Where it all started...
My name is Suzanne Campbell. The pastor at our church prior to St. Andrews was the director of a charity called ASSIST, Aid To Special Saints in Strategic Times. He asked me to help fundraise to raise enough money for a medical centre in Nicaragua. Three years later I had raised the money, he had sent it down the medical centre had been built and Pastor Kevin was invited to go to Nicaragua for the grand opening, this was the year 2003. I accompanied him and discovered a village of beautiful, unique pottery.
I returned and, short story, began my own fair trade wholesale business bringing their pottery up to Canada and selling it to stores. Several years later, now a member of St. Andrews: Rob Simmons, a member of the congregation, asked me if he could accompany me to Nicaragua in order to do a project. Several other people wanted to come to, hence my leading group trips started (I have led 8 to date).
When they were down in Nicaragua, they noticed some street kids looking hungrily through the fence and found they couldn't go to school because they had no money. the people in the group wanted to help a child go to school. So, we established how much it would cost to send them 'fully loaded' and began funding a few. This all happened organically, not much planning happened!
The two schools where the children are who are sponsored are poor public schools. If a parent has any money at all they send their child to a fee-paying school and avoid public schools. I wanted to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
If we can help several government schools to become better schools then they will get better students, then better teachers etc. We didn't need to have a running budget (except for internet costs). We built a kitchen, so the government provided a meal a day for the children, we built a computer room, so the government provided a computer teacher.
Before we take on major projects we discuss it with the people who make the choices, so they can be responsible for the result. I believe this creates a sustainable platform.
An old man was walking along the beach one morning, the sun was rising
At the water’s edge, he saw a young boy
The boy was throwing things into the water, the old man decided to walk down to see what he was up to
The beach was littered with starfish drying out in the sun
The old man asked the boy what are you doing?
The boy replied am throwing these starfish back into the water, the sun is rising. They will die if i don’t save them. The old man said there are hundreds of starfish and miles of beach, how can you make a difference
The boy picked up a starfish and threw it into the water
I made a difference to that one, he said.
This story is why we called ourselves starfish Nicaragua.
When we 1st get over to Nicaragua we very quickly become overwhelmed at the insurmountable problems affecting the country. Nicaragua is classified as the 2nd poorest nation in the western hemisphere.
We were faced with absolute and abject poverty...we had to remind ourselves that we cannot help everyone. But we can do our part:
THESE ARE OUR STARFISH!
Our part is the focus on education. These children can make a huge difference to themselves, their families, to their community, and beyond by achieving an education to enable them and empower them to get a career.
We are not part of a larger organization, just myself and my husband. We employ an amazing guide, translator, helper and more, who works with us for 2-3 weeks in January putting all this together. His wages are part of our contribution to this initiative.
We have a facebook page 'Starfish Nicaragua' where you can see our efforts and achievements. Last year we had 63 children sponsored at school level and 9 students sponsored at university and college level. Plus, we had a very successful group trip and achieved some amazing projects.
Feel free to contact me to learn more.
~ Suzanne Campbell