Countdown to the New Volunteers Begins!

With only 6 weeks left here at the Center, we have been busily preparing for the arrival of the 5th generation of Batahola Volunteers! They will arrive in August for Spanish school and a few weeks of orientation with us here at the Center. We thought we’d give you a little information so that you can get to know them!


Clare is a 24 year old from Vashon Island, Washington. She studied Law, Societies and Justice at the University of Washington. After graduating, she spent a year serving as a Jesuit Volunteer at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in Eastern Washington. In her free time, she enjoys exploring new places, reading, listening to music, going for hikes, and playing ukulele. Her friends describe her as a friendly, open, passionate, caring, and a good listener. Clare first travelled to Nicaragua on a summer exchange in high school, and is very excited to return to work at the Centro Cutlural Batahola Norte! She is looking forward to participating in the Center’s violence prevention initiatives and expanding her understanding of popular education through teaching English classes. She can’t wait to eat some more fried plantains and Gallo pinto and to get to know the surrounding community when she arrives.


Natasha is from Arlington Heights, Illinois. She just graduated from Marquette University where she studied International Affairs with a focus in International Economic Relations and Spanish. She spent a semester studying abroad in Santiago, Chile and has also taken weeklong trips through a program called Applied Global Business Learning to the Dominican Republic and El Salvador. She has experience working with women in leadership and microfinance and some of her main interests are immigration, economic development as well as women’s rights and empowerment. She also volunteered for a summer teaching English as an Empowering Latinos Mentor. Natasha played the flute and sang in the choir in high school and she has continued singing in her church choir. Her friends describe her as extroverted, funny and expressive. Her hobbies are doing yoga, dancing, Zumba, listening to music and spending time with friends. In the future she would like to work in non-profit fundraising, but for now she’s excited to meet everyone at the Center and jump right into life in Batahola.

We want to welcome Clare and Natasha to the Batahola friends, so if you want to drop them a line during their time of transition I’m sure they would appreciate it. You can contact Clare at and Natasha at

Bienvenidas chicas! We’re excited to see you in two and a half weeks!

-Kelsey & Erika

Photo of the day: Doña Cony and her new kitty!!


Doña Cony now has a new cat, his name (if you asked) is Renato Luciano. Many were very disappointed to find out that her old cat Casilda passed a way a few months ago, so Jennifer Marshall gave Cony a new one..And they seem to be getting along just great!!IMG_3840


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!