Program of HOPE-Raising Girls to be Daughters of a King
By: Tammy Stearns
In 2014, the girls from what then was simply called the dump or chureca, now Nueva Vida…New Life, came to the Princesses of God Abstinence conference at Hope Central for the first time. Thirty girls from around Nicaragua come together for a weekend of learning more about themselves, God, the idea to wait until marriage and the idea to stay in school holding off marriage or a relationship until they are older. Many thought about who they are in God’s eyes for the very first time. Most explore what life could look like if they wait instead of growing up way too soon.
The target age group is 14,15- and 16-year-old girls. When the girls were picked from Nueva Vida, we had to go down to 11- and 12-year-old since the girls older were either pregnant or with an older man already. No one within our area of ministry had graduated from high school. The first girls that were chosen were simply the first girls that would come. The weekend was amazing, with each of them participating in the purity ceremony at the conclusion of the weekend. When we took them back to the community, many stood outside and welcomed them back, excited with the opportunity that they had just experienced.
Five months later, one of the girls chosen, was pregnant.
Program of Hope was created in response. Every year, five girls are chosen from Nueva Vida to attend the Princesses of God Abstinence program. Those five then become part of a larger group of girls, alumni from the program. The girls meet twice a week creating jewelry that is offered to teams at the market. The proceeds from the jewelry are divided up to the girls giving them the ability to help earn money to help their families while staying in school. They also participate in English lessons, Bible studies and career planning. On the last Friday of the month, they have the opportunity to go out into their country to experience things other than their immediate surroundings. Outings have included movies, restaurants, the volcano and, the Laguna, along with observing professional opportunities. In the beginning, many were hesitant and unfamiliar with using escalators, ordering from a menu and shopping in a supermarket. Program of Hope gives them a group of ladies that encourage each other and in which to belong. They are able to stay in the program as long as they stay in school.
In 2020, we had our first high school graduate, not just from the Program of Hope but also from the area in which we do ministry. In 2021, we had three more graduate from high school with one of them beginning university in January of this year! To date, we have had over 35 girls that are either currently in the program or who have completed the program. Those who choose not to continue on to finish high school or go to University have chosen to wait until they were older to have serious relationships and have children. Instead of making these choices at the age of 11 and 12, we are seeing them wait until they are 18, 19 and, for some, 22 and 23. Two of them even work for Project Hope in Women’s Ministry! This year, we have two more who will graduate high school with one of them choosing to continue on into University and the other with her own business out of her home.
Perhaps, one of the most incredible aspects of the program is to observe the younger girls who have yet to reach the age to be picked for the program. We are now able to pick girls at 13 and 14 instead of 11 and 12. They are watching the older girls and making different choices so that they too might be able to be part of the program. They are staying in school with the intent to graduate high school. Many of our early girls had already quit school in grade school and were playing catch up from the beginning. The younger girls have seen that it is possible to graduate high school instead of it being an unobtainable dream. The older girls mentor the younger ones along with helping to serve at the Center of Hope giving back to a program that loved and encouraged them. Many of them have come to know Christ and to understand the personal relationship that they can have with Him as the thread of Hope is woven throughout their entire time within the program.
When we first met with the moms of Nueva Vida in 2013, we asked the question, “When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?” The answers that I expected were similar to what I would have heard from those in US…to be a superstar, a singer, a superhero, a sports star, president. Instead, they wanted to have finished fifth grade, to learn to read and write and to not to have to grown up so fast. The mothers of Nueva Vida today are so excited to see their communities’ daughters realize not only their dreams come true but to see the dreams of the generation before them come true.
Thank you to all who purchase jewelry and support the Program of Hope girls. Most of us have had someone who believes in us and who have spoken words of encouragement. Many of our girls don’t have that outside of the Program of Hope. You are making a difference in the lives of the girls each and every day.