While working to build and repair homes for the poor in Nicaragua several years ago, Flagstaff residents Christa Sadler and Alex Mowl befriended one local girl, Ana Regina, who was very open, friendly and willing to learn.
“We all fell in love with her; she was lovely, and seemed very capable,” says Sadler, who is a river runner and freelance educator and writer. “Ana was 13, and her mother had her when she was 15. Her grandmother had her mother when she was 15. I just hated the thought that she would end up pregnant at 15 like so many other girls in that situation.”
Sadler says she went to a friend with the idea that she would pay for the girl to take English lessons. The friend suggested instead that they place her in a better school in town.
Ana Regina was very excited and was enrolled in a private school, but Sadler’s friend advised her to set up a tax-deductible foundation to handle such gifts.
“The reason for that is if an individual comes down and starts handing out presents, we become the fairy godmothers and people start thinking we will give all kinds of things,” she explains.
Thus was born the concept of ONE, the One New Education organization, a nonprofit started by Sadler and Mowl, who serve as co-chairs, to bring more educational opportunities through scholarships to poor girls like Ana Regina who are living in underdeveloped or developing nations.
ONE is not affiliated with a religious or political group, and the parent organization is the One World Foundation, whose mission is to provide national and international social help to poor communities.
In addition to Sadler and Mowl, who owns the Café Olé restaurant south of the tracks, other locals like Cory Sheeley, who is an underwriter at KNAU, have become involved in the group since its inception a year ago.
“We’re trying to play off the concept of one world, with the tagline and website, providing educational opportunities—one girl at a time,” Sadler says. “This is not supposed to be some enormous corporate endeavor where we build an entire school for 1,400 girls.”
The ONE website says women in these countries often have children when they are as young as 14 or 15. By the time they are 20, they have several children and no way to support them, much less provide them with an education. The nonprofit says one of the critical ingredients to end this cycle is education.
“Women are the threads that bind these communities, so access to an education helps both her and her family, and her society as well. The mission of ONE is to open doors for these young women, one at a time,” the website states.
For Ana Regina, the educational scholarship didn’t pan out in the end.
“The girl who started this thing, she didn’t do well at the private school,” Sadler says. “She said she felt out of place because she is very, very poor.”
The new foundation made another effort, putting Ana Regina, her sister and a cousin in the public high school in their town.
Although the sister and cousin are doing well, Ana Regina “was not interested in trying,” says Sadler. “So while Ana Regina didn’t turn out to be a ‘success’ story, per se, her influence helped us meet other girls who really do have dreams and aspirations. We didn’t know enough with Ana to ask all those questions, she was just the inspiration. Now we ask a lot more questions of our girls and their nominators.”
Today, ONE has helped place 13 girls in school, and they are doing well: Four girls in Nicaragua; two in Honduras; one in Peru; three in Tanzania; two in Uganda; and one in Haiti.
Applications have also been received from girls in Nepal and India that will probably bring the count of girls up to 15.
“I really want to be realistic about this,” she says. “You’re up against so many different roadblocks when you’re trying to educate people from these situations. Women in a lot of these countries, they can’t even imagine what school could do for them. All they’ve ever known is crushing poverty.”
Another problem, she says, is sometimes families need the girls to drop out of school to take care of other family members.
“People get afraid that their daughter or granddaughter is going to leave them and put on airs,” she says.
The price to put each girl through one year of school usually ranges from about a few hundred dollars up to $1,000. Money goes towards private school tuition (although public schools are free), uniforms, shoes and educational supplies.
How money can help is shown inTegucigalpa,Honduras, where ONE recently received a $1,500 donation specifically for Camila (Cami) Delgadillo, who is preparatoria (between kindergarten and first grade) which, with an additional $1,200 from the ONE general funds, will completely pay for her first year in school.
Any additional money received will go toward Cami’s future years in school.
Requirements for the educational grants are that applicants must be between 5 and 17 years of age, each girl must be nominated by someone who can vouch for their character, that there must be a local contact like a school or sponsor where the money can be sent, and that each girl must promise not to get pregnant.
The next step for the organization will be applying for grants to fund ONE programs, but Sadler says she would be contented if they can just help these 15 girls.
“If that’s all we ever had, I would be delighted because it would be 15 lives that would become visible,” she says. “In so many of these countries, they are baby bearers, and that’s it. Study after study says the way to raise the standard of living in a country is to educate its women.”
ONE is having a Family Dance Party and Fundraiser to benefit the work of the foundation Sun, Sept. 16 from 4–8 p.m. at Café Olé, 119 S. San Francisco. Attendance is $10 per family, with food and non-alcoholic drinks donated by Café Olé. There will be Latin and African dance lessons and music, including a drumming group. A dessert bar will be selling delicious items and there will also be some craft items for sale from various countries.
All proceeds will benefit ONE and there will be information at the café about the work being done. Call Café Olé for more information at 774-8272. Visit the foundation website at www.oneneweducation.org to find out more about the girls who are receiving scholarships and how you can help further the cause of ONE.
Additional photos for this story:
Six-year-old Camila from Tegucigalpa, Honduras, a recipient of aid from the One New Education Foundation, in her new uniform for her first day at her new school. Courtesy photo
ONE co-founder Alex Mowl, owner of Flagstaff’s Café Olé, building walls in El Sauce, Nicaragua. Courtesy photo