Amazing Mentor! Spotlight Interview with the Pulsera Project Founders, Helping Nicaraguan Youth Through Bracelets, or Pulseras
By Olivia Pineda, Assistant Editor
Founded in January of 2009, The Pulsera Project is an organization which aims to help the youth in Nicaragua through the making of bracelets, or “pulseras” in Spanish. Many of the youths in Nicaragua can make intricate woven bracelets, and the Pulsera Project sells these bracelets in the United States. All proceeds are used to help the children in Nicaragua better their lives through food, clothing, books, and other essentials which can, in turn help these children lead better lives. Since many of the children in Nicaragua live in poverty, they don’t have access to basic necessities, and these items, which are bought with the money made from the sales of the children’s pulseras, can positively impact their lives in many ways.
In turn, the Pulsera Project also hopes to open US students’ eyes to a new way of looking at the world, and show them one part of the Latin American culture through pulseras. The Pulsera Project hopes that, with each bracelet sold, we all will gain a better understanding of ourselves and our place in context with the rest of the world.
AK: What inspired you to start the Pulsera Project?
PP: When our family and some friends were vacationing in Nicaragua two years ago, we visited a shelter for poor and neglected children. We fell in love with the kids and visited the shelter nearly every day. Before we left to go back home, the kids made us pulseras as going-away presents. Their kindness is what inspired the founding of the Pulsera Project. We returned home with handfuls of pulseras, determined to try and sell some of their pulseras to raise money for the shelter. Students in two schools offered to help us sell them and the pulseras became very popular. Now students in 93 schools are helping out!
AK: Your slogan is “Color the World”. Could you explain the meaning of the slogan, and how you came up with it?
PP: We had a lot of different ideas for our slogan, but one of the project’s co-founders, Colin Crane, who is a student at American University, came up with the idea of “Color the World.” We liked it because it explained our project in a simple way. Pulseras are very colorful and selling them is fun, but best of all the funds raised through pulsera sales help brighten the lives of many young people, both in the United States and in Nicaragua.
AK: What are a few examples of how the Pulsera Project has specifically impacted Nicaraguan children’s lives?
PP: Public school is free in Nicaragua, but students cannot attend school without uniforms, so we have purchased countless uniforms and shoes so that poor kids can attend school. We also donate money to buy food, medicine, computers, and many other things. We visit Nicaragua twice each year with US students and we take field trips together with the Nicaraguan kids, helping students from both countries form new friendships and expand their understanding of the world.
Even though we donate a lot of money, one of the Pulsera Project’s best contributions is helping Nicaraguan kids feel good about themselves. They feel proud that US students appreciate their hard work and beautiful pulseras!
AK: What are some key long-term goals that you hope to accomplish in the next few years?
PP: Just this past December we formed a pulsera makers’ group of 20 older kids who no longer live in the children’s shelters. Each one in the group has their own pulsera making business and sells pulseras to the Pulsera Project. This provides all of them with jobs so that they can earn money, but the Pulsera Project also plans to pay for all of them to go to college. Last month we awarded the first-ever college scholarship to a kid who had lived in the Los Quinchos children’s shelter for fifteen years. In the coming year we hope to award about a dozen more scholarships. Also, since some of the kids would rather start their own businesses, like stores or shops, we also hope to lend money to those kids to help them get started.
Since land is very cheap in Nicaragua, another goal we have is to buy a small farm and build a community center that will be like a second home to everybody who makes pulseras for the Pulsera Project. Nicaraguan youths, families, and US students will all work together to build a place that we can all share. We also hope to use solar energy to power the new center.
AK: What types of kids does The Pulsera Project help?
PP: We mostly help kids who either have no parents or who come from troubled families. The kids live in children’s shelters that are run by loving and understanding people. In this way, we are helping kids who don’t get normal support from their families. However, as the project has grown, we’ve also begun helping kids and families who live in very poor areas of Nicaragua.
AK: When you visit Nicaragua, what types of local projects do you and other volunteers engage in?
PP: We normally visit Nicaragua twice each year with about fifteen students from the US. One time we bought two truckloads of lumber and we worked together with the Nicaraguan kids to build tables and benches and bookshelves. Another time we bought loads of paint and painted the girls’ shelter from top to bottom with super bright and cheerful colors.
During our upcoming student trip in July, our biggest project will be holding the first-ever Nicaraguan pulsera competition. Pulsera makers from all over Nicaragua will enter the competition that will be held at the Sí a La Vida youth shelter on Ometepe Island. This competition is designed to help build a sense of community among everyone who makes pulseras, and of course everyone is super-excited to see who will be crowned “Pulsera Champion”!
AK: Was there anyone in particular who has mentored you, or who served as an inspiration for the Pulsera Project?
PP: Without a doubt, kids remain our greatest inspiration. After all, it was the Nicaraguan kids who inspired the project in the first place by giving us pulseras as gifts, and a US student who gave us our slogan, “Color the World”. And, almost all the money raised by the project has been raised by students!! Hundreds of US kids have volunteered to sell pulseras and continue this amazing adventure known as The Pulsera Project. Kids are well known for their great imaginations, and we are constantly inspired by the fresh ideas that young minds contribute to the project and by how many different ways young people have invented to sell pulseras in their schools.
AK: How can American kids get involved in the Pulsera Project?
PP: In the past two years, students in 93 US schools in 24 states have volunteered for the Pulsera Project, from elementary schools to universities. It’s actually pretty easy to get involved and no money at all is needed. All you need is a desire to help and a plan to sell pulseras in school, usually at lunchtime in the cafeteria for a few days. Once you have a plan figured out, The Pulsera Project sends lots of pulseras and some picture displays to your school and then you get to lead the project. The pulseras are simply amazing, and it doesn’t take long before nearly everyone in the school wants one and wants to be part of such a fun project that benefits so many Nicaraguan kids! All the info on how to get involved can be found on our website at www.pulseraproject.org.