really like the career, it also has many job opportunities.
How could you use this profession to help your community?
⁃ In my case, I would use this profession to help children learn this language, not only children but the entire student community so that they have better progress and communication in the English language.
Why would you be good or successful in this profession?
⁃ Because I really like it, I feel that it is one more way to communicate with foreigners and teach other people with this profession.
SECTION 4: Challenges
What types of challenges could occur for you during your university studies (homework, exams, your personal life, your family, your health etc.)
⁃ Any type of challenge could occur. I speak in general any situation can be a challenge but I know that with the help of everyone I could overcome it and move on.
Describe how you might respond to these challenges so that you can continue studying.
⁃ Raising awareness of my situation and trying to resolve it as soon as possible with the support of those around me.
SECTION 5: The future
Describe your goals and where you envision being in life in the next three, five, and ten years.
⁃ Well, it is not yet to my knowledge to know where I will be, but I imagine I imagine being here in Nicaragua working with foreigners as a translator or teaching people.
How would you use your education and your profession to help other girls and women with their education?
⁃ In my case, I would help other girls and women giving all my professional knowledge and transmitting education, respect and solidarity.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing your community? How could you help your community overcome this challenge?
⁃ My community faces an enormous challenge, day-to-day problems, one of which is education for children and young people who often do not attend school due to lack of interest from themselves and sometimes from their parents. In my case, I could help my community by advising young people and children to attend school. I will also offer my support by practicing my profession.
SECTION 6: The Scholarship
Why do you think you should receive this scholarship? Tell us about yourself, not about your family’s economic circumstances.
⁃ First of all I think I should receive this scholarship because I need it for my studies because I come from a low-income family my mother is a housewife with a very low salary because of her studies she can’t get another job because she couldn’t study in her childhood due to the limited resources of our family. On the other hand, my father is of an advanced age, he is already an older adult and I do not receive any financial help from him. During this school period it has been very difficult for me at times and I stopped attending the university because I did not have enough money and I have also had some difficulties such as buying brochures and other supplies.
I consider myself a good candidate to receive this scholarship opportunity since I am a very applied, responsible, studious student and this financial aid will help me a lot. My goal is to make a difference in my community and this scholarship will absolutely be the one that would make a difference when it comes to providing the education I need to achieve my future. In addition to that, I have many job opportunities since it is an uncrowded and very important career, there are several types of jobs, whether it is working as a translator, as a tourist guide, a teacher, also working in companies with foreigners or either in the foreigner you could also work in hotels in call centers. There is also work with foreigners or training young people with this second language. This scholarship will help me a lot personally but it would be the only way that with your help I can finish my career to help others
Belen also wrote a lovely note to the board in English. She had already written a thank you note for her scholarship, but she wrote to us saying she wanted to send us something more “personal.” So here it is!
Back in March, we got some great news along with Belen’s final letter to us. She was accepted into the university to study English! She is taking classes on Saturdays at the local campus of the university in Leon, so she doesn’t have to travel much. We are really happy, since she had told us early in the year that English really was her first choice! We are still waiting to receive all of her application answers, but when we get them, we’ll post them so people can read her answers. For now, here is her final letter to the foundation. We look forward to receiving her letters in English one day!
El Sauce 03 March, 2022
Dear Christa and ONE Foundation, I hope this finds you very well, and filled with life and happiness.
It is a pleasure for me to greet you, and also to offer an apology to all of you for sending the card very late. I have had many problems and difficulties that meant I couldn’t finish this letter of thanks.
I want to tell you all that I have missed all of you very much. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other, although it made me very happy to be able to see, hug and chat with Christa. It was a pleasure that she was there in one of the most important steps of my life. It was a wonderful day, filled with happiness and smiles.
And I also want to tell you that I am very happy. Thanks to God I was approved to enter the university. I didn’t have any problems and I am very happy and satisfied because I was accepted into my first choice of study. I hope this will be one of the best experiences for me and for all of you.
I also want all of you to know that you are an inspiration to continue forward. First, I give infinite thanks to God, and to all of you for having helped me in all ways. I also thank my parents who with their efforts are helping me in giving me advice. You don’t know how grateful I am in my heart for the opportunity.
Many thanks, blessings to all of you, and I promise I won’t let you down.
With love and affection, I say goodbye.
Sincerely, Belen Monge
Belen graduated with Tatiana in December of 2021. All the graduates wore purple as a tribute to one of the teachers who died of Covid. She was Belen’s English teacher, and it very strongly affected Belen, who couldn’t go to school for a little while after that. She said to Christa during a visit to their house that she was glad the students voted to honor her teacher in that way.
Belen says she wants to either study dentistry or English if she can’t get into dentistry school. While she was in school, she also took two computer courses (basic and advanced) that were offered by a technical institute in town. She said she felt it would help with her university studies but also perhaps help her find a job before or even during her university studies. She did really well in both, and proudly showed off her certificates of completion.
We’ve included a video of Belen getting her diploma, and also one of what happens at a party when you are trying to get all the young women to thank everyone for their help and support in their education. Rest assured, they are thanking all the donors for their help!
Belen managed to survive the year and pass all her classes with a 71% average. Considering that they couldn’t go to school for a couple months due to a Covid death in the town, we are delighted that she made it through the year. She sent us her year end letter, which is translated below. In February she enters her final year of secondary school! Where does the time go?
29 December 2020
Dear Christa and ONE Foundation. I hope this finds you healthy. I am grateful for the scholarship help this year and for your intention to continue helping us.
We want to share with all of you that the biggest challenge for me this year was having to leave class because of the pandemic and the hurricanes, because we had to take care of ourselves. The best part of the year was that we are all well, thank God, and that also are building our school, which makes us all very happy.
I’m really proud of having completed my school year. What I am most hoping for next year is to be able to reach my goal of completing my fifth year, which is for me the most exciting.
I am still in the process of preparing myself because we have to choose different careers from those of our friends, and because high school is the most beautiful stage of our studies but we are also going to meet new friends. I would like to study in the career of dentistry, which I would study in the city of Leon.
I say goodbye, very grateful for your help. I hope that you continue to help us and I hope that you take care of yourselves. And that you have a merry Christmas and a happy new year.
Sincerely, Belen Monge
Meghan and Christa had a wonderful, albeit too short, visit with Belen in December. She has turned into such a lovely young lady, and she really seems to be enjoying school. We had a long conversation about how much she enjoys geography, which of course Christa loved to hear! Belen really is a lovely person, very quiet but quick to smile, and very kind. We are so excited to watch her last two years of high school. In her final letter for the year, she talks about another interesting subject they are studying, which is globalization. One aspect of globalization that we love is the ability to travel to places like El Sauce and meet young women like Belen.
El Sauce, Nicaragua 6 December 2019
Hello, I hope you find yourselves very well and prosperous. I want to thank you for continuing to help me.
I want to tell you that the achievement of which I am most proud from this year is that I received a diploma for having participated in the training “Promotion of Values for Coexistence with Compassion” as participants in Counseling in the Educational Community.
The class I liked the most was social sciences, where there is geography and history. The subject most interesting to me was “Globalization.” It explained that today the world is experiencing constant change and advances in diverse aspects of human life. This has generated a systemic transformation which has evolved as human beings seek to satisfy their needs.
My favorite joke is about Pepito. When someone in class says “Facebook,” he responds, “I like! I like! I like!”
And I am excited because next year I will be going into fourth year and although it is very difficult, I am anxious for it to come.
I say goodbye with a lot of love, waiting for you always and with a heartfelt wish that you have a Merry Christmas
Sincerely, Belen Monge
Belen has been doing really well in school; her midterm average was 86%! Clearly she has found a rhythm, and we hope she continues to enjoy school and thrive! Her letter to us for the midterm expresses a lot of pride for her accomplishments in school—and sports!
Dear Christa and the team from the ONE Foundation, I hope this finds you healthy and filled with life.
I want to tell you that the best thing that happened to me this year up until now is that I have played a lot of sports and I have learned a lot about volleyball that before I didn’t know. I feel very happy to have learned and enjoyed myself in such a healthy way.
The difference that I see in myself between now and the beginning of the school year is that before I was getting lower grades and now my academic performance has risen.
I believe the reason for this difference is that at the beginning of the year my classes were a little more difficult and with time I became accustomed to them.
I think the difference between now and the end of the year will be that my grades will continue to improve.
I say goodbye with much love, wishing you many blessings.
Sincerely, Belen Alexandra Monge Rocha
Belen ended her year with an average of 80%, which is really great. As ever, she is thoughtful and quiet and very respectful. When we visited, her mother was in Costa Rica working, and would not return until after the new year, so we spoke with Belen, her sister in law, and her niece (who mostly stood around and smiled a lot!). She’s enjoying school, and is very happy to be living in town, so she doesn’t have such a long walk, or bike ride to school every day. Her final letter to us was really cute, with a big red Christmas stocking, and lots of English, despite the fact that the letter ended with, “I don’t speak English.” Anything in quote marks was written in English.
El Sauce, 4 December, 2018
Dear ONE Foundation, I hope this finds you very well.
My family and I are very grateful to you for the scholarship, which has been much help to me, and thank you for helping me realize my dreams.
I want to tell you that this year was very fun because I was involved in many sports events with other schools. We also learned how to lose and win, because we lost at soccer but won in volleyball and athletics.
With this I say “thanks very much” and may you have “one good happy merry Christmas.”
Sincerely, Belen Alexandra Monge Rocha
Belen is doing great in her second year of high school! She received an 86% average, which is wonderful. We are very proud of her efforts and hope that she continues to thrive. We received her mid-year letter to us. For this letter, we asked the girls to describe something they accomplished this year, something they’d like to accomplish for the rest of the year, and to tell us their favorite story or legend from Nicaragua. We’re learning a lot! Here is Belen’s letter to us:
El Sauce, 31 July, 2018
Dear Christa and the Organization, I send you a cordial greeting and I hope this finds you all healthy and together with your families.
Thank you for helping me all this time. You have given me much help, I hope that you continue helping me for the rest of my time in secondary school. I want to do well this year in order to pass 8th grade (second year of secondary school) and meet with my family at the end of the year. I want to tell you that I was a cumplidora this year with an average of 87%, thanks to god, because I made a really big effort.
I hope that you are all doing well there, and that you are enjoying yourselves, since I am doing well here and enjoying myself.
With this I say goodbye and I hope you have a very nice day.
Sincerely, Belen A. Monge Rocha
My favorite story is: La Carreta Nagua
They say there are a lot of them in the streets of El Sauce at midnight. It is a cart with two oxen made of bones and behind are some skeletons with candles. They travel all the streets and scare everyone a lot. Later they disappear, hiding themselves in dark places.
Belen finished her first year in high school with an 80% average, which is really terrific. She’s a good student, very serious and motivated, and she tries really hard. In addition, Belen’s family moved into a house in town, which is wonderful. She won’t have to travel so far to get to school and other activities, and she now lives in a bit more safe and secure house and neighborhood. Belen’s mother is back from Costa Rica for a few months, so it is really wonderful for the family to have her there. When we visited in December, we saw that Belen remains a lovely, humble young lady, with a smile to melt your heart.