As we near the end of 2018, at Winds of Change we reflect on a year that saw great successes in spite of the ongoing, very serious crisis in Nicaragua.
Working in cooperation with Seeds of Learning our commitments to the people of Nicaragua included school refurbishments, installing irrigation systems, creation of community gardens, training and certification for welding, and ongoing support for computer skills training.
Due to the crisis, we had to adjust our plans. Volunteer trips have been cancelled to Nicaragua until further notice. We cancelled our April trip and moved the November trip to Yucatan region of Mexico. To ensure our commitments were followed through, we sent funds raised by our trip volunteers (about $24,000) to fund projects in Nicaragua. These funds are augmented by our corporate supporters; Lush Cosmetics through their Charity Pot program and Compassionate Eye.
Here are some highlights from this year’s projects;
The building of a school in Mesa de Acicaya provides an interesting story of resiliency and initiative. This is the project Winds of Change was scheduled to help with in April when the unrest broke out. We were within a few hours of departing when the local situation turned dangerous. Mesas de Acicaya is a remote, rural community located in the municipality of Tipitapa, Nicaragua. Most of the 856 inhabitants are small farmers who grow beans, corn and sorghum. Historically the community has received little support from public and private agencies, which makes development a challenge. The local leadership has organized most of the local projects, using resources raised within the community. In 2017, Seeds of Learning partnered with the Mesas de Acicaya community to build a Learning Resource Center (LRC). The LRC was requested by a group of high school students who belong to a local organization named Caminos al Saber (Pathways to Knowledge). This group of youth is dedicated to promoting access to quality education in the community. In addition to spearheading the LRC project, the youth are committed to running the LRC in the long-term as well as organizing additional educational projects In 2018, the students of Caminos al Saber and local teachers have requested support in expanding the local school by building two new classrooms. The school had just three classrooms for five different grade levels, which meant that some students attended classes during a morning shift while others waited until an afternoon shift. There were also high school classes which operated out of the school on Saturdays, but there was not enough room for all the students. One grade level was forced to hold their classes in the local community center, which has a damaged roof.
The two new classrooms, built with support from Winds of Change, will not only alleviate overcrowding and ensure there is enough space for the current students, but will also provide sufficient space for both elementary and high school classes to expand. Construction of the two new classrooms began in April and was completed in November. The project had been delayed due to the political unrest in Nicaragua, but has resumed with financial support from Winds of Change.
In 2018, two more irrigations systems were built following a model designed by the University of Toronto in rural communities of Tipitapa, Nicaragua.
El Triunfo: The first irrigation system was built in the community of El Triunfo. Our expectations for the project were an improvement in the nutrition of the families involved in the project, financial sustainability of the irrigation system, community development through collaboration, and the conservation of water through efficient irrigation techniques. Aside from achieving all objectives, the project raised interest among community members who contacted the women’s cooperative for technical advice for their own irrigation systems. There was also interest in purchasing similar irrigation systems for which the women’s cooperative decided to apply for seed capital to start building the systems in local farms. The women’s cooperative has over 10 years of experience managing economic development projects in Tipitapa. 25% of the produce from the two first crops was given to the local school to complement the feeding programs run by the municipal government. 25% was distributed among the women’s families, and 50% was commercialized locally for future production.
Pedro Arauz: For this irrigation system, the expectations were slightly different, but the areas we hoped to impact were the same (economic development, community development, education, environment) The beneficiaries were a family of 4 farmer women whose farming capacity decreased when he mother suffered and accident and could not continue working the land. We expected the irrigation system to positively impact the economy of the family and the neighbors who got involved in the project. We hoped to increase the family’s income so that the beneficiary’s daughters had the opportunity to pay for the cost of their education. Some of the environmental advantages of the system were improved after a visit of a group of engineering students from the University of Toronto who suggested slight modifications on it. We achieved all the goals set for the project and had unexpected outcomes regarding community participation and the conservation of water. This system proved to be more efficient than the ones built before, and the irrigation owner is currently using the irrigation system in collaboration with some neighbors.
OK, so this one was in 2017, but happy the report that the refurbishment of an elementary school in the community Ciudadela has been hugely successful. In November 2017, a group of 13 volunteers arrived to Tipitapa to work on the refurbishment of a small school which had been out of service for more than 5 years. Our expectations for the project were to fix the roof, floor, and walls of three classrooms which can host up to 100 kids during the week. The goals for the week were met and we finished the whole project on time. An unexpected outcome was the massive participation of community volunteers. Every morning we had between 10 and 20 volunteers (mostly women) working alongside us in the project. During the final part of the project, we had kids who participated painting the walls and