by Hope Hardin

It was a dusty road we took to the church, plastic chairs in which we sat outside and talked, the roosters crowing with an occasional firework blast thrown in the mix, all in the intense heat of Leon’s afternoon sun, might make you feel that it’s very different from your known context. Even so, this is a story that resonates across borders and boundaries of culture and language. It’s the story of a teenager growing and learning how to get along with her parents, learning to respect herself and to trade in the negative peer influences for positive relationships.

Estefani Zamora is 16 years old and has attended the IMPACT club that Nereyda Andino, IMPACT Club Coordinator, runs in Eugenio Perez, Segunda Etapa, for a little over a year and a half. She has always lived with her parents and older brother in Eugenio Perez, and is in her last year of high school. Nereyda asked her if she would be willing to talk about the changes in her life since coming to IMPACT.

As Estefani talked, the importance of the relationship between Estefani and Nereyda was evident. Estefani’s sentences were often prefaced with “like you told us in group…” or “like we learned from Nereyda…,” and when Estefani needed help explaining, Nereyda knew what she was talking about, which demonstrates her ongoing communication with both Estefani and her parents. IMPACT group leaders, volunteers who receive training with Nehemiah Center, have a strong commitment to the youth in their groups. This, combined with a basis on Biblical principles of attitude and service, is key in making IMPACT clubs true to their name in the lives of the youth who participate.

Some of the highlights of our interview with Estefani:

Nereyda: So why did you decide to become involved with IMPACT Clubs?

Estefani: I wanted help with my behavior, because before I didn’t get along well with my parents, I didn’t pay much attention to what they told me to do…we had a lot of conflict, and, sometimes, when there were problems, for example, we would hardly talk, when they said something I just went and shut myself in my room…

N: In what way has the IMPACT club influenced your personal life?

E: Well, before I didn’t know much how to relate to others…Here I have learned how to interact and work in a group and get along with others.

I have improved my grades, and now I don’t have as many problems with them [my parents], I talk with them more, I tell them my stuff, instead of just talking with a friend, I tell them, because I know that they are going to support me and help me out.

Before, I thought that my parents told me things because they didn’t love me and I felt sad, but it’s different now, with the word of God and all I have been learning, it has helped me to get better and I feel like my parents love me, and I have been talking with them more to see the problems and solve them

N: In what way has the IMPACT Club made a difference in your community?

E: We help those that need it the most, for example, we were in one of the neighborhoods in an outlying area and were giving away packages with food, clothing for the children, things to wash clothes, and games so that they could have fun… we also made a little roof to cover the well.

N: They built the roof there so that people wouldn’t be in the hot sun when they go to get water.

E: And the other thing that we did was that we were painting here for the church. They are remodeling things, and it was our help to paint the windows, as the youth of the community we came to do it.

N: What have been the biggest challenges with IMPACT club?

E: The most difficult for me? For example, before I started, Nereyda asked if we had any kind of “vice,” some object or something we dedicated a lot of our time to… I told her it was my cell phone. I couldn’t go…it was 24 hours a day almost, glued to my phone, and right there, almost directly, is where the fights with my parents originated, because I just would always be on my phone, I hardly wanted to study, I just wanted to be on the phone… Texting people, on Facebook, Whatsapp, everything. Nowadays with friends it’s hardly even talking anymore, just texting… and I think that is not the best to fix an issue, or to get along better, I say it’s better to talk because that way you get to know the person better and can relate.

Estefani continued to talk about how her life at home has changed, that now she is not “glued” to her phone, that she does what her mom asks. For example, maybe she had to wash her uniform and she already had it washed and ironed early, and so on. She surprised her parents with grades of 98 and 100, when before they were 60 and 40… She said that her mom didn’t like the friend that she had before, the one that was a “bad influence” but now she has a friend that is a good influence.

This past December, she wanted to go out with this new friend, something that before her parents would not let her do, and they let her, but under certain conditions…They followed her mom’s rules, they were gone only two hours, had some ice cream, and came back, all respectful. And her mom said, “If you want to go out again, just ask me.” In Estefani’s words, “My parents trust me more and I trust them more too.”

The story details, such as building a roof to shelter the well where the neighborhood draws water, give glimpses of the Nicaraguan context, but the themes of teenage life, growth, and making a difference are universal.

As can be seen from Estefani’s story, IMPACT is about transformation. As Estafani says, “It’s like before I felt an emptiness, like nobody loves you and you have so many problems, but when you find something, like a positive path…it’s like it changes you and makes you think more about things…” It’s hard to participate and not change.

IMACT Clubs is a part of the Nehemiah Centers’s Community Development program is a joint collaboration with World Renew. The focus of the Community Development program is to transform communities throughout Leon & Chinandega, Nicaragua.