This is Hazel Karina, but she likes to go by Karina. Karina lives in a little hamlet in the mountains about an hour (driving on a very bad road) outside of El Sauce, Nicaragua, called Ocotal (not the big city up in the north of the country).
It is a very beautiful, but very poor community, and there is no school for children after 6th grade, unless they can live with someone in El Sauce during the week. Karina’s family consists of her mother, Carmen; her father, Gustavo, and four children: Lester, Karina, Eliezer and Jenifer. They do not have a steady income, and instead cultivate corn, beans and rice to survive. When occasional tourist groups come up to the village, Carmen does tortilla making demonstrations and Gustavo works as a guide for the groups. This not being a tourist area, however, those times are few and far between, and that’s the only income they have. Each child has only one pair of shoes. Karina and her older brother Lester do have family to stay with in El Sauce, and she has been attending the local public high school, but the economic hardship the family lives under may force her to leave school, since they often don’t have money for shoes, supplies, etc.
Karina’s sponsor says she is very gentle and motivated to learn, and that there is a great deal of support from both parents for the children to go to school. From her letter to us:
“Based on the long conversation we had, I could tell that Karina absolutely loves school and is very motivated to continue her studies. She explained to me all about what she had been learning during her last school year, and since she had an opportunity to learn some English in school, she shared with me everything she could remember. She was excited to learn more words to add to her vocabulary. She is a very motivated young lady and desperately wants to continue her studies so that she can achieve her goals.”
In Karina’s letter to us, she said that she’d like to be a tourist guide, because it’s “fun to travel with tourists,” and that she wants to learn to speak English. There are many older children in this village (and countless others) who do not attend school past the age of 11 or 12, so the opportunity to continue schooling through high school is a treasure. ONE is happy to help Karina achieve her goals. Her sponsor is convinced she might even be able to attend and succeed in college, which would be wonderful.
There is a lot to catch up on with Karina. She has gone through so much in the past couple of years. She is still in school, although between the political unrest of a couple years ago and the pandemic, she spent a lot of time either out of school or studying virtually. She’s had some health issues, and is now also sporting a fancy new pair of braces! She has a wonderful boyfriend named Kevin, and he seems like a great person. She met him in her classes at school. His family lives in the nearby city of Chinandega, and they’ve visited each other’s homes quite a bit.
Karina’s best buddy, her cat Sebastian, died from a kidney tumor. She was devastated, and it took her a little while to get over it. Now she has three kitties, including Sophie, who looks just like Seba.
The really exciting thing is that Karina is getting ready to graduate soon! She is in her last year of school, and she will be able to graduate after doing her practicum and a little bit more coursework. She is currently doing her practicum at the Mayor’s office in El Sauce. She is living there for a few months and doing all sorts of things in the office, such as accounting, bookkeeping, talking to visitors, etc. She says she really likes the work, which is great.
Even more exciting for us, is that the board asked Karina if she would be a mentor to Raquel, so that Raquel has an older (but not too old!) Nicaraguan woman to talk to, do things with, discuss the usual suspects (boys, grades, etc.). We’ve noticed that girls who do really well in primary school start to fade in secondary school. Hormones, boys, the harder school work—it all takes a toll. We thought Karina would be the perfect mentora, since she cares so much about school, and has managed to have a boyfriend without it derailing her education.
Karina jumped full on into this project. She simply loves it, and she and Raquel have met several times to discuss various themes that Karina puts together. The most recent was why it’s good to wait to get pregnant. They’ve gone to Leon to the museums and the cathedral. And they meet for lunch and snacks to discuss things. It’s been a wonderful partnership, and I hope we can do more of it. We tried to get Odalys to join in, and she did join for a couple of sessions, but she appears to have less interest, which is sad. But for now, Raquel has a great older sister to talk to, and Karina can do something she does so well: be a great teacher and friend!
February 2019 update
Karina is just beginning her third year in the university. She attends every Saturday and is still going strong in her tourism studies. The university was closed down for a few months during the violence of 2018, but instead of make all the students lose the year, they just kept going so the students could finish the year and move on. So Karina got one Saturday off and she was right back at it for her third year. She is simply loving it. Her final grades for 2018 weren’t super high, but she didn’t fail any classes, and given that their entire country was in upheaval for about five months, we think she’s doing just great. She’s been taking field trips with her class to learn about the rest of her country, and doing projects designed around tourism. And she has a new cat named Sebastian, whom she adores. She continues to make us incredibly proud and happy for her.
December, 2016 – Karina’s Graduation!
This will be the last official entry for Karina, which makes us incredibly happy, since the reason is that she graduated!
She did it! On December 3, 2016, Hazel Karina Martinez Martinez graduated from secondary school in El Sauce, Nicaragua. In attendance were three members of the ONE board (Christa Sadler, Janeece Henes and Meghan Haslam), a group of students from Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy, and many adoring family members and friends.
Karina is the first student to graduate from secondary school with our scholarship program, and we couldn’t be happier. She is a lovely and wonderful young lady: funny, kind, humble, and loving. She has worked very hard these past five years to achieve this, and when you realize the odds she was up against, it makes it all the more wonderful.
Karina comes from a tiny village about 90 minutes out of town. Up until last year, there was no option for high school in her village, so she had to study in town. She did this by studying Saturdays, and working as a preschool teacher in her village (which paid a tiny bit, but not much at all). Her parents did not attend high school, and Karina and her brother Eliezer, who graduated at the same time, will be the first children in the family to attend the university.
Karina is studying for her college entrance exam, which she takes on January 12, 2017. It’s a little like the SAT, but the results of the exam determine which program she can study in college. At this point, she has three options. In order of preference for her: a career in tourism, trabajo social (social work), or ciencias sociales (social science). She will learn the results of the exam on January 24, and classes at the Universidad Autonoma de Leon Nicaragua begin on February 11.
She has it all planned. Karina, her brother, and a cousin will live in Leon (about 2 hours from El Sauce), and share a room. She will work during the week, take English classes at night, and study at the university on Saturdays. She is waiting to hear about a job, and we’ll keep you posted.
The graduation day was a wonderful one, and it was a joy to be there. In photos, here is the day:
The night of the graduation, ONE threw a party for all the girls, to celebrate Karina’s graduation (as well as Alondra and Tatiana, who graduated from 6th grade and are entering secondary school), as well as to introduce our girls to the group that came from FALA. Although the night started a little slowly, pretty soon we were playing getting-to-know-you games, and musical chairs, eating wonderful carne asada and learning how to dance Nica style from Teresa, our resident dancer. The evening culminated in a big cake with blue frosting (for the color of the Nicaraguan flag). Karina started the frosting fight, and by the end of the night, there wasn’t a single person not covered with frosting. Too bad we had no fun at all!
Meghan and Christa spent the night with Karina and her family, in order to be able to give Karina her graduation presents. The board decided to give her $100 cash, to do whatever she wanted with. She told us she wanted to save it to remember us by! We also gave her some other presents, some from the board, and some from Christa.
Karina’s final letter to the board and our donors is a sweet one.
Dear donors, hello and how are you? I hope you are content and happy.
I want you to know that I am so happy to have graduated and to know that you have helped me to this point.
Thank you for all your help, I never would have accomplished this without you because there was very little work and I never would have found work to make enough money.
I am very happy and grateful to all of you for everything that you have bestowed upon me and also for helping the other girls, who also will come to graduate and can move forward with their dreams like me.
I will continue with my studies and now I will be able to work. I am very happy to have learned many things and I am sure I will do well.
Thank you again, to all of you, and may God bless you that you can gain much more.
I will always remember you, and you will be in my mind and in my heart. Someday I will get to know you.
To Alex, thank you for the flower (tatoo) that you got for me. I am excited for that, although I think that it will hurt. My friends say that it hurts, I don’t know. I don’t have one on my body.
Thank you for the gift. I will do something good with it, to always remember you in my mind. I love you all very much.
To Christa and Meghan also, my mother and my sister. Many hugs to everyone. With love,
We will miss posting news about Karina regularly, but we will keep you informed from time to time. There is no way we are going to lose touch with this beautiful young lady, and we cannot wait to see where she goes in life. This gal tiene ganas (she’s motivated!), and she has already beaten the odds by being 18 and not being married or having children. We have no doubt that when she does choose to start a family, she’ll be prepared and ready to care for them. Until then, she’s off on the adventure of a lifetime. Congratulations, Karina! You deserve every happiness and every success in the world.
Karina is doing so well! She is able to live at home and study on Saturdays because there is now a bus that travels once per day to and from her village. She heads down the mountain on a Friday afternoon and back up on a Sunday morning. It’s still not ideal, but it’s obvious she’s making the best of it. She’s been working as a teacher at a local preschool a few kilometers down the mountain from where she lives, so she walks there every day when she’s not at school. That’s a bit of a challenge, as her letter states, but we are so excited that she is getting some experience as a professional, and that she is making even a teeny bit of money to help her family. She also took a class in agriculture outside of her regular school and did well, so she’s gaining a lot of experience.
Her family is doing well. Baby Daniela is walking now and as her father puts it, she’s a force of nature. Karina’s younger sister Jennifer just started high school and she is able to go to a local school that just started using part of the day for high school, so that’s a great help to the family. Karina loves her sister dearly, although she’s a little annoyed that Jennifer is taller than her! Her aunt and cousin just graduated from high school at the same time and both want to go to the university, which, we learned can be attended on Saturdays as well. That’s great news, because Karina wants to study at the university when she graduates, and she may be able to do so with her aunt and cousin. She will be our first graduate in December of 2016, and we couldn’t be prouder!
Christa spent several days with Karina, both in town and up in her beautiful mountain home. They walked and talked about life and boys and school and the future. Karina has a good head on her shoulders. She doesn’t want to have a boyfriend too soon. She wants to study and work hard and getting to the university is a big priority for her.
Here’s Karina’s year-end letter to us:
January 15, 2016
Dear Christa, how are you? I hope you are doing well and enjoying your new year. I want to see you soon.
What I most enjoyed this school year of all the things we did, it was very fun to compete with my classmates about the typical foods of Nicaragua, and at home I read a lot of books to be able to teach classes to preschoolers in the community.
I have done things that I am proud of. I took a class outside of school and I did well in it. I wasn’t one of the highest grades, but I did well.
The most difficult for me was to have to work some and to walk to give classes to the children.
This year I want to take another English class, work more in school with my friends to get good grades to get into the university, and help my parents with their daily work.
(How can you use your education to help people) I can help my friends by talking with them about how fun it is to study, I can teach people who don’t know how to read or help sick people who need help.
(What do you offer the world) I like to sing songs and write poems and I like to talk with people.
Sincerely, Hazell Karina Martinez
Karina sang a song with her brother Eliezar, while he played the guitar.
It’s been a while since we’ve updated Karina’s page. A lot has happened. She had to move to Sabatino (Saturday classes) because her living situation in town wasn’t so great. Karina’s grades began suffering from the challenges associated with taking all her classes on one day, so she found another relative she could live with in town. We thought she’d be able to go back to regular classes, but unfortunately, the school won’t allow that. Once a student starts studying Sabatino, that student can’t return to regular classes because the whole schedule is so different. But Ashley reports that Karina says she now has a better idea of how to plan her time and studying, and she’s sure her grades will bounce back. In her spare time Karina helps her family by selling food items in town to get a little extra cash.
Our contact Ashley, who has been living just for the past year in New York state, returned to El Sauce for a visit in March and brought along presents from Christa for the girls. She was able to meet with all the girls at Marina’s house and she took lots of great pictures. Karina is such a lovely young lady now.
We received a wonderful letter and some photos from Karina, who is now able to keep in touch on Facebook, which is so much fun! October 24 was her birthday, she is now 17! And she’s so gorgeous, it’s a little worriesome. But Christa received a wonderful note from her saying that she wants to finish her schooling and she doesn’t want a boyfriend or to grow up too fast right now, so that’s a great thing to hear!
The photos Karina sent us are from Daniela’s second birthday, and her letter is really sweet. We’re super excited that she’s doing so well, and really seems to have her feet on the ground and her head still a little in the sky, which is a good thing!
Karina’s letter to us has some great information in it, and she’s even trying out her English on us! Here’s the translation:
September 8, 2015
Christa the reason to write you this letter is to tell you about my advances in my Saturday classes. This year I have felt a little more comfortable, I have become accustomed to the Saturday shift and I have received an 82%.
This year I have felt less tired because now I travel in a vehicle from Octotal to El Sauce. I have missed you a lot this year. Last year I waited for you to give you your pine needle baskets. I have gotten better with my English with the help of my brother Lester.
I know that I have advanced a lot in my classes and I thank you for your help and your generosity in helping us with our classes. I know that with your help and my efforts I can achieve my goals and finish my studies. This year I will march as a cumplidora in the parade in September!
(This part is in English)
Christa, I love you many! You are a person very wonderful! Thank you for live in my life! Can you go this years? A big hug for you and for my dear donors.
I am taking a class in agro-ecology in Leon with my brother Lester and my cousin, the daughter of Señora Yamilda. I have learned a lot about crops and insects.
For the last two months I have been giving preschool classes to children in the community about 3 km from my house. It’s not very tiring.
I hope that you come this year so I can speak to you about my plans and hear yours.
Thank you for the gifts that you sent with Ashley. They are very pretty. Daniela has grown a lot and Pirulino (the cat) died about four months ago. It hurt me a lot. He was very loving.
I hope you are well and happy that I have written you and have not forgotten you. Marina is a wonderful person and very kind. I have looked for you on Facebook but I haven’t found you. I am: Karina Martinez on Facebook.
Christa, take good care of yourself, and I want you to know that I value your efforts and always pray to God for you.
This year I have taken the most advantage of my studies and yes, I am sure that I can achieve my purpose! I wait for you this year. I want to see you and hug you hard. Many hugs to you!
From Karina Martinez
Karina’s family is doing really well, and growing, with the addition back in October of baby Daniela, who is simply adorable. Karina is having a wonderful time in school and loving it. Her grades were terrific this year, enough so that she was a cumplidora in the September festival. She turned 15 in October, and on December 20 had her Quinceaneras celebration, a wonderful event with the whole community and lots of pink satin! Karina will be entering her third year of secondary school, and she’s really excited. She’s still shy about speaking English, but we’re working on that! One not so wonderful side of things is that Karina may not be able to live with her relatives in El Sauce and would then have to attend Sabatino, Saturday only classes). While she could probably do it, it’s s really hard thing to take on, and we are hoping that one other possibility for a living situation will work out so she can go to school during the week and be with all her friends in a school where she is already very successful.
Karina’s Quinceaneras – December 20, 2013
On December 20, 2013, Karina celebrated her quinceaneras (also known as quince anos celebration, quinceanera, fiesta de quince anos, etc.). This is a huge event in a young girl’s life, and is celebrated all over Latin America. It traditionally marks the transition for a girl into young womanhood, and in times past served as a sort of “debutante ball” to introduce her into society. Historically, it was often the first time a girl was allowed to dance, wear makeup, etc. and she was expected to dress the part! While every country celebrates the event a little differently, the general theme and idea is the same. In Catholic societies, the event usually begins with a thanksgiving mass, and there is the procession, the obligatory first waltz with the father, the cutting of the cake, and dancing afterwards. In the “olden days” this was a waltz, but in more modern times, it usually involves contemporary music and dancing.
Karina’s event was lovely. She was outfitted in a confection of pink satin (made by a relative), and the celebration was held on a perfect day up on the mountain top at the “Ranchon,” attended by about 100 people (most of whom are Karina’s relatives in one way or another!). Karina looked every bit the young woman, which was a little unnerving for Ashley and I, who sort of want to see her stay a girl for a little longer! But she was absolutely perfect in every way: nervous, giggling, calm and excited—and simply gorgeous.
At the end of December 2012, I went to Ocotal to visit Karina and her family. Karina actually came down from the mountain into town specifically to meet me, which is impressive, since it’s about a 10-mile walk one way to get to El Sauce. The next day, we walked and rode horses back up to her house to meet her family. All I can say is that I am madly in love with Karina and her whole family! Karina is really delightful: she’s very open and honest and funny, loves to learn and has lots of dreams that she likes to talk about. And she adores her family and is proud to show off her home and the surrounding garden. I spent the night with them, and despite my protests, they treated me like royalty. Her father, Gustavo took me walking around their land, showing me his new coffee plant starts, and the new water system. Gustavo is a lovely man, very quiet and serious, but funny and playful with his family. As we walked, he told me that he was born on the mountain, and he figures he’ll die there. He loves it there. He doesn’t like the city much at all—it’s too hot, too crowded and the food is not healthy, he says. At home, he can grab a mango or an orange off a tree and eat it. Pura vida, he says.
Their house is clean and well-kept, with chickens clucking and pecking nervously across the floor. The family all agrees that they don’t have much, but they have plenty. They were incredibly generous with me, and it made me reflect on how the people with the least are often the most generous. It was a wonderful day, and a lovely way to end 2012.
Back in El Sauce our contact, Marina, told me that Karina is always very respectful and brings her grade card and letters as soon as they are requested. She did well in school this past year, receiving an average in the 80’s. I’m so glad that we are able to help her go to school!
When I visited Karina and her family in December of 2012, I took a couple of videos of the grounds around the house, and of Karina and her younger sister Jenifer playing around their house. Their laughter and giggling were simply infectious!