Vol. VI, December 2008
Vol. V, April 2008
Vol. IV, January 2008
Vol. III, October 2007
Vol. II, May 2007
Vol. I, March 2007


Newsletter Volume II, May 2007

Welcome to this second edition of the Children, Health, Education, and Support Services (CHESS) Newsletter.

Since we launched our inaugural CHESS newsletter in March, we have accomplished a great deal and have much to share with you in words and pictures.

Ligia will be reporting on the progress in three principal program areas – English classes for elementary school students, training teachers in health and hygiene, and distributing books to our schools.

The sights and sounds of these projects illustrate in a compelling way what is possible to achieve even in a few short months in improving the health and education of these children.

We also invite you to celebrate with us as you read the story of Elkin Fonseca Zapata, the young boy from one of our 12 schools whom we brought to Pittsburgh to repair his trachea.  The miraculous story of a remarkable child, a courageous grandmother, and a group of caring partners—including Gran Pacifica—in both Nicaragua and the U.S. who have joined together to change the future of a child, a family, and a community.

Please read more about this important work.  Let us hear from you with your ideas, reactions, and suggestions.  Whether in Nicaragua or in the U.S., we have also made arrangements so that your donations are deductible as charitable contributions.

Thank you for your interest and support!

I. Latest update on Elkin’s surgery at Children’s Hospital on May 17 and his present stage in recovery as of May 29, 2007 top
By Janet Foerster
CHESS Project Director

Elkin and Miriam, his grandmother, arrived in Pittsburgh on May 1st. After examination, the doctors at Children’s Hospital determined that surgery on Elkin was possible. Now, we are excited to announce that Elkin has come through both the tracheal surgery on May 17 and the week of sedated recovery in the Intensive Care Unit of Children’s Hospital extremely well.  Dr. Robert Yellon, the surgeon, was very pleased with the outcome of the 4 hour surgery.  Dr. Yellon reported that Elkin is a strong and healthy child with the exception of this throat injury.  There were no complications throughout the first surgical procedure.   On May 24, the second surgery was performed to remove all artificial breathing devices from Elkin and for him to regain consciousness again.  He has recovered so rapidly that he was discharged from the hospital May 28th, on Memorial Day, to return to Carl Ross’s home with Miriam for his final stage of in-home recovery. 

It is thanks to Carl and Denise Ross and their sons, Matt and Eric that this entire process of pre-surgery, surgery, and post-surgery has gone so incredibly smoothly.  They opened their warm and loving home to these guests from Nicaragua and have provided the supportive, loving and healing environment to make this traumatic experience one in which both Elkin and Miriam will recover and regain their strength.  If Elkin’s recovering continues to progress so well, we should be able to bring them home to Los Cedros sometime during the first week of July. 

These two courageous people from Nicaragua have become a source of inspiration for so many of us in Pittsburgh.  We are all grateful to have joined with Elkin and Miriam and so many partners in both of our countries to participate in this journey toward health and brighter futures for children, families and communities.  Following are a few pictures of Elkin visiting important sites in Pittsburgh prior to his surgery, click on image to enlarge.

Elkin as Nicaragua's Goodwill Ambassador making presentation at the Rotary Club of Pittsburgh
Elkin at the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball stadium with Eric Ross, son of his hosts Carl and Denise Ross
Elkin playing African drum with American Airlines' Becky Milano, at Janet and Sky Foerster's home in Pittsburgh
From left to right, Miriam Araica, Denise Ross, and Janet Foerster at Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game

To read more about background information click here

II. Distributing The Books top
By Ligia Díaz
CHESS Project Coordinator

Everything started at 6 pm on Tuesday April 17th with 39 degree Celsius weather. There were 1216 books for elementary grades to be carried from the Gran Pacifica office to the pick up truck and we were only three CHESS staff members. Thankfully Carlos Jerez from Gran Pacifica was still around and helped us carried dozens of books. The text books were bought by CHESS with funding from Programa Alianzas para la Educacion y la Salud (Programa Alianzas in short) and the support from Gran Pacifica. Different components of the CHESS project are funded by one of the following partners: Programa Alianzas, Gran Pacifica and Rotary Clubs.

On Wednesday morning we arrived in VEC at 8 am and the unloading was less difficult because we were six or seven people. Here is a picture of the unloading / organizing process of the books.

Read more

III. English classes for 11 rural schools top
By Ligia Díaz
CHESS Project Coordinator

On April 16th the English classes started in 11 of the 12 schools CHESS is working with. Only the Institute is not part of the program because their sixth graders are already receiving English. We were fortunate to find 9 English teachers that want to teach to elementary students that otherwise would have to wait to take English in high school. A total of 58 hrs were taught between April 16th and May 16th to 417 primary students in the 11 rural schools that are in the English program. All this was possible with no more than 100 dollars without counting the books that were bought just recently. 240 books were purchased with funds from two of the partners, Alianzas and Pittsburgh Rotary Foundation. There are enough books for the young students to read and do exercises in pairs.

Read more

IV. Training on Health and Hygiene top
By Ligia Díaz
CHESS Project Coordinator

CHESS organized and run its first workshop in health and hygiene directed to 63 teachers of primary and preschool grades. The teachers came from 12 different schools of which 10 are from rural areas (unpaved roads, many with no electricity, a few with no water in the schools to which students have to bring the water they will drink during the school hours).

The main objective of the workshop was to learn or remember the most important measures of hygiene in keeping water, food, ourselves and the environment in which we live as clean as possible in order to have healthier lives. Most importantly our goal is that washing hands before and after recess, after using the latrine, collecting, selecting and getting rid of waste correctly in the schools becomes a habit practiced everyday and that these and other habits become so natural in children that they would bring them to their houses. It was chosen to start with this topic because it was considered a good introduction to the topic of water filters which will be our next one followed by the purchase of enough filters to put in each classroom.

Read more


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