Lifting up through learning

 
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Jul 3, 2014

"...to talk English is to open doors"

English classes at the MGA Office
English classes at the MGA Office

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 wnp@uwsp.edu and thank you for helping these volunteers achieve their educational and personal goals.

Students of all ages
Students of all ages
Aura and Marcia sporting their UWSP shirts
Aura and Marcia sporting their UWSP shirts
Isabel sharing her skills
Isabel sharing her skills
Diddman our "repair" specialist studying hard
Diddman our "repair" specialist studying hard
Learning is forever
Learning is forever
Apr 17, 2014

New Stove Project greatly improves health

Open fire cooking is common
Open fire cooking is common

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.

Major improvements for health and cooking
Major improvements for health and cooking
Meet Lilly who is helping to make improvements
Meet Lilly who is helping to make improvements
Components can be built on site or ahead of time
Components can be built on site or ahead of time
Finished product with a team effort
Finished product with a team effort
Happy with the new stove
Happy with the new stove

Links:

Nov 6, 2013

From Doll Dresses to Burn Therapy Garments

Taking accurate measurements for proper fit
Taking accurate measurements for proper fit

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 with
W/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 dressing
garments.   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 recognized
as 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. 

Learning Center volunteers making the garments
Learning Center volunteers making the garments
Burn from an electrical cable
Burn from an electrical cable
Custom garments finished including glove
Custom garments finished including glove
Fixing the industrial serger sewing machine
Fixing the industrial serger sewing machine
Volunteers who are making the garments
Volunteers who are making the garments
Jun 26, 2013

Lynda was a stellar example and changed lives!

Lynda promoting the Chica Nica dresses
Lynda promoting the Chica Nica dresses

Since our last update, the women involved with the Learning Center Program in Nicaragua have experienced a tremendous loss with the death of their leader and coordinator, Lynda Lou Pracht.  Lynda died on Wednesday April 24, 2013 in New Richmond, Wisconsin.  Even though as her health condition declined and prevented her travel to Nicaragua, Lynda remained in close contact with her counterparts and attended the monthly meetings via SKYPE. 

A note from Nicaragua:  A life of inspiration, this is what Lynda Pracht means to many people in Nicaragua since 1998. Lynda opened a path of opportunities for our ladies and their families through the Learning Center Program and Chica Nica Project.  For 14 years, the ladies in Nicaragua could see the power of a woman that was providing skills to help empower them.  Ladies in Nicaragua through the W/NP Learning Centers have felt powerful having Lynda.  During these years she directly impacted about 1,000 and indirectly to more than 10,000 people and special ladies in Nicaragua. Sadness came to us about the news that she will not be any more with us, but her legacy will be forever in our hearts. This Saturday the monthly Learning Center meeting will be dedicated to her and we will sing her honor, her favorite Nicaraguan song, Nicaragua Nicaraguita.  14 years of Lynda's dedication to women in Nicaragua has been a really significant second opportunity in life for the ladies most in need in Nicaragua and just we will miss her a lot.     - Moises  

Lynda Pracht took the Learning Center Program to the next level, she touched the hearts and lives of Nicaraguan women though her development of the "Chica Nica" doll dress project.  The magnitude of her influence is hard to fully comprehend.  Lynda coordinated the recording and gathering of over 2,000 sewing machines sent from Wisconsin to Nicaragua, she sold 478 dresses in 2012 alone, and her dedication was overwhelming. 

A little history on Linda....

Lynda Pracht traveled to Nicaragua in 1998 on a W/NP sponsored Sewing Center Tour.  The excellent embroidery and design skills she saw, the enthusiasm of the Nic women, their spirit and their strong desire to become self sufficient, inspired her to find a niche market in the dolls dress trade.  Women from the Sewing/Learning Centers are sewing beautiful dresses, designed to fit 18" dolls - now known as Chica Nica Doll Dresses!  The dresses pass a rigid quality control review.  The Nic women are paid for their work before the dress leaves Nicaragua.  Purchase of these lovely dresses provide income to the home, often the only money coming into the household to support the family.  Women can stay in their community, earn income, learn a skill and live with dignity.

We are honored to carry on with the Learning Center Program and Lynda’s Chica Nica project and invite you to join in helping her legacy continue.  Please see the Chica Nica website to learn more about the doll dresses and women who sew them.    

As a longtime family friend and colleague of Lynda's put it, "It would be wonderful if we all could find a passion like that in later life!"  

Thank you for your interest, support, and consideration for a donation that will help greatly with materials for the Learning Center Classes, much appreciated by many. 

Teaching by example
Teaching by example
Chica Nica lesson by Lynda
Chica Nica lesson by Lynda
Lynda promoting the Chica Nica dresses
Lynda promoting the Chica Nica dresses
Lynda with the class graduates
Lynda with the class graduates
Sewing with Nancy
Sewing with Nancy

Links:

Mar 22, 2013

How Learning Centers are making a difference

2013 Learning Center Committee
2013 Learning Center Committee

March 2013 Update from Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners on the Learning Center Program:

The W/NP Learning Center Program is prime example of how women in Wisconsin are working with women in Nicaragua to guide the self-governed Learning Centers.   Altrusa, Rotary, Women’s Clubs, individuals and Home & Community Education members around the state are collecting donations and much needed sewing items that are sent to the women in Nicaragua for their classes.  Monthly meetings are held at the Managua Office in Nicaragua to offer additional training and information.  Each year a new committee in Nicaragua is elected, we are pleased to share with you the new Learning Center Committee for 2013. 

In photo from left to right Lilliam (Rosa) Gomez - President, Suyen Cerda Martinez - Vice President,  Petronila Solis - Secretary, Vilma Arauz -  Vocal, Marcia Velasquez - Treasure, Guadalupe Lopez,  Elizabeth Alvarado, Olga Foseca  - Vocals.

Sometimes people wonder, how does the Learning Center program really make a difference? 

In 2011, Petonila shared her comments with us:

I started in the Learning Center Program in 1991 at the Cedros community taking sewing courses, knitting and embroidery, in 2000, at the same center was given a course of embroidery machine with which I began to form part of the Chica Nica project, today I am president of the committee. 

Four years ago I participated in the VOICE Project, in which I was trained on leadership and self-esteem. At this time we were encouraged by Mrs. Sherin Bowen to get train and be successful.  Last year I started getting economical support from the Learning Center Project to start my studies in a three –year technical carrier on handcraft teaching. In addition, this year I started to study for to get my high school diploma.

I have been teaching smocking at the office for 2 years.   Last year five women of my class received their diploma and hopefully I will have more women learn what I know by the end of 201since I have already started with the teaching.

I appreciate all the support Wisconsin/Nicaragua has given me and I am always willing to work and help according to my capabilities.   PETRONILA SOLIS BLANCO

Two years later, in 2013, we learn that Petronila has been successfully admitted at the very prestigious National University, passing the admission test.

“One comment I would like to add somewhere or to point out is that Petronila Solis is a very real example of how Sherin Bowen´s (www.sherinbowen.com) inspiration to empower women is flourishing.  

Well, Petronila, through the LC program, and as one of the oldest and best examples of volunteerism, got registered at two different national programs. One in where she would get the handcraft teacher certificate, and the other her high school diploma.

Successfully, she graduated from high school in November 2012, which will lead her get the first goal at the end of the year 2013.

Finally, she challenged herself to take the admission test to enter the National University to move on her last goal, a College degree in English Education.”  - Isabel

Our immense gratitude goes out to all who are helping to keep the Learning Center program alive, it is making a significant positive difference in the lives of many Nicaraguan women and we invite you to continue your support today. 

Petronila receiving her high school diploma
Petronila receiving her high school diploma
Petronila - reaching her goals
Petronila - reaching her goals
Petronila - preparing for Learning Center classes
Petronila - preparing for Learning Center classes

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Project Leader

Amy Wiza

Program Director
Stevens Point, WI United States

Where is this project located?

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