If anyone has ever wanted to take a trip to Nicaragua, now is a great time to start thinking about it. While you're there, how about climbing a volcano? Or even two!
We are planning our very first Charity Challenge trip - we are calling it the Volcano Charity Challenge and it will take place in February, 2015. The plan is simple - raise money for the NCF and then come with us to the island of Omotepe, near San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, where we will climb two volcanoes in two days! Sound like fun? Please contact us if you think you might be interested at email@example.com.
The beginnings of a playground at Ojochal. This is part of the Children's Centre. We decided to use recycled tires - safe and environmentally friendly!
Photos of the beginning stages of the new children's centre in Ojochal are below. As you can see, it's a team effort; if everybody helps, everybody benefits!
We have recently received some surprising news! Here's the background story:
In May, we were contacted by an American foundation (Sunshine Heroes Foundation). They asked us if we would be willing to submit a proposal for a project. Never having succeeded in breaking into the mysterious world of grants before, we decided to have one more go at it, being the optimists that we are! We then kind of forgot about it. A few weeks ago, Sunshine Heroes contacted us again. They told us that we were in the running, but that there were a total of 10 proposals that they were considering. We hung on, figuring that we had as good a chance as anyone.
So guess what?
We won! We received a grant for $24,000 (American!) to build the first ever Children's Centre, which will consist of a health clinic and library in beautiful Ojochal, Nicaragua! Not only that-we are also building a playground and creating a garden space, complete with fence to keep out the various farm animals. The playground will likely be built with recycled materials, such as old tires. The whole project will benefit several communities in the surrounding area and will also be used by medical/dental groups coming from elsewhere.
Needless to say, we and all the people we work with in Nicaragua, are over the moon with excitement! Everything has to be done or largely done by the beginning of November, when we will be hosting a group of 8-10 representatives from Sunshine Heroes, who are coming to Ojochal to see the project.
We will keep you updated with information and photos as the clinic/library/garden/playground progresses! Our plan is to be there at the same time as Sunshine Heroes, to welcome them to Nicaragua and to thank them in person.
The newly organized classroom at Los Pipitos
At the beginning of July, 2014, Marla Bosch and Rena Fine travelled to San Juan del Sur to share their time and considerable expertise with the teachers and parents of Los Pipitos. They held workshops for the adults involved with Los Pipitos and even found time to help out at San Francisco de Asis, the large town school for preschool to grade 6. The focus of their trip was to train both teachers and adults to work with children with disabilities. Marla and Rena also helped organize the classroom for the younger students at Los Pipitos (a picture of the newly renovated classroom can be seen above).
Our school for the disabled, Los Pipitos, is at the same time our greatest achievement and our most difficult project. This is partly because there are many people involved and everyone seems to have a slightly different vision for it. It's also because when we started the school, we did not put enough thought into what our goals were for it. We were just so excited to get it going, that our focus was on getting it up and running! In the time since the doors first opened in 2008, Los Pipitos has been very much a work in progress.
One unavoidable fact is that, as a school for the disabled, it lacks many necessities. Many of these items are hard or even impossible to purchase in Nicaragua (think physiotherapy equipment, for example). Other items and materials that we should have at Los Pipitos are just prohibitively expensive. And then even if we did have these items, do we have people who know what to do with them? We pondered these difficulties and then, as so often happens, a miracle occurred.
The first miracle was Marla Bosch, from Alberta. Marla had both enthusiasm and answers, a rare combination. As a speech therapist, she was able to solve several problems almost immediately. She also had ideas for other issues we were facing. And her enthusiasm was so contagious! Everyone leaped up to join her and things started happening at Los Pipitos. Marla will be coming back to Los Pipitos at the end of June and she is going to help organize the classrooms so that they function well for all the students. She is even going to train both teachers and parents on how to deal with various disabilities. And what's more, she is bringing people with her who are also experts in this field.
The second miracle was Elsie Elder. We have not yet had an opportunity to meet Elsie, but we definitely are looking forward to that someday. Elsie is Marla's aunt which is how she came to hear of Los Pipitos. Elsie is also lucky enough to be Elisabeth Elder's mom. Elisabeth, who passed away not long ago, brought joy to Elsie every day that she was here and Elsie wanted to make sure that she would always be remembered. And she will be-on Elisabeth's behalf, Elsie has donated enough money to build a new classroom. She has also recently donated the funds necessary to ensure that Los Pipitos will have all the materials and equipment it needs to go forward as a genuine school for the disabled. We will always be grateful to both Elsie and Elisabeth for the difference they have made.
Los Pipitos is our school/centre for disabled children/adults in San Juan del Sur. We first opened Los Pipitos in 2008, after we raised enough money to renovate and furnish an old, abandoned building. The school has garnered much interest since that time, but has also undergone growing pains. One of most intractable difficulties has been the costs associated with the school's day-to-day operational costs. Everyone loves to build schools, but paying for their maintenance and upkeep is not nearly so much fun! The NCF has committed to paying for all costs for a period of one year. This will include two teachers' salaries, a breakfast program, a school bus and driver and all necessary costs for maintenance of the building.
Our goal for Los Pipitos is that by the end of March, 2015, we will have found enough sponsors to pay for the school's costs (about $700/month). We will be looking for sponsors both from Nicaragua and Canada. We are hoping to find either businesses or individuals who would be willing to commit to paying a small portion of these costs(approximately $50/month). Los Pipitos is a valuable addition to the community of San Juan del Sur. The kids who come every day to play and learn at Los Pipitos have nowhere else to go as the public school is unable to accommodate them. If you, or someone you know, would be willing to be a sponsor, please let us know!
Opening celebrations for the new preschool were held on August 6, 2013. Despite a bout of food poisoning, Chad and Cassie Phillips represented the NCF and even made a speech in Spanish for the first time. Many thanks to both! They continue to amaze us with their commitment to helping Miravalle. We (and the people of Miravalle) will be forever grateful to them both for everything they've done.
Congratulations to everyone involved. It was a lot of work and much of it had to be done during the rainy season. Many people chipped in to make this dream a reality for the little community. Special thanks to Chad and Cassie Phillips for their fundraising efforts! Chad and Cassie took on this project happily and saw it through to the end, despite many difficulties along the way. We are very grateful to them both!
The annex to Los Pipitos is complete. We have a photo of it here and on our last trip we were able to see it in person. It is a beautifully finished and attractive classroom. It is actually less of an annex and more of another classroom in its own right. All it really needs now is appropriate educational materials! Luckily, Los Pipitos will soon be hosting two Canadian women who both work in this area and who will be helping us prepare and arrange the classroom. This is a very exciting turn of events!
Many thanks go to Elsie Elder who made the new classroom a reality through her very thoughtful and generous contribution which she made on behalf of her daughter, Elisabeth. Elisabeth passed away in December, 2012, but her spirit lives on here at Los Pipitos. Her photos can be seen above.
The link below will take you to an online news site called DIPLOMATIC ASPECTS NEWSPAPER - YOUR EUROPEAN, INTERNATIONAL AND DIPLOMATIC NEWS. It is an article on organizations and people working for children in Nicaragua and it mentions the NCF! The article talks about the new preschool in Miravalle, the electricity in Ojochal and Kindness in Action. We were pretty surprised to see it!