SOUTH BOSTON, Va.—In the United States pencils are not a big deal. But according to Jennifer Chappell, an inexpensive pencil can provide a child living in extreme poverty in Nicaragua an opportunity to receive an education.
A summer mission trip to Nicaragua five years ago was a life-changing experience for Chappell, a member of Ash Avenue Baptist Church in South Boston, Va. She was shaken by the poor conditions. Few households in rural areas have access to electricity. Most families lack adequate food and water. Many children roam the streets alone and naked begging for food or money, she says.
“No one really understands the situation until they see it for themselves,” she adds. “These people are so poor that the only thing they have to give you is their love. And their love is so overwhelming.” She admits that she returned knowing that God was leading her to do more for these people.
Since 2007 Chappell has returned to Nicaragua 14 times. Her passion for Christ and creativity has resulted in ministries that are making a difference.
In August 2008 Chappell founded Save Them One by One, a child school sponsorship ministry, enabling more than 400 Nicaraguan children to attend school. Government schools require each child to have a uniform, plus pencil and paper before stepping into a classroom. Although an education could release a child from the cycle of poverty, it is not an option for most in rural villages, Chappell reports.
Through Save Them One by One, a donation of $25 can provide a Nicaraguan child with school uniform, shoes, school supplies and a Bible. She began in August 2008 with names and photos of 120 children in need of a sponsor. By the end of the year every child was sponsored. Currently there are 512 children in the school program and 100 are seeking sponsors. Many children have been in the program for four years, Chappell says.
Baskets of Love resulted from a March 2011 trip to the village of Cinco Pinos in the Northern part of Nicaragua where the Save Them One by One team met an 10-year-old girl named Helen Julisa who spent most of her spare time weaving handmade baskets from pine needles to support her and her grandmother. While the country has many exceptional artisans, according to Chappell, most do not have access to adequate markets to provide a decent living.
Baskets of Love has enabled Save Them One by One to become an outlet dedicated to bringing beautiful Nicaraguan baskets to America and is dedicated to the principles of fair trade. “The baskets become income, food, medicine, school fees and hope,” Chappell says. “It is a small miracle that enriches us all.”
As the result of the success of Baskets of Love, the Save Them One by One team taught 10 Nicaraguan women to craft paper beads which are made into necklaces. All proceeds from Beads of Love go back to the women and communities where they reside. Chappell uses the opportunity that basket and bead parties provide to share videos and create awareness of the group’s ministry in Nicaragua.
Construction was begun in March 2012 on a church building in one of the villages sponsored by Save Them One by One for the past three years. The community of Nuevo Jicarito held services outside the pastor’s house and was unable to meet during bad weather, Chappell reports. The total construction cost for the church will be $8,000 and the ministry has already raised $3,000.
The support of Ash Avenue Baptist Church has been encouraging, says Chappell. This year it doubled its Vacation Bible School offering to provide school sponsorship for 35 children. Numerous fundraising activities have provided funds for the ministry in Nicaragua.
Her mission is to continue to share about ministries of Save Them One by One, especially the child school sponsorship. Its website is www.savethemonebyone.com.
“I was told by a pastor before my first trip to Nicaragua that I was going to see things that would be upsetting and make me sad,” Chappell says. He told her to remember that she wasn’t God and couldn’t save everybody.
Yet she says, “Just to see a child’s face when they see a uniform and realize they can go to school is unbelievable.” Although she realizes that she can’t save every child, she finds fulfillment in offering hope to one at a time.