The Phoenix Emporium in Ellicott City agreed to donate some of the proceeds from a night's business after hearing her daughter's pitch, her mother said.

"She realizes that there's so much more out there in cultures and communities," Linda Dobson said. "I'm always very amazed at her dedication and accomplishments."

A lot with a little

The Peace Project has relied on personal donations in its first year and spent only $700.

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In addition to donations of a computer and school supplies that helped defray costs, Dobson and the two other directors receive free room and board from the owner of an area hostel.

Though they spent little, Dobson said they have seen big results.

Dobson recalled how one young girl that other children excluded from groups would always scribble on her paper while her classmates would draw rainbows, houses and flowers.

Dobson suspected it was because the girl feared being judged by her peers, she said.

After working as a group, the girl has become accepted into the group and has recently begun drawing pictures like her peers.

"The kids are learning a lot and they're learning very fast," Dobson said.

Dobson cited another example of a 15-year-old boy whose parents pulled him from primary school before he could complete it.

The boy's parents never completed school and now operate a bar. They believved the boy could do without those lessons, Dobson explained.

And even if he wanted to return to school, the teachers would be hesitant to include a teenager in a class of 10-year-olds, she said.

"I don't think there's anyone there pushing for him," Dobson said. "We're the ones pushing."

With The Peace Project, the boy has taken English lessons.

Looking forward

The year Dobson has spent in Nicaragua has been a learning experience for her, too.

Her Spanish skills have improved to the point where she is now fluent.

Dobson has also learned to communicate with the Nicaraguans, who tend to handle issues indirectly, she said.

She said she plans to stay in Nicaragua until January so she can experience the festivities that accompany a Nicaraguan Christmas, she said.