Supporting education and mental health in rural Nicaragua

By Maria Creamer | August 23, 2021 | The Americas | Education, Youth Empowerment

In Nicaragua, CREA has helped students overcome educational barriers before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. GFC sat down with CREA’s Executive Director, Corrie Burdett, to better understand the local impact of COVID-19 and how GFC’s support has helped the organization push forward.

The 1,200 students the Nicaraguan Resource Center (CREA) supports hope to “salir adelante,” as Executive Director Corrie Burdett put it to move forward not just for themselves, but for their community as well. They dream of becoming professionals and creating new opportunities within their community through educational achievement and growth. Although the global pandemic and devastating hurricanes have added another barrier to their journey, CREA is determined to help them overcome these obstacles.

Entrance of CREA's office. © GFC

CREA, founded in 2016, works with five communities in rural Nicaragua to meet children’s and adolescents’ educational and literacy needs. The organization runs three initiatives: library services, academic success, and youth development. It boasts a full-service library opened in 2017 and offers after-school homework help, tutoring, monthly family events, and higher education scholarships.

Mirian is one of CREA’s scholarship recipients. She’s using the funds to attend veterinary school. Her dream is to bring these valuable skills back to her community by providing quality veterinary services, something she feels they have gone without for too long.

“Without CREA’s help, I would be here in my house,” Mirian told CREA.

CREA’s services have been especially crucial over the past year and a half. Since the pandemic began, there have been two hurricanes in Nicaragua that only further exacerbated existing struggles created by the virus and a slow economy. Corrie said young people “are worried for the health of their family members, for their educational opportunities, for the economic wellbeing of their family.”

The 'illustrated stories' section at CREA's library. © GFC

To meet the needs of their students and community, CREA’s staff re-designed their approach to provide not only educational support, but psychological services as well. The organization has convened a team of psychologists from the closest major city to provide personalized mental health support. Visits will start on a monthly basis and increase to biweekly.

To meet the educational needs of young people, CREA has organized students into small groups and provided them with educational packets for distance learning, a mobile library, and safe outdoor spaces for small group meetings. Newly formed WhatsApp groups with parents and teachers ensure students have a coordinated support team behind them.

CREA “pivoted and [will] continue to pivot programs given the changing context of the pandemic and the health-related concerns,” Corrie said.

Laptops used by students at CREA. © GFC

GFC has provided support to the organization throughout the pandemic. CREA became a GFC partner in 2019 after a volunteer filled out GFC’s simple form for potential partners and a GFC team member called to set up an in-person visit to discuss CREA’s current needs. Corrie was impressed.

“Honestly, the ability to have a site visit, in-person conversation, and for GFC to listen to the voices that are impacted by CREA makes being a partner with GFC accessible and extremely inclusive,” she said.

Corrie feels that GFC has helped CREA to develop its organizational capacity, become a stronger organization, and increase its regional impact. GFC has also assisted CREA in making deeper connections with other partner organizations.

CREA’s recent growth will enable the organization to continue to meet changing needs as it helps children and their communities “salir adelante.”

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