Dordt College News

Back to school means back to Nicaragua for Dordt alumni

September 3, 2004

Five teachers from the Dordt graduating classes of 2001, 2002, and 2003 have joined forces to do what they can to bring change to the poorest Spanish-speaking country in the world—Nicaragua.

The group of Dordt grads are living and working in Managua, Nicaragua, a city of just over one million people. Four are teachers at the Nicaragua Christian Academy, while a fifth, Liam Starkenberg, has moved from the classroom to the position of principal of the school. Dordt College Alums in Nicaragua

Nicaragua Christian Academy (NCA) was founded by three missionary families in 1991. Since then, it has grown to serve 230 students, 70 percent of them Nicaraguan. The other 30 percent come from missionary families stationed all over the world.

NCA is the first school in Central America to be accredited by the Association of Christian Schools International and is authorized by the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education to issue a “Bachillerator” to graduates who meet the criteria for the Central-America high school diploma.

“We are bringing up the future leaders of Nicaragua,” says Michelle Adams when asked why she chose to teach in Central America. “If we are training them in the Lord, and teaching them values, Christian values, then with the help of the Lord Nicaragua is going to come back on its feet and become a better country. I guess that’s the main mission or hope for what we’re doing.”

Adams is a 23-year-old from Oostburg, Wisc., Dordt College Class of ’03. Sharing in her spirit of mission are Liam Starkenberg, Palmyra, NY, Class of ’00; Aimee Bootsma, Port Dover, Ontario, Canada, Class of ’01; Joni Hubers, Sioux Center, IA, Class of ’02; Leah DeNooy, Parker, CO, Class of ’03. DeNooy and Bootsma teach third and fourth grade, while Adams teaches special education and Hubers teaches art.

The academy has 30 faculty members with classrooms located in seven buildings just outside of Managua’s city limits. Adams, DeNooy and Hubers share apartments with other teachers in a gated, guarded compound near the school, while Bootsma lives in a nearby house with another teacher, and Starkenberg built a home about a quarter kilometer from the school.

The students who attend NCA are generally from Nicaragua’s upper class. The children in these wealthy families are not so different from those in the U.S., and have many of the same advantages. However, Adams says you can look next door or across the street and see homeless people or those living under tin roofs. It’s common for beggars to knock on car windows asking for money. A visit to an orphanage made Adams want to cry: she recalls it was a cement building that smelled like urine, with children in a small caged area and bugs flying around their faces. The poverty in the country is largely the result of civil war and transitioning political power, dating back to a Somozan-led dictatorship in the’70s, a socialistic Sandinista party in the ’80s, followed by pair of elected coalition parties in the ’90s.

Despite the location and conditions, however, Michelle says she doesn’t get homesick, because the support down there is so great. “At this point, I love it so much … I really couldn’t have dreamed of having it so well, God working the way that he is,” she said. “It’s a joy.”

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