Building communities, becoming global citizens
What Makes Us Unique?
ViviendasLeón is an international development and education travel organization. We are a non-profit 501(c)3 organization; A majority of our resources go to in-country programs and the people of Central America. We have a long track record of safety and measurable impact in the communities we serve. We have twenty years of experience in sustainable rural development and global education travel. We operate and are responsible for both the travel and development programs. We create and implement authentic, community driven projects. The success of our work depends on the engagement of community members, school partners, students, staff, interns and volunteers who are an integral part of the development process.
To eliminate poverty by teaching capacities for self-sufficiency in rural communities and educating our youth as global citizens through service learning travel.
To provide permanent, measurable gains in the standard of living of rural poor populations and to promote understanding between people.
We work intensively with a rural community over the course of four years. In a series of inter-related programs, we build capacity in the adult population to accomplish sustaining goals such as personal agency, food security and economic expansion. We create local employment for families through micro-enterprise development. We develop a community’s ability to perform economically viable work and to work together as community members to achieve shared goals. We identify the complex array of community needs that must be addressed and coordinate comprehensive efforts through partnerships with other organizations. We foster understanding between people by bringing diverse groups together to share in the effort to improve the conditions in rural communities.
How We Work
Our development program was designed to address many of the bi-products of inter-generational poverty - lost confidence, motivation and lack of support
We do this by taking a ‘capabilities to confidence’ approach - helping people build skills and see that they are capable - we start all participants with our Human Capacity Training to address the ongoing issues associated with poverty
We do this with an ‘asset based view’ - looking at the problem through the lens of what assets there are vs. what deficits
We do this with by taking a ‘narrow but deep’ approach – working with small groups of Participants over a 4 year period
We do this by taking a ‘customizable’ approach - identifying programs and launching businesses based on what Participants are excited about
We do this by taking a ‘side by side’ approach – supporting participants with an established team on the ground, and with student and family groups providing periodic infusions of manpower and energy
We do this with a ‘community development’ approach - facilitating group collaboration and community building
We do this because our goal is to create permanent, impactful and sustainable development.
Our Global Education program was designed to enable US students and families to understand poverty from all angles, to learn about and contribute to development programs that are working
We do this by bringing groups of students and families to Nicaragua for Global Education trips
We do this with a ‘side by side’ approach – where participants contribute to the efforts of our on-going real, development programs
We do this with a ‘capabilities to confidence’ approach with experiences that build skills, give kids the confidence that they can do it, that they can make an impact now
We do this with an ‘immersive’ approach – where participants can stay in homestays with local families; are exposed to unfamiliar environments and new experiences; where they get to experience poverty from all angles, from inside the community
We do this with a ‘customizable’ approach – where groups can select from a series of cultural, educational and exploration oriented experiences
We do this with an ‘insider’s’ approach – having a Leon based team that have operated within the same community for over 15 years
We do this because impactful development is both local and global, requiring person to person engagement, and community building across borders
ViviendasLeón was co-founded when two individuals from wildly different backgrounds came together with a common vision: to create self-sustainable opportunity for Nicaraguans.
Evan, an architect, and California native, first came to Nicaragua with a Sister City Program that linked New Haven with León. While there, he built schools and was introduced to the rural community of Goyena just outside the city of León. Though Evan was able to leverage his architecture background to contribute to the community in need, it still required ongoing support to run and depended solely on donations. Evan dreamt of a way to elevate rural communities that wasn't reliant solely on donations. He dreamt of a way to create ongoing, sustainable opportunities for Nicaraguans.
Indiana was born in León, Nicaragua but emigrated with her family to the USA when she was 8 due to the lack of jobs and opportunities for her family. For Indiana leaving her close extended family and all they knew behind was incredibly hard in addition to learning a new language and trying to fit in. While the experience gave them a new opportunity, they craved to be ‘home’. After college, when the situation had improved some, Indiana returned to Nicaragua to work as a guide and translator for visiting delegations. Indiana dreamt of a way to elevate Nicaraguan communities so others didn’t have to emigrate to survive. She dreamt of a way to create ongoing, sustainable opportunities for Nicaraguans.
Evan and Indiana discovered their shared vision while working together in the early 2000’s – and co-founded ViviendasLeón in 2003. Today ViviendasLeón operates development and travel programs in Nicaragua and Guatemala.