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 I, March 2007

I. CHESS has been approved!
II. Elkin Fonseca Zapata goes to Pittsburgh
III. Gran Pacifica's Humanitarian Outreach in Villa El Carmen
IV. La Gallina Petroglyph Project


Dear Friends,

Thank you for your interest in CHESS Nicaragua (Children, Health, Education and Supporting Services).  This is the inaugural issue of a newsletter that we will be putting out periodically with updates on our progress with different community initiatives and social programs.  As many of the things in which we are involved are at least somewhat long-term, it is very important to us that we keep you up to date with current information regarding where we are and what we have accomplished in the different stages of each of our ventures. 

One example is the Elkin Fonseca story, an undertaking that has been in the works for many weeks now, and that is on the verge of becoming something truly amazing for just one Nicaraguan rural family.  Countless people have been involved in one way or another to get a severely injured boy the treatment he needs in the United States, and everything is just now really coming together to change an 8 year-old’s life.  It is exciting on so many different levels because a child is involved, a boy who will be encountering a completely new world when he travels to the US, but also a new life where he can live as a normal child again.  It is a grand opportunity for all parties involved to witness and participate in a cultural exchange that will mature over time and bring benefits of all sorts to all of us.

This is just one example of an endeavor that will continue evolving as it goes on, and the purpose of this newsletter is to ensure that each new development is shared with you.  Read on and enjoy news about what we are engaged in so far.  Thoughts and suggestions are always welcome, and we look forward to hearing from you.

Funded By
Janet Foerster
CHESS Nicaragua
Project Director
Programa Alianzas para la Educación y Salud

I. CHESS Nicaragua has been approved! top
By Ligia Díaz
CHESS Nicaragua Education Program Manager

Children, Health, Education and Social Services (CHESS Nicaragua) for Villa El Carmen Municipality is an initiative that grew from the interest of three partners, Gran Pacifica, Rotary Club of Pittsburgh, and innerCHANGE associates international, LLC. (to learn more about these partners please visit our website: http://www.chessnicaragua.com/ )

In November Helio Alfaro, technical assistant, and I started gathering data on schools and health centers in Villa El Carmen. We were told by local authorities -Villa el Carmen’s Mayor, Ministry of Education and Health delegates and local English teachers- that some schools and health centers needed the most help to give quality service to the community. We confirmed this through site visits. After gathering supporting data, we completed the full grant proposal for USAID in January and on March 2 the proposal was approved (to learn more about the proposal see: Project Description).

To give you an idea of what we hope to achieve during the next 28 month we have included some of our indicators. We will keep you updated on the progress of this ambitious and challenging project.

  • Number of teachers that will be trained in teaching effectively in multigrade / multilevel classrooms: 29
  • Number of teachers that will receive workshops in self-evaluation to gain initiative, critical thinking and problem solving skills in their own teaching and learning processes including model school methodologies: 63 teachers
  • Number of teachers that will be trained in how to teach their children the habit and importance of hand-washing: 63
  • Number of English teachers that will be trained in innovative methodologies: 10
  • Number of elementary students that will be taught English for the first time: 900
  • Number of students displaying improved hand-washing habits: 1970
  • Number of students with daily access to clean drinking water: 1970
  • Number of classrooms with at least one water filter: 60
  • Number of books bought and distributed to elementary students: 1415

Gran Pacifica supported a couple of initiatives even before we had the approval from USAID. On January 15th and 16th we held our first workshop for English teachers on innovative interactive methodologies. All English teachers available in Villa El Carmen were present. It was very exciting for all of them since the Ministry of Education does not offer continuing training for the English teachers in Nicaragua. According to UNESCO data, the education budget represented less than 3% of the GDP in 2005. This is a much smaller proportion than most countries in the region devote to education (for comparison, Honduras spends 6% of its GDP).

On Sunday January 14th we held a very important event at Osneida School with the participation of 18 shareholders from Gran Pacifica.  Osneida is a small rural school with only 46 students, located just an hour and fifteen minutes away from the capital city (15 minutes of that time on dirt roads). Although it was built 20 years ago, the school had never been painted. Public schools in Nicaragua are traditionally painted in white and blue (the colors of the flag). With the help of 18 Gran Pacifica shareholders we were able to paint the school in 30 minutes. Afterwards we celebrated with a piñata for the children, ate lunch together, and distributed clothes and shoes to the children and their families.

II. Elkin Fonseca Zapata goes to Pittsburgh top
By Janet Foerster
CHESS Nicaragua Project Director

In January 2007, during the Gran Pacifica annual shareholder’s meeting in Managua, I met with and presented the case to Dr. Edward Barksdale, Associate Professor of Surgery of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.  Dr. Barksdale 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, has authorized bringing Elkin to Pittsburgh for evaluation and medical care resulting in potential surgery.  The Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh has agreed to cover the hospital and medical care costs of approximately $300,000. 

Read more

III. Gran Pacifica’s Humanitarian Outreach in Villa El Carmen top
By Mark Miner

Gran Pacifica Beach and Golf Resort -- whose mission includes the "socially responsible development of real estate" -- has partnered with the Nicaraguan municipality of Villa el Carmen and Rotary Clubs of the Pittsburgh region on a humanitarian initiative to improve health, education and infrastructure in 44 scattered rural communities in Nicaragua. The goal is to make a significant impact on the lives of some 40,000 Nicaraguans and contribute to sustainable development, and to prepare them to enter the workforce with enhanced technical and literacy skills.

Many of Gran Pacifica’s board members boast roots and connections to the Rotary Club of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh region, most notably Joel Nagel, who is past district governor of Rotary in the Pittsburgh region and past president of the Pittsburgh Rotary Club. Mike Cobb is president of Gran Pacifica and resides in Managua.

Read more

IV. La Gallina Petroglyph Project top
By Manuel A. Román
Anthropological and Cultural Heritage Consultant for CHESS Nicaragua

Gran Pacifica is currently involved in a partnership with the Nicaraguan Institute of Tourism (INTUR), to protect and promote the pre-Columbian petroglyph site of La Gallina. The project will help preserve a nationally recognized cultural heritage site, benefit neighboring inhabitants, future generations of Nicaraguans and tourists looking to learn more about the country’s past.

La Gallina (literally, the hen) is a unique assemblage, composed of numerous carvings on the roof of a shallow cave, including birds, monkeys, snakes and compound anthropomorphic and mythic representations. It is also easily accessible; one of the rare Pacific Coast petroglyph assemblages that can be seen in situ, a mere 75 meters from a paved thoroughfare.

The petroglyph initiative is part of the larger anthropological and cultural heritage component of the CHESS Nicaragua Project, which includes workshops for teachers and neighboring residents, multiple student visits, improvements in accessibility and safety and the creation of permanent educational displays and the distribution of brochures. Currently, we are also exploring the possibility of developing archaeological/ecological treks and tours in the surrounding area to give more depth and stimulate the creative and responsible utilization of the region’s resources.

The project will include the collaboration and approval from the Nicaraguan Institute of Culture and the support of neighboring municipalities, and will increase interest in the exploration and protection of the region’s pre-Columbian heritage. The social implications of this project give Gran Pacifica a chance to give back to the communities that are hosting us in this country.

Read more


©2009 Chess Nicaragua. All right reserved.