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Feb 20, 2018

A New Take on the Immigration Debate

Juan sewing a backpack with his new sewing machine
Juan sewing a backpack with his new sewing machine

“Immigration reform” has been making headlines lately in the form of arguments about building a wall along the Rio Grande.  When it's not the wall, it's DACA. Should America continue to extend protection to Dreamers, or should we deport those Latin American youth brought to the US as children?   Rarely does the debate examine the reasons why people choose to leave their home communities in search of a “better life” in the U.S.  Three obvious motives come to mind: (1) people flee violence and political unrest; (2) people seek economic opportunities not available in the home country; (3) people seek refuge from environmental disruptions such as drought, flooding or wildfires.  Social and economic motives (numbers 1 and 2) have characterized migration to the Americas’s since the 17th Century.  Climate refugees (number 3) are a more recent phenomenon. 

While deporting people, then trying to keep them out with walls is one possible approach to dealing with immigration, it may not be the most effective or compassionate, approach.  With support of donors like you, SosteNica is modeling an alternative.  Our Young Entrepreneurs program supports local business start-ups, incubating innovative ideas. We grow skills that enable the rising generation of young people to create jobs for themselves and their neighbors.  When successful, these innovative entrepreneurs do not need to immigrate to a foreign land. Reports from the field suggest that our strategy is working.

Take Juan, for example.  Juan, one of 40 young Nagarote business people, participated in round one of SosteNica’s “Young Entrepreneurs” program.  The founder of "Confecciones Deyanira", Juan designs, sews and sells bags, back packs and customized articles of clothing for the local market.  After successfully completing the first seven months of training provided by SosteNica/MLAL at our EcoCentro, he qualified for a seed grant in the form of an interest-free start-up loan of $1,354 US.  Juan used the seed money to purchase thread, fabric, patterns and an industrial sewing machine. “This is a very specialized machine for finishing my products.  No one in Nagarote has a machine like this.  I am the first.  This makes my goods more competitive in the market because they look more professional” says Juan, proudly talking about his machine. “Thanks to that machine, I have been able to sell 1,000 backpacks in Managua.  Let me share something interesting.  I was recently featured on the EcoCentro/SosteNica Facebook page, and through that a lot of people got to know about my business.  I recently received a call from Costa Rica, asking me where they could purchase my goods.  That represents a huge change in my business, and it impacts my personal life – all thanks to the Young Entrepreneurs program.”

Of the first 40 young people to receive training, ten have already received credit to fund their business expansion.   Three of those are in agricultural production.  One young man has received funding to improve and expand his beekeeping and honey business.  Another is producing non-traditional fruits and vegetables, such as squash, watermelon, papaya and guava, growing year round using a system of drip irrigation and crop rotation.  Another has been able to market blended animal feeds for livestock as well as for domestic pets.

SosteNica is very pleased with the success of its first class of graduating entrepreneurs.  We welcome the support of skilled volunteers such as Justin from the Peace Corps.  He provides training in accounting to our students, strengthening best business practices.  We have also attracted the attention of "Compassion", a local evangelical non-profit, whose collaboration is bringing even more young business men and women to participate in our second wave of trainees.

As we attract more donations, SosteNica and MLAL will offer more training and credit to local start-up businesses.  With or without a wall in Texas, those entrepreneurs, their families and their employees are not likely to contemplate immigration.  They are too busy filling orders for their local customers.

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Feb 12, 2018

Cook Stoves Save Trees!

A satisfied customer in Copaltepe
A satisfied customer in Copaltepe

Thanks to you, and donors like you, SosteNica has built more than 30 rural stoves around the municipality of Nagarote since the Ecological Cook Stove program began two years ago. Recently, we had our first warranty issue. Livida from Copaltepe received our very first demonstration stove two years back. Unfortunately, the test model had some problems that developed after construction. “The smoke was not exiting the chimney properly. It was returning through the firebox and coming into the house.”   When Livida saw how well some of the newer models were working at her neighbors, she asked if SosteNica would upgrade her stove to the newest model.

Given that SosteNica’s commitment is to improve each family’s quality of life, we immediately responded to doña Livida’s request, tearing out the interior of her two year-old stove. At no charge, we built her a new stove with all the up-to-date improvements. “I am definitely satisfied and very happy. Today my stove works perfectly and I will tell anyone – these stoves really work! My husband now only brings wood home once or twice a month. Before he had to get wood every week.”

The best advertising for the program is word of mouth, and there is nothing better than a satisfied customer. Today, Livida and her family are reporting to everyone that the SosteNica Cookstove program is achieving its objectives – less smoke in the home, and less wood consumption. By consuming less wood, the family spends less time harvesting firewood, which means they have more time for farming and gardening. It also reduces the deforestation pressure on the local surroundings.

Another recent customer, Petronila lives in San Roque, a village roughly 18 kilometers from Nagarote. “I never imagined that it would be possible to cook without having to be exposed to such high temperatures. Plus, I love that my daughter does not have to carry so much heavy wood. And the smoke is no longer killing us. I am definitely very pleased!” Their new stove has completely changed her quality of life, and will probably prolong her life expectancy.

These are only two examples of how your donations are making lives better for rural women and their families in Nicaragua.  Thank you!

Petronila from San Roque shows off her new stove
Petronila from San Roque shows off her new stove

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Nov 27, 2017

Eye Witness Report

La Betania gardeners and delegates
La Betania gardeners and delegates

During the first week in October, 2017 a dozen SosteNica representatives, including investors, donors, Board and staff members visited Nicaragua to observe the work being done by the EcoCentro staff.  One of the stops included a visit with students and faculty from La Betania and La Chilama elementary schools, two of six currently receiving support from the SosteNica School Gardens program.

The visit included a theatrical performance, in which students performed a play collectively written about the importance of diet in a child's development.  They included humor about the all too common temptation to eat junk food, with an unequivocal message -- "Parents should not send their children to school with junk food in their lunch box."

The play fit well with the hands-on planting activities that followed the performances of folkloric dance and the recitation of Nicaraguan poetry.  The gathering was planned to inaugurate a new well, pump and drip irrigation system, funded by SosteNica, which has transformed the school's garden program.  Previously, students hauled water in buckets from a nearby farm. The school now has unlimited access to fresh well water for drinking as well as for irrigation for fruit trees and vegetable beds.

Members of the SosteNica US delegation had the privilege of planting several rows of tomatoes and peppers with the students. The children proudly taught the adults how to transplant seedlings and then water them so that the young plants would not suffer from transplant "shock". Although these are rural families, decades of a largely export-focused economy have left few families with sustainable agriculture skills.

"I'm so impressed with this program," said one of the U.S. delegates. "The children are enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and genuinely happy to be working in the garden."

"I especially appreciate that SosteNica's School Garden program has a meaningful short and long term impact. The children's own efforts supplement their diet with a greater variety of nutritional options and they bring home to their families a lifelong skill which has the potential to protect them from future hunger and malnutrition."

Donors to this program can take pride in what is being accomplished.  Every child deserves the opportunities being afforded to these Nicaraguan youngsters.  As the program grows, so will the the students' health and well-being.

Students working together
Students working together
North meets South
North meets South
Gardening in dance outfit
Gardening in dance outfit
 
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