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Empowerment through Agency with the RSP Program

One of SCSRN’s longest-standing programs is our Rural School Partnership, or RSP program as we like to call it. The purpose of the RSP program is to link communities in the U.S., whether they be churches, schools, Boy Scout groups, or families, with a rural school in the municipality of San Ramón. Starting as a response to the need for school supplies, the RSP program has grown into a source of empowerment for these rural communities.

The RSP program came about when members of our San Ramón Advisory Committee realized that many children in rural schools stopped coming to class because they didn’t have the necessary school supplies. Sharing this concern with the Board of Directors in Durham, the decision was made to find direct sponsors for schools. These sponsors would commit to an annual $500 donation for three years, after which they would be given the opportunity to continue their support for another three years. This money would go toward purchasing school supplies for the children in the school. Starting with four schools, the RSP program has grown to include 18 rural schools in San Ramón.

Though the RSP program has been a huge part of keeping kids in school in these rural communities over the years, recent reflection this year has made us realize that we want more from our relationships with rural schools. Simply showing up twice a year to give school supplies is not enough. We want to the RSP program to be a source of empowerment, of agency, of community solidarity. That’s why this year we asked the participating RSP schools to decide how they would like to use the funds from their sponsor. We gave them the option of continuing with school supplies, or designing a project of their own.

Many of the schools chose to stick with school supplies, because they felt like that was the best use of their donation. However, around half of the schools chose to use the funds for different projects. Some of the projects completed this semester were:

  • Building steps up to the school where erosion was making it dangerous for the children to enter
  • Building a water tower to provide running water to the school
  • Buying a water tank to catch rainwater to provide water to the school
  • Pouring a concrete slab for sports and assemblies so that the children no longer have to stand in the mud
  • Paying an art teacher so that the students can receive art classes on the weekends
  • Buying a cd player for the school’s dance group and for school events
  • Installing new locks on the school doors

All of these projects were shared with each school’s U.S. sponsor through videos, photos, letters, and drawings made by the children. Both SCSRN staff and our RSP sponsors have been inspired by what we have seen in these communities, and we feel grateful for the opportunity to provide the means through which these communities feel empowered to be change agents. These small projects, though they may not seem like much, have made not only the children, but the whole community feel more ownership and pride for their school. Thank you to all the RSP sponsors who have made this possible through your donation!

If you’d like to sponsor a rural school please contact our Development and Operations Associate, Robin, at robin@san-ramon.org.

About Anjie Price

Anjie is Executive Director of Sister Communities, first and foremost an educator. She is originally from Mississippi, but now is a permanent resident of Matagalpa, Nicaragua. Her favorite part about working with SCSRN is being involved in education in new and creative ways.

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