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.

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.

New English classes for the kids in La Carpio

Even though our women and children’s center, in La Carpio, is still under renovation, we are gathering there because we can no longer fit all the children in the local church!  This past Tuesday, two students from the University of Costa Rica, Laura Méndez Delgado and Mark Solano Hernandez, came out to teach over 35 children English, as part of the university’s community work program. 

Fluency in English is a highly marketable asset to most jobs in Costa Rica, and usually, children from poor families cannot afford English classes, so instantly they are at a disadvantage to youth from more economically-stable homes, especially, if their parents do not speak any English.  Therefore, by teaching the children, in our Ilori Education Program, English we are providing them with a highly valuable skill that may just give them the lead in the workforce.

In addition to English lessons, the children also sang songs, did some artwork, practiced some yoga, and they have been reading “The Little Prince” together.   Thank you again to our volunteer teachers, as well as all the people who continue to support our work at Bien de Mujer!

Update on the women and children’s center in La Carpio, April 4, 2011

One would assume our biggest challenge in creating a women and children’s community educational center and playground in La Carpio would be raising funds; however, as it turns out, security of the property in this impoverished neighborhood has become an issue.  Last week, one of our buildings was broken into and tools were stolen.  This just confirms the desperation of the local people and teaches us that we need to make security a priority.

On a lighter note, we were able to raise the remaining $3000 to buy out the third, and final, building to complete our vision for the women and children’s center and in addition, we received a generous donation of $4000 USD from GP Service, a local Costa Rican company, for the construction of the playground area.

This week, we will be tiling the floor of the second building, which means it is almost ready to be fully utilized!  With the help of Morron Design, a local architect firm, we are drawing up the plans both for the play area and the third building.  Our vision is to connect all three buildings, centering around the play area.  As soon as we have the final blueprints we will post them on this blog.

Thank you again to all our local and international supporters—our dream is in motion!

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

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 . To donate to the creation of this women and children’s community playground and education center in la Carpio: