First VV Mentoring Walk-Granada, Nicaragua

Mentee & Mentor 2018

Through our 3 years of close interaction with young girls at UPNicaragua, we have learnt that one of the biggest needs in the lives of our students is connection.   Mentoring is a powerful model to achieve meaningful connection and even establish long-term relationships with people in the community whom we normally do not have access to.  

Last March 10th, we had the opportunity to bring together 75 participants into the Vital Voices Mentoring Walk-Granada, this walk, led by women from Vital Voices Global Leadership Network, took place in over 130 cities across the globe: in Granada, 30 girls between 10-18 years old who were mentored by 30 adult women who come from diverse parts of society: teachers, artists, entrepreneurs, mothers, yogis, fundraising specialists, activists.  We also welcomed 15 collaborators between guest speakers, professional photographers, wellness specialists, musicians and organizers.  Though diverse, this group of participants had 1 quality in common-- a great disposition for serving the community for the common good. 

During the 5-hour event participants had the opportunity to reflect, hear different perspectives on personal and professional life, inspire and be inspired by others.   We began the morning by bringing in mindfulness through a meditation and yoga session with Fabiola Serrano, a local yogi who specializes in prenatal yoga. 

We continued with an enriching panel in which Mercedes Gonzalez (Coach & Founder of El Relajo), Maria Isabel Cantón (Founder of Mental Health blog, Rompiendo La Etiqueta) and Berta Valle (Executive Director of Fundación Coen) shared their driving forces, personal & professional experiences, challenges, milestones as well as dreams and future goals.  

After pairing mentors and mentees and sharing the mentorship model, we moved to the iconic pedestrian street of the beautiful city of Granada, matched couples started getting to know each other as we all walked to the Cocibolca lakefront where we worked in pairs on the life roadmaps of our mentees.  Some of the key elements we emphasized on for this mentor/mentee experience were awareness, respect, confidentiality, intentional listening and a no-judgement approach to the exchanged information.  

We ended our walk at the UPNicaragua Center where we closed the event with the participation of men from the local community--tourism entrepreneur, Damien Hopkins spoke about the importance of women's contribution to society and the relevance of achieving equal access to opportunities, safety and well-being for everyone.  We closed the event with a toast and a moving concert by two talented, young Nicaraguan violinists.

The event was an overwhelming success, we felt the power of community, we experienced meaningful connection with people we didn’t know before and were able to serve and get proximate to the successes, happy and painful moments of some of the participants, enriching in this way our minds and spirits.

This is the first mentoring walk of many other to come, our first event involved a conservative number of participants as this was a new experience for us, we look forward to growing our reach and to inviting more participants to join us in the future.

If you wish to participate as a mentor, mentee, speaker or volunteer next March 2019, please write to us at:

A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside of you.
— O.Winfrey

Granada Coding Program kicks off in November!


"An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest." - B.Franklin

This coding program will primarily impact the girl population in Granada.  We are aiming at changing their attitude toward science and math coursework at school, at giving them coding and tech skills that can make them more competitive and employable in the 21st century,  at improving their analytical thinking as well as their capacity to work in complex teams.

By giving girls access to these skills we seek to not only complement and enhance local existing industries, but also diversify the population skills base with a view to a more sustainable economy.

Learning code is a lot more than learning Javascript, Python or Ruby to build apps and digital solutions, it is a key foundational skill in an increasingly digital world that is here to stay.   It can helps us gain a deeper understanding of how computers work at a fundamental level, build entrepreneurial skills and spark innovation to solve social issues at the local and global level.  Coding is also able to break gender barriers and encourage collaboration between people and groups of people.

This is an initiative that has been put together by Xiomara Diaz, Patricia Ayerdis and José Ayerdis  with the support of the US State Department (through the Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund) and in collaboration with Maker Space, young Nicaraguan entrepreneurs and local education organizations. 

We are kicking off this 9-month program on November 4th, our first cohort is composed of 10 Granada girls who have been selected through UPNicaragua, Fundación con Corazón, Education Plus and La Esperanza Granada.

Do you want to collaborate, learn more, participate?  Please contact us at: We'll be thrilled to share more with you!

A volunteer's day at UPNicaragua

"After I finally finished my first bead they held it up with delight and showed it to the rest of the classroom, proud of their opportunity to teach me."

After learning about the struggles young Nicaraguan girls face when growing up in an environment that lacks opportunities and services for them to become successful, I knew I wanted to be a part of a change for them.

Today was my first experience with the young girls of UPNicaragua.  After being acquainted with the other mentors of the program, I participated in a welcome exercise that would allow the girls to get to know me.

I was initially struck by the girls’ willingness to learn and their interest and patience with a stranger.

Two of the young girls eagerly volunteered to show me how to make paper beads, a skill that has allowed them to become disciplined, patient and also helps them raise money to further their education and provide basic school needs. 

After I finally finished my first bead they held it up with delight and showed it to the rest of the classroom, proud of their opportunity to teach me.  We then had a break from making paper beads and had a snack.  All of the girls then proceeded to wash their cups and clean up the classroom without hesitation or complaints.  It was obvious how much they appreciated their environment.

To end the class the mentors lead all of the girls to the local gym, which was only a short walk away.  We participated in a yoga and dance routine with their beloved instructor, Flor.  During this activity the girls’ personalities shone through and it was amazing to see how they all worked together while laughing and smiling gleefully.

I am excited to learn more about this incredible program and get to know these amazing girls over the next month.

Never worry about the numbers

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." -Anne Frank

I am hugely inspired by the small actions that as individuals we can all take in order to improve the world.  

For a long time I believed that the task of transforming our country was too big and too impossible, often ending conversations about potential solutions with "Oh well! What can we do? C'est la vie!".

With time and lots of inspiration from other people, I have come to think differently. Everything starts with a single step and no action is too small.  I find this especially true when we work in community, joining lots of small efforts to create bigger impact.

UPNicaragua works under that model,  we began as a tiny grassroots organization.  For several months we held our program at a Garden Cafe table and relied on 2 main staff members who volunteered 100% of their time.  Slowly but surely, more people started donating their time and investing in the program.

Today we are still a small effort, but more solid and much stronger thanks to supportive people in our community who not only donate material and financial resources, but more importantly invest their time, knowledge and love into the children in our program.

The needs and injustices in the world are too many.  We probably won't ever find a solution to fix everything, with that in mind I choose to and remind you to not get overwhelmed and believe in the wise words of Mother Theresa "Never worry about the numbers.  Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you."

"What did your support system look like when you were growing up?"

"Every child is one adult away from being a success story." -Josh Shipp

When we started working with disadvantaged youth at UPNicaragua back in 2015 we began to reflect on how we could positively impact the girls in our program in a deeper way, we wondered"what were those elements and who were those people who helped us flourish and become the adults we are today?".

We all came to the agreement that the elements and the support systems that we all had in order to flourish was immensely complex: family, community role models, leaders, teachers, mentors, friends, care, love, attention, education, nourishment, hugs, guidance and so much more.  We were surprised at the people that system included; people who are still in our lives, but also those who we have not seen in decades.

We observed that some of the girls in our program were not only lacking meals at home and access to education, they were lacking that complex support system.  We agreed that we needed to start building on the larger community that could little by little start showering the UPNicaragua children with guidance, love and care.  

At UPNicaragua we connect caring adults to our program who can intentionally weave that support system for the children, we encourage conversations and exchange between parents, teachers, mentors and role models in the hope that when we all learn, share and work towards the same mission of empowering our girls, the process will speed up and the risk of leaving anyone behind will be much lower.

Have you ever thought about what that complex support system looked like for you as you were growing up? 

Why Girls?

Women represent over 50% of the Nicaraguan population.

Gender inequality

Nicaraguan women constitute more than half the population of the country; their potential to contribute to the country’s development is not only obvious, but necessary.  

With Nicaragua’s history of gender inequality and the lack of effective regulatory laws, women have become the main victims of a cycle of abuse, lack of education and opportunities. 

Vulnerability of both women and children

When women lack access to equal opportunities both women and children become extremely vulnerable as they seek better life alternatives which are generally costly.

From drug abuse, disease, homelessness, high rates of immigration to the dangers of sexual exploitation and of course, lack of representation in civil society and access to the most basic human rights.

Educate a woman, educate a nation

When half the population of a country is suffering from abuse, lack of education and opportunities, it is virtually impossible for that country to thrive, hence why women are the priority segment of this program.

Juan Jose gets it! Men are part of the solution.

"Men in my neighborhood think that women need to stay at home and that men are not manly if they do house chores.  I believe that needs to change immediately.  I want to make sure that girls in my neighborhood know their rights."   (Juan Jose H.)

A large part of gender inequality has its roots in stereotypes that society has assigned to each gender and reinforced for centuries.  While women are essential to their own empowerment, men also play a huge role.  

In order to debunk stereotypes we need men to become aware that the issue of gender inequality exists across the globe and that gender is nothing but a biological difference and not a barrier to playing any role in society.  

When men understand this, the transformation speeds up as they evidently also want the best for our world!  When men understand this, they begin by empowering their own daughters at home to make sure that they can have a bright future with access to all possibilities; they also begin to empower their sons so that they can be fair human beings who understand that men and women have the right to equal opportunities and access to resources and that in order to secure that right, we all need to do our part.

Juan Jose is one of those men who get it!  He is a community leader in a small barrio of Granada, he has a natural drive to bring hope to his neighborhood.   In the last year he has taken on the responsibility of making sure that girls who lack solid support systems at home attend our program, he makes sure their moms wake them up on time, walks them from faraway and participates as a junior artisan creating products to contribute towards the sustainability of our girl empowerment program.

We are so grateful to work with Juan Jose and extremely proud to have a man role model with us!

Why Nicaragua?

 Granada, Nicaragua

Granada, Nicaragua

Tourism: economic & social impact

Nicaragua’s tourism industry has shown rapid and steady growth in the last ten years, becoming one of the three top generators of foreign currency and the generator of 140,000 new employments in the country between 2007-2011.

While Nicaragua’s international image has for years been demonized by its  historical drama, it is quickly positioning itself as one of the most authentic, safest and least expensive destinations in Latin America.

Granada: a booming destination

Granada, in particular, is a booming tourist destination; it’s attractive and great for business.  But one thing that cannot go unnoticed is the fact that Granada is in Nicaragua—the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. 

The Nicaraguan government is currently allocating funds to promote Nicaragua at an international level with the hope that this industry will contribute to the development of the country but there are also complex aspects to it.

While the industry is capable of generating jobs and activating the economy at all levels, we must be also concerned with the protection of Nicaragua and Nicaraguans, especially children. 

Vulnerable populations

Children, particularly girls, are more vulnerable to the risks of the tourism industry when they lack education, skills, emotional empowerment, economic alternatives, networks and role models.  

Our program is intended to be a partial solution to the different challenges and risks that a fast growing tourism industry poses on vulnerable populations.

Empowering future protagonists

Unleash Potential Nicaragua was founded so that together we can all take action as a community to protect the rights of vulnerable underage girls and unleash their potential to grow into the true protagonists of the tourism industry.