Urgent Opportunity to help complete our vision for our women & children’s center!

As you may know, we have been busy transforming two neglected buildings into on our women and children’s community playground and education center in La Carpio; home to our Ilori Children’s Education programs and our local women’s group, Granos Solidarios.  Recently, very serendipitously, the house on the other side of the first building came up for sale, and we knew, in our hearts, this was meant to be for the expansion and completion of our vision for the women and children’s center.

Therefore, we took a huge leap of faith; vigorously negotiated with the owner (bargained down to $17,000 USD total!); and managed to scrape $14,000 USD together, required for the down payment.  We signed the papers on Monday, February 28th –now, we have until the end of March (March 31 is the deadline!) to come up with the remaining $3000 to “seal the deal.”

Therefore, we are appealing to our neighbors, supporters, and fans to contribute to pulling $3000 USD together by March 31.  Twenty dollars here and $50 there, adds up quickly; no contribution is too small!  Already individuals, companies and peer organizations are working with us to make our vision a reality.  A local donated a double-door fridge.  Local companies have pledged to assist us with creating an organic and aesthetic garden, the design and construction of the playground, as well as interior furnishings.

Grupo Armonia, a local collective of environmental professionals and artists, which seeks to connect and facilitate ecological consciousness movements throughout Costa Rica and Central America, and actively promotes the reconnection of humanity with the spirit of the earth through various activities, workshops, and the muy popular “Feria Verde” (Saturday morning Green Farmer’s Market in Barrio Aranjuez, San Jose), has hooked us up with an eco-architect!  They will also be designing and creating a “vertical” organic veggie garden, as frequently used in urban permaculture.

Cemex has already donated a truck load of cement, and Mecco, another local company, has donated a truck of sand and gravel.  In others words, we are getting to our complete vision for the women and children’s center at a rapid pace and all we need to seal the deal is $3000.  Therefore, if there is any amount you can share, please donate here:

 

Or if you happen to be in Costa Rica, you can always donate directly to the Women’s Wellbeing and Development Foundation, Costa Rica at our bank:

Nombre: BAC San José, Costa Rica
Swift: BSNJCRSJ
Nombre del banco: BAC San José, Costa Rica
Número de cuenta: 906417993 (Moneda extranjera y americana)
Número de cuenta: 906418017

Thank you again for all your time, consideration, and support.  And before I forget, Happy International Women’s Day!

Ilori Children’s Education Project: Leave no girl behind!

Meet Lillieth.

The first time I met Lillieth, I asked her what she wanted to be when she grows up; she emphatically responded, “A journalist!”   So we gave her a notebook that very day, and now, you will rarely see Lillieth without her pen and notebook.  Lillieth is one of the 150+ children actively participating in our Ilori Educational Program in La Carpio.

And like most of the children we work with in La Carpio, Lillieth is struggling at school for a combination of reasons:  Her parents cannot help her with her studies because they never finished school; there is turmoil at home; and she is one of 5 children in her family (and most of her siblings are younger and require more attention from her parents.)

Lillieth has already failed a grade once and it was starting to look like she would fail again.  She was especially struggling with the subjects of Math and Spanish.  Therefore, Bien de Mujer arranged a tutor to work individually with Lillieth on both subjects, in addition to talking the school Headmistress into allowing Lillieth to re-test for the exams.  After a month of tutoring, Lillieth passed all her exams– achieving an amazing 83% on her math—thus passing her grade!

Overall, the Ilori Educational Program is an experiential, uplifting children’s education program which includes “playshops”, fieldtrips, and events/activities outside of La Carpio.  (Most recently, with help from the Scouts of Costa Rica, we produced an outdoor workshop for the children on Group Identity; see previous blog entry for more details.)  Even though we work with over 150 children, we also work with over 150 individuals and try to address the individual needs of each child as well.  Our motto: Leave no girl behind!

WWDF/Bien de Mujer and the Scouts host their first joint children’s workshop, FEB 12

The Women’s Wellbeing and Development Foundation/Bien de Mujer has joined forces with the Scouts of Costa Rica to produce a series of children’s character-building workshops as part of this year’s Ilori Education Program.   This past Saturday, February 12th, 136 kids and 38 mothers were bused (the buses, by the way, were a generous donation from Mr. Alvaro—Gracias!) from the neighborhoods of La Carpio and San Juan de Dios, all the way to Parque de la Paz.

The theme of this collaborative workshop was “Group Indentity”: “We are different.  We are special. We are part of a group.”  Psychological studies report that group identity, one’s ability to identify with a group of people, is critical to one’s self-image, self-esteem and individuality, and later, leads to more self-awareness, cooperation and compassion for others.   Therefore, the Scouts and WWDF/Bien de Mujer designed a day long workshop, outside in the park, on introducing and experiencing the value of group identity and cooperation.

Starting off with healthy snacks, songs and a story for everyone, the children were divided into groups, based on age, for a series of group activities, games, and exercises all in the context of the value of cooperation and working together in a group, as well as appreciating differences and celebrating similarities.   We will let the photos show you how much the children enjoyed these activities:

These activities lasted well past lunchtime, and then after lunch, the children spent the rest of the afternoon flying kites!  This is just one of the 6 planned joint workshops by WWDF/Bien de Mujer and the Scouts.  In July, all of the children in the Ilori Education program will be visiting the Scouts Base-Camp for a weekend of events and activities.

Meet our neighbors in La Carpio, Costa Rica

Every time I mention I work in “La Carpio” to a Costa Rican, they grimace and ask, “But isn’t that dangerous?”  This reaction is most likely because the only times “La Carpio” is mentioned in the local media it involves drugs, crime or violence.  Most visitors to Costa Rica have never even heard of La Carpio because the local media (and the tourism industry) is proficient at covering up any blemishes on the face of Paradise.  But yes, despite Pura Vida, there is poverty, disease, crime, and neglect in Costa Rica; however, most of it seems to be isolated to one particular San Jose neighborhood:  La Carpio.

Founded by squatters in the mid-1990s, La Carpio’s estimated 40,000 residents, around half of whom are immigrants and refugees from Nicaragua and other Central American countries, live in an area of 296 square kilometers, encircled by two heavily polluted rivers and the city landfill (which receives over 700 tons of waste daily.)  As a matter of fact, more garbage-per-capita comes from the wealthy, predominantly ex-patriot community of Escazu into the La Carpio landfill, than from La Carpio residents themselves.*

Forgoing the obvious environmental hazards of living in La Carpio, like most “slums” throughout the world, public infrastructure such as schools, clinics, roads, security, and sanitation systems are under-resourced or plainly neglected; unemployment is high; drug and alcohol abuse is common; low levels of education; large families with single parent homes; and there is a high prevalence of HIV and other chronic diseases.

Without getting into the complicated reasons why such a place continues to exist in a country whose pride and reputation lie in being an eco-progressive, peaceful “social democracy”, I will refer you to more qualified (and eye-opening) resources such as

http://www.envio.org.ni/articulo/2782
http://insidecostarica.com/dailynews/2008/october/04/nac04.htm
http://www.monitor.upeace.org/innerpg.cfm?id_article=547

It is within this context that we, at the Women’s Wellbeing and Development Foundation/Bien de Mujer, are actively building our women and children’s community playground and education center, which seeks to be a safe, eco-conscious, community education and resource center for both local women and children living in La Carpio.

Women helping women in La Carpio, Granos Solidarios

Created and supported by the Women’s Wellbeing and Development Foundation/Bien de Mujer (WWDF/Bien de Mujer), Granos Soldarios seeks to empower women living in the slums of San Jose, Costa Rica, to utilize their economic, social, intellectual, and spiritual potential to achieve personal growth and the integrated development of their communities.  Granos Soldarios began as one small group of women, mostly living in La Carpio, gathering to pull their economic and personal resources together to make sure all their families had food to eat and to address emergency needs.

Over the past few years, this single group of dedicated women has bloomed into two groups of women:  currently, 63 women living in La Carpio and 35 women from San Juan de Dios, an equally poor neighborhood in San Jose.  The majority of these women are unemployed, single parent, refugees from Nicaragua; with low levels of education and large families.  Several of the women are living with HIV and other chronic diseases.

Operating like a co-operative, for 8,500 colones ($17 USD) a month, each Granos Solidarios member gets 10kg of rice, 1 liter of oil, 3 kg of beans, 2 kg of sugar, and 250 gr of coffee for their family, per month.  In the event that a Granos Solidarios member is unable to meet the group monthly food investment of 8,500 colones, the other women chip in to help.

In addition to pulling their economic resources together for food, the women have created a peer support group; actively fundraise for emergency family expenses; and have started their own businesses:  making and selling tamales, and selling second-hand clothes.  The women’s groups also regularly participate in life skills, parenting skills and health education workshops organized by WWDF/Bien de Mujer, and they voluntarily assist with WWDF/Bien de Mujer’s Ilori Children’s Education programs.  (For example, Granos Solidarios prepared and distributed lunch to the 200+ guests at the Annual Children’s Christmas Party, last December—click here for photos of this amazing party!)

Each Granos Solidarios group has elected a peer leader and each group meets once a week:  the La Carpio group meets every Friday at a member’s house, and the San Juan de Dios group meets every Thursday at Parque de la Paz.  Ercy Mendez, a trained counselor and educator who works for WWDF/Bien de Mujer, oversees both groups.   As soon as the women and children’s community playground and education center is ready, Granos Solidarios will be meeting and working out of the center in La Carpio.

This month, the women of Granos Soldarios are busy putting together an action plan for 2011.  This plan will include workshops, starting some more group income-generation projects, and assisting in the renovations and development of the women and children’s community playground and education center in La Carpio.  We will keep you posted!

For photos of the Granos Solidarios Christmas party, last December, please click here.

*If you have some talents or skills you would like to share with the Granos Soldarios, please do not hesitate to contact Ercy Mendez, at ercymtr@yahoo.com . To contribute to the Granos Solidarios: http://www.wwd-f.org/help.html

 

“If you build it, they will come…”

Thanks to bighearted donations from the Charles and Betti Saunders Foundation, AMURTEL USA and a few local Costa Rican companies, including 40 bags of cement from Cemex, WWDF/Bien de Mujer is currently renovating two concrete buildings in the heart of La Carpio, the slums of San Jose, Costa Rica.  These buildings will become the women and children’s community playground and education center; home to our Ilori Children’s Education programs and our local women’s group, Granos Solidarios.

Anantoliy Yujimets, originally from the Ukraine, with a background in reforestation engineering and over 20 years construction experience, is heading our renovations work with the help of two local workers.  Anantoliy has worked with WWD-F for over 8 years; he previously built the Sattva Vita Holistic Health and Education Center in Managua, Nicaragua.

Our first renovation goal was to break open these cold concrete “boxes” (standard housing in La Carpio), to allow for some fresh air and sunlight.  The second goal was to internally connect the two buildings.  Rooms are being created for a library and entertainment center; arts, crafts and music studio; an indoor play room (for rainy days!); venues for workshops and classes; as well as a community kitchen (funded by the Charles and Betti Saunders Foundation), for instructional purposes, the actual preparation of nutritional meals for the children, and for the Granos Solidarios food preparation business.  Electricity and water systems have already been implemented.

Here are some recent photos, taken just last week, of the work done over the past couple of weeks:

We will continue to keep you updated on the center renovations work.  In the meanwhile, we are meeting at local churches and, sometimes, homes throughout La Carpio, until it is possible to meet in the actual center.  Of course, we can use more help and professional input on both the creation of the playground and the interior design–especially from artists, eco-designers, urban perma-culture specialists, etc. to assist us in making this center a safe, eco-conscious, artistic, and welcoming example to the local community.

*If you have some talents or skills you would like to share, please do not hesitate to contact Aine Ni, WWD-F/Bien de Mujer Director, at aine@wwd-f.org . To donate to the creation of this women and children’s community playground and education center in la Carpio: http://www.wwd-f.org/help.html

More gratitude for the Children’s Christmas party, from the mothers and children themselves!

This past Tuesday, January 18, felt like a family reunion between the Women’s Wellbeing and Development Foundation/Bien de Mujer staff and the women and children we work with in La Carpio.  Because our women and children’s community education center is still under renovation, 35 kids, a few mothers, and we, all gathered at a local church in La Carpio for some value-teaching group games and exercises, as well as fruit and biscuits.

Authentic gratitude for our Children’s Christmas Party was tangible, and we just wanted to share some of these sentiments:

From the Mothers:

The Xmas party was very beautiful, very well organized. The kids enjoyed it very much!  They gave us food and the gifts were fantastic.  Thank you very much for everything.

Maria Isabel Suarez Gonzalez, Mother

My name is Jazmina Pupiro and I went to the party with my 5 children.  It was a wonderful party:  there was a pool, games, food, ice cream and cake, and beautiful gifts!

Jazmina Pupiro, Mother

Everything was fantastic!  The gifts, the pool!  I liked the games very much.  My daughter loved the pool and her gift.

Maria Rizo, Mother

I loved everything about the party.  The children loved their gifts and had a lot of fun. They enjoyed the food– it was a great surprise for them.  These workshops are very good for the children, they learn a lot in them and they help them a lot. The people that organize them are very good people and they really are great with the children.

Jaquelin Caliz Soza, Mother

I am very grateful to these wonderful people for everything they do for the children.  The party was wonderful.  Thank you so much.

Martha Paniagua, Mother

From some of the kids:

My name is Amanda and the party was beautiful and wonderful.  I will never forget it.  Thank you so much.

Amanda, 13 years old

I loved the party!  Thank you to everybody that organized this party for us, children.

Leyter Dixon Caliz, 12 years old

It was fabulous!  I was very happy that Ercy and Sonia were there, they are very good people.

Emmanuel, 13 years old

I loved the party, especially the pool! Keilyn Patricia, 11 years old

I loved everything about the party, especially the gifts, cannot wait to go again! Dana Paola Cruz, 12 years old

I enjoyed the party very much and I really loved the pool. Genesis Zuniga, 9 years old

For me, I loved everything about the party, especially the gifts. Paola Ortiz, 13 years old

Then we asked the little ‘uns:  “What part of the Christmas Party was your favorite?”

The pool, I wanted to swim three times! Valery, 5 years old

Everything! Henrito, 3 years old

Santa and the gifts!       Alison Nicole, 5 years old

The gifts, the ice cream and the jumping castles!        Jacol, 6 years old

The jumping castles and Santa! Angie, 5 years old

Again, this unforgettable experience for the kids, parents, and us, would not have been possible without all the hard-working volunteers and all the generous donations from people like you!  Gracias por todo!

What 2011 looks like for the Women’s Wellbeing and Development Foundation/Bien de Mujer, Costa Rica

Happy New Year!

We, at the Women’s Wellbeing and Development Foundation/Bien de Mujer, are all back, from the holidays, in our offices in Guadalupe, San Jose (some of us more tan than others!)  Last week, we got together to evaluate our recent end-of-the-year events, mainly the annual Children’s Christmas Party and the Granos Solidarios Christmas Party, as well as to discuss and outline our objectives for the upcoming year.

Our annual report will be coming out in the near future, but in 2011, our main objective is to complete the eco-conscious construction and development of our women and children’s community education center, in La Carpio.  In addition to completing this monumental task, we are actively seeking to partner with local and international organizations in the planning, development, implementation, and evaluation and monitoring of the holistic experiential learning, values-teaching, and practical life-skills workshops and classes we provide to the women and children living in La Carpio.

Ideally, our women and children’s community education center will serve as a model community playground and alternative education center that addresses the well-being, internal and external development, and quality education and empowerment of women and children living in La Carpio, San Jose (Costa Rica.)

That’s a wrap! Xmas present-wrapping party for the kids in La Carpio, DEC 19

Because people, especially people like Sandra BonSell, Eline Hennink, Paula Torres, Ted J. and Sara Petrakos, Sydma Hatzopoulos , and Paulo Martins (way too many people to list here!), have been so generous to us this year, we now have over 100+ presents to wrap for the children we work with in La Carpio!  Take a peek!

Therefore, we want to make this awesome task as fun as possible—therefore, we are holding a Xmas present wrapping party at our home in Montelimar, Guadalupe on SUN, DEC 19—wrapping starts at 4 pm.

Details:

What: Wrapping Christmas presents for the kids we work with in La Carpio

When: SUN, DEC 19—starts at 4 pm and goes until we are finished!

Where: Our house—directions:

Del Costado oeste de los Tribunales de Justicia
500 m N, 100 m Este
Montelimar, de Guadalupe
(Cerca Sonido Latino, Casa Himalaya)

We are the far left house in a row of 3 white houses known as “Las Hadas”
House phone:  2240 2910

What to bring:

Wrapping paper!! And this is a potluck—meaning everyone bring a boca or dish to share; and please bring your own choice of beverage.

And yes, of course, you can bring friends!

And know that we could still use some volunteers at the actual Children’s Party; here are the details for the BIG party:

 

WWD-F/Bien de Mujer’s Annual Children’s Christmas Party

21 DEC 10 AM to 3 PM

(However, we are asking for volunteers to come early—9 AM, to help set up!)

Location: Centro de Recreo UNA

Barrio Santa Luiza

(25 mts norte Hotel Balladolit, HEREDIA)

Our annual Children’s Christmas Party, DEC 21, 2010

This year, we are expecting 150 children from our projects in La Carpio, and about 50 of their parents, to attend our Annual Children’s Christmas Party.  The party will be held on December 21, 2010 from 10 AM to 3 PM.  The good people at Centro de Recreao (part of UNA) have generously donated a huge space—complete with swimming pools—to accommodate our party!

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