La música reggae y el amor hacen posible un sueño//Reggae music and love make a dream possible

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Hace unas semanas tuvimos un grato encuentro cibernético con un grupo de mujeres madrileñas amantes de la música y legado del Reggae.  Amorosamente buscaban una buena causa para apoyar a través de un maravilloso concierto en Madrid y encontraron en nuestro trabajo lo que buscaban.  Inmediatamente se identificaron con los procesos de formación y educación que se están llevando a cabo a través del Proyecto Ilori para contribuir con el desarrollo físico, emocional, espiritual y socioeconómico de las mujeres, niños y niñas en riesgo social de la comunidad de La Carpio, San Jose, Costa Rica. María Martins, una de las organizadoras, nos escribió e inmediatamente hubo una conexión más allá de las palabras.

El concierto se llevó a cabo el 23 de setiembre 2011 y la motivación fue rendir un tributo a todas la Queens que han dedicado su vida a expandir el mensaje del Reggae (One Love).  En palabras de María “¡el concierto fue fenomenal, mágico!, se llenó de gente y de buenas vibraciones, ¡puro amor! Todos se entregaron por completo y el ambiente que se respiraba era de felicidad, esperanza, fuerza y elegancia… ¡el poder de la unión! Consecuentes con este profundo mensaje decidieron beneficiar a los niños, niñas y mujeres del Proyecto Ilori, con los ingresos generados en este evento.

María nos cuenta que casi medio centenar de excelentes músicos interpretaron un repertorio de más de dos horas para un gran público. Algunas de las participantes fueron Kati Dadá (Desakato Dadá); Mary Jane (Emeterians); Alana Sinkey (Cosmosoul); Rory Garzet (Freedonia), Astrid Jones y Yolanda (The Sweet Voices), así como el grupo madrileño Emeterians.

Gracias a María, a las demás organizadoras y todas las y los participantes en el concierto, así también al maravilloso público que asistió. Actos como estos refuerzan en nosotras la convicción de que  en la unidad del amor está la fuerza para construir un mundo más justo y equitativo.

http://fotoreportajeando.blogspot.com/2011/09/sisters-sing-reggae-queens-ii-las.html

Reggae music and love make a dream possible

A few weeks ago we were contacted by a group of women in Madrid who love Reggae music, its message and legacy. They were planning a wonderful concert in Madrid and were looking for a good cause to support.  They identified with our work at BienDeMujer, especially with the Ilori Project training and educational programs, which contributes to the physical, emotional, spiritual and socioeconomic development of women and children at risk in the community of La Carpio, San Jose, Costa Rica.

The concert took place on September 23rd, 2011 and the idea behind it was to pay tribute to all the Queens who have dedicated their lives to spread the message of Reggae (One Love). In the words of Maria Martins, one of the organizers, “The concert was phenomenal, magical!  It was filled with people and good vibes, pure love!  The atmosphere was one of happiness, hope, strength and elegance … The power of union!”  In accordance with this profound message they decided to donate the proceeds generated from this event to the children and women of the Ilori Project.

Almost fifty excellent musicians performed for a large audience for more than two hours. Some of the participants were Kati Dada (Desakato Dadá), Mary Jane (Emeterians) Alana Sinkey (Cosmosoul) Garzet Rory (Freedonia), Astrid and Yolanda Jones (The Sweet Voices), and the Madrid group Emeterians.

We are deeply grateful to María, the other organizers and all the participants of the concert, as well as the wonderful audience that attended. Acts such as these reinforce in us the conviction that the unity of love gives us the strength to build a more just and equitable.

http://fotoreportajeando.blogspot.com/2011/09/sisters-sing-reggae-queens-ii-las.html

CAMPING WITH THE SCOUTS DE COSTA RICA

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Finally, the bus is leaving! On the 12th of  August, 38 Ilori children from the community of La Carpio waited anxiously for the bus with their backpacks and a heart full of excitement and anticipation. At about 3:00 p.m. the bus finally left for the Parque del Este, where a 17 members of the Scouts of Costa Rica, led by Evelyn, were waiting to start the adventure which everybody had been dreaming about: a three-day camp!

Getting organized. The group was divided into 5 teams, 2 girl teams  and 3 boy  teams. Each team had its own leader and a name that identified themTigresses, Pumas,  Lions,  Jaguars and Tigers. Each group was given the responsibility to put up their tents and cook their meals.  They assumed these beautifully.

Early in the morning … The activity in the camp started really early, they got up at about 4:00 am! After breakfast, which they prepared, cooperative games were played. Organizing themselves to cook their breakfast, lunch and dinner was a challenge, but the children did very well and no doubt learned a lot from this experience in terms of cooperation, consideration and teamwork.

By the campfire. On Saturday night the campfire served as a beautiful backgroung for each group to devise and present two plays. In this way the children got the opportunity to use their creative potential as well as theirexpression and communication skills.The result was excellent!

Time to say goodbye. Sunday began with breakfast,then play! Cooperative games abounded and so did the morale of the children who by then were fully acclimated and relaxed. The games ended with the Lions being chosen as the best team in the camp.  Nevertheless, all the teams were winners, and thuswere given a gift. It was time to leave.

Can we do it again? Three in the afternoon … the camp was over and the children lined up to take the bus back. With the heart still full of excitement, they all said the same “It is the best weekend I have everhad!” and  “When can we do it again?”

¡Se va el bus! El 12 de agosto en la comunidad de La Carpio, 38 niños y niñas participantes de los talleres Ilori esperaban ansiosos el autobús con sus mochilas al hombro y el corazón lleno de emoción y expectativa.   A eso de las 3:00 p.m.  finalmente partieron hacia el Parque del Este, donde una tropa de 17 miembros de los Scout de Costa rica, liderados por Evelyn,  los esperaba para iniciar la aventura con la que tanto habían soñado: ¡un campamento de tres días!

Organizándonos. El grupo se dividió en 5 equipos, 2 de niñas y 4 de niños.  Cada grupo tenía su propio líder y un nombre que les identificaba: Las Tigresas, Los Pumas, Los Leones, Los Jaguares y Los Tigres.  A cada grupo se le dio la responsabilidad  de armar su tienda de acampar y también de cocinar cada una de sus comidas, responsabilidades que asumieron maravillosamente.

Muy de mañana… La actividad en el campamento empezó realmente temprano, se levantaron ¡a eso de las 4:00 a.m.! Después del desayuno,  que ellos mismos prepararon, jugaron juegos cooperativos organizados con el fin de dejarles una buena enseñanza para la vida.  Organizarse para cocinar su propio desayuno, almuerzo y  cena fue todo un reto, sin embargo los niños y niñas lo hicieron muy bien y sin lugar a dudas aprendieron mucho de esta experiencia en términos de colaboración, consideración y trabajo en equipo.

A la luz de la fogata. Por la noche el sábado una hermosa fogata sirvió como escenario para que cada grupo ideara y presentara  dos representaciones teatrales. De esta forma los niños y niñas tuvieron que recurrir a todo su potencial creativo y habilidades para la expresión y comunicación ¡El resultado fue excelente!

Hora de despedirse.  El domingo empezó con un buen desayuno y luego ¡a jugar!  Los juegos cooperativos  abundaron así como el buen ánimo de los niños y niñas que para entonces estaban totalmente ambientados y relajados.  Los juegos finalizaron con la designación del grupo de Los Leones como el mejor equipo del campamento, sin embargo, todos salieron premiados con un regalo. Ya había llegado la hora de partir.

¿Podemos hacerlo otra vez? Las tres de la tarde… el campamento había terminado y los niños y niñas se alineaban para tomar el bus de regreso.  Con el corazón todavía lleno de emoción repetían unos y otros “¡es el mejor fin de semana que he pasado!, ¿podemos volver?”

 

 

Saturday at La Sabana with the Scouts of Costa Rica

This past Saturday, Bien de Mujer took 3 bus-loads of children and their mothers from the slums of La Carpio to La Sabana Parque, one of the most beautiful parks in all of San Jose, for a day of outdoor play.  We had a total of 120 children and 30 mothers who started off the day with a pancake picnic in the park.

The Scouts of Costa Rica arrived about 10:30 am to work with the children aged 11 and up, preparing them for their big summer camping trip (coming up in July.)  So while the older group was learning how to make knots and basic camping skills, the younger kids played group games, learned some new songs, played on the playgrounds of La Sabana, and even had a treasure hunt!  Ending a perfect day with a healthy lunch picnic and ice cream with mangoes for dessert!

For more photos of this Saturday in the Parque, please visit our FaceBook page!

A Brief history of the Ilori Children’s Education Program

Way back in October 2008, WWD-F in Costa Rica created the Ilori Program specifically for at-risk children, most affected by HIV/AIDS, crime and poverty, by engineering workshops that awaken the children’s creativity through dance, art and music; offer exercises to improve their flexibility, motor coordination and equilibrium; as well as use creative visualizations to develop their concentration, attention and memory.

A critical component of these workshops was to convey different values such as respect; taking care of self, one another, all life forms, and things; sharing; co-operation; the value of friendship; etc, as well as to promote an awareness of ecology in its broadest sense, by encouraging respect and care for all living beings. We also provided the children with healthy meals, emphasizing the importance of good nutrition.

In 2009, WWD-F organized a total of 12 workshops consciously designed to raise awareness and develop friendly attitudes to nature and the environment.  These workshops were known as, “The earth is my home so I take care of it.”  To achieve our objective, we offered the children a series of participatory experiences which allowed them to reflect on the importance of caring for the environment by taking them to various national parks, ecological nurseries, aquariums, as well as visits to local rivers and mountains.   Through stories, puppets, theatre, talks, and games, they learned about ecology, recycling, basic care of animals and plants, and how and why to keep the environment clean.

In addition to our “The earth is my home so I take care of it” series, we celebrated International Children’s Day at the national amusement park, and ended the year with a special Christmas party, where the children played co-operative games, swam in a swimming pool and were given gifts.  A local company generously donated jumping castles, candy floss and ice cream.  This Christmas Party was such a success with both the children and the parents that it has quickly become an annual tradition (for photos of the 2010’s Christmas Party, visit here!)

The majority of these children are immigrants living, in the slums of Costa Rica, in tiny tin houses, with no green areas, unpaved streets and poor drainage. Most families do not have the financial resources for recreational and leisure activities.  Therefore, our workshops give the children the rare opportunity to positively interact with other children and adults; make contact with and enjoy nature; visit beautiful places which otherwise would not be accessible to them; learn all kinds of things; play; and introduce them to different music and arts.  We believe that through these activities the children have been able to develop social skills, practical living skills as well as self-confidence and self-awareness.  For more photos of past workshops, please visit our FaceBook page!

But we would rather you hear it from the children and mothers themselves:

Fabiola, 14 years old

My name is Fabiola and I live in Asseri, San Jose, Costa Rica with my 2 younger sisters and my mother.  I come to the Ilori workshops with my aunt, grandmother, sisters and cousins.  In the beginning I was not keen in attending the workshops as I am quite shy and found it difficult speak to people. Now it fills me with happiness to see all the children enjoying themselves, their smiles, their screams, even the ones that cry bring me joy.

I stopped being so quiet and now speak to all the people, and even though I am a teenager when I am with the children of Ilori I feel like a child of 7years again.  In the workshops they teach us respect, cooperation, to share, honesty, no fighting, never to give up, to care and love each other and many more things.  We also have a chance to play and enjoy ourselves.

What I really like about the Ilori workshops is the following:

They help us when we have a problem.

They teach us moral values

We get a chance to know beautiful places

They treat us with a lot of affection

I can only say thank you very much for everything they have taught me, my sisters and cousins.

Karla Payan, mother of 3 children: Bradley, Vanessa, and Illaney

Ilori workshops teach the children to share, to dialogue, they motivate the children to become independent and more humble, to respect and to care for each other and that we are all equal.  It is a great opportunity that they give us and I am very happy for what they do for us.  My kids become very excited when I tell them that we are going to a workshop with Ercy from Ilori.  God bless them for all they have done and I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart.  I am so happy that we got the chance to go to so many places that we did not know.  Once again, from me and my kids thank you so much.  God bless!


Ilori Education Program puts the “play” back in playshop!

Over the past month, at every Ilori Educational Program “playshop” with the children of La Carpio, we have been using Wise Heart Books’ Smart Values Series.  Each book contains an important message for children, such as building a strong and healthy body or cultivating positive thoughts and habits, or developing love for oneself and the world around them.  Therefore, we have created group and individual activities centered around the values presented in the books.

In addition to inspiring and educating readers, as well as promoting literacy among the children, every sale of a Wise Heart Book generates funding for our Ilori Children’s Educational Program in La Carpio. 

We have been using Wise Heart Books’ Smart Values Series, which is a collection of five delightful stories that help children understand the positive and transformative nature of good values.  Each story describes how certain values – such as generosity, cleanliness, and honesty – can change us for the better.

About Annie the Ant:

Annie the Ant is having a hard time watching over her friends, Lazy and Hasty. Lazy never wants to work hard like the other ants in the colony, and Hasty is always getting into trouble because she always leaps before she thinks. When Annie and her friends are endangered by a cat, the two wayward ants have a chance to change themselves and save the day.

The kids read Annie the Ant together, followed by a facilitated group discussion about the values of hard work, patience, and cooperation.  In order to make sure the kids understood the message, they were asked to re-create the story as a drama and did some accompanying art work.

About Manny the Mouse:

After losing his tail to the baker’s cat, Manny the mouse quickly learns the consequences of stealing flour from the bakery. In this delightful and twisted tale of a tail, the mouse learns the importance of respecting what belongs to others.

The kids read Manny the Mouse together, followed by a facilitated group discussion about why stealing is wrong.  They played “pin the tail” on Manny the Mouse and even made character masks, which they used to act out scenes from the story.

They just started reading Captain Grimy, who happens to be the dirtiest, most miserable, one-legged sea captain in the world, who likes nothing better than to pollute the seas.  There is a lot to learn from Captain Grimy’s story, lessons about the importance of personal hygiene as well as respect for our environment.

Other books in the Smart Values Series include:

The Magic Bucket

The Wise Woman of the Mountain

Please make sure to check out our FaceBook page for videos and photos of these playshops with the children!

You too, can use Wise Heart Books to teach values to your children and know that each sale is a tangible way to support our Ilori Children’s Educational Programs in La Carpio!

By the way, Happy Semana Santa to all!

A day at the Parque, April 9

This past Saturday, April 9th, the Ilori Children’s Education program, the Scouts of Costa Rica, and 4 volunteers took 120 kids, from our program, and 30 of their mothers out for a day at the parque.  At 9 AM, bus-loads of cheering kids and elated Mom’s arrived to Parque del Este, in San Jose.   Note:  This is a big deal because there are no such parks and large community playgrounds in the slums of Costa Rica.

The kids were divided into two groups based on age:  the 6-10 year olds and the older youth, 11 and up.  After a morning of group games and activities which foster discipline, community and team work, and are just good for the whole body, mind and soul, the kids went swimming.  Everyone had a picnic lunch, topped off with sweet rice pudding (a crowd pleaser!)

The Scouts of Costa Rica spent the afternoon preparing the older youth for their big weekend camping retreat, happening this August.  Camping is completely a foreign concept to these kids, who spend their lives in the brick and concrete jungles of La Carpio.  Most of their parents have never even been camping themselves.  Camping and trips out to nature are a luxury.  Therefore, the next workshop, the older youth will be learning how to pitch their own tents, as well as other camping skills.

Again, a warm-fuzzy thank you to the Scouts of Costa Rica for your partnership and all the volunteers, Ethel, Julie, Annie, and Nina, that helped make this an unforgettable Saturday for the children, their mothers, and us as well!  Gracias por todo!

Using Wise Heart Books to teach the children in La Carpio values

Wise Heart Books is a socially conscious company designed by educators, parents, and artists to create books and educational materials that nurture the whole child: body, mind and spirit.  Each book contains an important message for children, such as building a strong and healthy body or cultivating positive thoughts and habits, or developing love for oneself and the world around them.

In addition to inspiring and educating readers, every sale of a Wise Heart Book generates funding for our Ilori Children’s Educational Program in La Carpio.  Last week, we held a day-long playshop, using two Wise Heart Books from the Smart Values Series:  Annie the Ant and Manny the Mouse.

The Smart Values Series is a collection of five delightful stories that help children understand the positive and transformative nature of good values.  Each story describes how certain values – such as generosity, cleanliness, and honesty – can change us for the better.

About Annie the Ant:

Annie the Ant is having a hard time watching over her friends, Lazy and Hasty. Lazy never wants to work hard like the other ants in the colony, and Hasty is always getting into trouble because she always leaps before she thinks. When Annie and her friends are endangered by a cat, the two wayward ants have a chance to change themselves and save the day.

The kids read Annie the Ant together, followed by a facilitated group discussion about the values of hard work, patience, and cooperation.  In order to make sure the kids understood the message, they were asked to re-create the story as a drama and did some accompanying art work.

About Manny the Mouse:

After losing his tail to the baker’s cat, Manny the mouse quickly learns the consequences of stealing flour from the bakery. In this delightful and twisted tale of a tail, the mouse learns the importance of respecting what belongs to others.

The kids read Manny the Mouse together, followed by a facilitated group discussion about why stealing is wrong.  They played “pin the tail” on Manny the Mouse and filled out some coloring books of Manny and the other characters.

Other books in the Smart Values Series include:

Captain Grimy

The Magic Bucket

The Wise Woman of the Mountain

Buying Wise Heart Books is not just a long-lasting gift to your children or grand children, but a tangible way to support our Ilori Children’s Educational Programs in La Carpio: http://wiseheartbooks.com

Thank you again for all your support!

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.

“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

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