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.
Alianzas para la Educación y Salud
I. CHESS Nicaragua
has been approved!
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
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:
- Number of teachers that will be trained in how to
teach their children the habit and importance of hand-washing:
- 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
- Number of students with daily access to clean drinking
- Number of classrooms with at least one water filter:
- Number of books bought and distributed to elementary
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.
Elkin Fonseca Zapata goes to Pittsburgh
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.
III. Gran Pacifica’s
Humanitarian Outreach in Villa El Carmen
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
IV. La Gallina
Petroglyph Project top
By Manuel A. Román
Anthropological and Cultural Heritage Consultant for CHESS
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