Our friend, Wendy DeGraaff, is back in Ojochal! She has very kindly volunteered to once again teach art and art-related skills to the women there, with the goal of eventually selling handmade products. She has been teaching the design and creation of fabric painting and mosaics. Wendy very regularly sends emails to us, updating us on her progress and letting us know about her many adventures and escapades there. We enjoy these letters thoroughly!
One of the things we like most about Wendy is how she can find the humour in just about any situation, no matter how dire and ridiculous it might be.
Below are some photos of the women and some of the work they've been doing.
On October 1, an enthusiastic and energetic group turned up for the Ride for Refuge, a 50 km bike ride through the relatively flat streets of Richmond, BC. This annual event takes place in different locations throughout Canada and the US and it has become one of the NCF's major fundraisers. Together, we raised almost $19,000! We really want to express our appreciation for our dedicated riders-thanks, everyone! Of course, we also want to say thanks to all our donors. We are hoping to take part again next year, so if you're interested in participating, please let us know!
We recently watched the documentary, Poverty, Inc. and we are hoping that people who visit our website will take the time to see it as well. The film focuses on how harmful foreign aid can be, even with the best of intentions. Haiti and Africa, where many NGOs are located, are the feature of Poverty, Inc., but certainly, many of the ideas presented are applicable to Nicaragua.
For some time now, the NCF has been working on economic development projects such as microloans. We have been trying to avoid handouts of donations or money in order to prevent the development of a culture of dependency. It's been an uphill battle; we get many requests from well-meaning people in both Canada and the US who wish to donate "gently-used" items. Unfortunately, this kind gesture can undermine the local economy, often in ways we can't even imagine until long afterward. Others are interested in going to Nicaragua to help out in some way, but typically only have a few days in which to do it. These volunteers often don’t speak any Spanish and are only interested in very specific tasks, such as working with children. These gestures are well-meaning, but offer little of value to Nicaragua or its people.
The film, Poverty, Inc., provides an image of the developing world which is quite different from the stereotypical North American view of it. The pictures you so often see of children covered in flies are not typically the reality. Rather than simply donating items (which make the donor feel good temporarily), what is needed is long-term sustainable economic development. People in the developing world are looking for ways to start their own businesses or cooperatives, for example. Parents there are like parents here; they want to be able to look after and provide for their own children. It’s important to remember that people there are pretty similar to people here!
Please take time to see Poverty, Inc., currently on Netflix. You’ll likely find it a valuable and eye-opening experience. The link to the trailer is here:
We'd like you to meet Jamie and Reghan Anderson, ages 8 and 6 respectively.. These are two very compassionate kids who worked hard to raise money for children in Nicaragua. Before their trip there, Jamie and Reghan did extra work around their house for several months, eventually accumulating $200. We want to congratulate both - we very much appreciate their efforts!
They are seen in the photo below on the Rio San Juan in Nicaragua.
We recently met Dale Hunter, who is now retired from his position as Dean of ESL studies at Vancouver Community College. As you may know, VCC's ESL department was canceled a few years ago and the college was left with a large supply of very useful English texts, most at the secondary level or higher. Dale told us of his plan to transport some of these materials to the universities in Nicaragua. However, shipping costs are high, so he has started a crowdfunding campaign on FundRazr to try to pay for this very worthy project. Dale would really appreciate help and support with this! Please check out the link below and donate whatever you can to make this project a success!
Hi everyone! We've formed a new company: Nica Ceramica. Its purpose is to import Nicaraguan pottery to Canadian customers. The company is separate from the NCF but a portion of all proceeds will go directly to the projects. We will be busy attending craft fairs and trade shows this summer-hope to see you there! For more information, check our new page, Nica Ceramica, under the "about" tab above.
Please check out our updated Mission Statement on the "About the Foundation" page below the "About Us" tab.
We've just returned from another visit to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, and as usual, there's a lot happening there. Climate change has hit hard, especially in the rural areas. In San Juan del Sur, the wet season never really happened and as a result, many rivers are dry and crops have failed. The town of San Juan del Sur is bringing water out to some of the hardest-hit areas. When we arrived in Ojochal, we discovered that one of their two water tanks had fallen in the night. This created a crisis in a town that is already beginning to look like a desert.
We were also surprised to find a group of Americans (adults and teenagers) in the school in Ojochal when we arrived. We asked the community members about who this group was and they had no idea. It appeared that the Americans had made arrangements through a local group Church contact to come to both Ojochal and Miravalle so that the teenagers could teach in the schools for four days. We've long been aware of the impact of volunteer tourism (or voluntourism) on communities and the positive and negative effects that are a result of it. The teenagers did not speak Spanish and had to communicate with the kids using a translator. We discovered that this group had no interest in getting to know the community and refused to speak to the community leaders. When we explained about the current water crisis in both Ojochal and Miravalle, the group expressed sorrow, but were unwilling to help in any way. The link below tells the whole story:
The NCF focuses on long term strategic initiatives designed to promote sustainable economic and social development. But sometimes there is an opportunity to provide immediate help in real time. Here is a story about a family who helped in the latter way. Andy Cohan, his wife Julie, and their children Sophia, Isabella and Nicoli were visiting San Juan del Sur. He emailed us to see how they could help. The family did some shopping for basic necessities at the local Pali and , with the help of our agent Veronica Castro carried the groceries in to Ana and her family in Las Casitas (near Ojochal). This kind of generosity is deeply appreciated by this extended family! After returning to the United States, Andy secured the donation of two boxes of Spanish language books. Next week we will be taking these to Nicaragua – a major acquisition for the Ojochal library!
Check out our "microloan" page, under the Projects tab above. You will see a summary of a few of the communities who are participating in the microloan program. The names of the recipients are included as well as the amount of the loans, in Nicaraguan cordobas, and the type of businesses each one is involved in. Please check it out and let us know if you would like to have anything translated!
Our financial statement for 2015 is now online. You can find it under the tab, "Financial Statements".
Almost every week, we get requests from people looking for volunteer opportunities in Nicaragua. Everyone wants to work directly with the people there! This is a great idea, but our first question is always, “How’s your Spanish?” Anyone who has ever been to Nicaragua will have discovered that learning a little Spanish is a great way to understand the culture and the history of this fascinating country. So, we’re going to let you in on a secret; we know the best school for learning Spanish in San Juan del Sur (maybe even in all of Nicaragua!) - Veronica’s SJDS Spanish School.
From the moment you step in to the school, you’ll find yourself in a warm and welcoming environment. The classroom where you will have your private lessons is in the open and breezy second floor. Everyone receives instruction at their own level by enthusiastic and patient teachers, each chosen by Veronica to suit the personality and needs of the student. Your Spanish will improve surprisingly quickly and you will soon find that you are able to order in a restaurant. You may even get to the point where you can discuss Nicaraguan politics and culture! If you would like your lessons to be tailored to include specific subjects or technical terms, the teachers will go out of their way to do that.
It’s not all hard work, either! There are many afternoon excursions available; cooking, dancing, the beach, zip lining are all possible. Best of all, you can visit some of the NCF’s projects! The school will also find you accommodation, which can be a homestay or a hotel, depending on your preference.
If you think you might be interested in studying Spanish, either for a few days or even weeks, let us know-email firstname.lastname@example.org We can help make the arrangements or answer any questions.
Below is a link to the Trip Advisor reviews for Veronica’s Spanish School:
You have heard of Edward Lorenz's butterfly effect - how a massive storm could be connected to a butterfly flapping its wings halfway around the world. So here is a new one: the Meat Pie effect. Paulette
Antaya and her intrepid group of Ontario retirees have been fundraising for NCF projects for a number of years. When they make their annual trek to Nicaragua they help in the delivery of the NCF
programs that they have helped to fund. This year they raised over three thousand dollars that that is now being spent in Nicaragua on uniforms, school supplies and microloans.
But here is where the meat pies come in. A couple of women from the local church attended one of Paulette's group's fundraisers. They then spoke with their woman's group which makes meat pies and
donates some of the profits to charity. They chose the NCF as the recipient this year and raised $919.55 ! That money will be used to pay for school uniforms and school supplies. So meat pies sold in
a small Ontario town , when stitched into the fabric of the universe with kindness and generosity, will change young lives 6,135 kilometres away.
Welcome to 2016
Las Casitas is a tiny community of roughly hewn shacks about a twenty minute walk from Ojochal.Las Casitas has no electricity and draws all of its water from a nearby stream. Every development challenge that is faced by Ojochal is experienced in a greatly amplified form in Las Casitas. Over time a number of NCF volunteers have gone shopping in San Juan del Sur and have carried in groceries and other basic goods fro the families at Las Casitas.
As mentioned in our last update a long time supporter made a generous gift in honour of her late father on his birthday. This birthday donation was used to buy a bed for Ana and her family ( Ana is the matriarch at Las Casitas). Our agent Veronica, and a small team of volunteers, carried the bed in to Las Casitas and did some renovations on Ana's house to make things fit. Needless to say this was a wonderrful Christmas/birthday surprise for Ana and her family.
In an exciting new development led by NCF volunteer, Wendy DeGraaf, a group of women in Ojochal have discovered their hidden artistic talent! Wendy, a retired teacher from Nanaimo, BC, introduced the group to the world of painting on silk. For a number of days, the group learned techniques for transferring artwork onto silk scarves. Wendy, along with a couple of friends, fought through the standard ailments that afflict so many gringos, but were able nonetheless to complete these important lessons.While art is an end in itself, the real goal here is to help diversify Ojochal's meagre economy. The cooperativa is now identifying the best way to sell the scarves and is considering experimenting with using local and less expensive material.
If you are interested in Nicaragua, you may like this Huffington Post article entitled Nicaragua: A Success Story in the Making. The main points are below. If you want to read the whole thing, here is the link:
It has come to our attention that the town public school, San Francisco de Asis, needs a new classroom. The student population there is growing by leaps and bounds!
This is where the NCF got its start. Our very first project, almost 10 years ago now, was equipment and supplies for this school, which goes from preschool to grade 6. Since then, we have donated many other supplies and have even built one very large, double-size classroom. Our friends from Ontario recently put in a water fountain and one very big sun shelter for the courtyard. Our agent, Veronica, tells us that San Francisco is now considered to be a very good school and many people are bringing their children from faraway communities if they can, just so that they can attend.
However, this also means that they need a new classroom! Thanks to the success of our gala in September, we have committed to providing funds for another classroom here; we will keep you updated with photos!
We also recently received a donation from a very kind woman, whose father had passed away. She wanted to commemorate his birthday by giving a "birthday gift to someone in his honour". We had become acquainted with her father before he died because of his very generous donations to the NCF. He very much wanted to do something to help the children of Nicaragua.
We were very touched at her thoughtfulness and so we asked our agent to find a worthy project. So, this donation will be going to a family in an area known as "Las Casitas" who are in need of a bed (currently they are sleeping on wood chips) and concrete for their dirt floor. The donation will also be used to make very urgent repairs to the pump in the community of La Libertad.
Hi Everyone – On Friday, September 25, we celebrated the 5th NCF fundraising Gala.The event cleared over $20,000 after expenses. Since the gala expenses were covered by a separate donation the event generated over $32,000! As somebody said last night, “That’s a lot of microloans!”. As always, none of what was raised will be spent in Canada–it all will go directly to the projects in Nicaragua
Thanks so much to everyone who attended. It looked like everyone had a great time; I know we did. It was wonderful to catch up with old friends and to meet new ones!
To everyone who couldn’t come due to travel or other commitments, we missed you, but thanks for the many donations provided and forthcoming. We appreciate it. To anyone whose appetite has been whetted and who wants to do more to help the NCF, or possibly to visit Nicaragua with us, send us an email. We would love to hear from you!
Hooray for Wendy deGraaff! What would we do without our most loyal volunteer? Her dedication to the NCF is astounding. She recently completed the herculean task of arranging and running a garage sale (and anyone who has ever done a garage knows how much work that is!). Not only that-it was three days long. Wendy managed to raise a record $1,400! We are very grateful to know Wendy and to have her support. She will be returning to San Juan del Sur in November, so we will be reporting more news of her adventures in Nicaragua very soon. Stay tuned!
If you check this website regularly, you may remember that a group of Canadians from Ontario go to San Juan del Sur every year in January. Each time they go, they commit to doing a project. This year, they've outdone themselves! They put in a sun shelter over the courtyard of the main public school in San Juan del Sur (the school is called San Francisco de Asis). Although we can never be sure of how a project will turn out, this time the result was astounding!
To everyone involved with this project, congratulations and a huge thanks from the NCF! You have proven that people working together can make positive change happen.
This project is ongoing. For updated photos, please see the page called "Miravalle Sanitation Project" under the Projects tab above.
San Juan del Sur is a bustling tourist town in southern Nicaragua. However, in the surrounding rural areas, it's a very different story. This is something most tourists never get to see. There are many small agricultural communities made up of people with almost no chance to get ahead. Most of these people are unable to get a loan from a bank and if they do, the interest rates are exorbitant. All they need is a hand up; this is where micro-loans come in.
Our foundation began a no-interest micro-loan program for women of these rural areas about three years ago. At first, we had no idea if it would succeed, but the results have been astonishing! The business ideas are wide-ranging and well-organized. The re-payment rate is above 95%. Most important, however, is the positive effect on these women. For the first time, they can hold their heads high as they are able to provide for their children on their own, without charity.
We are very proud of our micro-loan program and would like to expand it. Many other communities have heard of it and want to participate!If you want to hear more about this and/or are interested in supporting a micro-loan, let us know.
Our fantastic volunteer, Wendy DeGraaf, has just returned from Nicaragua. Much to our delight, we discovered that not only is Wendy a great teacher, she is also a wonderful photographer! She kindly provided us with many pictures documenting her time spent in the little rural communities outside San Juan del Sur. Wendy gamely picked up some Spanish, taught English in very difficult circumstances, and figured out her way around the mysteries of Nicaragua. Not only that, she wants to go back! Thank you, Wendy-you can't imagine how grateful we are. We've given Wendy her own page to display some of these amazing photos. You can find it under the tab "about us" on the page called "volunteers in action".
The Miravalle water and latrine project is well underway
The people of the vibrant community of Miravalle have finally got what they have longed hoped for-a better water system and latrines! This kind of project is not glamourous, but is certainly very necessary. Thanks go to the donors who supported our Antarctica run for helping to get this going.
The Miravalle water and latrine project is going ahead and construction is set to begin soon! Thanks to all donors for helping out a little community in rural Nicaragua to finally get what everyone here takes for granted.
Are you interested in our microloan program? For updated information on it, please click on the link below:
There is another Los Pipitos (school for the disabled) in Puerto Cabezas. Sally Fellers from the Healing Art Foundation has been working to get it going for a while now. And like everywhere in Nicaragua, the weather is hard on buildings. Hurricane winds and rain are common and often very destructive! This month, the NCF was able to help do necessary repairs to the school. We also purchased therapy equipment and furniture. Of course, everything we do depends on others and we have many people to thank:
First, our gratitude as always, goes to Elsie Elder who on behalf of her daughter Elisabeth Elder, made this project possible. Elsie, we hope you know that we think of you and Elisabeth often.
And then, Sally Fellers. Sally has helped us in the past by providing people in our Los Pipitos with wheelchairs and walkers. Working together with Sally's Healing Art Foundation has been fantastic and we were very pleased to be able to do something for her for a change!
Finally, there is Carmen, from Puerto Cabezas, who works hard for her Los
Pipitos school. Like our agent, Veronica, Carmen makes the magic happen!
This photo shows the incredible popularity of our new computer classes!
We are looking for new or gently-used laptops. If you have one to donate, we will bring it to Nicaragua and can guarantee that your old computer will get a new lease on life and will be very loved.
Last month, we wrote that we had helped out the community of Cebadilla by purchasing 600 metres of electrical wire. Here is a photo of some of the community members, with the electrical wire. Our agent, Veronica, told us that on the day they received the wire, many people were crying tears of joy!
Wendy DeGraaf, from Nanaimo, BC, has been in San Juan del Sur for a few weeks now. She has been learning Spanish and teaching English in the new Ojochal Children's Centre. She has just shared a few great photos, documenting the time she has spent in Ojochal. They can be found under the "About Us" tab, on the page "Volunteers in Action". Here is a sneak preview!
and sometimes we do really small ones! Here is a list of what we will be working on this March :
1. The community of Genizaro received a donation of 13 computers for their school. However, they were unable to afford to pay anyone to teach the kids how to use them. The NCF has committed to paying the salary of a young man who can teach both computer skills and English.
2. The community of Cebadilla has several families without electricity and they need 600 meters of wire for the electric company. They had applied to the town of San Juan del Sur, but were turned down. The cost of the wire is 17 Cordobas per metre, which works out to less than a dollar. The whole project will cost $393.
3. Seven children in Ostional are unable to attend school because they lack shoes, school supplies and backpacks. School is free and compulsory in Nicaragua, but each child still needs to bring supplies. The NCF will cover these basic necessities.
4. Eight more children in Los Chiles and four outside Ojochal are in the same situation and we will be buying supplies and shoes for them as well.
New-Our financial statement for 2014 is now available.
We have started to fundraise for a new project. It's a small one, but important. The community of Miravalle, near San Juan del Sur, needs some help with sanitation. Specifically, they need a pump and other improvements to their water well and many families need latrines. This is not a glamourous project; there will be no new buildings. However, it will mean that there will be far fewer health problems than there are presently.
For Americans, please click here to donate: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/a-chilly-run-for-nicaragua.
For Canadians, you can use Canada Helps, which gives an automatic tax receipt. The link is: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/pages/chillling/
There is a little community called Fatima which is far away from San Juan del Sur. This week, the children there received backpacks and supplies for school. Here is a really cute picture of them wearing their backpacks!
2015 started off with the sixth visit to San Juan del Sur by a wonderful group of people from Ontario. The members of this group refer to themselves as "retired", but they are busier than most people who are still working! Every year, this group identifies a project they would like to work on to improve the lives of the children in the areas in which the NCF works. In the past, they have bought school uniforms and supplies and done repairs to school buildings. Last year, they improved the water situation in the large town school, San Francisco, and put in a large drinking fountain. This year, their focus is on building a sun shelter at San Francisco. It's a much needed improvement to the schoolyard, where the children spend their free time, often under the relentless hot Nicaraguan sun. Seeing this need, the group set out to make a shelter for them. As well, they will also once again be helping to purchase uniforms for students. We are impressed at all the hard work needed to make this a reality and are extremely grateful to these lovely women!