Thursday, October 17, 2013

Vocational Training in the Rural Areas

In July, we began a program of vocational training to young adults in remote rural areas. We have joined forces with fellow missionary friends who share the same vision as we do - to see individuals, families and communities become self-sustaining and break out of the welfare mindset that keeps them in bondage to poverty.  They have had a presence in a community called El Paraiso for a couple of years, building a church and teaching the women various skills. They were delighted to have us approach them with the idea of reaching the men in the community, as well.

We began our journey to visit the community of El Paraiso and talk with the local young men to determine their needs for training and desire for education in vocational skills.  This community was not new to us, we did an outreach back in March 2012 with a visiting US mission team. El Paraiso is very small with a population of about 400 people and is located in the middle of "no where" about an hour plus drive from Leon.The men in the community are mostly farm hands and 6 months out of each year they have no work.

When we met with various young men in the community to talk with them about spending 2 days each week learning carpentry and other skills, we were met with a lot of enthusiasm. The young men wanted an opportunity to learn skills that would help them to improve their chances of employment or make items to sell in the market place or commissioned by others.  Many of them have only a second grade education.

This  concept of taking the vocational training out to the remote rural areas has exceeded our expectations.   It is a rare thing to find a commitment to education among the people of Nicaragua.  These men show up each and every session eager to learn.  Not only do we teach them vocational skills, but we disciple them in biblical principles and life skills.  Most of the students in the class do not attend the church that was built in the community.  

We were greatly surprised at the start of our first class, when we began our class in the usual way - with prayer.  Each of the men said they did not know how to pray.  We never would have dreamed that this would be our first hurdle to overcome.  We came up with the concept of each man uttering one sentence of a need or thankfulness and they did so one by one in group rotation.  When they were done, we said "Now you have prayed".  Just this last week, we had the guys break up in teams of 2 and ask their partner how they could pray for him.   They have come a long way in a short time and are getting very comfortable with prayer.

The guys are being taught math, carpentry and most recently, electrical.  They were taught how to build a circuit board consisting of a switch, a light and receptacle. Each of the guys had a turn at assembling the board and then disassembling it so that each of them could learn to run the circuit.

When the switch was flipped, the light came on and when the drill was plugged in, there was power.  

An upcoming project for the guys will be to wire a new building in the community that will be used to house a bakery and classroom space.

The use of fractions was very intimidating in the early days of class.  James Israel assured them that he knew nothing of math and in time he learned  fractions and how to add and subtract with them.  The "pizza pie" example is very useful in getting them to understand the basics of fractions.  Aha moments came as the guys grasped that 5/8 of a pie was left over after 3 pieces had been "eaten" from a pie divided into 8 equal slices.

Speaking of James Israel, he was in our beginning carpentry class over 3 years ago. He has since taught himself how to speak English and is used as our translator.  He is also an apprentice instructor and helps to monitor the work of the guys.    We are beyond proud and excited to have a former student join us in educating the young men of his country. It's been our hearts desire that the young men we teach would in turn give back to others what they themselves have learned.

We spend 3 hours total travel time in order to spend 3 short hours with the guys.  In recent days, when we start packing up our supplies to get ready for the return trip home, the guys pull up chairs wanting to talk and just continue to have fellowship with us.  As much as we love spending time with them, the heat has worn us out and our brains are on overload trying to keep up with the Spanish.  We wish that we did not have the distance between our house and theirs and we could visit more often.  It's awesome the way that the friendships are developing between us and them.  This is the part of what we do that has us captivated, loving every moment of being used by God to help others learn to help themselves.