This summer a theme seems to be undeniably emerging. Voices. Everywhere there are voices that have gone un-listened to for far too long. And they are now demanding to be heard. From the #BlackLivesMatter movement to marriage equality, people seem to be coming to the realization that our collective well-being resides not in the word “or”, but in the word “and”. Not me or you. Me and you. Not us or them. Us and them. Or, more truthfully, simply . . . Us. We are bound up with one another and each and every voice is not only valuable, but essential for our flourishing. I don’t pretend that this is not difficult or messy work. It is both. But I believe we each have a responsibility to step into our part of this work–however large or small–to move Us toward that flourishing.

The above image is a year old now, taken last summer when OneVoice was visiting El Manzano Uno, a community on the west coast of Nicaragua. It is full of beautiful beaches, surfing, beautiful people, and economic and educational challenges. The guy on the left is, well, me (bet you a hard time guessing that one).

Nic 2The guy on the right is Kenny. Kenny is cool, make no mistake about it. He is backward-baseball-cap-wearing-posturing-magnetic-smiling-hot-and-cold-attitude cool. He is also the guy who wordlessly and unexpectedly draped his arm around my shoulders. He is the guy who, after showing indifference toward visual art practices, came back the next morning with beautiful creations he couldn’t wait to show us. And he is also the guy who stood openly weeping as we prepared to return home. Cool? You’d better believe it. And I can’t wait to see him again.

Kenny is a student at the first high school in the El Manzano Uno area. Until a year and a half ago, high school there consisted of kids meeting every Sunday morning at one of the elementary schools. That’s right. High school was once a week. Thanks to Waves of Hope (our NGO partners and hosts in Nica), a four-classroom high school is now home to 140 students.

Earlier this year, we donated about $1300 to each of the communities we partnered with in 2014: Village Mangar, India; El Manzano Uno, Nicaragua; West Point, Liberia. This was money raised through downloads of the song You Are Beautiful as well as purchases of our YAB mirrored pendants. We simply asked each community to let us know how they planned to use the funds. Our partners in Nica responded that at the top of the student’s wish list was to build a performance stage in the courtyard of the new high school.Well, who are we to stay away from that kind of magic? So, in just a few weeks, OneVoice will return to El Manzano Uno for a very special project.

Here’s What We’re Gonna Do:

  • Assist the students (and skilled workers) in constructing a performance stage out of concrete, tile, and a roof of palm leaves.
  • Assist the students in photo-documenting this particular week-in-the-life of their community by bringing digital cameras, printers, and journals, all of which will remain there.
  • Assist the students in painting a mural on the front wall of their school and creating an inaugural music/dance/spoken word performance for the community.

We are so excited to help these kids build a physical platform for their voices and then give them the opportunity to decide what they want and need to say to their community and the world.

I know, I know. I can hear you now . . . “Robbie Schaefer this is beautiful! Fantastic! Wonderful! And, given the deep challenges we are facing in our country and abroad, this news is giving me a strange, warm, gooey feeling in my chest. If I’m not mistaken, it feels a little like hope. Compassion. Love even. But what can I do?”. Well dear one, so glad you asked.

Here’s What You Can Do:

Follow our exploits on our facebook, instagram, and twitter pages and share share share! We promise to keep you updated with posts and photos every step of the way!

If you can’t wait to invest in this project and these kids you can donate to the general project here: I Love You

Or, if you’d like to steer a donation specifically to the purchase of cameras and photo supplies, you can do so here: I See You

Thank you from the bottom of my heart–and all our hearts–for joining us in this human flourishing.