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.
During their visit to El Sauce, Meghan and Christa were able to spend a lot of time with Karina. She was down in town pretty much the whole time, and stayed with Christa at Marina’s house. They went out to dinner to celebrate Emili’s graduation from 6th grade, enjoyed the madness of La Purisima, and spent two days up in Ocotal with her family, enjoying Karina’s developing tourism location. They have done an incredible job. They have cleared the road and made rock-lined paths, put in benches and swings, and planters with baby pines, and are building a shelter for people to sit in for meals, storytime, or when the weather demands it. The view from the overlook is extraordinary. From the deck they have built, one can look into a deep canyon (where we saw king vultures, which was really cool!), and to the south, one can see Lake Managua and Momotombo, the perfectly shaped volcano that is constantly smoking. To the west are more volcanoes and the foothills on the way to Leon. Karina and her crew have named the business “Entre Pinos y Veredas,” which means “between the pines and the paths.” It really is a beautiful place, and they have bought tents for people to stay in and have tours of basket making, coffee growing, and tortilla making available to people to enjoy. They are working on a website, banners, and a logo. Meghan and Christa suggested that Karina also start an instagram page as well as a Facebook page. They would love to have international tourists, but also people from Nicaragua and elsewhere in Central America. The climate up there is cool and delightful, and it would be a perfect break from the heat of the lowlands.
As for the rest of Karina’s news, she has been taking English classes in El Sauce, and her English has improved so much! We spent a lot of time speaking English with her, which we loved (and so did she!). Also, saving the best for last: Karina went through her graduation ceremony! She had originally said she didn’t want to, and she received her diploma several months ago. But she decided to go ahead with it, and she graduated with several of her classmates and her friend Kevin. We are so proud of her!
Karina has received about $800 of the $2000 the board awarded her to start her tourism business. She has been hard at work, and has kept us apprised of her progress. Here are the expenditures that she has made towards making this a reality:
August – $300
En los 300 dólares a córdoba son: 10,680 córdobas.
- 5,965 en las casas campañas, compré, 5 pequeñas y dos grandes. (Nos ahorramos mucho dinero porque estaban en oferta)
- 754 córdobas en 15 litros de gasolina (una pequeña parte)
- 300 un litro de aceite que se usa con la gasolina, para cortar la madera.
- 1200 cordobas en 16 colchas (cobijas) para las casas campaña.
- 275 córdobas en transporte, son los bultos que cobran en el bus.
- 1,435 en concepto de 3 bolsas de cemento, 3 bolsas de empaque, 3 libras de Clavos, un nivel.
- 235 córdobas, una escuadra.
- 60 córdobas de aceite negro.
En todo esto se hace un total de: 10,224 córdobas.
Entonces, 10,680 de los 300 dólares menos, 10,224, nos queda un saldo de 456 córdobas; esto es lo que tengo a mano. Mañana pienso comprar 2 cintas métricas, y más clavos. Te haré saber con detalle los precios.
August – $300 TRANSLATION
300 dollars to córdoba exchange = 10,680 córdobas.
- 5,965 for the project houses (tents), I bought 5 small and two large. (We saved a lot of money because they were on sale)
- 754 cordobas for 15 liters of gasoline (a small part)
- 300 a liter of oil that is used with gasoline, to cut wood.
- 1,200 cordobas for 16 bedspreads (blankets) for the tents.
- 275 córdobas for transportation. This is what they charge on the bus.
- 1,435 for 3 bags of cement, 3 bags of packaging, 3 pounds of nails, one level.
- 235 cordobas, a squad.
- 60 cordobas of black oil.
In all this a total of: 10,224 cordobas.
So, 10,680 of the 300 dollars less, 10,224, we have a balance of 456 cordobas left, this is what I have on hand. Tomorrow I plan to buy 2 tape measures, and more nails, I’ll let you know the prices in detail.
October – $500
Ahora necesitamos más fondos para cortar madera, una máquina de cortar madera, más clavos y gasolina, te había dicho 500 dólares, para que tú no envíes cada semana, yo llevo un libro de Acta anotando todos los gastos. Vamos a comprar 3 libros de actas, vamos a pagar a un albañil para construir un pequeño rancho, vamos a comprar almohadas para las casas campaña, más o menos 16 almohadas, y también construir una letrina.
October – $500 TRANSLATION
Now we need more funds to cut wood, a wood-cutting machine, more nails and gasoline. I told you 500 dollars, so that you don’t send money every week, I keep a record book recording all the expenses. We’re going to buy three minute books, we’re going to pay a bricklayer to build a small hut, we’re going to buy pillows for the tents, more or less 16 pillows, and also build a latrine.
It is impressive how fast she is going to work on this, and how much progress she has already made. This cannot help but be a good thing for the whole community once it is finished, and we are so proud of her and impressed by her vision for her home.
There is so much to report about Karina! She finally finished her university degree and in September just received her titulo (her diploma). She is so proud, as are we! It’s been a very long road for her and she never gave up. She had health issues, her father was sick, her younger sister had a baby, her older brother went to the US and is now living here working to send money home, and the political unrest and dismal job situation in Nicaragua weighs on everyone. She has continued to mentor both Raquel and Emili, which makes us very happy. And, she is teaching English to preschoolers in her village!
Recently, Karina communicated to Christa that she wanted to see about getting a loan to do some initial work on developing her grandfather’s property in her village as a tourism destination. Christa suggested that she apply for our post-secondary scholarship, which is available for our girls that want to go to the university or a vocational school—or to start a business. We asked her to answer the main questions on the application, and send us a copy of her business plan and we would consider it.
After reading her application and business plan, it took the board all of about 30 seconds to decide to award her the money she asked for. There are caveats: we will not give it all to her at once, and she needs to give us an accounting of all the money that is spent. As she needs more money for a new stage of the project, we will send her more. She is such an impressive woman, and she really embodies all that we hope for in our students. She used her university training to write her business plan, and her own heart to answer our application questions. Both make for a very impressive submission, and we could not be more excited to help her with her business endeavor. She is a woman with drive and ambition and a vision for her community—a true ONE student!
Here are her answers and her business plan:
Fecha: 28 Aug 2022
My name is Hazel Karina Martínez Martínez
Address: de la escuela las Minitas 400 metros al sur, Las Minitas, Ocotal, El Sauce, León.
I studied at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN ) in the city of León, I studied Tourism Business Management over 5 years. I started in 2017 and graduated in 2021, I traveled to class one day a week, on Saturdays, I paid 250 córdobas monthly payment. I request from the One New Education foundation, the amount of USD $2,000 to carry out my business plan in the farm of my grandfather Mauricio “Hoyo de Juan,” which has an amazing tourist potential, where it can be developed and offer different tourist activities. I currently study English and work as an English teacher for the children, on Saturdays with a duration of 3 hours, I earn a salary according to the number of children who pay per month, I have a fixed salary of 800 cordobas [$23] for the 4 Saturdays of the month.
Section 1: Personal Experiences
- Quality or attribute that makes me special.
I consider that I am a person who has many qualities and that makes me special as a human being. Some of them are:
– Conscientious: I am a very conscientious person both with my self and with others.
– Honesty: I have always thought that I cannot advance or be successful in life without being honest with myself and with society, deception is a space that does not allow progress.
– Persistence: In this world it is sometimes difficult to achieve the goals we set for ourselves or the dream we have had since childhood. There are so many barriers that must be crossed to obtain a single achievement, sometimes because of the economic factor, because of society or because of the simple fact of being a woman, in my case. Since I was little, I wanted to study. I saw myself as a different woman from others. Since I was a child I saw myself as a professional. I imagined myself helping people in my community, and for that I knew I had to study, but my parents did not have the resources to pay for me to go to high school. So I secretly took the documents I needed to enroll from my parents and asked someone else to enroll me in their school to receive classes on Saturdays. My mother found out and talked to my dad and they decided that I should study and I moved to the city of El Sauce. In the house where I lived for two years, it was horrible, but I took it as proof that what I was doing was important, and I couldn’t give up. Then I learned about the ONE NEW EDUCATION foundation where I got a scholarship and this motivated me even more to continue with my studies. I decided to change shifts and I studied on Saturdays. In my community there was no transportation and I got up at 3 o’clock the morning to walk and get to school early. I didn’t feel badly, I felt alive and wanted to continue. I achieved my high school graduation thanks to the foundation and my persistence and desire to achieve my goals, I was happy because after this university was coming. I didn’t know how I was going to pay for it, but I was sure that I was going to pass the entrance exam and I would be in the tourism career. That’s what happened, and Christa supported me in the university, in each difficult stage that I have been going through, because sometimes the challenges are not only financial. I have been lucky enough to find good friends, I am not going to mention the names, but I want you to know that you have a great space in my heart. Today I have a degree in Tourism Business Management, I don’t know everything, but every day I can learn more, and continue fighting for my other goals and the objectives that I set for myself.
I think that we are all special, with different qualities and attributes, but there are some people who have not discovered those qualities in themselves.I do not judge their reasons, but not all people are good in this world, and I think that being good and kind makes us special, and I consider myself good and kind.
- Who I admire
I admire the ONE NEW EDUCATION foundation, the women of this foundation, because I have learned that unity is strength and we can reach those who need us.
I admire Christa, for her courage, for her persistence, her wisdom and above all for the love that she transmits to us and how to encourages us to have an education. She has been my mentor.
To Malala, I read her book, “I am Malala” and I admire her because we share the same feeling about education and women’s rights, it is not only being born, growing up, being a wife and having children. We also must study, make our own decisions, fight for our dreams and goals.
- My biggest challenge
My self-esteem. Since I was a child I had very low self-esteem. I always had very clear goals, but I was afraid, and I can only say that it is something horrible. Meeting good friends and focusing on my visions and goals has helped me overcome my insecurities.
Section 2: My Influences
- Who has influenced my life most?
My little sister, she is so bright that her intelligence and her spirit inspires me to protect her, get her an education and open her mind to opportunities.
My family. Family and love is the most important thing, they have been my strength not to give up.
My community and the desire to support them, to help them develop, to bring them opportunities so that they can feel included. To help boys and girls to educate themselves and understand the importance of education. To read books and discover the world of books, and then understand that beyond that book there is reality, and that each one can become what they work toward.
- How has my education helped me?
Education is the most important thing that we inherit from life. Having had an education and continuing to learn more has made me a responsible person and committed to myself and to society. I can see the needs of others. My life has been transformed, I can eradicate poverty from my home, from my community and from anyone who thinks otherwise. I can and I want to promote and push forward development.
- My participation in the community.
My participation in the community has not affected my personal development at all, I can say that it is quite the opposite. For me, my community is like my whole family, whom I love so much and want to see in progress in the future. Since I discovered what tourism was and that in my community there is a lot of tourism potential, I fell in love with tourism, with the lands around me and with my grandfather’s farm.
In 2008 in my community there was a Rural Tourism initiative, in which a cooperative was formed. My grandfather donated a plot of land to the members to build and convert it into a tourist space. It was wonderful, the Altos de Ocotal cooperative was visited by national and international tourists and different activities were offered. As of 2018 the cooperative has fallen into a state of bankruptcy and fraud by the president who has not acted correctly and this has disappointed the members. It makes me very sad that the organization could fall, and that the land could go to the state. That is why my cousins and I have planned a strategic plan.
I spoke with each of the partners and told them that I had friends who could support us with advertising and bring us tourists in the future, but that they must be organized, change the administrative body and start over, and that we too can be part of the cooperative to support them.
My grandfather Mauricio’s farm has a lot of potential. I have chosen one area in particular to develop a new Community Rural Tourism initiative, of young entrepreneurs. It does not seem necessary to involve the entire community, but to support them indirectly. All the people in the community have resources, for example, horses, coffee, milk, vegetables, fruits, etc. Once we are offering our new tourism opportunity to the market, we can buy what we need from the community, and in the future we can generate employment.
Our initiative consists of creating hiking, vista views, offering a horseback riding tour through the pine forest, space for camping, offering a complete camping service, including the tent, swings, photographs, and a campfire. This is a small initiative. I have developed a business plan, but we don’t have the money, only the desire to work hard on labor, service and innovation. The place is amazing, and we can offer much more in the future.
That is why I want to make this request to the foundation, if they can support me in carrying out my business plan for sustainable development and Rural Community Tourism.
Section 3: My Career
As I commented in the previous section, the start of tourism development in the community opened my mind. At 13 years old I chose the career I wanted to study, I knew I was born for that. I don’t know how to explain the passion that I have inside of me for tourism, and not for the reason of traveling, it is extraordinary I know, but I love sustainability, nature, development, entrepreneurship and I have learned that tourism is the main economic factor.
My future goal is to see tourism development in my community, to support my family, for them to be innovative and offer their products, and also to have my own tourism business, and to travel a lot.
I know that my university studies will help me achieve my goals, because I am persistent and knowledge is power. Every day I try to learn more about tourism.
Section 4: My Challenges
Everything has advantages and disadvantages, in my case, developing a tourism initiative. Challenges include:
- Not having the financial resources to invest.
- In winter, transportation to reach the community is not as viable in winter in certain areas, but there is strategic planning. Tourists can be moved on horseback as well. This only would happen when there are hurricanes.
- In the community we still do not have electricity or drinking water.
Section 5: The Future
Well, currently I am just working to generate opportunities. I hope in the coming years to see the results of what I do today, of what I want today. I want to captivate young people to fight for their dreams and the right to education.
My profession and my education are helping me to see the needs in my environment, social, economic and environmental, and above all the importance of education in people. That is why I encourage each boy, each girl I know. I have the opportunity to try to continue studying and not giving up, to create goals. One of my favorite phrases that Malala wrote is, “A child, a teacher, a pencil and a book can change the world” and I believe in that. I am currently inviting the girls to read some of the books I have and I have found some for their age, because I want the girls not to grow up with the same thought of my mother’s time, that a girl or woman’s only job in life was to get married, have children and take care of a house. No, I want them to see beyond that, that we women can achieve a lot. Also in the future I plan to be part of or create a foundation like ONE NEW EDUCATION, to support education and eradicate those oppressive ideas.
The biggest challenge facing the community today is lack of employment. People get low prices for the harvest and high price for supplies. How could I help? Generating jobs for them, buying their crops of vegetables and fruits, and having them provide their services and offer their products.
Section 6: Business Plan
Having funds to start this business plan opens up many opportunities for me and my career to continue growing as a professional and practicing my profession. It would bring benefits and increase local development in the community.
This business plan consists of a new tourism initiative in the Hoyo de Juan Trail in Don Mauricio Martinez’s plantation, with the intent to utilize the cultural and natural resources of the farm and develop economic opportunities for the community.
Name: Hoyo de Juan Trail
Vision: Protect natural areas to ensure a sustainable and healthy environment and to become recognized at the national and international level as a unique and professional business.
Mission: To create a network of trails to provide access to our natural areas and develop ecotourism opportunities to visitors.
General objective: Develop the tourism potential of the farm and the rural community.
– Create tourist activities
– Identify unique aspects of our tourism opportunity
– Promote overlooks along the trail
– Define the marketing plan
– Strength and dedication
We will be located in one of the regions with the greatest tourism potential in the municipality. At this time, we do not have demand for tourism outside of the Altos de Ocotal Cooperative and currently this is in a passive state as it does not have infrastructure nor services.
We are committed to giving the highest quality service including conservation and developing natural resources. Create a tranquil, hospitable and hygienic environment for visitors and do our work responsibly and efficiently.
The Altos de Ocotal Cooperative exists however we do not consider it competition as it lacks in organization and sustainability. We do wish to become part of the cooperative to help them reorganize and work together toward the same objectives to use the resources and help to develop the community.
It is important to possess to have the initiative of leadership and responsibility for whichever company, the honesty is fundamental to guide us toward success.
We are prepared to assume whatever is needed to carry out the business plan, in honesty and hospitality to provide an excellent service and achieve satisfaction for the tourists.
What we will provide:
– Customer service
– Physical comfort
– Access and transportation
– First aid
Who: The business will serve the general public, anyone who wishes to interact with nature, ecotourists, adventure tourists, locals and international visitors
Why: At present, tourism to rural communities and natural areas in Nicaragua has the highest demand. Tourists want to connect to nature. Our business will outdo our direct competitors by: providing personal interaction with nature and infrastructure and services including, camping space and gear, beautiful natural sites, and professional, well-trained staff.
Where: The business will be located in the community of Las Minitas, Ocotal, El Sauce, Leon, Nicaragua. Information will be posted in the city of El Sauce and via online advertising.
With the current economic situation, owing to the global economic crisis and its repercussions in Nicaragua, tourism has diversified its offerings and foreign tourism has fallen. Nevertheless, the tourism sector in Nicaragua has continued developing its activities and offering its products and services, as we are one of the areas in Central America with extraordinary tourism potential. While numbers of foreign tourists have lessened, national and local tourists have not stopped visiting tourist destinations in Nicaragua.
The principal objective of all businesses is the commercialization of a product or service. To carry this out it is necessary to have two parts: the seller offers a product to the client for a transaction and the client knows they have some power to negotiate. For this reason, business people anticipate client interests and offer sales, discounts and credits depending on the situation. If suggested by the client, that is, if a client proposes favorable quantities for the production costs, the final price towards the client will be of benefit to them, generating a relationship that can result in many clients.
Analysis of Offer
– Positioning in the next 2 years as one of the best tourism sites in the municipality of El Sauce, at a national and international level for the attention given to visitors, the comfortable atmosphere, and quality of service and professionalism.
– Within 3 years, we plan to recuperate the investment with the achievements of the business.
– Count with the adequate personnel for the optimal development of the business activities.
Hoyo de Juan Trail will be located in the Mauricio Martinez Farm where people can interact personally with nature, and walk on a path covered in pine forest. Tourists can decide whether to explore on foot or by horse. At the end of the path are two overlooks (rustic infrastructure) with panoramic vistas, an attractive natural surrounding, hammocks, swings, camping (possibly with a fire ring), and photography service.
We are a group of young entrepreneurs, responsible people trained to give excellent service and satisfy all the needs of our tourism clients.
Business marketing plan
Applying the knowledge and concepts related to marketing is in no way a work of spontaneity or improvisation. To guarantee success in the market, planned action is required. Steps must be carefully analyzed regarding the decisions to be made and the right time to do so. That is, a strategy or strategic plan, which is known as a marketing plan.
Offering a wide range of products helps to reach a greater number of consumers, and allows us to have a higher level of competitiveness in the market. Not only by offering different opportunities, the “Hoyo de Juan” Trail will stand out from other tourist sites based on its potential, the natural beauty of the area, and the fact that this site has not been developed as a tourist destination. In addition to innovating through infrastructure, the uniqueness of the location will help to obtain greater recognition of the site, remaining as the first option in the mind of the tourist.
To comply with the Marketing plan, we will plan for a steady increase of visitors to the premises, based on the hospitality, service, friendliness and above all, achieving the expectations and satisfaction of the tourist.
Therefore, it is proposed to design a web page, Facebook page, Instagram, and signage since social networks are more open to all kinds of people, having a greater reach and impact.
Item/Quantity/Cost per unit/Total cost C$
2T oil /2 liters /C$400/C$800
Artisan Hammocks/3/ C$2,000/C$6,000
Varnish/4 gallons/ C$1,000/C$4,000
Palm fronds (roofing)/50 dozen/C$60/C$3,000
Machine for wood/1/C$3,500/C$3,500
Total USD $1,708
We expect a total cost of $2,000 with labor, transport, and use / purchase of some materials.
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!