Letter from the founder and director of Bien de Mujer, Aine Ni

Bien de Mujer has just posted its annual report for the past year 2010 online, please view the report in its entirety here.  This is the introduction from the founder and director, Aine Ni:

Dear Friends,

Looking back on the year 2010, I feel an enormous sense of gratitude to the hard-working, dedicated team of people who work with Bien De Mujer as well as all the generous people who supported us. It is amazing what dreaming, with a large dose of hard work and support, can accomplish.

Three years ago, we started the Granos Solidarios program with 24 women; today, we have 102 women and 40 additional women on a waiting list!  One of the unexpected rewards is witnessing the strong, genuine bond of friendship and solidarity that has developed through the women’s work.  They not only understand, but live “united we stand.”

 Like Granos Solidarios, our Illori Children’s program has also grown over the past three years; this year 160 children attended our Annual Children’s Christmas Party.  Each week, we continue to provide “playshops” which seek to nurture the mind, body and spirit of each child.  We are also co-creating workshops with other children’s welfare organizations such as the Scouts of Costa Rica.

This past year, we decided it was time to create our own safe, unique education, play and community center, to house our programs and projects, in the slums of Costa Rica. Therefore, we raised funds to purchase 3 houses, which we are currently remodeling and transforming into our vision for an eco-conscious, spirit-inspired community center.  Please visit our blog at https://biendemujer.wordpress.com/, to follow our progress.

The theme of 2010 seems to be growth, because we have also outgrown the building hosting our early childhood development educational program, Canto al Sol, in el Alto de Guadalupe.  Currently, we are working with 40 pre-school children, with a waiting list for 16 more children!  So we are starting to look at other locations, spaces that can allow us to serve more children.

 Just recently, we implemented social media networks, so now you can find us on FaceBook and Twitter, as well as our blog.  And yes, since “Bienestar y Desarollo de la Mujer” is a mouthful, we legally shortened our name to Bien de Mujer.

 Yes, this past year had its fair share of challenges, but despite temporary obstacles, we seem to keep growing in the amount of people we serve, the amount of people volunteering, and in support.  We are grateful everyday for this abundance!  We hope you share in our joy, while you read through the following pages, and know that we could not have accomplished all these things without your invaluable support.

Aine Ni

Founder and Director of Bien de Mujer

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!

Casa del Sol teaches Granos Solidarios how to cook using solar energy

Last Saturday, Bien de Mujer staff and 17 women from Granos Solidarios traveled all the way to Casa del Sol in Guanacaste (a 4-hour drive) to learn how to cook with solar panels.  The women sang the whole drive there!

Casa del Sol is an eco-tourism project of Sol Verde—a cooperative formed with the support of Sol de Vida and the Central American Solar Energy Project—which represents 15 local community groups, presents the annual “Fiesta del Sol” event, and operates a small solar restaurant with “delicious home cooking.” Sol Verde is headquartered in the Casa del Sol, which houses a permanent demonstration facility for solar applications with emphasis on solar cookers.

Operating in the Santa Cruz and Nicoya counties of the Guanacaste region, Fundación Sol de Vida takes a holistic approach to expanding the use of renewable energy.  The proj­ect not only promotes the use of solar power for cooking, but also seeks to build women’s capacity for other development activities through the process of constructing and using solar cookers.  Therefore, our group of women was warmly welcomed by the Casa del Sol head of staff, Fatima, and several other local volunteers.

In addition to learning about solar cooking, our group participated in guided tour of their resource center.  They learned about different mod­els of solar cookers, about solar water pumps, were shown solar heaters and solar dryers, as well as photovoltaic panels for lighting—all the different ways solar energy can be used to make their lives easier and cheaper!  They were guided through organic gardens; given priceless healthy growing, eating and cooking tips, and eventually, prepared their own meal, using a solar panel!

Casa de Sol even donated one solar panel cooking structure to Granos Solidarios, to be used at our women and children’s center in La Caprio.  It was a beautiful day, on many levels, and we are grateful to the everyone at Sol de Vida and Casa del Sol who made this an informative, fun and unforgettable experience!

For more information about this project please visit here!  And for more photos of our day at Casa del Sol, visit our FaceBook page!

Letter from one of our recent volunteers, Julie (France)

 Those who can, do.  Those who can do more, volunteer.  ~Author Unknown

Eighty percent of our work at Bien de Mujer (maybe more!) is done by volunteers, and therefore, our gratitude to the people who share their talents, skills, and priceless gifts of time is bottomless.  We asked a recent volunteer, Julie, a professional Sign Language Interpreter from France, to share her experience, volunteering with us.

No one is more cherished in this world than someone who lightens the burden of another.  Thank you, Julie. 

From Julie:

Originally from Aix-en-Provence, France, I work as a sign language interpreter, translating from French to French sign language and vice versa, allowing deaf and hearing people to meet, talk, exchange, even if they don’t speak the same language; working as such also promotes deaf people’s independence, free-will, potentials, their will to be listened to and looked at as any other human being with dreams, hopes, responsibilities, able to achieve as much and as well as anybody else.  It’s one of many experiences with a different culture.

I’ve been traveling for over a year now, discovering, enjoying places and meeting people with different cultures, languages, habits, points of view, experiences, ways of life.  Sharing a bit of their everyday life is the richest way to learn and grow.  Having learned and got so much from people all around the world, I just wanted to give back.  One wonderful and rewarding way to give back is volunteering.

Friends in Costa Rica introduced me to Bien de Mujer in San Jose, where some of their friends volunteer or work.  It gave me the opportunity I was looking for and, even for a short period of time between two trips, I’ve enjoyed spending time with the kids, their mothers and everyone from Bien de Mujer.  Taking pictures for memories and testimony of the day’s fun, playing around, helping out, being there, talking, sharing experiences, dreams, chatting about everyday life and what kids want for the future is just another great way to spend one’s day, to forget the usual daily strain, to allow everyone to grow from mutual understanding, to help develop one’s open-mindedness and friendliness by spending quality time together.  Is there anything better to do?

I’m glad I could give some time to everyone at the foundation and if I’ve been able to give back even a tiny little bit of everything I’ve been given, I’m happy I could do it with Bien de Mujer.

Thanks for having me over!  I’ll be there whenever I can and wish you all the best for the future.


Sign Language Interpreter, France

April 29, 2011

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!

Tamale Tuesday in La Carpio

Every week, Bien de Mujer hosts holistic, educational playshops as part of our Ilori Children’s Education program—which seeks to nurture the mind, heart, body, and spirit of each child living in La Carpio, the slums of San Jose, Costa Rica.  This past Tuesday, March 29, we had a full house of enthusiastic kids, as well as a group of hard-working women, from our Granos Solidarios women’s group, cooking up tamales to sell throughout the neighborhood.

Each Ilori playshop usually begins with songs and some yoga or dance, and this week, we continued to use Wise Heart Books as a tool to teach values to the kids.  They read “Captain Grimy”, “Manny the Mouse” and “Annie the Ant” together, followed by games and exercises to reinforce the lessons in the books.  If you visit the Bien de Mujer/ Women’s Wellbeing and Development Foundation FaceBook page , you will see some videos taken by a volunteer.

While the children were busy doing art work and playing games, the women of Granos Solidarios were busy making home-made tamales, to sell, and thus raise funds for the Granos Solidarios group business fund.  The Granos Solidarios are working to develop their current tamale-making micro-business into a larger, sustainable business; while at the same time, they are learning business skills 101, basic finance management, and how to work efficiently as a team.

The women of Granos Solidarios are so enthusiastic about this growing tamale business that the women had to be separated into two working groups, so each group alternates, each month.  To further support our children’s educational programs or the work of Granos Solidarios, please send us a donation at

Thank you again for your generosity of spirit!

Celebrating International Women’s Day with the women of Granos Solidarios

In honor of International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future, held every March 8th, Bien de Mujer organized a special outing to celebrate the women of our Granos Solidarios group.  To read about the history of this women’s group–all their projects and activities, please visit our previous blog.

At 9 am, on March 19th, 50 women from Granos Solidarios packed onto a bus from La Carpio and headed, singing all the way, to Parque del Este for a day of fun and relaxation.  The day started off with yoga in the park, swimming in the park pool, and some group games and exercises.  After lunch, the women were serenaded by a Nicaraguan folk singer, which became a sing-along and much dancing!

For many women, this outing was the only time they had been away from La Carpio, or away from their husbands and families.   It was truly a special day for the women of Granos Solidarios, to see all the photos from this celebration of our women: http://www.flickr.com/photos/biendemujer/sets/72157626320455708/

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!

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
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!

Previous Older Entries