Costa Rica has a population of 4 million people, with an estimated 500,000 to 750,000 Nicaraguan migrants — a number that has dramatically increased since the crisis began in April 2018. 2005 Henry Crown Fellow Margarita Herdocia’s venture, Ticos y Nicas: Somos Hermanos (Costa Ricans and Nicaraguans, We Are Brothers), was designed to foster brotherhood between the two countries. For over a decade, its primary mission has been to promote friendship between Nicaraguans and Costa Ricans, foster cooperation between their governments, study migration and its true impacts on both societies and economies, and create a platform for those who can have a positive influence.
Margarita’s venture was uniquely positioned to help when the Nicaragua crisis began. Through Ticos y Nicas, Margarita established Las Becas HUG (Humanitarian University Grants), a scholarship fund to help Nicaraguan university students who fled the violence in their country. The protests in Nicaragua were largely student led, and this scholarship is designed to give those students a new chance to be leaders. This fund covers 100 percent of tuition for students to attend the Latin American University of Science and Technology in Costa Rica and pursue their studies. Much of this has been made possible thanks to the support of Margarita’s Henry Crown Fellowship class-the 9th Symphony-as well as CALI Fellows in Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
Those selected to be HUG scholars must have demonstrated academic excellence, a proven leadership record, and the drive to become change- makers in the future, paying their success forward. They attend university full-time and meet one another outside the classroom for AGLN-inspired dialogues, moderated by Margarita, to help them cope with their experiences. There are currently more than 25 scholars, with new classes being selected each quarter. Through this program, Margarita has provided not just the opportunity for these students to study, but a place to find support and friendship in an impossibly difficult situation.
The HUG scholars go from feeling that they have been helped to feeling like they are the helpers. That is a magical transformation from feeling like a victim.