Hot off the presses:
Our Spring 2013 newsletter!
2013: GIOCONDA BELLI, renowned Nicaraguan novelist and poet, speaks at the Opening of the FHS
Gioconda Belli is one of the leading Latin-American writers and poets. She has won numerous prizes and her work has been translated into 14 languages.
Belli gave a moving speech about the growth of knowledge. Her speech addressed enormous mysteries that confront students. ”Imaginense. . . . ” how to think about the the slow millennial growth of science and knowledge since the beginning of human time. She said “Todos tenemos cabezas,” so that once we can read, we have equal access to the accumulated wisdom of the world. Her grandfather wrote, when he was dying, “Venerate books.” The Enlightenment of knowledge implies that every sentence read might be an opening into a wider world.
Then she read a poem called “El Ocho de Marzo” which is International Women’s Day– or it could have been called “Queremos Flores.” It named the horrors of women’s lives– not having rights; violence; lack of work; being made to die when pregnancy goes wrong (abortion is illegal in Nicaragua, even to save the mother’s life.)
2013: THE FREE HIGH SCHOOL FOR ADULTS CELEBRATES ANOTHER LANDMARK: The First Commencement of Technical Students
The Technical High School granted technical degrees to 46 students in 2013 in three career tracks: Accounting, Management of Tourist Industries, and Civil Construction. Three-fourths of the graduates are women.
Togas, mortarboards, student speeches– it was a grandiose and moving ritual and spectacle. They came marching down the street toward the Civic Center on January 26, 2013. This year Margaret was asked to be in the lead, with the heads of two of the career tracks (Carlos Galea, Hector Diaz).The students followed, each on the arm of someone important to them (a parent, spouse, sibling, etc.) Felix Herrera, who walks with with a cane on two prosthetic feet, graduated second in his class. (He had graduated first in his class from the Free High School.) He came down the street and down the aisle with his girlfriend.
Everyone comes down the aisle with their companion, gets a sash put on by a teacher, poses for a photo with the teacher, is handed the diploma, poses for a photo with the giver of the diploma, and has the tassel of the mortarboard turned to the other side as a sign of completion. David and Margaret helped hand out the diplomas.
The class asked Margaret to stand with them for group photos, and an army of photographers came forward. Mostly their relatives, but several members of the local press as well.
“It’s like being famous,” Margaret said. “Look at all the paparazzi.”
2012: In December, FHS graduates another 63 students, for a total of 482.
A LANDMARK: REACHING THE TEN YEARS ANNIVERSARY (2002-2012). The representative of the Ministry of Education says, “The first year you are a ‘project.’ After ten years, you are ‘an institution.’”
FHS GRADUATES A RECORD NUMBER in 2012.
Seventy-four students graduated in December of 2011, for a total of 419 graduates in ten years. The Free High School is now the largest high school in San Juan.
FHS ENROLLS 33% MORE STUDENTS, another record. A total of 703 students (up from 532 at the end of 2011) enrolled in our three programs (the rural classrooms, the Saturday School, the Technical High School) in 2012.
NEWS FLASH: A Pilot Project to manufacture, install and test the efficacy of a new model of BioSand Filter made entirely of lightweight PVC was inaugurated in January 2012. To see a slideshow about this project go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/gringopinolero/6803824005/in/set-72157629084339635
NEWS FLASH: A second “Green Preschool” in the rural community of San Antonio de Baston has been built in early 2012. To see a shorter slideshow of the amazing progress and use of sustainable local materials, go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/gringopinolero/sets/72157629371179909/
For a longer slideshow of the Green Preschool go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/gringopinolero/sets/72157629082373531/
OTHER 2012 NEWS: We’ve entered into an agreement with the government-run Centro de Salud to share the use of their truck when they’re visiting rural communities where we have BioSand Filter that need maintenance. We’ll pay for diesel on days of shared trips, and they’ll help us reinforce the basic rules of proper filter use.
We’ll also be sharing with Fundacion Tierra the cost of a new motorcycle for Antonia Mendoza, our key follow-up person for BioSand Filters.
New pix of Boston College and Lasell College students making Compressed Earth Blocks. See “Photo Albums” page.
Some things we got done in Jan/Feb 2011
–NEWTON-MONTRGRIS PRESCHOOL IN TOWN Contracted with Amado Solis to replace to old (brick) roof of the remaining barrel-valued building at the Newton-Montrgris Preschool with a sturdy and handsome perline and zinc roof: total cost $2264, but Margaret asked our friends in Toroella de Montgris if they wanted to share expenses, and although the group no longer exists, the few members who are left agreed to send a third of the total costs. See photo set. Delivered to the Newton Preschool two tables and eight chairs that Mary Holland had commissioned;–WE Went to Granada with Carlos Guzman and Emilio Gonzales and bought over $1300 of preschool supplies. These were left at Carlos’ house; not clear who has since made packets of supplies and who is delivering them.
–CAPULIN SCHOOL (the Newton SCP installed glass louvered windows there last year to the rainy side of the building). David Attended a Thank You Ceremony there.
–CEBADILLA Moved rubble from Newton-Montgris preschool project to two construction sites (Free High School and Cebadilla Preschool) with the help of both paid workers and volunteers. Visited a wonderful hexagonal freestanding kitchen in Cebadilla and suggested that that be the design for the new preschool there. Conferred with community members and local colleagues about preschool materials and design. At the request of the community, Fidel Pavon has volunteered to coordinate construction; input from Austin Drill about Compressed Earth Blocks and other materials.
—MONGALO PRIMARY SCHOOL (the big one in town). We Conferred with new principal about the burnt-out pump (no water to flush toilets). Decided to take no action pending results of projected new city-wide high-pressure system (water from Lake Nicaragua) that will presumably fill the tank without a pump. David got a bid of $20 each from Chepito Ruiz for making primary school pupitres (desks).
SOLIDARITY HOUSE. We Helped with final upgrades to Casa Solidaridad, the Battered Women’s Shelter (see photo set). Margaret hung three watercolors of San Juan scenes by our friend Stephen Chinlund, a donation to the shelter. (Margaret has sent you a separate report on Solidariy House.)
FREE HIGH SCHOOL:
–David Photographed some of the 49 recently completed Free High School desks purchased by members of the Newton Highlands Congregational Church: the desks will have seals saying “Instituto Libre.”
–We conferred with Architect Carlos Galea about future volunteer collaboration on the permanent home of the Free High School.
–We Visited site of permanent campus of Free High School for Adults and met (and were interviewed by) the team from Yeshiva University (invited to San Juan by American Jewish World Service) who were building the foundations of the library. AJWS is a major donor to the Free High School.
–Made a courtesy call to Mayor Jorge Sanchez, then photographed two recent graduates of the Free High School for Adults who now have jobs at the Mayor’s Office. Margaret has sent you a separate report on the FHS.
PUBLIC HEALTH –DAVID’S PROJECTS:
–Visited various rural communities to check on BioSand Filter use and took samples back to our lab in town to test them for E Coli bacteria levels (results were encouraging). Worked closely with Antonia Mendoza (Fundacion Tierra) and Adán Hernandez (NicaCan) on visits to rural communities, and met with them regularly at the new offices across from the RC Church on the main plaza.
–Met with Prof. Steven Outain, a water specialist from Crowder College; he did his own water tests with Antonia and donated supplies to our lab.
—-Gave out shoes and soap from Underwood School (and from Adolph’s Sports in Newton Centre).
–We Helped out at the VOSH Eyeglass Clinic (their 13th year in San Juan).
–Delivered a donated Reverse Osmosis filter to Centro de Salud (removes limestone and organic contaminants from water, crucial for people at risk for kidney stones). Belinda Waltman, a Harvard Med School volunteer, helped coordinate installation.
–EcoStoves also count as public health (see under Appropriate Technology).
APPROPRIATE TECHNLOGY–DAVID’S PROJECTS:
–Did first tests of blocks made by the Compressed Earth Block press and sent samples to a materials testing lab in Managua (some results were encouraging; see photo set).
–Formed a Coordinating Committee to oversee the use of the CEB Press and formulated basic policies.
– Visited Ojochal to check on the status of the solar-powered pump system installed by Union Church of Waban: it was successfully moved and is operating as it should.
– Ramped up production of EcoStove components (chimney tubes at the Taller Newton, and a couple of top slabs at the Taller” made by volunteers).
– Arranged for three “Fiestas de Planchetas” where eligible families convened to make their own EcoStove slabs (the three fiestas produced a total of 40 slabs). Assistance of Antonia, Adan and Fidel, plus Brigadistas Juana Solis and Felix Espinoza, crucial to the success of these fiestas. See photo set.
OUTREACH TO OTHER GROUPS/INDIVIDUALS:
–Coordinated the work of numerous volunteers.
–Margaret organized a meeting with Rachel Lindsay, Coordinator of Sustainable Development for Sostenica (a large microlending organization founded by Alan Wright, founder of the Newhaven/Leon SCP) and potential local investors about possibilities for microlending in San Juan del Sur. Inconclusive, but perhaps a foundation was laid.
–David two meetings with Fred Goldfarb, one of them including Kristin Fedorak of the Canadian group, NICACAN: top priorities are a Volunteer Center and a truck for Antonia and Adán, and for visitors from Newton and Canada to use when they visit. Margaret described the work of the shelter to Kristin; NicaCan may get involved.
Photos of many of these activities are at http://www.flickr.com/photos/gringopinolero/