- English Classes to Primary School Children
- Water Filters Workshop
- Art as a Tool for Training
- I found an unexpected home in Nicaragua
- Teachers attend the Global Education Fund Workshop
- Installing the fence Osneida
- Welcome Home Elkin
Welcome to the 3rd edition of our newsletter for Children, Health,
Education and Supporting Services (CHESS Nicaragua) program in
Nicaragua. Our innovative and dynamic international partnership
project has generated some very exciting “steam” since
our last newsletter. Not only do we want to update you on our
progress in the municipality of Villa El Carmen within our 12
elementary schools and our 3 health posts, but we invite you to
follow along with us on our journey of “reaching out to
make a difference” one small step – one community
– and one person – at a time.
If you haven’t heard the story of the Starfish, we, in
CHESS Nicaragua, believe that it beautifully illustrates our philosophy
of international development work.
“While walking on the beach one day, I saw a Starfish
by the shore. And everywhere I looked it seemed I saw a
thousand more. Then what to my surprised eyes appeared a
boy of nine or ten. And as the Starfish washed ashore, he threw
them back again. ‘One fish won’t make a difference
son; You can’t change this situation.’
He stooped and picked up one more fish, then looking right at
me, ‘I can make a difference for this one, sir’ and
returned it to the sea. So I went and gathered all my friends,
my brothers and my cousins. We joined in with that little
boy and saved Starfish by the dozens. There’re still
many to be rescued – many Starfish on life’s shore.
And you can make a difference too…by saving just one more.”
By C. A. Milbrandt. Or go to www.kindredspiritscottageretreat.com/StarfishStory.html
for another version of this same story.
In this newsletter you can read and see the impact of the CHESS
Nicaragua Program of Activities from June to August with articles
by Ligia Diaz Roman, Greta Schlender, and Kristin Allen on the
following events: the Water Filter workshop in June; training
for pre-school teachers in July; Elkin returns home to Nicaragua
in July; English classes for primary school children through the
summer; the reproduction of Global Education Fund Workshop in
Villa El Carmen in August; installing the first fence around one
of our schools in August; and an essay by our summer intern, Kristen
Allen, on “I Found an Unexpected Home in Nicaragua.”
We now have our project completely launched and moving forward.
You will be receiving the next newsletters on a bi-monthly basis
to keep you up-to-date on the exciting, ground-breaking activities
of CHESS Nicaragua. As a preview of what’s coming
in late November, we will be covering the service project being
organized for the Gran Pacifica Shareholder’s meeting scheduled
on January 12, 2008. We will be featuring this volunteer
service event in the next edition with an introduction to one
of our newest advisors in CHESS Nicaragua who will be working
with us on the design, building and stocking of libraries within
some of our 12 schools. In addition, we will be describing,
through photos, an exciting new CHESS Nicaragua partnership between
Robert Morris University School of Nursing in Pittsburgh and Universidad
Politecnica de Nicaragua (UPOLI) in Managua. These new partners
will be working with us in November in our health posts, and with
health education classes in our schools.
What we have accomplished so far and what we are currently working
to achieve is changing lives on all sides of our service work.
Those of us inside CHESS Nicaragua have been changed immeasurably
since starting on this journey over 2 years ago. To be a
part of a change process in remote parts of countries and the
world is rewarding, challenging and inspirational. To work
alongside the children, teachers, families, volunteers, and community
leaders has been a deep learning experience and a gift for us
all. We are grateful to be a participant in this development
work in Nicaragua – and together, to help make a better
world one Starfish at a time.
CHESS Nicaragua Project Director
English for Primary School Children
By Ligia Diaz and Greta Schlender
The three partners supporting CHESS Nicaragua firmly believe
that students should not have to wait until the seventh grade
to start learning the English language. For those students that
do actually make it to high school, the transition is a hard one;
for those who can’t continue their formal education that
far, there is no chance to learn even the basics of the language.
We want to do more than simply teach the semantics of the English
language; in order to do just that, we strive to plant the seed
as early as possible in their lives and make it as much fun as
possible. Therefore, on April 16th, the
first English classes were held in 111
of the 12 schools with eight English teachers from the municipality.
We were very fortunate to find 9 English teachers2
who are very committed and obviously love what they do. The teachers
had to overcome many challenges to be effective in this environment.
Many had never taught small children before; the multi-grade classrooms
encompassed all grade levels and instruction had to be modified
to include everyone. Text books were unavailable. The seemingly
simple logistics of the location of the schools themselves posed
a huge obstacle to teachers working in multiple locations within
a limited time period; they simply could not get from here to
there in a timely enough manner. And, of course, one could not
have expected that the launch of the CHESS Nicaragua project would
coincide with a national strike in the education system.
Despite these factors, the project is proving to be a success.
Over the course of just one month (April 16 – May
16), 58 hours of English language instruction was delivered to
as many as 417 primary schools. In subsequent months (May
16 – June 16), we saw an increase to 96 hours taught while
keeping costs at a minimum of $100 in teacher fees. Even with
the flux caused by teacher turnover during the June to July timeframe,
63 hours of English were still taught and the numbers quickly
rebounded once that teacher was replaced to an amazing 103 hours.
In addition to the Nicaraguan teachers, the CHESS Nicaragua program
benefited from a very energetic native English speaking intern.
Kristin Allen went to all the schools and, in addition to evaluating
the English teachers, jumped in and sang songs with and played
games to teach the children English. The students were having
fun and they were learning too!
Follow up visits to the schools, even after the teachers strike,
have yielded very encouraging results. At one school, the California
School, iCHai/CHESS Nicaragua staff was greeted by students singing
a song in English. Some students were able to introduce themselves
in English. At the Osneida School, students were able to associate
the English words with pictures of fruits and animals. They were
so enthusiastic about showing off their new skills and appear
to thoroughly enjoy their new text books.
The indirect benefits of this education are immeasurable at
this time. Students have told members of the CHESS Nicaragua team
that their parents are very excited about them learning English
as it opens up a new range of possibilities for the future.
Only the Institute Gustavo Carrion is not part of the program
because their sixth graders are already participating in English
Only the Institute Gustavo Carrion is not part of the program
because their sixth graders are already participating in English
The English teachers involved are Helio Alfaro, Elvis Gutierrez,
Maria Isabel Cruz, Luis Felipe Reyes, Nestor Muños, Henry
Fonseca, German Chavarria, Germania Gazo, and Mary Obando.
By Ligia Diaz
CHESS Nicaragua Project Coordinator
In order to support the CHESS Nicaragua initiative of teaching
the citizens of Nicaragua the important practices of hygiene and
the role of clean water, 30 teachers in Villa El Carmen received
hands on instruction from Frank Shuringa, owner of the Nicaragua
based, Filtron, a water filter company. Using a proprietary mix
of clay, sawdust, and colloidal silver, the Filtron clay water
filters have been proven to eliminate 98% of the bacteria, parasites
and impurities in the water.
To date, each classroom has a water filter and the teachers
and students refill them whenever it becomes necessary.
By Ligia Diaz
CHESS Nicaragua Project Coordinator
On July 13th, CHESS Nicaragua hosted the “Uso del ARTE
como herramienta de la enseñanza”, “Art as
a Tool for Teaching” at La Ceiba School. This first workshop
was designed specifically for preschool teachers; it was led by
Gonzalez and Ana Fredes of Colegio Caminos in Managua.
The first 20 minute activity served to both break the ice and show
the teachers how a large group could collaborate to create something
more than the sum of the parts. Each participant received a small
plastic bag full of puzzle pieces and a small photocopy of an image
to be created. A large piece of paper at the front of the room was
sectioned off into areas representing earth, water and wind. As
the teachers finished their individual puzzles, they were asked
to come to the board and add their individual pieces to this larger
piece of paper. When every one was done and all items were placed,
the result was a beautiful mural with three different themes: earth,
water and wind. The purpose of this activity was to show that in
just 20 minutes a whole class can create a beautiful mural; Maricela
and Ana helped the teachers think of other ways that the puzzles
could be used such as decorating greeting cards or the students’
The teachers continued to experiment with the visual arts by
painting pictures with their eyes closed.
The funniest activity of the day served a very profound purpose
– to teach young children that there are alternative ways
to express themselves. They can use their bodies! To illustrate
this lesson, the teachers were asked to cover their bodies and
heads with a sheet leaving only their feet exposed. Maricela then
told a story about the feet being chased, scared or happy and
the teachers, behind the sheet, acted out the story with their
feet. The sheet was then adjusted and the activity repeated with
only the hands exposed.
Teachers learned how physical movement, with laces and balloons,
to the rhythm of music or simple claps can create a feeling. Along
the same lines, the teachers worked together to craft stories
orally; teachers often struggle with how to help children who
have not yet learned to read and write and Maricela and Ana provided
them with many ways to explore this alternative.
Maricela and Ana kept the group energized and excited throughout
the training. They weren’t able share all of their artistic
ideas with our preschool teachers but they certainly gave them
many things to think about. They left the teachers with samples
and suggestions of projects so that they could touch them and
see that they are really possible to make. We, at CHESS Nicaragua,
are certain that this training would have been beneficial to any
of the preschool teachers in the area and we are so very thankful
to have been able to share it with our special group of teachers.
By Kristin Allen
CHESS Nicaragua intern
Nicaragua.I never thought that I would fall in love with this
word. I never knew that I would fall in love with this country,
the people, and the life.I went to Nicaragua without expectations.I
went without knowing anyone.I went with hardly knowing what I
was getting myself into. Perhaps, that was the best way to go.
I arrived on a rainy evening, my flight arriving an hour late.Exhausted,
I was faced with a culture that I had never witnessed before.Taxi
cabs so full of people, there was no way there were enough seat
belts for all.Pickups carried even more passengers, standing up,
in the beds of their trucks.We passed cement buildings, sheet
metal as roofs.Billboards, people on foot and bicycles, mules
pulling wooden carts supported by car tires.I was in complete
awe. I had traveled before, but I knew at that moment that this
was going to be an entirely different experience.And I was soon
about to see that.
CHESS Nicaragua had just begun an English program with the 5th
and 6th grade of 12 rural schools in Villa El Carmen.Upon my arrival,
distribution of English books to the classroom was already underway.
By the end of my second week, all of the books were distributed,
and my schedule of school visits was prepared.I spent my next
6 weeks visiting the schools, occasionally teaching an English
class, aiding the professors, and developing new relationships
between the professors and the students.Throughout all of my visits
to the schools, I had never seen such enthusiasm for learning
a language.These children want to learn English, and their excitement
shows.They are learning new words and songs.I know that with every
class, I was increasingly more and more impressed with them.
Working with the CHESS Nicaragua project as an intern opened
up my eyes to a new world, and to a new side of me. I met so many
people in Nicaragua through this project that impacted my life
in ways they will never know. I was amazed how quickly and affectionately
the students and teachers accepted me into their classroom and
into their lives. Maybe they can say that they learned English
from me, but I know I learned a lot more from them. I became great
friends with the workers of CHESS Nicaragua.They are brilliant,
kindhearted people with wonderful hearts and a passion for helping
others. And of course, the people of Villa El Carmen, who accepted
me into their community and treated me as if I were one of them.The
people who took me in and made me feel right at home in a third
I experienced the fiestas patronales, the crowing of
roosters and barking of dogs waking me up at all hours of the
night, the blazing Nicaraguan sun, the pesky flies and other insects,
the smiles of children running along dirt roads, music and dancing
at Pista Club Yalily, the pigs and cows wandering through the
streets. I experienced a life I had never known before, and one
that I never thought I would come to know.
Like I said, I had gone without knowing anyone or what I would
be getting myself into. But, I could not be happier and more grateful
that I did choose to go.I left with lasting friendships and relationships
that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I will never forget
the things I saw and learned.I will never forget the people who
changed my life for the better. My first rainy night turned into
a beautiful journey.And indeed, Nicaragua became an unexpected
home, and one that I hope to return to one day.
To view more pictures click
To see a video of the childrens singing with Kristin our CHESS
Nicaragua Intern click here.
By Ligia Díaz
CHESS Nicaragua Project Coordinator
From July 22 to the 28th, six members of the CHESS Nicaragua
project participated in a week-long training in Managua; participants
stayed overnight with approximately 100 other teachers. This training
is very special because not only do the teachers learn new teaching
strategies but they exchange ideas and experiences with other
teachers in a social environment and get to participate in cultural
programs. The cost of enrollment varies from $200 to $500 a teacher
depending on factors such as how much the organization can afford
to contribute or their past participation in GEF trainings.
GEF has been bringing teachers from the United States to Nicaragua
every year since 1996. Its founder and president, Ms. Judy Richardson,
organizes the event from her post in the United States and brings
the teachers with her on a volunteer basis. These teachers hold
master degrees and have many years of experience teaching in their
respective areas of expertise. They are fluent in Spanish and
able to facilitate the workshops in the Nicaraguan teachers’
CHESS Nicaragua was able to sponsor four teachers and the two
local facilitators; over the course of the next month, the remainder
of the Villa El Carmen teachers training materials will be passed
down to all the Villa El Carmen teachers in a similar manner.
The GEF workshops were divided into three subject tracks: Spanish,
Math and Natural Science. Two of the six CHESS Nicaragua participants
attended sessions in one of the three particular tracks. Upon
completion of the program, the participants were awarded a Diploma
signed by the Ministry of Education’s General Director.
Participants, GEF in Managua, from left to right: Alberto Aburto,
Luis Ernesto Flores, Brenda Mejía, Ligia Díaz (Coordinator),
Janet Foerster (Director), Aracely Sequeira (facilitator), Dolores
Hernández, and Manuel Marenco (facilitator).
Upon returning home, the CHESS Nicaragua teachers and facilitators
organized three Fridays, one day per subject, for 30 teachers
and a couple of school directors to attend. They replicated the
style of training they had learned at the GEF and covered topics
such as writing short stories in groups, writing a journalist
article with titles cut out of newspapers, and making science
experiments with students.
The day of science the teachers were asked to leave an egg in
vinegar for several hours and observe the changes. In this process
they could observe how the egg looses the calcium of the shell,
how the carbon reacts with the vinegar and expels CO2 liberating
bubbles. Many of the teachers have tried doing this in the classroom
already, and students get enthusiastic about observing and explaining
By Greta Schlender
During a visit in October of 2006, David Slick, a Rotary Club
member from Ormond Beach, Florida, expressed his club’s
interest in beginning an ongoing program in Nicaragua. The goal
of this program would be to support the children of the area who
especially tugged at his heartstrings. Word of David, and the
Rotary Club’s interest, passed to Ligia Diaz, CHESS Nicaragua
Project Coordinator. As David’s interest seemed to be in
line with the overall goals of the CHESS Nicaragua project, Ligia
escorted him to six of the twelve schools in Villa El Carmen.
The most urgent needs for the students, parents and teachers were
discussed; one common theme was that of security. School rooms
in very remote and severely depressed areas are very vulnerable
to both vandals and wildlife. From this visit, the idea of having
the Ormond Beach club Rotary provide the manpower necessary to
install fencing at local schools emerged.
Over the next several months, logistics were negotiated and
by, May of this year, the Ormond Beach club committed to joining
efforts with the CHESS Nicaragua program to installation chain-link
fences in five of the six neediest schools. For the agreed-upon
project, the CHESS Nicaragua program, using funds provided by
Gran Pacifica and Pittsburgh Rotary Club, purchased the materials
for the fences, and the Ormond Beach club provided the necessary
Following USAID approval (to verify that the project was environmentally
sound), materials were purchased, and on August 28th, David Slick
and his son, Benjamin, went to Osneida Medrano School, the neediest
of all, to install the first fence.
Osneida is the most remote of the CHESS Nicaragua schools and
it is very difficult to reach, even when it is not raining.
It is the smallest in terms of enrollment, with only 45 students
in kindergarten through the fourth grade. It has been built
for 20 years, and before CHESS Nicaragua arrived, they had never
even painted the school. The first and only time it has been painted
was in January 2007, when the GP shareholders made an event of
painting the school.
the project that could technically have been completed in
a day, the first fence installation ended up taking four full
days due to weather conditions and natural obstacles. But,
when all was said and done, 428.22 meters of foot tall chain-link
fence was installed around Osneida by the volunteers and CHESS
Ligia Diaz asserted: “This has been the hardest task I
have faced since I work coordinating CHESS Nicaragua. So I have
to recognize that without all the people around the office, the
community and worker at the property, this first fence project
would have been a failure.” Despite of the inclement
weather and the logistical challenges, everyone was more than
cooperative and extremely positive. So many people rose
above and beyond the call of duty to make sure that this project
- The people who gathered to help with the installation included
10 parents, 10 construction workers from Gran Pacifica who donated
their time, Ligia, Helio, the CHESS Nicaragua facilitators,
Franco, members of the community and, especially, David and
Benjamin Slick. All worked for two exhausting days to get the
fencing in place.
- The truck driver that transported the materials to the school,
which is one of the most remote and difficult to reach, got
stuck in mud for several hours; no additional charges were added
for the extra time or wear on the vehicle.
- Franco Canton, One of Gran Pacifica’s in-house architects,
negotiated prices, purchased all of the materials in Managua,
and arranged for them to be transported to the school.
- Helio Alfaro coordinated with the welder and construction
workers at all times.
- Manuel Marenco, CHESS Nicaragua facilitator, coordinated with
- Adiak Barahona, guided us throughout the process.
- Cesar Abella, coordinated the permits to use the generator
from Gran Pacifica property.
- Marcela who made all the transportation logistics possible.
to view more pictures click
By Janet Foerster
CHESS Nicaragua Program Director
Direct engagement with the children, families and elders of
the participating communities is an essential aspect of our culturally
focused project management strategies. In October 2006,
Janet Foerster, President of innerCHANGE associates international
and Project Director for CHESS Nicaragua was conducting a preliminary
site visit to one of the 12 target community schools of Villa
El Carmen. During this visit, Ms. Foerster met Miriam del Socorro
Araica, the grandmother of eight-year old Elkin Enrique Fonseca
Zapata. Elkin had fallen from a tree 14 months prior and
had hit a fence post that fractured his larynx and transected
his trachea. Elkin was emergently operated on in Managua,
but because the country does not have ENT surgeons with expertise
to handle this type of injury, and the family has no healthcare,
Elkin was left with a metal tracheotomy device and very little
medical care or follow-up treatment. Miriam Araica, the
grandmother, entreated the CHESS Nicaragua project to help her
grandson, one of five children (ages 5-12) under her care after
their mother died three years ago.
In January 2007, during the Gran Pacifica annual shareholder’s
meeting in Managua, Dr. Edward Barksdale, Associate Professor
of Surgery of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh was appraised
of Elkin’s situation. He provided an on-site medical
examination of Elkin in his home in Villa El Carmen, and subsequently
presented this as a potential humanitarian global health care
case to The Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, one of two
preeminent centers in the United States for Laryngo-Tracheal Injury
treatment. Because of the great need and urgency of this
case, Mr. Roger Oxendale, the CEO of Children’s Hospital
of Pittsburgh, authorized bringing Elkin to Pittsburgh for evaluation
and medical care resulting in potential surgery. The Children’s
Hospital of Pittsburgh agreed to cover the hospital and medical
care costs for this complex reconstruction surgery.
With innerCHANGE spearheading the multifaceted effort, arrangements
were made to bring Elkin and his grandmother to Pittsburgh.
This proved to be no small feat as passports, powers of attorney,
visa interviews, and appropriate medical documentation were necessary;
the costs incurred were covered by Gran Pacifica. Airline
accommodations, ground transportation and translation services
were arranged. Carl Ross, Professor at the Robert Morris University’s
School of Nursing, and his family opened their home to Elkin and
his grandmother while they were in Pittsburgh. The Rotary
Club of Pittsburgh, which is leading the Rotary effort in supporting
the CHESS Nicaragua project, covered local support costs for Elkin
and his grandmother.