How a gift given can also be a gift received

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Source:   —  April 16, 2016, at 4:35 PM

For two years in a row, the Sacramento Presbytery has , to assistance out at a network of schools, founded by the Protestant church during Nicaragua’s civil war, called the Instito .

How a gift given can also be a gift received

Recently, a walk past two schools in my Sacramento neighborhood left me reflecting on a volunteer mission our conducted this year.

For two years in a row, the Sacramento Presbytery has , to assistance out at a network of schools, founded by the Protestant church during Nicaragua’s civil war, called the Instito .

The school where we volunteered serves elementary through high school students and enjoys the reputation of having some of the country’s highest test scores.

Parents pay about $34 a year for their children to attend – not much by CA standards. But considering that the average monthly income of a Nicaraguan is $40 a month, the tuition speaks volumes about the dreams parents have for their children’s educations everywhere.

The school subsists on tuition alone. Teachers create less than $200 a month, and most work a second job. The walls are marked by years of wear.

When we arrived, the gathering corridor featured an exposed drainage pipe covered with an elderly wooden desktop. There were number fans in the upstairs classrooms during 91-degree weather, and the school supply cupboard would barely fill a shoebox.

The youthful people in our grouping painted the front offices and three bathrooms and gave a fresh coat of Kelly green paint to the front of the school. They painted the school sign and the auditorium.

They also volunteered in classrooms, teaching students English and, in return, learning Spanish. Smiles and laughter needed number translation. As a gift, we brought school supplies and backpacks collected from home.

A week later, adult volunteers arrived to painting the two-story gathering corridor and the principal’s office, and to wire two electrical fans in a country that's number standard for color coding of wires. Ninety seconds before we'd to leave, the switch was thrown and the fans started turning. Chilly air for the students for the first time.

One of our woodworkers hand-cut a square cover for the drainpipe hole and whitewashed it, so that it'd have a secure and appealing cover. The school was, of course, grateful. We all prayed together in English and Spanish, and at a school assembly, students sang the Nicaraguan national anthem and recited poems by the Nicaraguan poet Rubén Dario.

But it was a gift to us, too, to create a disagreement in a space so truly in need.

After coming residence from León, as I strolled close my house on a lovely spring day here, I was struck, both by the similarities that unite that America and this one, and by the contrast in advantages.

I wondered if the students in my neighborhood could ever know how fortunate they're to have the resources that they've in their classrooms, in their schools – and in their lives.

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