At the beginning of this month, we received a group from the South Granville Rotary Club for their fourth consecutive education project here in San Ramón. The Club financed the construction of a computer lab in a rural high school, as well as improvements to the existing buildings, a water system with toilets and a kitchen, and a new electrical system. During their visit, the team did the electrical installation themselves while working alongside 12 young people, teaching them the basics of electrical wiring. Now they are covering the costs for those 12 young people to get their certifications as electricians.
Upon their return home, I asked if any of them would be willing to share their experience, and one brave Rotarian, Paul Smith, volunteered. Here’s what Paul had to say about his time in San Ramón:
It was a week of contrasts. The Nicaraguans had darker skin than our group of seven North American Rotarians and their family members. They spoke Spanish. Most of us did not. Some of us had white hair. They did not. But we shared a love of and commitment to education. The Nicaraguans, with the assistance of a local professor, had built a school and continued to provide tuition and scholarships so their youth could attend. They had a dream of adding a computer lab. In partnership with the Sister Communities of San Ramon, the Rotarians sought to make the dream come true.
We knew from early on this school was different. Samulali buildings were green rather than the usual school blue and white—green because it was their school. With funds from a Memorial fund in honor of Mel Smith, a Rotarian who valued education and was a frequent worker on previous Rotary service trips to electrify Nicaraguan schools, the Sister Communities and Rotary hired a local contractor to construct a building for the computer lab and build a small kitchen and three flush toilets complete with a septic system.
Randall Lanou and his wife, Dr. Lori Scappino, led the Rotary group. Randy taught the group of 12 Nicaraguan students or apprentices the basics of electricity and wiring. After dividing up into three teams to begin the project we taught the apprentices how to install switch and outlet boxes connected by conduit to contain the wires, pull the variously colored wires through the conduit and connect the switches, lights and outlets. Translators Rox and Lori provided the much-needed connection between teachers and students.
Together we wired the previously existing buildings and additions except for the computer lab. That remained for the apprentices to wire without our assistance on day 4. We marveled at their efficiency, work ethic, and competence. In the end…everything worked! Every light, every switch, every outlet. Even the electric school bell worked.
During the work days we worked, learned, laughed, talked and ate lunch together. On the morning of day five, Randy and local officials gave talks and students recited poetry, sang and danced. Together we stood to sing the Nicaraguan national anthem. The apprentices were presented with certificates and sets of tools.
The contrasts seemed to become insignificant, our similarities drowning out the differences. That is one measure of success. Another measure of success is the functional electrical system for Samulali School. Still another will be if some number of the 12 apprentices go on to technical schools to become certified electricians who can both make a living doing electrical work and perhaps electrify other schools. The true measure of success, though, will be if one day the Rotarians have taught their way out of work. No longer needed.
Thank you so much, Paul, for sharing this with us! Interested in partnering with us on a project in San Ramón? Contact us!