Years of oppressive dictatorship, the Sandinista Revolution, and the subsequent war with the Contras have left much of Nicaragua in a cycle of poverty. Among the areas hardest hit by economic depression is the “Oriental Market” located in central Managua. Families live in shacks with dirt floors and no beds. Children pander gum and trinkets on the side of the road in hopes that they might find a meal. There is no hope for these children. Their place in life has been decided for them, and they will struggle to survive for the entirety of their lives.
In the late 1990’s, Rosamaria Bell and Olympida Grayas saw these children struggling just to find food, and they could not stand by and let them continue to suffer. They started a kindergarten called Jardin Infatil y Comedor Belem. They would provide the children with clothes, two meals a day, and most importantly, an education. The children who they invited to the school were the poorest of the poor. In many cases, their parents had left them or were drug addicts, and they lived with relatives in dangerously overcrowded shacks. The children would have to stay drug free, and away from gangs to attend the school.
The school started small, with just one class of kindergarten students. As the students grew, so did the school. It eventually expanded to have a secondary school, Colegio Cristiano El Padul. The children learned about math, science, literature, music, and English among other subjects. In 2008, the first class ever to attend the school graduated, and thanks to the generosity of families in the United States, three of the brightest, most motivated students were able to begin studying at universities in Managua. The Nicaraguan College Fund was established to ensure that these students would be able to complete their degrees, and that subsequent graduates each year would be afforded the same opportunity.