Photo of the day: Teacher’s workshop!

Last week, all of the instructors came together for 3 days to participate in a workshop facilitated by Anielka Saenz, a psychologist here at the Center. The focus was on personal rights and how we can promote them to our students. We examined different forms of communication and tried out new exercises to introduce discussions on respect, self expression, and violence prevention, while also outlining a methodological plan to implement these ideas in our classrooms. A lot of instructors shared that they have students dealing with physical and emotional abuse as well as extreme economic hardship, proving why personal skills remain such a vital part of the education they receive at the Center. Well done teachers!!!photo del tallerphoto del taller 2


-Erika C.

Sopa de Albondigas: Nicaraguan Dumpling Soup

IMG_3783One Saturday a few weeks back I planned a date with Doña Amanda (my Batahola mother) to make Sopa de Albondigas, a traditional Nicaraguan soup that consists of chicken, vegetables and corn-based dumplings. Since first coming to Nicaragua, one of the foods I was most amazed by was the soup. In the U.S., the majority of soup we consume comes from a can…or most of the ingredients are highly processed. But here the soup is made with large chunks of fresh vegetables and herbs and most commonly a chicken leg, beef or if you’re feeling more adventurous “mondongo” aka diced cow or pig stomach. Can’t say I’ve ventured to try this one, but I have found a great appreciation for the labor of love that Nicaraguans put into their food, especially their soups. So here is a recipe if you ever want to try your hand at Nicaraguan cuisine.

Sopa de Albondigas

Time spent: 3 hours

Makes 10 servings (Nicaraguan-sized portions)


  • 4 pounds chicken (legs and breast only)
  • 3 onions
  • 2 large green or red peppers
  • 2 heads of garlic
  • chicken bouillon (or chicken stock)
  • 2 bunches fresh mint leaves
  • 1 bunch fresh culantro (or cilantro)
  • 5-6 limes (here we used a sour orange called naranja agria)
  • salt to taste
  • Other vegetables of your choice: squash, yucca, potatoes, carrots, corn on the cob, plaintains…or anything else you’d like! In this recipe we used quequisque (similar to a potato), ayote, chayote (two forms of squash) and yucca.

Step 1:

Remove the skin of the chicken and put it to marinate in lime juice. While it’s marinating you can begin to peel the vegetables. Some forms of squash you can leave the skin on. Cut them into large pieces, making sure there are enough for at least one piece of each vegetable for each serving.




Step 2:

Rinse off the chicken and put it in a large pot, cover it with water and bring it to a boil. Meanwhile slice the onions and peppers and remove the skins from the garlic. Leave the garlic pieces whole and add them to the hot water along with the onion, pepper, chicken bouillon and salt.

Step 3:

When the water has come to a boil (after about 35 minutes), you can add the vegetables and more water until all of the vegetables are covered. Leave for another 15-20 minutes (or until chicken is well cooked) and remove the chicken breasts to begin the process of making the dumplings.


While you are waiting you can begin to mix the dough for the dumplings. We bought some tortilla dough that was already made from fresh corn down the street. But you can make an imitation of this with corn flour (Maseca) and water. You’ll have to guess how much to make, but it would probably measure out to about 20 servings of tortillas.

Step 4:

While the chicken is cooling, juice about 4-5 limes, wash and chop up mint and cilantro (it’s not necessary to remove stems). Pull apart the chicken into small pieces. Take the corn dough and add a cup of water, 1/2 of the lime juice, 1/2 of the mint and cilantro and chicken. Mix together until the dough is sticky and can form into balls. More water may be needed to get the right consistency. We also added achiote which is a natural red coloring agent (optional).


Step 5:

When the soup is boiling well and the vegetables are getting close to being done. Form balls out of the dumpling dough and begin to drop them into the boiling soup. Make enough for about 3 dumplings for each serving. If you run out of space you can take out some of the vegetables and chicken legs to make room for the dumplings to cook. Especially if some of the vegetables are done so they don’t get overcooked. Leave about 3/4 to 1 cup of the dough for adding thickness to the soup a little later on.


Step 6:

Add the rest of the lime juice, mint and cilantro to the soup and let it boil until the dumplings are finished cooking. Add some more water to the leftover dough and mix it into the soup for thickness. If needed you can add more salt, lime or aichote (for coloring).



Step 7:

Serve the soup in large bowls along with a hot tortilla and rice if desired. Enjoy!


Alondra and baby Ruth enjoying their soup!


From City to Rainforest: 10 Center Artists take their talents to the Bosawas Biosphere for a Youth Exchange focused around Environmental Stewardship


Since the beginning of our time here in Batahola Norte, we have wanted to organize some activities that promote environmental stewardship around the Cultural Center and greater Managua. We thought that education would be the most sustainable way to get our message across; that if we invested in building capacity among a certain group of Center participants, the initiative would have the highest chance of continuing after we left. Tania Molina and Yahoska Urcuyo, two staff involved with the arts programming here at the Center, were also very interested in this idea, so we all put our heads together and decided to focus working with members of the various arts groups. We met with local musician and environmental activist Matute Tutema, who told us about Macizo Peñas Blancas, a rural community located on one edge of the Bosawas Biosphere. The communty has many different projects going on, one being the youth group that practices the Afro-Brazilian dance/martial arts Capoeira and Maculele.

The reality for many of the youth who come to the Center is that they rarely get the chance to leave Managua-let alone to go to a rainforest-and so to bathe in a waterfall and to see some of the hundreds of animal species living there is a once in a life time opportunity. This paired with learning about the struggles Bosawas faces and interacting with the youth group, we were convinced to search for a way to take some young people there.

We applied for a micro-grant that my church Prince of Peace Lutheran offers to carry out service work, and they were more than excited to be a part of the project. More than just the trip, the idea was to inspire these youth to create and implement some of initiatives here at the Center and in the community.

We left for the community Macizo-Peñas Blancas last week with 3 folklore dancers, 2 flute players, 4 violinists, and a cellist, (with many doubling as singers and guitarists), packing into a 15 seat van with all of their corresponding instruments and attire. When we arrived after the 5-hour journey, we ate and immediately went on a hike with local guide Abraham, who grew up learning to recognize medicinal plant life. Farmers by trade, he and his family are trying to slowly move more of their livelihood to eco-tourism. His parents Chico and Maria have a small restaurant and host people visiting the reserve, and with this extra source of income they have been able to allow some of their deforested land to grow back. The largest agricultural industries in the region are wood, corn, and cattle; however they also grow a lot of potatoes and coffee. The students were a sight to be seen, mesmerized by the bright blue butterflies and the medicinal Dragon-Blood tree, that when you cut into literally bleeds out a dark red liquid that is used as a coagulant and is also used to treat diarrhea and fevers. The water was freezing, but the students needed no convincing to jump right into it and stand under the stream of the waterfall above. They met their host-families afterward, and by the end of the week were already calling them mom and dad!


Over the next few days, the students learned about how various environmental issues affected the area and how the community has responded. Freddy Castro, the President of the local cooperative Guardians of the Rainforest, shared that in a season with little rain-like last year-farmers lose a majority of their income as well as the food they grow for their families to eat. They had an exchange with the women’s group working in the community, where they shared their experience living as women in a rural area and their search to have an independent income. They are currently working on a recycled-art initiative to sell to tourists-making jewelry out of seeds and old magazines-a process that they shared with the students over coffee on a rainy afternoon.

With the Capoeira group, which is made up of about 25 young people from the community, they also participated in a few workshops of Maculele, learning the lyrics, drumming, and steps of this Afro-Brazilian dance over just 3 days. The two groups shared their experiences as young artists and the barriers they face collectively: finding resources and organizing amongst themselves. The Capoeira group performed and invited them to join in on their class, which turned out to be a bit intense for some of us! But the young men and women talked about how the group, about a year and a half old, has given them the space for individual development while also allowing them to become stronger as a community. The Capoeira, Maculele, and Women’s groups were started out of CREA, a project that has been working on permaculture and community development initiatives for the last fear years.

The last evening, we organized a cultural presentation so that the students from the Center could share their musical and dance skills, as well as showcase their Maculele moves alongside the Capoeira group. They invited their host families as well as workers from the Cooperative, and they performed various Nicaraguan pieces. The groups performed individually, but combined their efforts at the end for La Madrugada, a traditional Nicaraguan folk song written by Erwin Kruger. Afterward, all of the youth ate dinner and sang around a campfire together, as well as shared email and facebook information!

The next morning we said goodbye to our families and packed-up all of our things, as well as the various bananas, potatoes, and spinach plants (various gifts from the community), before taking off to Managua, where the real work would begin. We had hoped that the trip would motivate these young people start thinking about how to make change in their community, but many were already interested in this topic and just needed the space to develop their ideas.

In the upcoming weeks, the goal will be to organize and carry-out various activities that connect their experiences of art, music, and environmental stewardship. They have already voiced their excitement to build a raised-bed at the Center to teach kids about gardening, organize trash-collecting days around the neighborhood, and to hold a concert to raise awareness about environmental issues. Bosawas is over 5 hours away, and so the students want to make the project more local by focusing on issues that directly affect daily-life for Managuans. For example Lake Managua, which is visible from almost every part of the city, is used as a dumping ground for municipal sewage.

They realize the difficulties in organizing around this topic because of the lack of consciousness about environmental issues, but have expressed their commitment to continue meeting as a group to make concrete changes as individuals and as a community. The planning for these upcoming projects is underway, and there will definitely be more to come soon from this group of activist musicians from Batahola Norte.

We want to say thank you to Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Roseville, Minnesota, for your financial support for this project, and to all the other individuals and organizations that helped us pull this off. We didn’t have enough space to upload all of the pictures from the trip, so please go to our Flickr account to see the rest:


-Erika and Kelsey

Project EcoArte: young artists from the Center travel to Bosawas


On Monday we got back from a five day trip to Macizo Peñas Blancas (part of the Bosawas nature reserve) with a group of 9 young artists from the choir, orchestra and dance groups at the Center. These youth applied to be part of this trip through Project EcoArte, a project funded by an environmental grant through Prince of Peace, Erika’s home church in Roseville, Minnesota. During the trip the youth learned to make a raised bed (pictured here), did educational hikes, had an exchange with youth from the Capoeira and Maculele group, learned to make recycled beads with a women’s group from the community cooperative and got to stay with host families. The goal of the trip is for the youth not only to learn about nature and interact with the community, but also bring their experience back to Managua and do some kind of activity in response to all they’ve learned. Stay tuned for more about this trip and the upcoming activities involved in Project EcoArte!


Construction Almost Complete

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Here are a few before and after pictures of the new offices, including the new violence prevention office. This week workers are finally able to move into the new office spaces that have been expanded as part of the construction project. After spending months squeezed into one office we’re finally slowly making the transition to new office spaces, some people back into the same offices that have been expanded and some into totally different offices. The process will still involve a few weeks of final touches and getting everyone and all of their supplies settled into where they will be for the rest of the year. Stay tuned for some more before and after pictures of the construction process!


Happy World Book Day

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Today happens to be World Book Day as well as the 18th anniversary of the Library here at the Center. Starting with just a bookshelf of a few books that the founder Sister Margarita started loaning out has now grown to a collection of 6.700 books. The library currently has over 700 users each month. It’s also a space for personal development for kids and adolescents from the community, from everything to the scholarship students who work in the library to children who come to participate in story time, study circles and workshops about social themes.

To celebrate today the Library is having a marathon of book reading as well as a showcase of books for children and adults alike to explore upstairs along with an exposition of the history of the library.

Happy book day, and here’s to many more years of promoting literacy and personal development through the CCBN Library!



Photo of the Day

Here are some more of our favorite profile picture shots so far, some students get overly excited (or not so excited) about taking their pictures. We’re especially fond of the young girl who showed up to her drawing and painting class completely decked out in her princess outfit. Despite the craziness of profile season,  you can’t help but love the students!