Welcome to the January 2008 edition of our CHESS Newsletter!
Happy New Year to our partners and friends and to all of those
who are just learning about our exciting work in Nicaragua! We
have much to celebrate in our CHESS project from 2007 and we have
much more to achieve in 2008. We are excited to report that what
we have accomplished thus far is only the beginning of our 28
month health and education work in our 12 designated schools and
3 health posts in Villa El Carmen. The first 10 months of our
project were filled with community-based accomplishments and many
new challenges that were not even imagined to be part of the project
plan at the time of project launch in March, 2007.
For those who are new to Children, Health, Education and Supporting
Services in Nicaragua (CHESS) let me begin by giving some project
description and background on our partnership for sustainable
development in Villa El Carmen.
The Children, Health, Education and Supporting Services (CHESS)
concept became a reality as a result of the collaboration between
four main partners: Gran Pacifica Nicaragua, Pittsburgh Rotary
Club, Programa Alianzas para la Educacion y Salud/ US AID, and
innerCHANGE associates international (iCHai) in March of 2007.
The CHESS Nicaragua project has been designed to assist the municipality
of Villa El Carmen, Nicaragua, in achieving community empowerment
through improved primary school education and health. To achieve
this vision, iCHai recognizes the need for sustained collaboration
among several partners in private, public and non-profit sectors
operating internationally and nationally within the local target
communities. Through CHESS Nicaragua, innerCHANGE associates international
serves as the project management partner to implement, coordinate
and evaluate the contributions and activities of an international
partnership. The key Nicaraguan staff is supervised by iCHai and
coordinated, in-country, by a project coordinator, Ligia Diaz.
With 2 community facilitators, Manuel Marenco and Aracely Sequiera,
one education liaison within the schools, Helio Alfaro, one part-time
project assistant, Juan Martinez, and one part-time accountant,
Douglas Delgado, we are able to provide culturally and linguistically
appropriate support services for international collaborations
(the CLASSIC approach offered exclusively through innerCHANGE).
With the CHESS Nicaragua project, innerCHANGE associates international
provides intercultural project management services through a two-tiered
approach: 1) leverage and enhance existing programs in the community;
2) provide additional training and education and support services
based on needs as defined by the communities. The overall goal
of this project is to achieve sustainability through the long-term
participation, contributions, and interconnectedness of the partners
living and operating within the Villa El Carmen municipality.
In this January edition of the CHESS newsletter you will read
about the last few months of our activities. Please read on to
learn more about the exciting school fencing projects in partnership
with the Ormond Beach, Florida Rotary Club, the US AID/Programa
Alianzas para Educacion y Salud official launch of our CHESS Nicaragua
project in October, the new partnership with Robert Morris University
School of Nursing with their health education and services visit
to Villa El Carmen in November, and the exciting beginning of
our CHESS Cultural Heritage and Archeological Education Program
in October and November.
We invite you to communicate with us by e-mail, phone, or in-person
at any time with your ideas, suggestions, and feedback. We invite
you, as well, to consider how you might become a new partner with
us this year as we continue to build new connections in support
of sustainable development in Villa El Carmen and throughout Nicaragua.
With warm wishes for
the New Year,
CHESS Project Director
I. USAid Inauguration
CHESS is Inaugurated!
By Ligia Diaz
On October 31st, a large celebration was held to officially
announce and inaugurate the CHESS project. The event was held
at Nandayosis 1 School, located on Km 34 old road to Leon, 100
meters to the right in Villa El Carmen. The CHESS project started
with Nandayosis 1. One of the very first CHESS sanctioned acts
was to repair the playground equipment and latrines. Gran Pacifica
shareholders painted the school while parents fixed the garden,
the roof and the lights that were broken. It seemed the perfect
setting for the inaugural festivities.
Donors, collaborators, teachers, parents and students and even
members of the press were in attendance. The event was hosted
by innerCHANGE’s CHESS personnel and the project’s
benefactors, Gran Pacifica and the Pittsburgh Rotary Club. The
following attendees presided at the main table:
1. Mr. Denis Espinoza, Ministry of Education Delegate in Villa
2. Teacher Rosaura Lopez Brenes, School Responsable
3. Mrs. Carol Horning, Acting Director, United States Agency for
International Development (USAID)
4. Mr. Michael Cobb, CEO, Gran Pacifica
5. Mrs. Janet Foerster, M.Ed., CHESS Project Director
6. Dr. Yelba Hernández, Ministry of Health Delegate in
Villa El Carmen
7. Mr. Jose Luis Palacios, Children and Youth Commission from
the Mayors Office.
The event began with the pomp and circumstance of a true celebration
including short speeches by the attendees at the main table. Following
the speeches, the true reason for celebration became evident.
Teachers from Nandayosis 1 have attended all our workshops since
March and their students in the 5th and 6th grade who are participating
in weekly English In order to showcase their progress, the teachers
at Nandayosis 1 divided one of the classrooms into several stations,
each consisting of a different presentation. Each station represented
something that the teachers and students had learned with the
different workshops and programs they have attended thru CHESS.
For instance, one station showed an example of how children are
instructed to use the water filters. Another one showcased short
stories students have written using techniques they learned after
their teachers attended the Global Education Fund workshop. A
third station displayed art projects created by kindergarten students.
The students taking English classes sang the Rainbow Song in English.
The “best” student said a few words
in both languages at the end of the program.
Students from the kindergarten class sang and danced in traditional
Nicaragua attire. The exhibit was truly enjoyable and inspirational
for all who attended.
One attendee, Mrs. Horning, acting director of the USAid was
so amazed and impressed by the work of teachers and students that
she invited Ms. Ellen Ledy, Office Director for Central America
and Mexico USAID, to visit Nandayosis 1 the following week. Both
expressed that among the different schools they have visited and
all the projects they have witnessed, this school has provided
the best example of hard work and productive learning experiences.
The event served to remind both the donors and community of
the main goals of the CHESS project and to exemplify the achievements
of the first six months. CHESS will improve the educational experience
for the children; CHESS will improve the health of the community
through the introduction of filtered water.
CHESS thanks the community, teachers and students for making
this event a success.
II. Archeology Project in
Villa El Carmen top
By Ligia Diaz
Thanks to the request from Villa El Carmen’s
Mayor and Nicaraguan Minister of Tourism, CHESS put together a
series of workshops and visits to archeological sites in Villa
El Carmen with the objective of developing a sense of pride and
interest among locals for their archeological treasures. In addition
to simple appreciation, the more CHESS focused objectives are
also to teach students science and social studies in a hands-on
environment and to improve the quality of a possible tourist site
that could be a future source of income for locals.
The first teacher workshop on Archeology took place on September
20th. We gathered approximately 30 elementary teachers from each
of the 12 CHESS schools in main Villa El Carmen and Yanira Campos,
with a bachelor degree in Archeology from UNAN- Managua provided
the training. She has been working in the Municipality for two
years now. The guidelines, format, and contents for the workshops
and trainings were set-up by Manuel Roman, who earned his PhD
in Archeology from the University of Pittsburgh in January 2007.
Teachers at the workshop
From 8 am to 11:30 am Yanira
provided information to answer questions such as “What is
archeology?” and “What do archedological sites mean?
Why are they important?” Material detailing the archeology
in Villa El Carmen followed. Lunch was provided by a Villa El
Carmen catering small business and served at the soccer park in
the town center. After the morning session, the CHESS team provided
transportation for the teachers and trainer to the two sites that
were designated as most accessible and easiest to explain: El
Apante and Rio Lodoso.
At the El Apante site, rocks with several
petroglyphs were presented.
The presenter explained the forms and the shapes of animals that
were drawn by indigenous populations there in a time believed
to be between 900 and 1500 CE. The teachers learned, from both
the visual and the verbal information, the importance of these
sites. At the next site, Rio Lodoso, the same format was followed.
At each site the emphasis was on both the meaning and the care
of the petroglyphs. Many of the teachers had never been in an
archeological site and were very impressed by what can be learned
from the sites. They are eager to share this information with
Teachers walking to see the El Apante site
Educational trips for the students for
10 of the 12 CHESS school were carried out in the October –
November timeframe. Students learned from CHESS facilitators and
teachers about what they were seeing at Rio Lodoso and El Apante
sites. In 2008 we will continue with the visits and we will encourage
students and teachers to present reports and research done based
on these trips. Even though other organizations in the area work
to protect and preserve natural areas, they have not worked to
teach the young generations about the richness of the archeological
sites. CHESS is very enthusiastic to be the pioneer in doing this.
III. Building the
Second Fence: A Slightly Different Experience top
By Greta Schlender and Ligia Diaz
As part of the ongoing effort to improve
life in Villa El Carmen, CHESS partnered with the Ormond Beach
Rotary Club to install fences at as many schools as possible.
In late August, the first fence was installed at Osneida Medrano
School. Although the project had its share of ups and downs, Rotarian
Chapter President, returned with several other members to continue
their good works. The site of the second installation was the
Calle Nueva School; this school employs 3 teachers who are responsible
for educating 68 students in grades K through 5. Built in 2000,
the school used to have a fence but it had stolen, bit by bit,
over the years.
Rotarians and parents working together.
On Thursday, October 25th, Mr. Slick and
his group of fellow Rotarians, began their mission. The Rotarians
that came with Mr Slick were quite a mixed group, all joined together
by the desire to have this unique life experience and make a difference
in the lives of children. For two men of the group, this trip
to Nicaragua was their first visit to a foreign country. One,
Mr. Slick joked, “is the pickiest eater he had ever met”
and yet, the man happily ate all the food prepared by local mothers.
Another is an executive of a large real estate company, while
a third runs an oil and gas company. Two of the men drive race
The team installing the first fence in
August 2007 at Osneyda Medrano School was faced with many unexpected
challenges. This time, the weather cooperated and the supplies
arrived on time. A larger group of workers allowed the project
to be completed in just two days. The workers learned that one
of the most important things about building the fence was making
sure that the fencing itself could not be pulled apart and stolen.
As a result, each piece was soldered to as many other pieces as
possible, ensuring that none of it could be taken away. When questioned
as to why fences are so important to the community, the parents
and teachers gave several answers, ranging from keeping chicken
out of the yard during school hours to deterring theft.
To reinforce that point, one of the parents shared the story
of one such theft. Schools in Villa El Carmen are given provisions
for their students just once a month, breakfast and snacks for
the children on school days, are stored in one of the classrooms
in the school. One day, these provisions were stolen from the
classroom by someone in the community, most likely out of desperation,
but stolen nonetheless. The children were left without this food
for the majority of the month, something which should not have
to be a concern. A fence could have at least deterred this theft,
and this is one important reason it needed to be built.
Slick and company finishing a corner of the fence.
The school community was so thankful for the help of the group,
saying that this was the first time anyone had come to help them;
that it was a gift from God. Mr. Slick said that these experiences
are something “breathtaking and rewarding,” a chance
for people to “invest of themselves” and promote “enlightened
self interest” in a country that desperately needs it.
Manuel Marenco, CHESS facilitator, and Rotarians working hard.
This, more than anything else, is what keeps CHESS and Mr. Slick
making schools more secure. Nothing can replace the smiles and
thank you’s they get in return for just a day or two of
fun work, work in which the whole community gets involved, and
for which they really are eternally grateful. Mr. Slick said.
“We were here [with them], and the community never left
us.” He added that the efforts of the community are something
to be revered and that it is “and absolute trip” to
see everyone get so wholeheartedly involved.
The Ormond Beach Rotary Club has served for several years in
different projects in Nicaragua. Mr. Slick recounted how relationship
started six years ago, when they put on a BINGO night to finance
CAT scans and MRI’s for children in need. The project was
expanded in 2004 and groups have come down to replace air conditioners,
paint buildings, clean hospitals, and bring supplies. Donations
as large as entire shipments of hospital beds have been delivered
by the group. Mr. Slick said that it might be easier to just front
the money and pay someone to do all of these things, but it is
just so much fun that people are always ready to participate.
IV.A Nicaraguan Experience
for Robert Morris University Nursing Students top
By Janet Foerster
From November 8 to November 19, the CHESS project
staff welcomed 14 undergraduate students, 3 doctoral students,
and 3 faculty and university representatives from the School of
Nursing at Robert Morris University (RMU). This exciting inaugural
RMU trip to Villa El Carmen is a direct result of the unexpected
and miraculous CHESS project in 2007 involving Elkin Fonseca Zapata
and his tracheal surgery in Pittsburgh.
During the nearly 3 months stay in Pittsburgh, Elkin and his
grandmother, Miriam Araica, stayed at the home of Dr. Carl Ross,
wife Denise and their two sons Matt and Eric. Dr. Ross knows Nicaragua
well. A professor of nursing at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh
and founding director of the university’s international
nursing program, Dr. Ross, has traveled to Nicaragua more than
60 times during the past 10 years, bringing student nurses and
other medical personnel to do humanitarian work throughout the
country. He holds an adjunct faculty position with the Universidad
de Politechnical, has consulted with the Ministry of Health, and
is only the second American to receive the Ora Taylor de Deaz
award for Outstanding Nursing Practice in Nicaragua.
Dr. Ross worked closely with Janet Foerster, CHESS Project Director,
throughout Elkin’s surgery, recovery and return to Nicaragua
in July. An unexpected outgrowth of this Pittsburgh/Nicaraguan
partnership project, which provided life-changing medical care
for a child from one of our CHESS schools, was the planning and
implementation of this RMU/CHESS health services trip in November
of 2007. The undergraduate students worked in several of the CHESS
schools in the mornings offering health education classes to the
children in: hand-washing; basic concepts of health in nutrition
and clean water; parasite control; environmental safety and basic
They spent the afternoons providing health care services for
the families and the children of the community at one of our 3
health posts or within the schools. In the four days of the service
project, the nursing students and healthcare professionals examined
and provided health services to nearly 400 people. Such basic
medicines and preventative supplies were administered as: multi-vitamins
for adults and children; hydrocortisone; anti-biotic medications;
calcium supplements; blood pressure medications; arthritis medications;
anti-diarrheal medications; and many other basic prevention assessments
The 3 doctoral nursing students conducted qualitative interviews
in the afternoon health clinics, with the help of CHESS translators,
to study the health perceptions of older Nicaraguan women in this
municipality of Nicaragua. This will be a published research study
in the future and will be a major contribution to understanding
how to most effectively offer health care to members of communities
such as Villa El Carmen in rural Nicaragua.
Our in-country CHESS team worked extremely hard to plan, support,
facilitate and prepare the communities for this large-scale RMU
study trip in November. Ligia Diaz, CHESS Program Coordinator,
Juan Martinez, CHESS assistant, Aracely Sequeira, and Manuel Marenco,
CHESS facilitators, provided the essential liaison to the schools,
health posts, and health and education ministerial representatives
that such a trip as this one requires to make it a successful
one for the service providers and the recipients of the services.
Janet Foerster, CHESS Project Director, spent the month of November
in Nicaragua to work with RMU and CHESS throughout the visit.
With our CHESS system in place and working closely within these
communities, the all-important follow-up can be provided and evaluated
in planning for future trips and next steps in 2008 for similar
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