First organized in 2001, Planting Hope began when our founder Beth Ann Merrill, who had served as a teaching intern years earlier in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, surveyed the children there about their community’s needs.
Responding to what she learned, Beth raised funds in Vermont to build a library and community center, the “Biblioteca La Chispa,” in a poor area of Matagalpa city. Initially built as a one-story building, by 2004, the demand for services from the library began to outgrow its space.
The physical growth of the library has been an important indicator of the expanding educational work that Planting Hope is accomplishing. In addition to serving as a library, community center, and cyber café, Biblioteca La Chispa offers English, computer, art, dance and baking classes. It also provides various additional programs to increase employable skills in the community. Primary among these is the Work-Study Scholarship and Mentorship Program.
Our story begins in 1992, when the student Beth Merrill arrives at the “La Chispa” (The Spark) neighborhood for her study abroad internship through he Institute for Central American Development Studies (ICADS), as a first grade teacher at the public elementary school in the Walter Mendoza neighborhood of Matagalpa City. Merrill, then just 19 years old, stayed with the Castro Urbina host family who cared for her, taught and shared with her the customs and culture of this community.
The neighborhood, nicknamed La Chispa or The Spark, was a slum and had no basic services like water, libraries or access to phones, secondary education, and roads.
During her time in La Chispa Beth found the only existing library in the city of Matagalpa was in the city center and with little to no access to public transportation to the city, the children had to walk over an hour to do their homework assignment and many were too young to make the trip on their own.
Seeing these needs Beth promoted the construction of the library the spark, but had difficulties finding financial support for the construction of a new building. Beth decided to return home where she asked friends and family to support the project. She eventually collect $15,000 in donations and purchased a postage stamp lot in the hills overlooking Matagalpa. In 2001 Beth came together with some friends and some family members in Nicaragua Antonio, Nereyda, Luis Enrique, Sonia, among others in the neighborhood and built the first floor of the library who together fought for the dream that today we enjoying the library as today.
In 2002 Beth formalized Planting Hope by organizing and recruiting a board of directors, who was charged with caring for the financial and physical assets of the organization. The board also took charge of promoting the organization through various fundraising activities in order support the social, educational and cultural exchange in the U.S. rural areas of Matagalpa.
In 2010 Planting Hope constructed its third preschool adjoining Laguna Seca sector of rural Pueblo Viejo. Also in 2010 Planting Hope began Café Camps, a pilot project for the children of migrant coffee pickers. The programs offer reinforcement for these children might otherwise be laft at home duribg the days. The camps offer classes, food, and medical care, thus contributing to the reduction of child labor, and build community. In 2010 we began a food supplement program to improve the nutrition of children and reduce dropout Ocalca with preschoolers, Laguna Seca, El Chile, La Calera, Finca Los Andes Brotherhood. We currently make grants to teachers of preschool in the communities of Ocalca, El Chile, Laguna Seca and La Calera and we also sponsored students in these communities, which is a monthly financial assistance for their high school studies.