Located in the far southern part of Lake Nicaragua, the islands of Solentiname have an intricate history. It’s a history that cannot be mentioned without using the name of Ernesto Cardenal. Now in is 80’s, Mr. Cardenal is a well-known priest and poet born in Nicaragua. He was well educated in various countries and returned to live in Solentiname for approximately 14 years. During these years he began to develop the community on the islands. He taught that Catholicism is not just praying and meditating; but it also entails relating the Catholic beliefs and practices to daily life and activities. Cardenal, along with a couple friends, educated the Solentiname people by teaching them to read, paint, and create art crafts. Cardenal is still involved in the development of the islands.
Life in Solentiname is simple. There is no electricity, and very few places that have solar power. Many people still drink and use water from Lake Nicaragua. Other water comes from a well on one of the islands. Families earn their living by farming or selling crafts they make. There are a number of talented painters on the islands as well as artisans that work with balsa wood among other things. The nearest city for supplies is a 2.5-hour boat ride, and it only goes on Tuesdays and Fridays.
An important focus on the 36 islands of Solentiname is education. Ernesto Cardenal’s organization, Association for the Development of Solentiname, in coordination with Alianza of Solentiname, is working to make books and education available to every island that is inhabited. There are 9 elementary schools and 1 high school for the 1400 people living on the islands. However, high school classes only happen 4 times a month. Teachers from the nearest city of San Carlos, travel to the islands by boat to give classes to the 70+ high school students on Saturdays. There is the option of attending college preparation courses after high school is completed. The high school and college prep programs are new, but both are seeing success.
While the Solentiname Islands have a great start to offering a good education to the communities, there are still many needs and a long road ahead. The program, Leer Solentiname, is helping to promote the importance of reading by bringing books to the children on the different islands. With a boat as transportation, they are making books available to all through a mobile library. There are many people collaborating to improve life on Solentiname, and yet with your partnership they could do even more. Current needs are:
Arts and crafts supplies
If you can convince a person that he can change his life by reading, you can catch his attention. Adults can be stuck in their ways, but children are still open to new ways of thinking. Many children work hard with their families in the early mornings, but in the afternoons books are becoming their escape from the harsh reality they live in. Consider what you could do to make a difference in the life of a child growing up in Solentiname.