June 2019 Newsletter

Exciting new videos and photographs of our students in Nicaragua!

Nola has written us about an unexpected and joyful adventure she had recently with Gautam Lewis, a videographer and photographer who came to Condega to make a video about the Asla Foundation, and photograph our students and the communities where they live. Nola had never met him before, but she learned a bit about him before working with him.

I am so excited about these videos because they show our students, their homes and gives you a sense of their lives in Nicaragua. Below are some of Gautam’s photographs and you can watch the videos here:

Here is Nola’s story about her time with Gautam in April:

Gautam was born in India. When he was a young toddler he developed polio, and his parents, unable to care for him, abandoned him in the streets of Calcutta. Mother Teresa found him and brought him to the Ministry of Charities to be cared for there. At around age 8 he was adopted by an English woman, and he was educated in the New Zealand and England. He recently moved to Nicaragua and very generously helps non-profit organizations show off their amazing work through his professional photographs and videos. He offered to help the Asla Foundation capture the work it’s accomplishing in order to share it with more people. I found him to be a fascinating human being, and I gained so much by helping with this video for the Asla Foundation. 

Gautam concentrated on filming a few of our scholarship students. He filmed them at their schools and their homes, and some as they were walking to school. One student walks an hour and a half through the hills and crosses a river to get to her school. I really enjoyed going to the homes and talking with both the students and their parents. Many live in very rural settings, and we would drive as far as we could and then walk the rest of the way, carrying the filming equipment and sometimes crossing a creek or two. We would leave Condega by 7:30 am, return late in the day around 5:30 pm, eat, and then work on translations from Spanish to English. The days were very long and tiring, but in a very good way. Seeing the students in various settings, (their schools, their homes, their journeys to school), made me realize even more just how important the Asla Foundation scholarship program is to them. Asla helps with the lives, education, and futures of these youth. They have many obstacles in their path, but through Asla, they have the opportunity to get an education, be it high school or university, and therefore improving their lives and the lives of their families. I have included some photos of Gautam Lewis here in Condega and in the rural areas filming the students. Thank you all for supporting the Asla Foundation, and please tell a friend about Asla so that more students can receive the support that they need. 

Photos by Gautam Lewis in and around Condega, Nicaragua – April 2019

Nola Nackerud with some of our students

Nola Nackerud with some of our students

A few of our students with their teacher in their classroom

A few of our students with their teacher in their classroom

In the community of Santa Teresa

In the community of Santa Teresa

The community of Santa Teresa

The community of Santa Teresa

The town of Condega

The town of Condega

The town of Condega

The town of Condega

One of our deaf college scholarship students recipients, Carlos Enoc Pineda

One of our deaf college scholarship students recipients, Carlos Enoc Pineda

Mural in Condega

Mural in Condega

2019 Scholarship Recipients

2019 Scholarship Recipients

March 2019 Newsletter


My name is Ana Rebeca Mendiola Sanchez. I am 26 years old and live in Solidaridad, a small town just outside of Condega. I am very grateful to have been helped by Asla for more than 4 years so that I could study, and am thrilled to share my news that I graduated in September with my degree in Renewable Energy Engineering. I studied at Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Nicaragua(UNAN) in Esteliand also did some course work at the UNAN branch in Managua.

I would never have been able to study and graduate without my scholarship because I only receive help from my mother. My family includes my mother, 2 brothers and a sister. My mother is not with my father, and she works very hard to support all of us. Recently she was ill for 5 months, and we are all thankful that she is better now.

Right now I do not have a job, but I am looking. The economy in Nicaragua is worse than ever due to the unrest here at this time. We all hope and pray that peace will return. I hope to work for a non-profit that provides renewable energy to communities in the rural areas where there is no electricity. I did my practicum with a non-profit that installed renewable energy in the poorest communities. We would go to these communities by 4 wheel drive vehicle and also by walking for an hour or more. In one community we installed solar panels and a battery for the school and also for each family so they would be able to have light at night. We also helped to make more energy-saving stoves for cooking which use less wood. In many of these rural communities there are few men because they leave to find work to help the families. They usually go to Costa Rica, Panama, or the U.S. The women often raise bees so they can sell honey to supplement what their husbands can send home. The families eat iguanas, rice, and beans most of the time. I so enjoyed working with these communities and hope that I can find a job in the area.

Thank you, Asla, for giving me this opportunity to better my life and that of my family.

February 2019 Newsletter


Those of us who sponsor students in Nicaragua continue to make a big difference in the lives of our students, their families and their communities. In 2018, a total of 99 students received a scholarship. Nineteen of them are continuing in high school, and one graduated from high school and is going on to university to study architecture. Five who graduated and received their high school diploma decided to go to work rather than continue on to university.

A total of 54 students are continuing with their university studies. They are studying in a variety of areas, including agriculture, nursing, engineering, teaching, mathematics, and English. AND — there are eleven new university graduates!


Only nine students, three in high school and six in university, left school before finishing the year and lost their scholarships. It’s important to remember that this past year the country was greatly affected by political disruptions and turmoil, which forced many people to leave the country to look for work or find work locally to support their families.

The fact that so many students are continuing their studies, or were able to graduate, is a tribute to the determination of our students.

We are completing the awarding of scholarships to students for the 2019 year. School begins in mid-February and finishes in mid-December. As soon as we have the final number of students we are supporting we’ll let you know.

January 2019 Newsletter

Christmas and New Year in Nicaragua

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The majority of the population in Nicaragua is Christian, so the holiday season is focused on Christian traditions. The Christmas holiday season usually starts on December 7 with the beginning of Purisima, which celebrates the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. On this day people go to friends’ houses and sing songs about the Virgin Mary and Christmas. In response, the families give out oranges, sugar canes, candy, plastic bowls, pieces of cooked squash with brown sugar on top, or other plastic utensils. Some places that are more well-to-do will even give out glass dishes. You can read Rick Steves’ description of his Purisma experience in Leon, Nicaragua at https://www.ricksteves.com/watch-readlisten/nicaragua-pure-joy-in-a-humble-land.

On December 11-12, the communities celebrate the Virgin of Guadalupe. There is a shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe, and an evening mass on the 11th with songs and celebration. On the 12th there is mass again at 1pm. That evening there is a procession through the streets with a statue of the Virgin, and the people dress in festive traditional clothes and dance along.

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During the holiday season, town central parks are decorated with lights and the nativity scene. Families celebrate together on Christmas and New Years. New Years Eve ends with lots of firecrackers and fireworks. There is a tradition where some families make a stuffed person out of old clothes, put a hat and shoes on it, and fill it with firecrackers. It sits by their house until midnight and then is lit in the streets-- the firecrackers go wild! The fireworks and burning of the stuffed person signify the old year is gone.

December 2018 Newsletter

Success Story about one of our recent Graduates!

Abel Roque at work as a nurse in Condega

My name is Abel Enrique Roque.  I have been fortunate enough to have had a scholarship through Asla for the past four years of college, graduating in 2018 I am 28 years old, the youngest of seven children, and am from a small community in the hills, 17km (10.5 miles) outside of Condega called Peñasco, about an hour from Condega by bus. I went to primary school in Peñasco and high school in Condega.  Many people thought I would not go on to high school or university because I was born with one leg shorter than the other which led to some bullying by other kids, but I have persevered to have a career and help others. My parents divorced when I was one year old. My mother worked hard for all of us so having the scholarship from Asla was very important to our family.  

I studied nursing at Juana Maria University in La Trinidad, about an hour and a half from Condega, and graduated in September 2018. The hospital there donated a house where students could stay. For each medical specialization we had practicums in various hospitals in the area. I would visit my family every 8 days.

I was so happy when I was able to obtain a job in October at Ana Maria Lopez hospital here in Condega.  We have had one main hospital and clinic for many years, but now we also have small clinics in different parts of town to help all the people who live in Condega and surrounding communities. Each clinic has a doctor and three nurses. I am one of the nurses who takes care of people from two neighborhoods and one community.  Usually Mondays and Wednesdays people come to the clinic for various health reasons.  Tuesdays and Thursdays we go to our assigned neighborhoods and the community to check on people who might need to go to the clinic but can’t travel to Condega without assistance.  If they need more help they are sent to the main hospital or clinic for more follow through. Fridays are usually half a day at our small clinic and then we meet at the hospital with supervisors.  I am very lucky because in my small clinic there are two boarding rooms, so I am able to stay in one; a doctor who lives in Esteli or another town can stay in the other.

My family is very happy that I have a job, and I do love my work. I love helping people who need my support. Again, I am so thankful and grateful for the opportunity that I was given by my sponsors through Asla.  Thank you so very much.

November 2018 Newsletter


Nicaragua Scholarship Students Contribute through Community Service


All of the Nicaragua scholarship students receiving support from sponsors through the Asla Foundation must participate in community service work. We asked three of them to tell us about their work, both what they are doing and how it has impacted them. We think the work they are doing is significant to their communities but also to their growth as individuals. Below are their stories, along with photos of the students. Our support of educational opportunities for these young people is transforming lives and communities!

My name is Maria del Carmen Gonzalez. I am 21 years old and studying nursing at Martin Lutero Universidad. I have been receiving help from the Asla Foundation for 6 years and I am so grateful that I can study to be a nurse. For my community service I plant trees for my community. I have planted palmera and marajito, sometimes fruit trees such as mango. I also work with some of the newer students to help plant in our community of San Pedro de Pire. It really helps our community because many people use wood to cook so it is important to replant to help with erosion. Sometimes we plant near the church or the school or near the river. We ask the people where it is most needed. It is so important to take care of our environment and to think of our future generations.


My name is Cristhel Paola Gonzalez and I am in my first year of high school. I study on Saturdays in Condega which is about an hour away from my community, San Pedro de Pire. I am new to the community so one of the other older students has invited me to help with planting trees in our community. I am very grateful to her because I have learned a great deal and I love to help my community. I am planting palmeras near my house and near the school. It is a plant that is strong and usually does well in our environment. It is very important to help our environment and I know that trees help the cycle of life to continue. I am very grateful for the help from the Asla Foundation.


My name is Erick Obed Diaz. I have been receiving help from the Asla Foundation for more than 5 years and I am so grateful to my sponsors. I will be graduating in September with a degree in agricultural engineering, and I am very excited. For many years I planted trees for my community service or helped with animals in the rural areas, but this year I decided to help tutor some students, one in particular, not only in his studies, but also as a friend. It is very rewarding because the student who I help is deaf and I have learned a great deal. We work usually weekly and I am lucky to have the help of an interpreter so we can communicate better.

We all must help each other to make a better world.

September 2018 Newsletter


For this month’s newsletter article, Nola tells us about Condega, the main town in the rural area of Pire where most of our scholarship students live.


The population of Condega itself is about 7,000-8,000, but the region of Pire includes many surrounding smaller villages and communities which makes the total population close to 30,000 people. Most people who live in the area are farmers and work very hard growing beans and corn to support their families.

Condega is the center of Pire where most of the students and their families come to buy supplies and food. The city has a central park, baseball stadium, soccer field, a few restaurants, and a rather new grocery store. Previously people would go to their smaller neighborhood family owned stores, but more people are travelling into Condega to buy what they need. Condega also has several internet cafes where the students come from their rural communities to do homework and research for their studies. Most of the people here are Catholic, and there is a Catholic church near the central park; with the growth of the area a new Catholic church has been built to serve the smaller communities on the northern and eastern areas of the town. There are also other small churches of various religions, including Assembly of God, Pentecostal, Baptist, and Jehovah Witness.


Condega is called the Land of the Potters and is known for pottery. In our museum there are many old pottery artifacts that have been excavated in the area. A replica of one is in our main park and also is the symbol for Condega – see the photo below of the large footed bowl. There is a woman’s pottery group in a neighboring community of Ducuali Grande that makes beautiful pottery and is quite famous. We also have an airplane park with an actual plane which was shot down during the civil war and dragged up from the river. Citizens have even built a small tower to walk up to and gaze at the lovely view of Condega and the surrounding area.


I could go on and on, but this is a brief description to share with you.

Come and visit!

July 2018 Newsletter


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This update is coming to you a little late, as we wanted to report on the current political situation in Nicaragua. But there is still good news to report about our Nicaragua scholarship students. In December, the end of the 2017 school year, 16 students graduated! Seven of them graduated from high school and went on to college, and nine graduated from college with their degrees in education, business administration, engineering, and nursing. A total of one-hundred scholarship students started back to school this February, the month that schools begin in Nicaragua. Eighty-five of these students are returning scholars; because of sponsors’ generosity, we are able to fund an additional 15 new students this year. Of the 100 students, 72 are attending College/University, and 28 are enrolled in high school. 

Nola Scholarship Students

Nola hosted a celebratory get-together for the scholarship students in early March. We've included a couple of photos from the event.

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June 2018 Important Updates

This month's post comes to us from Nola Nackerud, one of our coordinators living in Condega, Nicaragua.

This is a sad article to write, but it is important for you to know what is happening here in Nicaragua. There has been turmoil since April 18th when protestors in cities across Nicaragua began demonstrations mainly against the President, Daniel Ortega, and Vice President, Rosario Murillo (who is his wife). The people began protesting against the decree of social security reforms that increased taxes and decreased benefits. After five days of unrest in which nearly 30 people were killed, Ortega announced the cancellation of the reforms. However, the opposition has grown to denounce Ortega and demand his resignation, becoming one of the largest protests in his government's history and the deadliest civil conflict since the end of the Nicaraguan Revolution. As of June 5th, 113 people have been killed, many wounded and some disappearances. There are demonstrations and roadblocks all over the country. The people want democracy and are not giving up until it happens. It seems as though Ortega is becoming what he once fought against. Many call him a dictator and Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, has been torn apart as has the city of Masaya. The worst places are Managua, Masaya, and Leon, but there is violence all over the country. The students that you help through the Asla Foundation have been affected by this by the closings of some high schools and universities for periods of time. Up in the north where we are it is much calmer than in the Managua area. The students here have missed some classes in the universities in Esteli, but the universities in Managua are closed for longer periods. If you go online you can read more and see more photos and or videos of the situation. Useful websites are: Tico Times, Wikipedia, and Aljazeera, and here is a recent article:



Here in Condega the marches have been all calm and peaceful with people talking about peace and democracy and prayer for our country. Please say a prayer for Nicaragua, our students and all its people.

Photos of the other 4 are here in Condega with many students including Asla ones

Photos of the other 4 are here in Condega with many students including Asla ones

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Large, peaceful protest in the capital, Managua

Large, peaceful protest in the capital, Managua

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A Thank You from our Scholarship Students!

Schools in Nicaragua begin in February and finish in December.  This year 109 students received scholarships through the Asla Foundation.  A total of 32 have been in high school this year, with six graduating this month; most are planning to continue on to university. Seventy-eight students have been enrolled in universities, and eight will graduate this semester with their titles.  (Titles are similar to diplomas in the US and are associated with a thesis defense; most students must pay their teachers a significant fee to help them prepare for their defense and title.)

A number of our scholarship recipients in 2017.

A number of our scholarship recipients in 2017.

We wish to express our gratitude for the students whose lives you are so positively impacting. Your support means a great deal to them, their families, and their communities.

Spotlight on Delroy, a Deaf Student from the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua

This month, we bring you a blog post written by Nola Nackerud, the Asla Foundation Scholarship Coordinator in Condega, Nicaragua, who works directly with our scholarship students.  Nola joined the Peace Corps in 2001, at age 50. One of her projects was working with deaf children and their families throughout northern Nicaragua. We asked her to tell us about her experiences and the impact of the scholarship program on one of the deaf children, Delroy (see photo below).  

Delroy, who is deaf, is studying to become a teacher, thanks to your support.

Delroy, who is deaf, is studying to become a teacher, thanks to your support.

I became involved with the deaf in Nicaragua when I was a Peace Corps volunteer. Having worked with deaf students in the states made me especially eager to learn Nicaraguan Sign Language, and also my site, Condega, had a school for the deaf at that time. It became my secondary project for Peace Corps.  I learned that Nicaraguan Sign Language (NSL) is very unique and was like the Big Bang for linguistics all over the country.  If you go on the internet you can find out much about NSL.  I also learned about James and Judy Shepard-Kegl who spent much time in Nicaragua in the 80’s onward and started the Nicaraguan Sign Language Project.  In Bluefields, on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, was a boarding school for deaf children started by James and Judy. I visited while a Peace Corps volunteer and learned about what an amazing program they started. The Ministry of Education eventually took over the educational responsibility for deaf students, so the school closed. But some students, like Delroy, were sent to Condega to finish their schooling.

This is a story about Delroy Nicolas Tatum Forbes.  You might saythat does not sound like a Nicaraguan name.  But it is a name from the Atlantic (Caribbean) Coast of Nicaragua, an area where not only Spanish is spoken, but other languages including Kriol, Miskito, and Garifuna.  It is an area of Nicaragua that has its own unique history and culture.

Delroy was born deaf to an all hearing family in Laguna de Perlas, a small fishing village on the Atlantic coast.  The language most spoken in the home is Kriol; however, the official language in the schools is Spanish.  No one in his family knows sign language. They mainly use home signs and gestures with Delroy.  Delroy had to leave his family in order to be able to study at a school for the deaf, taking a boat to the small town of Bluefields, an hour and a half from his village. Delroy stayed with a family there since he was only seven years old.  There was also a house where the deaf teachers stayed and some older deaf adults.

Delroy studied through the sixth grade until the school closed.  He was then sent to Condega for high school, a very long way away from home, about 12 hours by bus.  I had the privilege of meeting Delroy and his family in both his village and in his school in Bluefields. When he came to Condega, we were both so happy because we had a history and we had become good friends. During his time in high school he helped in a pilot program with me and three other high school deaf students.  We would go to rural areas on Saturdays and visit families who had small deaf children.  We worked on sign language with the child and the whole family. Delroy was a natural teacher.  It was a great program but unfortunately only funded for one year.   

After Delroy graduated from high school he returned to his family in Laguna de Perlas.  When I heard about a teaching program in Esteli, near Condega, that would include deaf students, I immediately thought of Delroy, so I took the long bus ride to talk to him and his family in Laguna de Perlas.  I explained to the family where he would study and stay. They saw the great benefit an education could provide to Delroy--not only to learn, but to be able to better communicate with others. Delroy left Laguna de Perlas to begin his college education in Esteli (near Condega) this past year, studying to become a teacher.  Delroy talked about several deaf children in his village who are not able to study.  His dream is to return to Laguana de Perlas and team-teach with a hearing teacher, as they do in Condega.   There is no deaf university or special program for deaf students here in Nicaragua like Gallaudet University in the US. There are few resources and the rights of the deaf are only now gradually being understood. However the Nicaragua Department of Education is adapting and training interpreters for classes. Right now Delroy is taking Spanish classes to get ready for teaching in January.

So begins another chapter in Delroy’s life -- with the help of the Nicaragua Scholarship Program and the Asla Foundation, he is able to study and become a teacher.  

Nicaragua Scholarships Impact Students and their Families

By Nola Nackerud

When Deysis Garcia Montalvan was in her second year of high school, she applied for a scholarship through the Asla Foundation. That was in 2007. She is now in her fourth year of college and will graduate soon. Her sister, Modesta, is also studying. She also applied for a scholarship through the Asla Foundation, as did her brother, Daxon. Modesta is studying social sciences at a university and Daxon is studying psychology.

Daxon in his community, El Algodonal

Daxon in his community, El Algodonal

Visiting with these young students was joy! They live with their parents and their twin brothers in the community of El Algodonal, a community up in the mountain area of Condega. They have no electricity and they have to walk about 50 minutes from the bus stop to get up to their house. Their mother offered lemonade and she talked about her children and how one having the opportunity to study led to another wanting to further their education.

Daysi, Modesta, and their twin brothers with their proud mom.

Daysi, Modesta, and their twin brothers with their proud mom.

What strong ambitions these young people have and they are so grateful and happy to be studying. The twin boys also want to continue to study when they reach high school age. The family lives in a very humble home, cooking with wood, candles for studying, and they live off their crops of corn and beans. The father works the land and also plays the guitar in church. The whole family is very musical, singing and playing the guitar. They are such a united family and so supportive of one another. The mom and dad revealed that they are so very grateful for the help in order for their children to study and therefore to better themselves. They know how important it is to study and they know opportunities will be so much better for their children with an education. Without the help from the Asla Foundation, the boys would be working in the fields and the girls in the house.

The whole family works together in order to better their lives. The parents are proud to have children who are so determined to become educated. Deysi, Modesta, and Daxon all said that they hope to help the family after they graduate and hope that their twin brothers will study, also. The twins see their sisters and brother studying and that encourages them to study. Their parents are so supportive, and work very hard to help in whatever way that they are able. They all expressed many times how grateful they are for the help from the Asla Foundation. Deysi will graduate this year with a teaching certificate. And so begins the fruitfulness.