What have we been up to this year? What could YOU be up to next year?

In case you aren’t a frequenter to our blog, here’s a brief roundup of all the things we’ve been involved in in 2014. If you’re thinking about applying to become a volunteer there’s still time! You could be putting some of these things on your roundup for 2015!

English Class

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Last year we had 13 students complete the full 10 months of our Communicative English course for adults and receive their certificates for level 1-5 of a 12 level accreditation in Nicaragua. Even though the goal is learning English, we also implement a holistic and interactive methodology, based on popular education and other values of CCBN such as gender equality, teamwork, culture of peace and environmental sustainability. In this model we are all students and teachers, which aims to detach from a traditional top-down model of education.

 Violence Prevention & Gender Equality

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This year we got the opportunity to be involved in a community-wide campaign to promote healthy and non-violent relationships entitled “Desmarimbando en Batahola.” In English, desmarimbando essentially means breaking down, or un-packing, and it is meant to encourage people to un-pack the norms that we usually use to define relationships. The campaign involved movie forums in the park, a communicative campaign, workshops with 195 youth led by the promotors from CCBN’s Youth Violence Prevention Network and a closing Carnival, including a march through the community (pictured above) and a cultural activity. As volunteers we offered logistical support through helping plan activities, updating the program calendar, soliciting funds, handing out flyers and taking pictures of events.

“I was able to accompany an elementary school group of 10 and 11 year olds each week throughout the program, and it was incredible to see how interested they were in the topics at hand. Just getting a basic introduction of gender and violence-related vocabulary was crucial. They journaled, played games, drew pictures, and watched short films on what relationships in their lives looked like, and reflected on how they wanted their own futures to look different.” -Erika

Project Education

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One of the biggest programs at the Center is the scholarship program, offering students that come from families with limited economic resources the opportunity to get a quality education. Whether that means supporting their costs to go to public school (anywhere from elementary through college) or giving children and adults the opportunity to study a course offered at CCBN. Project Education helps make the scholarship program possible by giving the opportunity for donors in the U.S. to support a scholarship student. Therefore each year, we as volunteers match each donor with a scholarship student then interview that student and construct a profile with their photo and a little bit about that student so donors can have a more personal connection with the Center. In 2014 we completed 216 profiles and as we start the process again for 2015 we’re looking to do another 200+ profiles.

“As we started doing the interviews, we became aware of how common it is to be raised in a single-mother household or to be raised by a grandmother. Yesterday I interviewed a student who is living with her mother who works full time at a textile factory in a free trade zone. She makes only 4,000 cordobas a month (about $150) which is hardly enough for their family of four to get by. Because of her scholarship she is able to study accounting at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua and hopes to one day be a financial manager in the Central Bank.” -Kelsey

 

Delegations

IMG_3288Each year we have lots of groups of foreigners who come through to visit the Center and find out about the work we’re doing here. Some of those groups decide to do a more intentional exchange by visiting families in the community, participating in classes and events at the Center and most importantly building some lasting relationships. (*interested in bringing a group to the Center in 2015? Please contact our International Communications Liaison, Joe Connelly at joeypconnelly@gmail.com) These exchanges have surprisingly been some of the most fulfilling for us as volunteers. Even though our role is often to do some translating and accompanying activities with the group, it’s also a very good opportunity to share our experience as volunteers and reflect on how far we’ve come since arriving here. We’ve also been pleasantly surprised to hear that through sharing our experience we can inspire others to also consider doing service.
“As I’ve grown older, I’ve developed a plan for my life. I would go to a respectable college, study business, and graduate. I’d get a nice job, have a nice family, live in a nice house in a nice neighborhood, and have nice things. I never thought about anything other than this straight, set path that I, and others, had created for myself. This trip to Nicaragua has changed everything for me. It has introduced to me a completely different lifestyle and forced me to re-examine my goals.” -Kyle Morrisroe (participant in Immaculate Heart of Mary delegation 2014)

Environmental Initiatives

Upon arriving at the Center we both wanted to initiate some activities around the theme of environmental sustainability, one of our personal interests as well as a core value of the Center. So we decided to plan activities with a group of 15 young scholarship students for a few weeks to facilitate a discussion about trash and pollution and the importance of keeping Managua green by starting in our very own homes. They all got to take home a tangible reminder, a plant made in their personalized recycled plastic planter which they pledged responsibility to take care of. We also watched the movie The Lorax, and discussed the severity of deforestation and especially its reality in Nicaragua. In continuation of this initiative, this year we are planning a trip to a part of Central America’s largest Biosphere Reserve in northern Nicaragua, BOSAWAS. The idea is to take a group of young artists and have an exchange with youth from the community in Peñas Blancas as well as participate in educational hikes and a workshop on how to make a raised bed. The goal is that the youth that apply for this trip also make a commitment to come back and apply what they learned to make the Center and their community a greener and more sustainable place. The application process will start next month with the trip proposed for the beginning of May!

Hope that gives you a better idea of some projects we’ve been a part of in 2014 and what we’ll be getting into in 2015. Please be in touch with us at bataholavolunteers@gmail.com if you’re interested in becoming a volunteer at the Cultural Center starting in August of 2015! See more details on our apply page.

Hope you all have a great Monday!

-Kelsey & Erika

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