- Water Filtration Training
- Work at the Archeological
- "Games for Educational
Development," a Workshop for Primary Grades
The Children, Health, Education and Supporting Services
(CHESS) concept became a reality as a result of the collaboration
between three main partners: Gran Pacifica Nicaragua (located
in the municipality of Villa El Carmen), Pittsburgh Rotary Club
and innerCHANGE associates international (iCHai). With partner
contributions and the receipt of USAID’s Program Alianzas
para la Educacion la Salud, grant award of March 2, 2007, CHESS
will, over the course of the 28 month project, deliver almost
$300,000 in products and services to the community of Villa El
Carmen. Under the project management of iCHai, funds will be used
to achieve the encompassing goal of improving the quality of life
for many of the people of Villa El Carmen most prominently by
direct efforts to empower the community through improved primary
school education and health training within 12 rural schools and
3 health posts. This version of the CHESS quarterly report
captures those activities that occurred between October and December
The goal of the proposed Children, Health, Education,
and Supporting Services (CHESS) project is to assist the municipality
of Villa El Carmen, Nicaragua, in achieving community empowerment
through improved primary school education and health.
Over the course of the 28 month project, the overall objective
is to develop, implement, and coordinate a sustainable and replicable
partnership model that will be operational in most of the communities
of Villa El Carmen. In partnership with two key international
partners, Gran Pacifica Nicaragua and Rotary Club of Pittsburgh,
as well as non-profit organizations already operating in the
municipality of Villa El Carmen, this project builds on primary
school peer-mentoring programs, primary youth leadership programs,
mother’s nutrition programs, parent teacher associations
and health education programs in primary schools that are constantly
being strengthened in the target communities. The CHESS
project proposes to extend and enhance these existing initiatives
through the following seven programs.
Health Education Workshops in Schools
Trainings on How to Use Water Filters
These workshops will include topics on appropriate use of latrines,
importance of washing hands, handling and water cleaning. The
project will run six (6) workshops as a whole. In 2007, 2008
and 2009, the same workshops will be delivered twice to different
groups of 32 teachers covering the total number of primary teachers
in the target schools. The cost will include the honorarium
of the trainers, meals and transportation of trainees and trainers
to the place of the workshop.
Over the life of the grant, eight (8) workshops will be held to
educate the teachers on the importance of clean water. The presentations
will include discussions on the significance of keeping and consuming
clean water, health related problems that derive from unsafe/unclean
water, and the importance of having a method that helps provide
clean and safe water. Water filters will be introduced to the
teachers so that they understand how they are made, how they work,
how to keep them working properly, and how to monitor their effectiveness.
The intention is for the teachers to share their new found knowledge
with the students who will, in turn, take this information home
to their families.
Practice sessions will be held so that everyone in the workshop
has the opportunity to see how the filters work. Two workshops
will take place in 2007; two will follow in 2008 and the final
four in 2009. The costs will include the filters used
in the trainings, honorarium of trainers, meals and transportation
of trainees and trainers to the place of the workshop.
Continuing Training for English Teachers
Workshops on interactive methodologies of teaching the English
language will be held four times in 28 months.
workshops are run by professors from Universidad Centro America
(UCA) with Masters level degrees in Teaching. Members of the staff
are also involved with the National Association of English Teachers
in Nicaragua and offer these workshops for free as part of their
mission to improve the quality of English teaching in Nicaragua.
The costs that appear in the budget are related to meals served
during the trainings and transportation of the teachers and professors
to the workshop sites. At present there are ten (10) English
teachers in Villa El Carmen; many of these teach English knowing
only vocabulary and grammar further emphasizing the importance
of this part of the project.
As part of the plan for continuing education, the English teachers
in Villa El Carmen will be given the opportunity to attend the
annual conference at UCA to receive additional training as well
as educational materials to use in their classrooms. Teachers
will also have the opportunity to develop a support network
of experienced English language teachers from all over Nicaragua
and elsewhere in Central America.
English for Primary School Children
Local English language teachers from Villa El Carmen schools
will teach two (2) hours per week to students in the fifth (5th)
and sixth (6th) grades. Seeing as each school is multigrade
and very small, all students may be in the same classroom. For
example, five (5) schools only have two (2) or three (3) classrooms
so a single room can span four (4) different grade levels.
Eleven (11) out of twelve (12) schools are not teaching English
to their primary grade students. Due to the wages ($1.25 per
hour) paid to local English teachers sufficient funds are available
to cover all the schools.
Educational Programs for Pre-School and Primary School
Workshops on the following topics will be held to educate pre
and primary school teachers:
- Importance of dental health in the pre and primary grade
- How to make creative activities for their classrooms;
- Self evaluation to gain initiative, critical thinking and
problem solving skills in their own teaching process as well
as learning process including model school methodologies;
- Effective management of multi-grade classrooms;
- Teaching with a gender perspective.
In concert with local school officials and other partners, an
effort will be launched to renovate abandoned classrooms and
repair existing facilities to create inviting library spaces
within the community schools. Workshops will be offered
to allow for collaboration on topics such as techniques for
fostering a love for reading in students and how the libraries
can be utilized to their greatest potential.
Hands-on Science and Archeology Programs
Working closely with parents and local government and community
members with a profound knowledge of the natural and archeological
reserve area, practical trainings in science and social studies
will be made available to the students. Advanced students will
be taught how to use their field experience to design brochures
in both English and Spanish; these brochures could be made available
to visitors. Other workshops will include training students
on the preservation of flora and fauna and preparing narrative
dialogs for guided walks through the site; students will be
taught how to answer extemporaneous questions about the site
that may arise during these walks. An added benefit of
this training will be opening the door to the possibility of
future employment in the tourism industry for the current students.
Within its humanitarian division, iCHai engages skilled associates
and critical partners to manage sustainable and culturally appropriate
programs and projects. With Janet Foerster acting as Program Director
and providing chief oversight in the United States, Ligia Diaz
Roman, an iCHai associate, serves as the in-country Program Coordinator;
she is directly assisted by Juan Martinez. Ligia is in the unique
position of being able to provide on-sight guidance to two local
facilitators, Aracely Sequiera and Manuel Marenco; these young
adults are from the community of Villa El Carmen. They act as
liaisons with the schools and make sure that programs are being
implemented, help to organize activities and visit all 12 schools
regularly to collect demographic data and to provide feedback
to the teachers. Helio Alfaro serves as the teacher liaison
between CHESS, Gran Pacifica, who provides on-site physical storage
for donated materials and books, on-site financial services, office
space, transportation, and human resources, and the community.
Edgar Largaespada acts as an Accounting Advisor for the CHESS
project and is responsible for completing the Mid-term and Final
Evaluations of the project.
Janet J. Foerster, M.Ed.
CHESS Project Director
innerCHANGE associates international, LLC top
Water Filtration Training top
early October, yet another one of the workshops scheduled for
2008, was held. The focus of this round of Water Filtration Training
seminars was to encourage parents to become more active. The first
phase of training had introduced students and teachers to the
fundamental importance of drinking clean water; the second phase,
held in July of 2008, invited parents to participate in the program
but their participation was in small numbers. In October, however,
the participation of parents skyrocketed; 187 parents attended
the training sessions that were held in eight different schools
over a period of five days.
Mr. Frank Shuringa, founder and owner of Filtron,
S.A., was in attendance at the workshop. Filtron supplies the
CHESS project with the filters that are distributed to the community.
During the workshop, parents are encouraged to participate
to participate in the Water Filter program. They can volunteer
to be in charge of activities in their schools whether it is cleaning
the school, preparing the meal that MINED provides, helping the
teacher with students that are staying behind , doing some small
repairs in the schools or volunteering at the health posts. The
commitment requires than just a verbal “okay”, or
a shake of the head; those interested parents in attendance signed
a letter of commitment to work with CHESS facilitators to reproduce
the information about the filters. By agreeing to participate
in subsequent workshops and becoming more involved with their
local schools, the parents have the opportunity to earn a water
filter for their home.
CHESS maintains its commitment to enriching the
social sciences curriculum of the elementary schools and preserving
and promoting the archeological richness of the area is integral
September 20th, 2007, approximately 30 elementary teachers from
each of the 12 CHESS schools in Villa El Carmen gathered together
for a presentation by Yanira Campos which served as an introduction
to the specific material detailing the archeology in Villa El
As a part of Ms. Campos’ presentation, the teachers were
then transported to El Apante and Rio Lodoso so they could see
examples of which Ms. Campos spoke. The teachers were eager
to share the information with their students. So, through out
October and November, CHESS sponsored educational trips to Rio
Lodoso and El Apante for the students attending 10 of the 12 CHESS
In October of 2007, the owners of the Rio Lodoso
and El Apante sites were brought together to give everyone a sense
of the importance of the sites to the community. The families
learned about the different sites from each other and became aware
of the possibility of a microenterprise available to them.
Now, in October of 2008, we are at the stage of
working directly at the fincas where the sites are located
to protect and make the sites visible and accessible for anyone
interested in visiting them. In conjunction with the local authorities
and the owners we hope to create some important tourist sites
for the Municipality where people can get informed and enjoy a
walk along a river and petroglyphs.
CHESS is lucky to have a great team with experience
in archeology. The team is led by Manuel Román, a Nicaraguan
who has worked in Nicaraguan archaeology since 1995, with
a PhD from the University of Pittsburgh and Mario Molina, President
of ICOMOS Nicaragua and
former Director of Cultural Patrimony, with over 20 years of
experience in the field of protection and research on monuments
and sites. Andres Utting a young architect graduated from Universidad
Americana in Managua is overseeing the every day details of
the work in conjunction to CHESS staff.
CHESS personnel has been involved in several visits to
the sites with the archeology team to plan the exact place here
the path, terraces, signs and view points should go.
Below, Aurora and Rafael Espinoza, owners of the Rio Lodoso,
otherwise known as Poza Azul, site discuss important issues
with us. It is critical to the success of this project that
we have the support of the land owners
example, CHESS has been careful to address issues such as the
preservation of the natural environment (trees, rivers, rocks,
animals) and proper disposal of the garbage to avoid contamination
of the natural resources. In accordance with this policy, the
owners will ask the visitors to carry their own non-biodegradable
garbage back to Managua with them because in VEC there is no
system to recycle plastic, metal or glass. The owners agreed
to determine a spot where visitors could sit to enjoy a picnic
since the nature by itself is beautiful.
Dr. Manuel Roman is often on site to explain to family members
(I.e. the sons of the owners of Site El Danto) where the petroglyphs
are and the importance of preserving them. Aracely, CHESS facilitators
was accompanying us. Rio Lodoso or Poza Azul (muddy river or
blue puddle) has a beautiful natural pool where visitors could
enjoy at least rinsing their hands.
We hope to contribute to the preservation of sites, the environment
and to give to the owners a sense of pride for what they have.
We think with interest and good maintenance the sites can become
a second source of income for these local families.
Here is a picture of a local boy enjoying a dip.
On October 24th, 2008, CHESS hosted “Games
for educational development” led by Mercedes Gonzalez, M.Ed.
Ms. Gonzalez has more than 10 years of experience developing
workshops for primary school, especially for early grades.
She enthusiastically put all teachers to play. The
first exercise was an ice breaker which used name tags of different
colors and six small balls of different color and textures. This
activity allowed the group to get to know each other better as
they laughed and ran about.
Ms. Gonzales emphasized how typical school activities
actually repress children’s enthusiasm, energy and will
to speak out. She showed how using games, such as the ice breaker
that the teachers took part in, at different times of school day,
can make class time attractive to children.
Ms. Gonzales involved everyone in an interesting
activity to show what teachers really think about childhood and
schooling. On four different sheets of paper she wrote: School,
Child, Teacher and Play. She then asked everyone to write words
associated to each of these four topics. Following the brainstorming
exercise, each of the lists was reviewed. It was clear that the
concepts of Child and Play contained similar words but that they
were totally different from the concepts of School and Teacher.
This illustrated the different ways we think of
children and school; they are just not in agreement. Now, Ms.
Gonzales said, how can we continue to wonder why we have so much
problem keeping kids in school. This was an easy way to illustrate
for everyone how the conception that teachers, and people in general,
carry about schooling and children.
Ms. Gonzales offered the teachers a very unique
and exciting way to get students enthusiastic about studying poetry;
this is a difficult area of Spanish and there are not many children
who enjoy it but, at some point, it is required by the curriculum.
The approach was so very subtle that the teachers
did not even realize what they were doing until it was explained
to them AFTER they had already completed the task. Teachers were
given pap3VGFT ;LMO5 er, paint and crayons and told to color to
the rhythm of the music to which they were listening. They were
then asked to look at what they had created and try to see different
things in their “works of art”. The teachers
were asked to pick out a few of their thoughts about their creations
and write a descriptive paragraph. The group took a short break
and then each person read their paragraphs aloud. Surprising to
the teachers, it turned out they sounded like poetry! Ms Gonzalez
asked, “Did I ask you to study different poetry and then
try to write a poem or were you just inspired to do it?”
How did this happen, the teachers wondered.
“When we play the different parts of our body activate”
explained Ms. Gonzales. She quoted Carlos Alberto Mejia, educator
and author, “after playing, we can assign the most difficult
tasks because our brain is receptive and ready to respond and
workshop reinforced what the teachers had already learned in the
material covered by UCA professors at a recently finished course.
In order to learn, a child needs a good, enthusiastic, friendly
atmosphere. The child must be encouraged to use his/her own creativity
and point of view when learning; memorizing is not learning.
During the workshop, teachers did not only reflect
on the importance of play but also got to play a lot. Feedback
at the end of workshop carried a common thread, “I thought
it was excellent because I learned that through games I can bring
more knowledge to the children.
Address a Difficult Subject: Gender Based Violence and the Prevention
of Cervical and Breast Cancer top
The CHESS project was founded with a commitment
to educate the teachers and students of Villa El Carmen on the
fundamentals of good health and hygine. Our first workshop, in
April 2007, focused on basic hygiene practices. The second set
of workshops dealt with the importance of filtering water and
consuming only clean water.
Our third workshop took place November 26, 2008
at the main health clinic, Centro de Salud de Villa El Carmen.
We were very fortunate to have professionals from PATH available
to present to our audience.
PATH, www.path.org, is an international,
nonprofit organization that creates sustainable, culturally relevant
solutions, enabling communities worldwide to break longstanding
cycles of poor health. Through strategic partnerships, we hope
aspire to improve global health and well-being.
This audience was comprised of both health personnel and school
representatives. The topics to be addressed included sensitive
issues such as:
- Preventing Gender-Based Violence
- Prevention and control of cervical and breast cancer
Yamileth Molina of PATH is a trained teacher and also a lawyer.
She has 15 years of experience working with the issues associated
with Gender Based Violence. She uses a methodology called “In
her shoes" which was developed by the Coalition
Against Domestic Violence in the state of Washington.
Participants were divided in groups of three; each
group was given a story to read. Each story told of a woman who
had suffered from either psychological or physical violence. After
reading the story, the participants were provided with options
as to what they would have done if placed in such a situation.
With their own decisions generating the next action in the story,
they read on until the end. This methodology was used to bring
awareness to the particular issues associated with gender based
violence and to discuss the obstacles and options that women have
when they suffer from violence.
A clear impression was made on all health care professionals
in attendance, gender based violence is a health problem that
should be detected and given appropriate treatment even when a
clinic does not have a psychologist on staff. It is reassuring
to learn that there are several organizations working world-wide
with women that suffer from violence.
Vivian Alvarado of PATH is a Cancer Epidemiologist; she has been
working in the field of health management for 10 years.
Dr Alvarado provided an overview of both cervical
and breast cancer. This basic information was so helpful because
Nicaragua is a country where women do not go to have a pap smear
taken because their partners don’t give consent. Dr. Alvarado
encouraged workshop participants to simulate a pap exam on a plastic
Alvarado emphasized that a yearly cervical exam including a pap
smear, papanicolau, is the best way to detect cervical cancer
early on – while there are still treatment options available
– and that is why it is so important to go to the clinic
every year for the test.
Breast self exams were also described and demonstrated.
Dr. Alvarado emphasized the ease
of this procedure and the benefits of doing them
monthly. Breast cancer can be detected very early on with these
self exams and many more treatment options are available if they
can be done in a timely fashion and the worse consequences avoided.
In general, it was interesting to hear the questions
and concerns of both mothers and midwives. Both presenters
fostered a feeling in the room that led to good discussions of
beliefs and concerns.
CHESS thanks Ms. Molina and Dr. Alvarado for sharing
their experiences and knowledge with Villa El Carmen health staff,
mothers and midwifes. We at CHESS consider ourselves to very fortunate
to make new friends and partners in order to enhance the services
brought to the communities.
Fence Building in San Miguel top
was December 4, 2008 and even the absence of our fearless fence
building leader, Mr. David Slick of the Ormond Beach Rotary Club,
did not stop the crew at San Miguel from jumping right into the
project. Under the technical leadership of Ben Slick, the work
crew of teachers, parents and students, quickly got to work digging
Mothers and teachers did not let a temporary shortage
of tools interfere with the progress, they lay down on the ground
and dug with their own hands.
one group worked to prepare the holes, another group of parents
started to mix the concrete that would be used to hold the posts
CHESS personnel Juan Martinez, Ligia Diaz and Aracely
Sequeira were cutting and fitting the top caps to the posts. Many
students, mothers and teachers who did not consider themselves
very skilled laborers quickly jumped in to help because they realized
this was not a very difficult task.
noon all the posts were in place and everyone gathered to have
lunch, a nice “arroz a la valenciana” cooked by a
woman well known in Villa El Carmen for her tasty food. Everyone
in San Miguel joined together and had a relaxing meal, appreciating
the outcome of their efforts.
We returned for a second day at San Miguel and it
was equally surprising how much progress was made in such a short
period of time. Juan Martinez of CHESS brought in the welder in
advance of the arrival of the rest of the crew. He was able
a jump on the day and finish joining the gates before starting
to weld the fence around the preschool.
When the Ormond Beach Rotary Group, this time with
Mr. David Slick leading their efforts, arrived everyone quickly
fell into a routine and started gathering the pipes and the mesh
that would soon be lashed to the post and become the fence.
Everyone was helping - the mothers, parents, and
children carried pipes and mesh while others helped the welder.
CHESS personnel jumped in wherever they could be of use; Manuel
was leveling posts while Juan was helping David and others to
stretch the mesh and joining it to the posts.
By the middle of the day, it became evident that
everyone needed to recharge their internal battery so we stopped
for lunch. During this break in the action, the teachers organized
a group of preschool students for a brief performance. The
students sang two songs to show their appreciation to David and
his group. Those individuals who simply appear ready help when
CHESS and the Ormond Beach Rotary Club are so very grateful that
these individuals came all the way down from United States just
to help them to build their fence.
it was time to roll up the very last roll of mesh and the remaining
posts for the fence. “The fence looks great” a child
said, and indeed the fence was looking great. By three o’clock
in the afternoon a parent put the last screw on the fence and
the work was done. Everyone started to cheer and scream
“we did it, we did it”. It was beautiful…there
stood the fence; David, the group that he brought, everyone in
the community was smiling. Candies came out of nowhere for
everyone. “This, we hope, is not the last fence”,
David said, “We hope soon to have our next fence project”.
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