Cumberland Times-News

April 4, 2013

Keyser, Romney Rotarians providing school supplies for Nicaraguan students

Elaine Blaisdell
Cumberland Times-News

— KEYSER, W.Va. — The Keyser and Romney Rotary clubs have raised $1,500 in matching grants for The Peace Project in Laguna De Apoyo, Nicaragua. The two local clubs, in partnership with Rotary International and the Masaya Rotary Club in Nicaragua, hope to raise $17,481, according to Dr. Wayne Spiggle, Rotary liaison.

“We’ve grown quickly with the generosity of donors and volunteers, but this matching Rotary grant will give us the resources to really expand our reach and impact,” said Sarah Dobson, co-director and founder of The Peace Project.

The money will go toward the purchase of computers and school supplies for 80 students and high school English materials for 25 adults who live in Laguna De Apoyo.

 “It is anticipated that families and community members will be involved in this project,” said Spiggle in a presentation to Rotarians. “Therefore, the number of people whose lives will be impacted goes far beyond the above numbers.”

The one-year project has an expected impact of several years, according to Spiggle.

“Assuming its success, there is a very real potential for the project to attract support and continue its mission for several years,” said Spiggle.

The project is designed for youth and the community to achieve first-level English and computer proficiency and gain basic math skills; to provide education on small-scale agriculture and environmental conservation; and to learn about culture and people and experience exercises in conflict resolution. This year the English and computer classes were added, according to Dobson.

“The Peace Project has become an important and trusted part of the community, and our role has really advanced recently as we’ve taken on more than just expanding education opportunities for the younger kids,” said Dobson.

Rotarians and others will be able to complete affordable visits to Nicaragua for volunteer work.

“There are many opportunities to serve beyond the completion and mentoring this grant,” said Spiggle. “The next phase is to encourage Rotarians and friends to make the trip to the site as (wife) Betty and I did, not only to see the sights but to do hands-on teaching and otherwise personally supporting the young people who are for the most part volunteering, usually six months, to make this concept fly.”

Spiggle and his wife spent nine days in Nicaragua about a month ago, where he helped the Masaya Rotary Club apply for grant applications on the Internet. It was a neat experience to be in a hostel in the midst of the jungle on a computer with rapid broadband sending paperwork to Rotary International in Chicago, said Spiggle.

“Going there and understanding the personal stories of these young people, natives and visitors alike, was inspiring,” said Spiggle.

Kenneth McKaye, a Keyser Rotarian, has a compound near Laguna De Apoyo where his family and their friends volunteer their time to ensure that the project is a success, according to Spiggle.  

“What they are doing is truly a story of service above self,” said Spiggle. “The real meat in this project comes from the time and effort for volunteers to work one-on-one with the students.”

In 1989, McKaye established Proyecto Ecologico and Estación Biologica to foster ecological research within Laguna de Apoyo, according to the Apoyo Cultural Center website.

When McKaye is not splitting his time between Nicaragua and Africa, he resides in Keyser.

Last year, the Keyser Rotary collected medical supplies for a rural medical clinic that focuses on women’s health located at the Apoyo Cultural Center.

Dobson, who is originally from Baltimore, worked as a crew chief for Maryland State Parks, where she supervised Baltimore at-risk youth, according to the The Peace Project website.  

For more information about the project, visit the website at http://www.thepeaceprojectnicaragua.org/.

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at eblaisdell@times-news.com.