In Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, 175 families and approximately 500 children live and work in an area called “La Chureca.” Translation: the city dump.
Through a partnership with the Fabretto Children’s Foundation in Managua, Wake Forest students have been working to help break the cycle of poverty. Volunteers work provide a safe place for La Chureca’s children to go after school. The center offers tutoring, homework help, computer training, and a jewelry-making program that allows the children to earn an income without returning to the dump.
Michelle Hartenstein, a rising junior, and three other Wake Forest student volunteers — SheRea DelSol, Dan McCall, and Mehedi Hassan — were so impacted by the children they met volunteering in Nicaragua that they decided to sponsor a young girl, Kenia, through Fabretto’s program.
The sponsorship provides school uniforms and lunches for Kenia so she can continue her education. In addition, Wake Forest student sponsors are able to communicate with Kenia via e-mail about once a month.
“Sponsoring Kenia really made me want to go back and meet her,” says Hartenstein.
In 2012, Hartenstein led the student trip to Nicaragua and was able to facilitate her dream of interacting more closely with Fabretto’s kids, including Kenia and her sister. “We get a lot more out of the experience if we can talk to kids and form relationships. This year, we made bracelets with them, played soccer with them, and served lunch at the school.”
When she met Kenia, Hartenstein told her she thought her earrings were beautiful. Kenia’s sister, Linda, who participates in the jewelry program at Fabretto, immediately ran to make Hartenstein a matching pair.
Kenia plans to go to college and become a veterinarian. Although the odds may seem steep for the little girl, Fabretto’s scholarships and the support of the Wake Forest students will help her achieve her goal. “If she gets into university, I hope to help pay her tuition. If she can stay in school and she works hard, then she can be successful,” says Hartenstein.
For their final day in Managua, the group coordinated a field day at Casa Dingledine, a Wake Forest-owned conference center, with relay races, water balloons, soccer games, and Frisbee.
Hartenstein says she hopes to return to Nicaragua. She has been inspired by her work there to consider a career in the nonprofit sector.