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Our History

Project Esperanza was formed in 1997 by a group of "gringos" from the United States who wanted to offer opportunities for a better life to the street children of Granada, Nicaragua.

Thousands of children in Central America are forced from their homes at an early age because of abuse, neglect, being sent into the streets by their parents to beg for money, or simply because the family has too many mouths to feed. Many of these children become thieves out of necessity, living on the streets and facing chronic illness and violence.

These children also face the threat of drug addiction due to the wide availability of shoe glue, which they quickly learn helps dull their hunger and provides a false, short-lasting sense of euphoria. Shoe glue is typically placed in a baggie or baby food jar and sniffed as a form of self-medication and hunger inhibitor. The “huelepegas” quickly become addicted to a substance which causes severe damage to the brain and many of the internal organs. By spending time with these children and getting to know their individual circumstances, we discovered that their future was hopeless unless someone made a decision to dedicate themselves to helping these children rise above their poverty.

When Project Esperanza volunteers first began working with street children in Granada in 1997, we provided literacy classes from the restaurant of a small hostel where volunteers stayed during their visits to Nicaragua. We eventually were able to rent a large home which served as residence, school, and kitchen for a number of street children. We have always focused on education as a means of helping these children to rise above the poverty level in which they were born.

When homeowners continued to raise the monthly rent to an amount beyond our means, we began looking for property to purchase in order to be able to provide a permanent home and school for the children we serve. In 1999 Project Esperanza volunteers borrowed money and purchased a small piece of land on Lake Nicaragua and built a small residence to serve as the future lodging for full-time volunteers. Until the childrens’ residence was built in early 2002, the homeless children were accommodated inside the volunteer residence and in the bodega (storage room) built for future food storage use. During this interim period, volunteers continued to offer daily literacy classes as usual to both residents of the facility and other children who came to receive nourishment and learn to read and write as well.

We are very grateful for the generous donations which made our children's home and school possible.

Through successful fund raising efforts, we were finally able to build a permanent shelter for our children. We can house up to 20 children and provide daily classes for all who desire to learn.

Masaya (right) and Rafael (second from left) were living on the streets when they came to our shelter in 1998. Before we were able to build our own permanent shelter, we would provide a temporary home to homeless children and eventually place them into a permanent shelter in Granada. Both boys continue to live happy, healthy lives in their residence in Granada.