Sunday, August 29, 2010

Goodbye Jiquilillo My Back = USA

So my time in Jiquilillo has come to an end for this year. I’ve spent the last 2 weeks of my journey between bed rest and extremely light activity. It turns out the slight back pain I’ve been suffering from my whole life, has decided to flare up. I’ve seen specialists in Nicaragua, taken x-rays and MRI’s, and am now patiently awaiting my appointment on Monday with a specialist here in the USA.

As I left Jiquilillo, which was the hardest thing I’ve had to do, again, I spoke with the teachers, re-assuring them that I would remain in contact and hope to return in the future. The community and I are certain that with all the projects we have been able to set-up and all the new motivation to continue these projects, the school will continue to progress.

The day I left several mothers were gathered cleaning all window panes, while several fathers painted the metal security bars in front of the windows. There has been a recent push from the parents to be involved. It’s great to watch the parents and the community continues to grow and change and continue to show more and more interest in their school and their educational programs.

Last I hear from a phone call the day before I flew out, the teachers and community had riled together and have potentially ascertained a way to get power into the school! This is great news as I have several computers set aside for the primary school of Camilo Zapata. These computers were donated several months ago by Dotty Blanchette, who is an amazing person, completely dedicated to changing the world! I will be able to get the computers down, once the community has secured the electricity and a computer teacher!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Finishing Up

This past Saturday Assist Jiquilillo, Inc paid three amazing workers to complete several large projects at the primary school, Camilo Zapata. As I will be heading out within the next few weeks, it is important that the large projects are completed before with time to spare, in case of any loose ends. I am sad to say no new projects will be started any more.

Robert Ruiz and his helper Yakson were in charge of changing the broken roof panels over the 2nd and 3rd grade classroom. This was a huge problem for teacher Virginia, as the broken panels happened to be located just above her desk, so every time it rained it saturated all of her teaching materials and anything left on or in her desk.

Roberto has been working as lead carpenter of all school projects for the past several years, always donating his time and services for no charge. This time around, as it was one of the last large projects, Assist Jiquilillo Inc. will be working on, I thought it was important that he and Yakson his apprentice receive not only money but a power grinder to help further their careers! As you can see from the smiles these two were thrilled! Thank you Roberto and Yakson. Roberto still potentially has two more small jobs to finish up with us at the Camilo Zapata School, including the installation of new glass window panels and the reparation of approximately 50 broken desks.

The other large project that needed finishing up at the school is the latrine system. This has been a project two to three years in the making. It is a very exciting time for the school to finally have bathrooms which are almost completely functional.

Carpenter Abran Hildalgo, who has been working as head carpenter of Rancho Esperanza for the past several years, has been in charge of the last carpentry job for this latrine system. Abran was the lead carpenter in charge of making the doors, repairing door frames, and hanging the doors. All his work has been completed, and looks and works wonderfully. Abran’s work has been so meticulous that I saw it fit to give him a big surprise. On top of a small amount of pay, Abran received a new skill saw, which he has been saving his money to purchase for the last several months. This will go along great with his recent gift of an electric drill from Rancho Esperanza!

This means that projects at the school are winding to a close. Biographies are still being written for the sponsored students and will be completed and e-mailed to their sponsors soon. It has been hard and slow process as lately there have been many long lasting power outages due to the crazy amounts of rain we have been getting here. More to come as my stay winds to an end!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Sports Equipment, Baseball Team, and Other projects

Things have been moving slowly but surely. Current projects include, finish repairing the bathrooms, comic books, repairing the hole in the roof over the 2nd and 3rd grade classroom, fixing and adding new window panes, and fixing about 50 broken desks at the school. Most work is scheduled for tomorrow so I will have more updates soon.

One project which has been almost completely finished is the purchase of sports equipment for the primary school. Recently a family from Portland, Maine was down working in the community. Their visit was cut a little short due terrible weather and a bit of flooding, but their love and dedication to the community of Jiquilillo will never go unnoticed. They provided medical advice and supplies to the local clinic, activities for the after-school program, a inter-active comic book project also completed by a school in Maine, and lots and lots of sports equipment for the local primary school. Jiquilillo says "THANK YOU" to Elsa, Tom, Nick, Ashley, Alex, Lisa and Steve the Perkins and DiGiovanni Family! So far their monetary donation for sports equipment has been able to buy 10 soccer balls, 6 soft bouncy balls for the younger children, 4 jump ropes, 200 marbles, 4 cones, with more to come soon. The teachers of the local primary school in Jiquilillo, have set up a stipulation with the students that they are only allowed to use this equipment during recess, and only if they have completed their chores of cleaning up the school property. So far this system is working, we'll see if they can keep it up!! More photos of the kids and their new sports equipment to come soon.

So I'm not sure if any of you Assist Jiquilillo Inc. supporters where aware that we had been sponsoring the Jiquilillo's youth baseball team, by providing food and fresh juice to be delivered to every game. There is however sad news in this story. The gentleman who has promised to provide transportation and uniforms, has after only two or three games, pulled his funding. I am still waiting to find out if the baseball teams coach can arrange for other transportation, however it is honestly looking grim. The kids were great kids and they created a great team. I'll keep you posted as time progresses.

I'll be here in Jiquilillo, Nicaragua only until August 26th, so lets hope all these projects can wind up soon!!!!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Changes, Changes, and more Changes

According to the last blog about the school, bathrooms were underway and almost complete; well we are still underway, but at least a bit further along. The roof is on, three new doors have been made and two have been hung. A new unexpected problem has now occurred. We have discovered that the door frames are rotten through. So, now we have to take down three doors, purchase more wood, build new frames, then finally we can install all four doors. After which we can finally remove all fecal matter and then scrub, scrub, scrub! If this is the last catch, then we should be done sooner than later. We are hiring a carpenter and really getting down to business, work should begin on Monday, as long as this new storm can hold off.

Just as this problem is noticed, we also realized that the school roof is worse off than the community originally though. There is a huge hole over the desk of the 2nd and 3rd grade teacher’s desk. Now, every time it rain Professor Virginia’s desk gets soaking wet. Thankfully we have found another carpenter who will also be able to start Monday, and using the left over roofing panels from the bathrooms he is certain that this hole can be completely covered.

Good news about the health of the students at Camilo Zapata primary school. The governments food program PIN has finally made the delivery for this semester. Every semester this program falls a bit short. However this delivery appears to be much larger than the others. We now have to purchase new food storage bins to keep animals from contaminating it. Keep your fingers crossed that it is enough! Yumm… rice, beans, fresh tortillas and a nutritious cereal drink mix made from Jicaro or Calabash fruit in English.

Still to come … the continuation and completion of the 2nd and 3rd grade comic books started by a family from Portland. Nick, Tom, Elsa, Ashley, Alex, Lisa, and Steve I promise I’m doing my best!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Flooding, Flooding, and more Flooding....

(Nate, after a long day of trench digging, shows off the depth of our new and unexpected lake)

Ok, so personal projects have been completely put on hold. I'm sorry I know that you are all patiently waiting for your children biographies, yet I'm literally knee deep in puddles throughout my home and don't really know what to do. If you can all hang tight for a little while longer it would be greatly appreciated. Here are some pictures so you can see what's going on.
(View of the property sitting in the lake. Please note that the cabanas normally sit approximately 12 inches above ground level, and as demonstrated by the far cabana, water is actually flooding in)

The reason for the flooding in a new road which has been constructed on the peninsula in order to increase tourism and foreign investment to the area. The problem with the new road is that the lovely engineer who was hired forgot to put in any type of drainage system. Instead he raised the road up at least a foot higher than it was and literally plugged up the natural drainage of the entire peninsula. It is scary to see.
(Curly enjoying the ease of drinking water from the new lake. He doesn't even have to leave the comforts of the house, just needs to get to the door.)

Over the past several days Nate and I have secured a meeting with the mayor of El Viejo and collected over 150 signatures of community members effected by flooding from the construction of this new road. Yesterday we and several community members attended the meeting. We were really hoping for the best. But honestly they say they have done nothing wrong and the flooding is on our property which is considered private property, and therefore this is now a private matter. Haha, the funny thing is if you walk the road you can see how necessary it is for them to add culverts and drainage swales. Yet they do nothing, and help with nothing. The kicker, this property is really the governments, we just rent the land from them.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Good the Bad and well… the Flooded

It has been a very exciting and trying past couple of week. Recently we had a lovely family from Maine staying with us. Steve, the father, is a pediatrician and is planning on working in the new local health clinic run by the Ministry of Health and owned by a group of firefighters in Canada. Lisa, the mother, is has put together a program with the Rieche School in Portland, Maine making comic books. The idea is to have an exchange of second graders ideas! The children, Nick, Tom, Elsa, Ashley, and Alex, will be assisting with the comic books and participating with the after school program at Rancho Esperanza.

Working with this family has been quite a thrill. The kids added a new energy into the hostel life as well as all projects which they participated in. Lisa brought down amazing comic books from two second grade classes which were received with awe by the second and third grade class in Jiquilillo. This was the first time most of the students in the Camilo Zapata School had ever seen comic books before. Once the project was explained the students jumped right into working on their personal comic books. As they had never seen examples before it was challenging to begin, however, many of the students had ideas which really began to take shape.

The next day Steve headed out to the clinic to begin a short term working relationship with the local health workers. He had spent time in Portland, Maine, fundraising for vitamins to bring with him to be distributed in the clinic. It’s a wonderful thing to do here, especially in the community, where antibiotics are handed out for everything including the common cold. Perhaps Steve will start a new trend here in the community!

The sad news in this story is just five days after the arrival of this wonderful family, who were planning on staying at Rancho Esperanza and working in the community for two weeks, they left. They did not necessarily leave because they wanted to. They left more because they had too. This year rainy season has begun early in Nicaragua. Over a month ago Hurricane Agatha passed through Guatamala just to our north and saturated the area with rain. We have been receiving almost daily rain storms since, which have left us at Rancho Esperanza and approximately 15 other family just in Jiquilillo flooded. Steve, Lisa, and all five kids packed up and headed out to explore the cities of Nicaragua. It was just not healthy to have them stay longer in what we now refer to as the laguna. Rancho Esperanza, where I live, has since been closed since June 25. We are completely inundated with water with levels rising to above knee deep in several spots and ankle deep inside many buildings.

It has been a sad scary and frustrating time. We have not been able to do anything. Since the hostel has been closed all community projects have also been shut down. Nate, Marissa, and I have actually had to move out completely. We are currently renting a house in Jiquilillo but are hoping to get back home soon. Currently we have been digging trenches attempting to alleviate some of the puddles. It has been helping; however, it’s just not enough. This is the worst flooding we have seen in over 6 years. No one in the community remembers this amount of water coming this early during rainy season. We still have several more months to go before we hit September and October when the real rains begin. Currently we have been only two of several people who have been working to help with the problem. The current community leader has been making phone calls and has been able to get several governmental officials out to this area to see what has been happening. The sad this is they have done nothing since. Just today Nate, while in town stopped by the governmental office and was able to arrange a meeting with the Mayor which will take place on Thursday at 9:00 am. We are hoping to be able to provide transport for all affected families to make a huge point at this meeting.

It has been discussed over and over again here in this community and a conclusion has finally been made. The reason the water seems to be more this year is because of the new road. Recently the local government of El Viejo partnered with US Aid has been working on bettering the road in this community to promote tourism. The problem here is that in bettering the road, they raised the level of it and did not take into consideration that proper drainage may need to be added as well. So essentially what they have done is put a huge plug in the middle of the natural drainage of the community, in turn leading to stagnant water.

Photos and updates to come soon.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bathrooms almost Complete!!!

Day 1: Building in poor condition, doors falling off, roof inundated with holes, latrines full and super smelly!

So after a long meeting about the rehabilitation of the bathroom structure at the primary school in Jiquilillo, the parents have begun. It was decided that we needed a week and a few days to complete the majority of the construction. The plans were that every day a group of five fathers would assist the lead carpenter Roberto Ruiz, one day would be a group of 5 mothers. This was the plan and the hopes of the entire community, everyone at the meeting seemed to be on board! So the first day of work arrives, I get to the school to help oversee the project and make sure we had all the appropriate supplies, and what happens but I get there 30 minutes late (car problems), Roberto, the lead carpenter, arrives just after me, about an hour later two fathers arrive, 30 minutes after that one more father comes. It is always funny, and a bit frustrating, to see such dedication at all the community meetings but when push comes to shove, only about half are really on board.

Day 2 & 3: Sanding down the metal cross beams of the roof structure.

Although we started the construction a bit late on day 1, we were able to push through and get all necessary work accomplished in only 3 hours! The following five days were the same, only about half the fathers or mothers showed up, if we were lucky.

Day 4: After removal of roof and grinding of metal cross beams

Eventually all construction was completed. This included removing the roof, sanding all metallic surfaces and then painting them, painting the roofing panels, and then securing them on the building. With all this done we are now only waiting a bit until I return from my boarder run, as my visa expired. The next steps include emptying the latrine chambers, completely scrubbing the building, and finally hanging the new doors which will be constructed while I am in Costa Rica.

Day 5: Using a new liquid paint remover to remove remaining paint and begin cleaning building.

All in all, this has been a very successful project. The community has been able to take complete ownership of this project. Assist Jiquilillo, Inc., has only provided funds to secure all necessary materials (which were fairly expense for the typical income here in Nicaragua). This in turn is just greasing the wheel for the community who was able to muster all necessary man/woman power needed to complete a project to better the lives of their children! I am proud to be able to be a part of this!

More pictures soon once everything is done!