On an annual basis, Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners of the Americas, offers a special travel opportunity (self-funded) to get an up close look at the Learning Center Project. The Learning Center Trek is a great introduction to Nicaragua, and provides a clear understanding of how “working together, does make a difference”. The financial donations and in-kind support from a wide variety of people have significantly helped expand the scope of classes offered through the “Sewing Centers” turned “Learning Centers", so it is only fitting we offer an opportunity to see first-hand the Learning Center Project in action. The self-governed Learning Centers in Nicaragua have become very successful as they address the desire for continued education and learning new skills.
This past February, W/NP volunteers shared workshops at three of the Learning Centers. The following is a post-workshop report written by the women of the Erlinda Lopez Learning Center.
“For six consecutive years, we have had a pleasant visit from the people of Wisconsin in our learning center "ERLINDA LOPEZ", this visit has been a boom, since in these visits the people of Wisconsin have taught over four hundred women from Managua in different crafts (canvas, jewelry, fashion, bag making, preparation of cases, Christmas ornaments, ribbon work, weaving, glass work, etc.) The knowledge shared from each class is making each woman to improve home economy, improve their self-esteem, reproduce knowledge to other women and families, a better personal growth and even to create small businesses.
Also having a first aid course has helped us to prepare for any emergency, we are in a country in permanent emergency because of the floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, landslides, volcanic movements etc, so then to train women in first aids is more than important so that they can save lives, preserve lives, All this learning experience gives greater value to teaching received.
On Feb 26 and 27, we felt deeply grateful and blessed with the presence of the friends from Wisconsin. I’d like to point out the glass recycling class received on the 26th, we felt it was spectacular and now women are giving use to glass bottles before they throw them away, incomes are being generated for sustainability of the families. This gives us satisfaction as we are generating capacities in women who help their financial situations and personal growth. At the center Erlinda Lopez we work with 55 women but had a total of 113. That means 58 women were from other learning centers (participated). They all had the joy to participate in all the different classes taught.”
Reviews of learning at Erlinda Lopez Learning Center
Finally, the collective group of women would like to thank all volunteers from Wisconsin, towns, women, youth, third age people, housewives and children, -- we have hopes, dreams, goals, and together we can build a better world of entrepreneurs and peace.
By: WOMEN COLLECTIVE CASA ERLINDA LOPEZ
Over the past 30 years, the Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners (W/NP) “Sewing Centers” transitioned into “Learning Centers” as more skills became increasingly necessary and useful. All of the W/NP Learning Centers maintain the common goal of providing opportunities for skill enrichment and development, yet each self-governed Learning Center is unique and special in their own ways. For this reason, in the upcoming reports, we would like to feature various Learning Centers that will help illustrate their distinctive diversity and the significant impact they have upon their communities.
Since it´s opening in 2009, the Herlinda Lopez Learning Center has offered a variety of classes and programs for the women and families of the Managua neighborhood of Plaza España. From 2013 to 2014, this Learning Center directly served approximately 800 women, and through them, impacted hundreds of families within the community. The classes currently offered at this center include sewing, jewelry making, and a variety of handicrafts such as piñatas, decorative pillows, and flower decorations, among others. The skills learned in these classes help the women of the Herlinda Lopez Learning Center to improve their economic situation and as a result, elevate the living conditions of themselves and their families. In addition to using these skills at home to make their own clothes or to make and repair the school uniforms of their children and grandchildren, some of these women have also started their own small businesses where they can sell clothing and other handicrafts within their community. In addition to serving women, this learning center offers cultural groups for young adults and, thanks to donations from W/NP, can give out books and other school materials to needy children within the community.
The Herlinda Lopez Learning Center is particularly grateful for the sewing machines, sewing materials, and exam tables that have been donated recently by Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners. These and all of the other donations from W/NP have allowed the Learning Center to continue to grow and offer important classes within the community. In particular, this Learning Center works for the advancement of women. The skills learned in the Learning Center classes contribute to the betterment of the women and their families, but can also give women greater freedom and financial independence. In some cases, this has allowed women to escape controlling or violent situations at home.
In the words of the Isabel Arauz, one of the Herlinda Lopez Learning Center Coordinators:
“We have gown as people and as human beings. Due to the furniture donations from W/NP, we have better working conditions which have allowed us to better serve the women, young adults, and children who come to the center. All of the donations from W/NP have allowed us not only to stimulate and bring joy, but also to break the limits put upon retired women in our community.”
During 2014, the Herlinda Lopez Learning Center hopes to touch the lives of 400 new women in Plaza España community. The center offers women opportunities to better their own lives and the life of the community by giving them the tools to develop both individual and collective community goals for growth and advancement.
Thank you for helping to make these and many other opportunities possible through the W/NP Lifting up through Learning Projects!
Introducing new classes and opportunities as well as providing ongoing support and continuing education for Learning Center (LC) Project volunteers in Nicaragua is a vital part of W/NP program development. Many of the Nicaraguans have expressed their desire to learn English. Petronila, LC student turned leader, was inspired by Sherin and Lynda, two longtime WI volunteers, and as a result took on the challenge to pursue an English Career at UNAN and offer English Classes to other LC volunteers in Nicaragua. Isabel, another cornerstone of LC activities and former English teacher, is also volunteering her skills to help others learn English. It was a delight to hear the following comments during the project monitoring and evaluations:
Sandra, “I am an active volunteer. I am motivated to learn English because I want to talk directly with Wisconsin volunteers and be able to share my feelings. To have English skills will provide me other opportunities to earn income, for example, to translate for other LC’s I work with. To talk English is to open doors.”
Aura, “It is so important to attend classes. I felt encouraged to start over again after studying English in the past. English skills will help me to be able to communicate with any American people, and I have relatives in the U.S. and this will help me when I go there. My goal is to teach English in my neighborhood and community.”
Aura shared with us that she found out about the English Classes while attending the Monthly Learning Center Meetings that are held at the Managua Office. Having the Learning Center Leaders/Coordinators gather monthly has proven to be an effective method of sharing ideas, information and coming up with new ways to achieve their goals.
The English class participants invite English speaking volunteers to be part of the program, either via Skype or during their visits to Nicaragua.
For more information please contact the W/NP office firstname.lastname@example.org and thank you for helping these volunteers achieve their educational and personal goals.
Wood stove smoke is a problem for ladies and the rest of their families, especially children, in rural Nicaragua as well as in the large cities. For the past two years, W/NP has been working with a volunteer group from North Carolina with logistics and organization of workshops for building a model of a wood stove that includes a chimney. Last year the first model of this stove was built in Estelí. In examining the results, this stove meets the need for cooking and improves the smoke situation for many ladies in Nicaragua. The stove model was put into practice based upon suggestions that came from those who do the cooking and desire improved health for their families.
During a workshop last September it was sad to hear from one of the ladies that she is not able to make tortillas anymore because the doctor advised her to stop using the wood fire because that is the cause of her lung problem. She expressed that even though she was not going to making tortillas again; she will cook again and will not breathe the smoke. But most important to her, “…. is that other persons will not have my health problem situation and I am glad the new stove is safe for ladies and families.”
The concept of this stove model was accepted by Lilly, a local leader from the Leonel Rugama neighborhood in Estelí. Lilly was glad to be part of first fire wood stove project and she used the stove that was built inside of her house. With use, small changes were noted that needed to be made so ladies will have an efficient cooking method that does not let their lungs turn into the soot color from breathing smoke while they cook.
This past year, Lilly has been cooking with her new stove and has made some of her own modifications to better meet her particular needs. After her cooking was done for the day, she put a steel plate in the first burner in order to make tortillas with the residual heat that had built up in the stove. Even more surprising, she figured out how to convert the stove into an oven to further utilize the heat that had already built up during the day. She would scoop out the coals and put them in an empty pot which was then placed in the first burner on top of the stove, as she had done with the tortilla plate. Then she closed the air draft, and put her pan in to bake. In effect, she had turned her stove into a Dutch oven. Both of these functions add greatly to the efficiency of the stove since they use the heat of the cool down phase which was going to be lost anyway. Lilly, and all the women are keenly aware of how expensive firewood is in their community, so it is not surprising to see these adaptive uses come into play.
The cost of the stove is US $80 which covers the cost of the materials that are purchased locally to the greatest extent possible. When the cost was discussed at the workshop conducted at Lilly’s house last September, the women agreed that it was a good price for a stove like Lilly’s with almost no discussion.
The new stove design has been well received with comments like “the stove cooks faster with the same amount of wood” or “the stove cooks in the same amount of time with less wood”. The reason for this is the efficiency that has been built into the stove over the three year development period. Briefly, the keys to the efficient operation are the controlled air draft and an insulated fire box. The controlling and directing of the air to where it is needed (the burning wood) allows for higher combustion temperatures and longer heat transfer time to the cook pot before exiting to the chimney. This is in stark contrast to other stove designs that have no draft control but use a very small fire box and very small pieces of wood. These stoves, while efficient, are very labor intensive to operate, and generally take longer to cook a meal such as rice and beans. Not exactly selling points when women are already dealing with a host of third world issues.
We are anticipating new ideas and stove improvements as time goes by and the women continue to give us their feedback. This is as it should be. Not even Steve Jobs started out with a 3.5 version of a product with no Beta testing.
Details of the model stove
Three components, base cost is US$60
1. Stove (six concrete parts - two sides, one top, one middle, one end part and one door)
2. Aluminum Chimney
3. Base cement blocks and concrete
Note: if the house does not have a foundation, one needs to be built at a cost of US$20
The total cost is US$80 Please considering sponsoring a stove for a Learning Center in Nicaragua - so far we have commitments for 11 stoves, which leaves 89 to go if all 100 centers participate.
In 2008, volunteers began exploring how the sewing teachers and students could share their skills by making therapy garments for burn patients. In looking how to provide a better assistance to burn patients after they receive initial treatment and during their rehabilitations process, Dr. Leandro Perez (Lenin Fonseca Hospital) shared withW/NP how important it is to provide therapy dressing to the patient’s burns. Another physician W/NP works closely with, Dr.Geraldine Cross, expressed how sad it is to let burn patients go after they have received the initial treatment, and during their rehabilitation it is hard to accomplish the appropriate healing process without the therapy dressing.
The W/NP Learning Center program has responded to this unmet need by providing needed skills and materials to burn patients. In 2010 W/NP made arrangements with Vivian Pellas Hospital to receive Boanerges Berroteran, employee from Lenin Fonseca hospital, to learn how to make the therapy dressing garments. Taking the first step, Linda Schober from Wisconsin found an Industrial serger sewing machine for this project, and it was sent in the next shipment to Nicaragua. For two years, the initial idea of this project has not taken place. Finally, in 2013 the funds were received and the project began to take form.
The Learning Center Therapy Dressing project officially began in April 2013. The volunteers in coordination with Dr. Leandro have provided services to over 60 people. Over 200 custom fit garments have been made. Every patient is a challenge as some need more than one garment and some of their affected areas are difficult to fit. The process to fit and make the garments can take up to 2 hours or more if needed. Patients feel the program has provided personal and instant attention as they receive their garments the same day of their appointment.
In a few cases, such as the brothers Carlos and Rafael who were badly burned in a sugar cane fire, they need to return to get additional garments. During the first phase of their recuperation process, they were measured and each received their first set of garments on April 10, and July 31st began the second phase where they received 10 additional garments to replace the old ones.
A key component to this project, were Lynda Pracht’s efforts with the Chica Nica Project. The advanced sewing skills acquired through sewing the Chica Nica doll dresses have contributed to the quality construction of burn dressinggarments. The Chica Nica project has 35 members from different Learning Centers and four ladies from Chica Nica are part of therapy dressing project staff. Quality control workshops provided by Lynda Pracht for 14 years have given the women opportunity to put into practice these past four months how to make masks, gloves, pants, shirts, sleeves, foot and ankle leggings, and different parts of the body garments that burn patients need to wear after the initial treatment and during the therapy process.
The Burn Therapy Dressing project is moving to the next level where all the creativity of these ladies is important. We are exploring ways to provide plastic surgery patients the specific garments needed, keeping quality, comfort and good price in mind for a sustainable alternative. So far the Therapy Dressing service has been recognizedas a needed social project especially for people who lack resources and are in need of treatment for their wounds.
W/NP is proud of the volunteerism exhibited as every volunteer makes a difference. Volunteers such as Lynda Pracht are making the difference as she cultivated the ladies involved with the Chica Nica project who are now working with the Therapy Dressing project successfully.
We welcome your support to help continue this much needed service for people who have been badly burned and are without any other options for treatment. Thank you for your consideration and support.
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