Nestled between Honduras and Costa Rica, Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America, boasting a population of just over 6 million. People live simply in Nicaragua. The United Nations reports that 30% of the population lives on less than $2 a day, making it the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and the poorest country in Central America. Having suffered a debilitating civil war in the late 1970s, Nicaraguans continue to feel the tremendous effects of war.
Jinotega is now a bustling town about three hours northeast of the capital Managua, and sits in the highlands of the country, though it was once Nicaragua’s most war-torn region. Coffee is grown in this cool climate and the region produces 80% of all the coffee grown in Nicaragua. However, as nearby towns grow, new industries are popping up everywhere. The population of Jinotega is roughly 51,000. It has a central square, a busy market place and plenty of shops, banks, and most of the commodities of a larger city. However, there is a rustic feel to the town given its remote location.
Patricia McCully, founder of Círculo de Amigas, taught Spanish in California for 20 years. In 1983, she visited Nicaragua for the first time and saw, with her own eyes, the horrific effects of civil war. Standing in the ruins of a burned-down one-room schoolhouse, she felt compelled to do something about the extreme poverty she saw. A lot of the women wore nothing but rags, so Pat decided to teach them how to sew, on donated machines that she transported down.
In 1993, after many trips to Nicaragua, Pat purchased a house on the edge of Jinotega. Using donated supplies, the parlor of that house was turned into a sewing classroom. Soon Pat shifted her focus to the girls and she began a program to provide scholarships for girls to remain in school from elementary school through university.
Since then, our facility has grown. With the help of numerous volunteers and donations CDA put in the only lending library in northern Nicaragua as well as a computer lab.
The Círculo de Amigas Foundation was established in 2016 to continue the work of Pat McCully and to promote the empowerment of impoverished women and girls in Nicaragua through education, access to healthcare, and personal improvement.
Read more about Pat McCully's journey and relationship with Nicaragua in Why Nicaragua? Memories of Courage, Danger and Determination. Available for purchase on Amazon.com.