Steamboat woman biking to Nicaragua

Trip goals include school construction

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— Local education specialist Debbie Young is biking to Nicaragua in January to work with 10 women for six months on developing and implementing early childhood care models in the rural part of the country.

Young helped develop potable water systems in Nicaragua and now would like to tackle the issue of early childhood education.

She said one of the main goals of the trip is to have three schools constructed in areas of need.

"The heart and soul for care of the children is there," she said.

Local people and volunteers will help with the construction of the schools.

Local women from the community will be employed to make the mortar bricks needed for construction.

With the unemployment rate at 85 percent, Young said any extra work is gratefully accepted.

The 10 women chosen to work with Young will attend a class a week to learn about the importance of social emotional development of young children and appropriate health, safety and nutrition practices.

Once the women are trained, they will continue their work as site coordinators in early childhood education.

The women's salaries will be paid for six months through funds Young raises, and then they will have to find ways to secure funding for their positions.

Young said the ability for the people to develop potable water systems increased their confidence to create programs for their young children.

Young said a town's early childhood plan will require a community effort and adults will need to work together to provide child care and provide a salary for early childhood teachers.

Community meetings will be held to discuss possible funding for teachers to sustain centers and homes.

Young will work with the community to establish those sources of funding.

She said people can donate food or volunteer as a way of paying for a local school program.

One of the goals of the program is to provide classes for women interested in teaching and taking care of children as their primary job.

The cost of building schools in Nicaragua is not expensive in comparison to construction costs in the United States, but money is much harder to come by in the poverty of Nicaragua.

The cost of building two preschool/infant toddler centers and finishing the construction of a school for handicapped children of the Jalapa Valley will cost $15,000.

Young is hoping through local donations she will raise all the funds needed.

"I'm giving up a lot to do this and make it happen," Young said.

She said she is renting out her home while she is gone to ease the financial burden of not having an income during her six-month trip.

She said the poverty of the people in Nicaragua makes it hard not give away any extra money on hand.

"It's amazing how much you end up giving away because people have nothing," she said.

Young's work in Nicaragua is only one part of her mission.

She is beginning her bike trip in Canada and then heading to Nicaragua to collect models of early childhood education.

The early childhood models collected will be accessible worldwide on a Web site.

Young said the networking potential and the sharing of information will be extremely valuable for areas struggling to develop early childhood education programs.

She said she hopes to discover the positive attributes of successful early childhood care centers and ways to implement them.

To help Young with the program her son, Taiowa Young, will continue collecting education models in north and south Mexico while she starts her work in Nicaragua.

Taiowa Young just graduated from college with a major in political science and will attend graduate school after helping his mom.

Young will have three of her children, Forrest, Alana and Reana, make the bike trip with her from Canada to Nicaragua. She said some areas in Mexico and Nicaragua are not accessible by car and she and her children plan to take rural routes along the way.

She is hoping that with additional financial support, she will be able to make follow-up visits to Nicaragua to bring additional training and education for site coordinators and other teachers involved in early childhood centers and homes.

"It's a multitude of problems. I'm trying to attack all those issues," she said.

If interested in supporting Young's mission to build schools and implement early childhood education programs in Nicaragua, call 871-4766.

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