When we look for a community partner, there are a few things we know. They need to be part of the local community serving current needs. We want a partner that is cultivating growth in people or the planet (or both!). And most of all – since 5% of our trip sales go to this partner – we want to make sure that money goes into something sustainable, with long-term purpose and potential.
Here are some key highlights for us:
- Run by locals (and founded, very organically, by an American – see more on that story below)
- Desired by the community
- Gives free supplementary schooling local kids
- Has a philosophy of education through creativity, communication and confidence with subjects from English and computer literacy to art, music and dance.
- Cultivates growth opportunities for both kids and visitors their Cultural Exchange program
Nicaragua is still the 2nd poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, and tourism can cause conflicting priorities as foreign interests increase prices in prime areas, like where we’ll be on the beach. This is why we see it as an imperative to give back to the community that we’re visiting, both in a personal way through our cultural exchange day and financially to support this growing organization that directly benefits the community of San Juan del Sur.
I spoke with the founder, Dyanti Makous, and listened to her story of how it all started. After college, she traveled as a freelance writer and 9 years ago found herself in San Juan del Sur. She fell in love with it and had this idea to teach English and create a cultural exchange program. “The community kind of pushed me into it and was very supportive.” Through strong relationship building everything fell into place. Even the president of Nicaragua – who Dyanti got to meet – was involved in the process. “It was very serendipitous.”
The program is focused on education for local kids, who only spend a half day at public school. BPP invites in volunteers to interact through their cultural exchange program. “It’s about spending authentic time and understanding each other as cultures. [The program] helps [the kids] have exposure to diversity and develops hospitality skills that are really relevant to the current economy.”