Lifting up through learning

by Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners of the Americas, Inc.
Vetted
Hossana Learning Center members performing dancing
Hossana Learning Center members performing dancing

Wow, what a year in review for the Learning Centers in Nicaragua. November 26th 2016 the annual Learning Center (LC) meeting took place at Sagrado Corazon de Jesus LC, San Benito, Nicaragua. The LC host location was 30km away from Managua City, (one way). W/NP Managua staff hired a bus to carry all LC leaders coming from different cities, this way safety and commodities were guaranteed. The annual meeting was attended by 72 people, leaders of LC’s.

  • Welcome speech.
  • Prayer.
  • Cultural performance.
  • Awards by fulfilment, cooperation and attendance.
  • Gifts exchanges.
  • Evaluation.
  • Lunch.

Learning Center’s in attendance: San Antonio de Comunidad San Antonio / Guadalupano del Barrio San Cristobal Managua / Florence y William Nellis de la comunidad de Samaria / Regalo de Dios de Chinandega / Sagrado Corazón de Jesús en San Benito / Gloria Chavarría en colonia Primero de Mayo / Chilamatillo en comunidad Chilamatillo, Tipitapa / Carolina, Managua / San Vicente de Paul / Manos Solidarias- Mina Rosita / June Lenke, Managua / Gracias a Dios – Cedro Galan / San Gabriel Carretera vieja a Leon / Hossana Masaya / Madison Los Cedros ,Managua / Dulce Progreso Tipitapa / Divino Niño de Pantasma.

The meeting was very dynamic and informative. Nicaraguan performances including dancing, flute and singing were part of the meeting, which was enjoyed in full by every attendee.  Estela showed what her students have learned throughout the year:  embroidery, painting and making-dolls, which were taken to a local fair.Awards were given to the most remarkable LC leaders in recognition for their constant hard work to achieve fulfillment, cooperation and attendance to monthly meetings along the year.

Emphasis was made on the new home gardens project that will be piloted at the Gracias a Dios from Cedro Galan and Buenos Aires Learning Centers. Attendees were enthusiastic and hope to join in the garden project as funds are available.  

The following are comments/evaluation from the participants:

  • Vilma stated that 2016 was a fruitful year, she feels satisfied since her knowledge is shared among her students, also Vilma encouraged to multiply the shared knowledge and support the W/NP organization.
  • Josefa thanked God for finding W/NP that has helped so much. Humanity and love can be breathed inside W/NP, besides she feels identified with Estela, leader of Sagrado Corazon LC since she has young and old ladies students as well.
  • Marina thanked W/NP for being the best organization she has worked with. Crafts is a way she found to get a t-shirts and a mixer, which is the best she got for her young and adult students.
  • Marcia stated that there’s no a better organization to be involved and there’s no age to be part of it.
  • Rosa thanked God for sharing two consecutive year in W/NP that has sponsored sewing materials. Our learning center is working with La casa de la Mujer and we are hoping to train more young people from Rosita Mine located in the Caribbean Nicaragua shores.
  • Eraida made several activities with donations sent by W/NP for children of her LC.

The following improvements were identified as taking place in 2016 for the Learing Center Program: 

  • Higher monthly meeting attendance.
  • Better written reports.
  • More sharing of photos of their activities.
  • Maintenance of their LC’s organization.
  • Sewing machines inventories donated by W/NP.
  • Certificates for graduations.
  • INATEC following up for students.

Additional Comments by attendees:

  • We learned new things and the experience was very good.
  • Thanks to all volunteers especially. We have learned a lot and all knowledge gained will be shared with our students in our communities.
  • Thanks W/NP for the lessons and support given to us since it is very useful. God bless you.
  • I’d like to congratulate W/NP for the hard work they do and the way they manage the help we receive; I hope they can continue providing us support the next year.
  • This is the first time I attend this meeting and I found it very interesting. I am planning to return to the organization to learn more.
  • For me it has been a great blessing to participate, these courses are very important to me. Thank you for allowing me to participate.
  • I would like to have this activity in a bigger place to facilitate the final product, also it is important to have enough material.

LC leaders are eager to meet their partners in their own communities to know their work on the making and learn their way to run their LC’s. The annual meeting was concluded with a lunch that was enjoyed by all LC leaders.

Thank you to all the people who have helped to make the Learning Center Program possible, we look forward to your continued support and another great year in 2017!

Special entertainment led by music teacher Wiston
Special entertainment led by music teacher Wiston
Recognition Awards to remarkable LC leaders
Recognition Awards to remarkable LC leaders
Proud students sharing their work
Proud students sharing their work
Proud students sharing their work
Proud students sharing their work
Proud students sharing their work
Proud students sharing their work

Links:

New stove at Villa Japon
New stove at Villa Japon

On October 18th, representatives from the Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners (W/NP) Managua Office joined the celebration of the completion of stoves built in the community of Villa Japon, Nicaragua. The event was in memory of Margarita who died the day after she received her stove.

According to project coordinator Lilliam, "Margarita was so enthusiastic, optimist and collaborative with the stove project, she believed it was a great improvement, not just for the beneficiary families, but for all in the community."

Leonor stated and remarked that W/NP has been present in Nicaragua about 50 fifty years, not only in the Villa Japon Community, but also in many communities in Nicaragua and will continue supporting them.  Also, Leonor encouraged people to help and support their neighbors by collaborating with a brick, a cement bag or any other material that is used in the construction of the stoves, in order to help community itself by spreading the knowledge on stoves.

W/NP staff members collected testimonies from beneficiaries on how the stove project has improved their quality of life since there is not so much smoke and firewood is not so necessary in the same quantities that used to be required to cook.

 Angelica and Paula were thankful.

"I feel so happy with my new stove since I don’t use anymore a lot of firewood like I used to do. The stove I received has not been useful just for me, but my son who works with pork. Now, my everyday activities have changed a lot for me since I make one hundred tortillas a day for my living. I feel so thankful to W/NP Members for their support and companion along all these months. Once again, thanks so much W/NP."  Angélica  

"My health and my family’s health for sure will improve because this stove guarantees almost no smoke pollution and the minimum smoke goes up through the chimney. In addition, my economy has improved as well, since my spending for firewood has ended. Now, my living will be easier for me since I make “Cosa de Horno” for sale. I want to thank you W/NP and to all its members for all their support."  Paula  

The W/NP Learning Center Project continues to unite community members all around the world in working together to improve quality of life for all who are invovled.  Thank you for your support in being a part of this important program. 

Project site visit
Project site visit
prior stove and cooking area
prior stove and cooking area
another prior stove replaced
another prior stove replaced
mixing materials for new stove
mixing materials for new stove
Stove and cooking improvements
Stove and cooking improvements
Finished product and proud of it!
Finished product and proud of it!

Last month, a new donor redeemed a gift card on Global Giving to help the Learning Center projects. This donation could not have come at a better time. The women in Nicaragua are eager to increase their skill sets, and having the appropriate materials is a huge variable in trying to keep up with the growing class sizes and growing levels of interest. The photos we are sharing in this report illustrate the beautiful bags being made by the women and how they feel about this new knowledge they are aquiring.  W/NP Volunteer teacher Petronila started with eight students, the number went up to ten, then 16 and now 20 are in the bag making class.  She comments, “As a teacher of the bag making class, I think the class is important for the knowledge one gets and to be able to help other women who can market and sell this product in their communities and also on the internet.  For me it’s important because I continue to gather experience and also doing volunteer work.”

In-kind donations of sewing machines, scissors, fabric and other notions are sent in shipments to Nicaragua that help support the classes. Mirna commented, “Notice the different colors of leather pieces on the bottom of the bags. Those pieces came in the last shipment and are being very useful. In order to combine the leather with other material, we need the kind of material (multicolor) you see on some bags.  Petronila found a store at the market and we were wondering if it was possible to buy some of that (material) with the donation you mentioned we had available for the Learning Center Project?”   Absolutely, that is exactly what the donations are for, to help support the Learning Center Projects. 

We wanted to hear from the women (students), why they are taking the bag making class? Carmen replied,To learn a little more and help her other students who come to the Learning Centers to increase their incomes in the house.”  Ana said, “I think it’s a very good class because it helps me to continue learning more and also it’s a way to get incomes for the family.”  Elizabeth shared, “I chose the bag class because I always wanted to learn how to make them and since the opportunity was given, I took it right away and this will allow me to make my own bags.”  Dora felt, “The class keeps me out of stress, keeps my mind busy, one can let his/her imagination fly as far as styles, fabric used and accessories. Also because I learn about what machines are appropriate with the types of fabric we use and overall is an interesting class.”

The Learning Center Project continues to be of great interest and Mirna who has observed the project for about 15 years commented, “The interest of women over the bag making class is growing and growing incredibly. Women believe in the concept of learning, sharing and teaching to the other as opportunities are presented to pass on the knowledge. Self- improvement for a better life is what keeps them going by just learning simply techniques such as bag making.”

The women also shared with us why they value the class. Carmen said, “It is a very important class especially because the organization has given us support not only with materials but with education.”  Ana replied, “Because I learn, share and offer different opportunities to other women who also want to learn.  It’s important also because we get helped with the materials needed for the class.”  Elizabeth shared, “I value the class because it’s interesting and every day I take the class, I learn more on new techniques on how we can vary the styles.  I also value the class because of the patience of the teacher to share her knowledge and the time devoted to the group who is learning. I hope she continues to have that enthusiasm to teach others.”

Dora’s comment perhaps sums up what most of the women are feeling as they desire to improve their quality of life, “The class is valuable because it can teach me how to become an entrepreneur to generate incomes.”

Thank you to all the people who have helped the Learning Center Project to continue, and to all those who will help in the future. Making an investment in another person’s life has significant results that can last beyond a lifetime. 

Teacher Petronila demonstrating the techniques
Teacher Petronila demonstrating the techniques
Busy classroom
Busy classroom
Proud students
Proud students
Nice work!
Nice work!
Very colorful bags, each is unique!
Very colorful bags, each is unique!
Completed stove installation at La Paz Centro
Completed stove installation at La Paz Centro

Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners volunteers are working together to improve the health of women and families who use open fires for daily cooking. While we cannot solve the country wide problem, we can make a difference for every stove that is installed and includes a chimney (approx materials cost $50).  This report is an illustration of stove #20 being installed with the help of five student volunteers from the UNI (Universidad Nacional de Ingeniería, Managua) and Felix, Architecture Professor directing the installation. With half of the students being new to the stove project, Felix exhibited much patience while explaining to the students what they were going to work on.

The installation started with a workshop using the mock up, a very good illustrative tool so people get a better idea of the process and how the stove works. Note the size of the kitchen in the photos, very small and challenging to have enough room to move around, but they did it. Two of the students had to go up the mango tree to cut the branches where the pipe was going to go.

The location of the stove was selected by the El Carmen Learning Center coordinator and leader. The head of the house is Migdalia, she lives in the house with five more adults and two girls. Migdalia works drying out palm to sell it to people from Masaya for crafts. They needed a stove so bad as they were cooking on left overs of what it would be translated to “laundry sink” made out of cement. Note the photo of the old stove or what was left of it. The family had been using that for cooking for seven years, they would normally cook three meals a day with firewood.

Midgalia expressed, “I feel very thankful for the benefit of the stove, now I don’t have to worry about the old piece falling on our feet…” she laughs, “Thanks to the organization and people who organize this project, thanks to donors as now we’ll cook with no smoke and therefore my family will be healthy.” She is no longer worried about inhaling smoke anymore, they will be smoke free. One of her daughters could no longer cook because the smoke was affecting one of her eyes. “Now she can cook without a problem,” Madgalia says, “Blessings and may God allow this project to continue and save more families from the damage of the smoke.”

Special thanks to Felix for leading the student volunteers who seemed to enjoy this experience, they never complained about helping or anything, on the contrary, they were joyful and charming people to work with. Final comment from Felix, “By the way, thanks for the opportunity to work with the organization!” We are grateful for the many dedicated volunteers who come together for the good of others.

Existing stove to be replaced
Existing stove to be replaced
Demonstration how stove works and how it is built
Demonstration how stove works and how it is built
Stove construction with a team
Stove construction with a team
Stove construction
Stove construction
Trimming mango branches to make room for chimney.
Trimming mango branches to make room for chimney.
Delivering Learning Center supplies
Delivering Learning Center supplies

We are excited to share an update from Mirna and Leonor on the activity taking place at Llano Largo, the newest Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners Learning Center in the northern part of Nicaragua. Many years ago the Learning Center project started as “Sewing Centers”, due to the strong desire among the women to learn useful and marketable skills.  Today, although other classes are offered, the sewing class remains the most popular and useful.  The financial and in-kind donations help to provide much needed materials for these classes.  The following is a description of a recent delivery of supplies to the Learning Center, including a brand new treadle sewing machine made possible by the Star Point Quilters Guild donation.

Upon arriving with the Learning Center supplies, we found the group of charming ladies sewing, some were making night gowns, aprons and others were making blouses (see picture of them wearing the blouses). We told them we had a brand new treadle machine, some sewing fabric, spools of threads, zippers, upholstery material for making bags and school supplies packages for the children of the community.  They were really happy to hear that. They certainly are a group of enthusiastic ladies with lots of interest to learn. It really caught my attention that no one left until they were all done with their class and clean up the porch of the building.

We are happy to be able to help the community; they are very nice ladies to work with. We are glad you identified this community and told us. Llano Largo was left with 14 sewing machines in total, only one or two were left that don’t work. Juan took notes of some parts needed for the repair. Please show the photo to the ladies who collected the funds to buy the five treadle machines for the Learning Centers.

Besides all the sewing supplies, the ladies at the Managua office helped put together 62 school packages (see blue zip lock bags on the picture) to take there for the children. We received a request for sports equipment and we’ll be more than happy to help the men as well. We’ll wait until all the sports equipment shows up while unpacking and will figure out a way to get it there. We’ll also be sending them more fabric and other supplies to work with.  

During our visit, we introduced craft ideas explaining how to start making a simple bag; we provided training on how to make handbags. The teacher has 15 participants and is teaching directly on fabric (some use paper first) by which all students are well interested and willing to learn.  Also initiated was a project to make the first 10 school uniforms for the poorest children of the community from fabric purchased with your money.  We are thinking how to find more help to make more school uniforms. The ladies belong to a cooperative and know how to be organized.  In the future as they work on planting onions, tomatoes and others vegetables, they can make projects with pickled onion or tomato sauce like Salsa in jars vacuum packaged, for now it is just an idea, but dreaming is true. When people are enterprising you can do many things…..

Thank you to all who are helping to make this program possible. The women need sewing machines, especially newer models with more features in order to make items that can compete in the markets.  Pedal sewing machines are always needed for communities where electricity is not available for them.  Also we are in need of resources to visit the centers. 

It was a great visit and we are so glad we went to meet the wonderful and humble ladies of Llano Largo!

Sewing Class in action
Sewing Class in action
Proud seamstresses and their projects
Proud seamstresses and their projects
Sewing machines are so much appreciated!
Sewing machines are so much appreciated!
New treadle machine for the Learning Center!
New treadle machine for the Learning Center!
Receiving the educational supplies for community
Receiving the educational supplies for community
 

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Organization Information

Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners of the Americas, Inc.

Location: Stevens Point, WI - USA
Website: http:/​/​wnp.uwsp.edu
Project Leader:
Amy Wiza
Program Director
Stevens Point, WI United States

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