Patricia McCully, founder of Círculo de Amigas, taught Spanish in California for 20 years. In 1983, she visited Nicaragua for the first time and saw, with her own eyes, the horrific effects of civil war. Standing in the ruins of a burned-down one-room schoolhouse, she felt compelled to do something about the extreme poverty she saw. A lot of the women wore nothing but rags, so Pat decided to teach them how to sew, on donated machines that she transported down.
In 1993, after many trips to Nicaragua, Pat purchased a house on the edge of Jinotega, a mountain community 3 hours north of Managua. Using donated supplies, the parlor of that house was turned into a sewing classroom.
Since then, our facility has grown. CdA put in the only lending library in northern Nicaragua, and a public computer lab. We supply residents with latrines and, when possible, connections to municipal water supplies (fighting water-borne diseases), and assist with repairs to homes for some of the poorest families in the barrio. By far our biggest ongoing project, however, is creating and maintaining scholarships for many dozens of girls who would not have otherwise gone to school. Find out more by watching our short clip, One Woman’s Story.
Some people ask why we focus on girls. As it stands, the World Food Programme has found that when girls and women earn income, they reinvest 90% of it in their families (through food, clothes, medicine and educational opportunities for their children), whereas men reinvest only 30-40% of their income. Research shows that an extra year of primary school can boost a girls’ eventual wages by 20%; an extra year of secondary school adds 25%. Girls who stay in school for seven or more years typically marry four years later and have two fewer children, and fewer dependents per worker allows for greater economic growth. The United Nations has found that more than one quarter of the population in Latin America are girls and young women ages 10 to 24. The implications are obvious: by educating girls and young women, the chances of economic success skyrocket and you give hope and relief to desperately poor communities.