There’s 5 hours left in the campaign!!


Today we have officially reached our $15,000 goal! A huge thanks to all of you who have donated, but we aren’t celebrating yet. We still have 5 HOURS to increase benefits for these women in the program. If you haven’t given yet, please join the 127 other donors who have contributed to empowering women to live more independently. Please take 5 minutes to help women like Sobeyda, this mother of 3 who supports her family by making and selling natural juices and traditional Nicaraguan food. A cooking student at the Center, she has been slowly expanding her business with the new things she learns every week in class. We are so close to the finish line, let’s make an impact together!


Support this beauty student in action with 2 days left in the campaign!!

IMG_4176Beauty student Ciomara is already taking the chance to put her education to use. A mother of 3 daughters, she began doing haircuts for family and neighbors early this year. As she began to earn a little extra money, she started buying products to build her own beauty salon out of her house! This next semester she wants to move from general beauty to styling, and hopes to be able to support her daughters through college one day.

We have $500 left on the matching grant, please consider donating to help us reach 200 women. Double your impact today!




Home Visits With Batahola Graduates: Part 1



If you haven’t already seen her in many of my other blog posts, this is Amanda Perez. She is basically my Batahola mother who also used to be a student at the Cultural Center. If you haven’t yet heard her story, we’re featuring it on a series of home visits we’re doing with graduates who have successfully gone on to use their skills to generate their own form of income. So here’s Doña Amanda…

“I’m 56 years old and I live just two blocks away from the Cultural Center. I live with my mother, my daughter and three of my granddaughters. I took the handicrafts class in 2012 and since then I have been using the skills I’ve learned to sell things that I make from my house. My specialty is piñatas, which I get a lot of orders for when neighbors have birthday parties. I also make foam figures, jewelry and recycled crafts that I sell for a profit.

This is a form of work that has helped my family economically and it has also helped me keep my mind active. With these skills I’ve also been able to save a lot of money on my own grandchildren’s parties because I can make the decorations, piñata and gifts by hand. I’ve also had the opportunity to give some informal classes to other women who want to learn handicrafts.

The Center is a great resource for the community that benefits so many children, adolescents and older women like me. I hope that by supporting my family, my daughters and granddaughters can get a good education and get ahead in this tough economy and job market. My goal is to always continue learning. I’m planning to take the Cake Decorating class at the Center in the coming year so I can continue to have a variety of products to sell from my house.”


If you like Amanda’s story and want to support the work the Cultural Center is doing, click here to check out our Global Giving crowd funding page. Or give us a like on Facebook to follow the work we’re doing at Friends of Batahola. And now is a great time to give because, starting tomorrow, we can double your gift! A generous donor has offered to match 1:1 for up to $1,000 between Friday (June 26th) and Monday (June 29th). This means that any gift, big or small, can go twice as far in helping support our projects that work with young women. So let’s rally for Batahola! We’re so close to reaching our goal of supporting 200 women in gaining life and job skills; so we hope you’ll help us get there!

Paz y amor,



Snapshot Shout-Out

IMG_3830Meet Ivette Velásquez. She’s 19 years old and is currently taking computer class in the evenings at the Center. She grew up here in Batahola Norte and lives with her mom, dad and older sister. Her family has a long history here at the Center.

“My mom was one of the women who met every week with Sister Margarita and all of my family has passed through the Center in some way or another. I’m so proud to be a part of this place.”

Ivette took her first class here two years ago as a scholarship student in Cosmetology class. From there she got involved in the library and has been volunteering there ever since. Because of continued economic difficulties after losing her job, she applied for a scholarship to be able to continue her computer class this year. On top of serving at the library she also spends one day a week helping adults learn to read and write in the Adult Basic Education classes. Ivette has also had the opportunity to participate in a series of job skills workshop that are a new element the Center is offering to some of their young and promising students this year.

“It’s great that the Center isn’t only interested in handing me a certificate at the end of the course, but they also give the practical experience I’ll need to be able to secure a job in the future.”

Ivette’s dream is to become a psychologist and she plans to apply for a scholarship to start studying at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua next year. When I asked her what her message to the donors is, here is what she said:

“I’m a changed person because of my time at the Center. I’m much more responsible and I recognize the importance of helping others. Thank you so much for the support, not only for me, but also for many others. Because of you so many young people have been able to get ahead in life and be someone because of their opportunity to study at the Cultural Center.”

Ivette is another bright young women who has the opportunity for a bright future because of her time here at the Center. You could help her as well as many other passionate young woman through our Global Giving campaign. Click here to learn more!


15 Years of Solidarity Between Batahola and Cincinnati


This week we had the privilege of receiving a group of students, professors and parishioners from Cincinnati, Ohio. This year the Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Cincinnati is celebrating 15 years of a twinning relationship with the Cultural Center. One which shows giving and receiving from both sides, especially every year when the delegation group from Cincinnati arrives. Not only do the students spend time visiting classes, having lunch with families and playing with kids, but also they go home changed. As one participant expressed “we take back something much more valuable than what we can fit in our suitcases,” and that is an ongoing solidarity and deep connection with the Batahola community that has been going on for 15 years and hopefully many more to come. Seeing our friends from Cincinnati, these young new faces as well as many familiar faces, helps our staff gain new energy and excitement for the work we do here at the Center as well. So thanks for all of you who came down on this trip or helped to make this trip possible! If you’d like to see more pictures you can check out our Flickr page.



Snapshot Shout-Out


This is Janeth Baez, she’s 31 years old and has been a faithful participant at the Center ever since moving to Batahola 6 years ago. Without the economic means to pay for classes, the Center’s scholarship program was a great opportunity for her to gain important skills in sewing, cosmetology and now baking class. She is also the mother of two daughters, one of which is in the scholarship and tutoring program which helped Janet get involved in a women’s group that meets monthly with the Center’s psychologist to talk about leadership, self-esteem and parenting.

“I used to suffer from very low self esteem, but today I am more self-assured and aware of my rights. I have studied, improved my home life and the educational opportunities of my children. I can’t say enough about how this Center has affected my life.”

This is a snapshot of one of the many women who have been a part of our programs. Hopefully this helps give a face to the project that you are helping support through our Global Giving campaign.

With week one coming to a close, we want to thank all of those who have helped support our campaign both financially and by getting the word out to others. We have high hopes that the next three weeks of the campaign will be a success, but we need your help! If you feel a connection to the Cultural Center and the work we’re doing, we’d like to invite you to spread the word about our campaign through sharing our Facebook page or our project page. Any contribution, big or small, will help us get closer to our goal of raising $8,000 in the month of June in order to help women like Janeth gain important life and job skills.

Happy Friday and happy giving!





Global Giving campaign kicks off today!

ileana 2

Meet Ileana Traña. She’s a current scholarship student in the Cosmetology class at the Center. Ileana is 22 years old and like many women who come through the Center, a single-mother, struggling to get by financially. Luckily with the help of donors, Ileana is able to take Cosmetology class which has already helped her earn an income working from her home. Ileana is just one of many women who have come through the Center this year, and with your help many more women can take classes, participate in job-skills training, leadership workshops and much more.

By giving to our project on Global Giving you can help make sure we reach our budget this year in education and violence prevention programing. So start giving today!

Today is the first day of our month-long Global Giving challenge. For those of you who don’t know what Global Giving is, it’s an online platform for crowdfunding–aka raising funds through networking. The way this works is that I send out my project to my network of friends and family with the hope that some of them feel a strong enough connection to the project that they also send the project out to their network of friends and family. And from there the domino effect begins.

So if you have a connection to Batahola, or to Erika and I as volunteers, we’d love if you would consider giving towards our project by following this link. We’ve been working hard to make this campaign happen and we’d be thrilled if you could help the Center reach our goal of raising $8,000 this month to support young women who are a part of our programs in the second half of 2015. Even a small donation can go a long way. And most importantly, tell your friends! Pass along our project link, or stay connected through our Facebook page where we’ll be giving updates each week on the progress of the campaign. We’ll also be giving updates through our blog page so stay tuned!

Happy Monday and happy giving!


Photo of the Day


Gerardo hard at work on re-painting the mural on the front of the stage after it was extended as part of the construction project. Final touches are coming along as we get ready for the inauguration of the new spaces which will include a cultural presentation, planting of a tree and much more next Friday June 5th. We’re also excited that some of our friends from the Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Cincinnati Ohio will be here to celebrate with us!


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!