December 2004

    Two Sewing Cooperative representatives visited the U.S. for a 30-day speaking tour. Yadira and Ruth spoke in 20 different cities from Maine to California. They spoke an average of four times a day. They sold over $5,000 of merchandise and made valuable contacts with buyers.
Becca, Yadira, and Ruth at Women's display     While Yadira and Ruth were in the States, Zulema, another representative, and our César were in Chile. Zulema spoke to an Inter-American Development Bank Conference of the Americas about the women's success. It's awe-inspiring to see these women's confidence and pride in what they've accomplished.
    Here's an update on the Women's Sewing Cooperative – it's exciting:

Whew! Wish we had that much to say about the other businesses, but alas!

    The Concrete Construction Materials Cooperative is taking a forced break from production. The cost of producing quality materials is too high. The choice is to charge too much or make inferior quality… neither we are willing to do. So we are experimenting with pumice and other materials in order to bring the cost down.

    The Clay Water Filter business has improved its marketing and is working six days a week. The filters are cheap and effective.

    The Security Cooperative is maintaining its own. They guard the Center's and Cooperatives' properties.

    The Organic Crops Cooperative (COPROEXNIC) is processing and selling two containers of organic sesame seed to Once Again Nut Butter ( These containers will reduce the debt still owed since Hurricane Mitch devastated the crops.

inside El Porvenir school     The coffee cooperative, El Porvenir, dedicated their new school in July. This year's coffee yield is down (a normal phenomenon). Coffee harvesting in a high yield year damages the bushes so that the next year's yield is low. They are hoping for 30,000 pounds of coffee. To help the coffee cooperative receive payment for coffee beans more quickly, Mt. Pleasant Presbyterian Church (Mt. Pleasant, SC), along with Building New Hope, is selling their coffee roasted. Mt. Pleasant has a website ( We love the name.

medicinal herb garden     The Health Clinic has gone through some valuable changes. We've replaced our ob/gyn with Dr. Wilfred Avila. We've known him since we arrived 10 years ago and he works in the morning so that patients are attended all day long. He is such a joy to work with! Alaskan dentist in clinic
    We've hired Mario Baldeoseda, a lab technician. He is great!! He's enthusiastic and knows how and when to cut corners. We have his room finished in the new building! He is moved into the room and delighted to have such a wonderful space thanks to our Rogelio – our construction miracle worker.
    The herb garden is gorgeous. It is a piece of plant heaven. Now we need help dealing with the results. The herbalist who was going to help has to leave Nicaragua but she's helping us make contacts with others who might be possible herbalists. We also hosted a group from Alaska in November. They brought a dentist and helpers. We used them to do odd jobs desperately needing to be finished.

Community News:
    Coury, Daniel and Joseph have moved schools. Joseph has ADHD and counselors suggested he study in English, not Spanish and German. They now attend the Pierre & Marie Curie School. Many classes are in English, but many continue to be in Spanish, plus they are learning French.
    Their mother, Kathleen, who still struggles with Spanish, just marvels at their ability to absorb Spanish, German, and French! It was wonderful before to have Kathy available when help was needed in German, and now to help with French! Sarah is, among her many chores, tutoring Joseph at home – a chore and a joy! She and Kathy have M.Ed. degrees.
    Pat has been enjoying having the luxury of having other therapists around with whom to talk shop. Mike and all of us are losing friends as they make moves back to the States. We're losing a family, the Atlee-Loudons, whom we've known for 10 years, and two other friends: Tim and Jane. We're all glad to have Tiff, Jessica, and Waxor home for the holidays.

Margarita making refresco     One bit of news is pay raises. We figured out that if we raised our per diem rate for delegations by $10/day, we could almost completely pay for an across-the-board pay raise so that our staff could have more equitable pay scales. It was long overdue, and it has made our staff very happy. Pay raises are hard to fund – I've never figured out why foundations are so reluctant to pay for who actually does the work. We were glad to figure out a way – plus we are still the cheapest place to bring a delegation. What does this mean for our staff?
Mario in our lab     Margarita will make 175% more cooking, cleaning, and organizing than she could make teaching for the public schools. Mario triples his take-home pay over what he had just working for the Ministry of Health.
    Cabeza triples his take-home pay which may allow him to enroll in the university… a dream of his; but being the main support for his mother and siblings, an impossible dream.
    We give most of our staff Saturdays off, which gives them more time with family, opportunities to go to school, time to plant and tend their crops, and just more down time.
    We also give our staff and their families free health care through our clinic. We have a long way to go, but we're just thrilled we can do this much.

election official holding ballot     The Mayoral elections (sort of the equivalent of state elections in the USA) were held 9 November. The Alaskan group got to see some voting during their stay. Here paper ballots are very easy to read and decipher. Supposedly all parties are present in every precinct during voting and tallying. That doesn't mean election fraud doesn't take place, but it does mean that when Nicaraguans hear news of the U.S. elections, they wonder.
    Ciudad Sandino has a Sandinista mayor-elect. Their out-going mayor, Pinell, also a Sandinista, is wonderful and a hard act to follow. Managua has a Sandinista mayor-elect as well. And like Ciudad Sandino, their out-going Sandinista mayor, Herty, is a hard act to follow.
    Nicaraguans, like the rest of the world, followed the U.S. elections. They worry about their future with the current administration because CAFTA is now assured to go through and their national elections next year will be greatly influenced by the U.S. like their 2001 elections were. It will take lots of resistance up in the U.S. and down here for change to happen which seems unlikely.

    First day of the new school… Joseph (age 8 – 4th grade) is clinging to me. I tell him I'll be back – just need to get the older boys to their new classes. – Okay, mama.
    I return and he's sitting in his desk – afraid, nervous, and brave. The boy behind him is also new. He has tears in his big brown eyes. His mother comes after settling her youngest. Her head is wrapped in the Islam head scarf. "Oh," I think, "they're of Arabic descent" (Nicaragua has a large population). He cries. He clings to his mama. I tell Joseph to be a friend to him because they are alike – they're both new and scared. – Okay, mama. I give him a kiss and leave.
    I get in the car to come home and I repeat "they're both alike". The mother and I are both alike – the shield around my heart comes crashing down and so did the tears.
    I watch CNN International. I see Muslim women and children in Iraq, crying, wailing, weeping, scared, hurt, grief-stricken. When the shield is down – they and I are alike – mothers. Their children and ours are alike – daughters and sons. And I weep. How could I not?
    Bill is in Iraq. Bill is married to our daughter-once-removed. I see soldiers who've lost legs, arms, minds, and souls, and now they could be Bill.
    For Christians the Christmas story is in essence about God letting down the shield around the Divine's heart. Identifying with us so that the pain comes through and with the pain, understanding… and with the understanding, salvation.
    Our hearts are so shielded. We have a regular Berlin Wall around them. We have to be shocked to feel – to identify
         towers coming down
    I see poverty all day long. My heart is shielded, but sometimes grace comes through and cracks that wall. And I see again with new eyes. The poverty is mine and they are me, and I understand a bit more and often times I'm afraid.

    For Christians the Christmas story could be summed up with…
        the conception – the courageous step of the Divine to try bridging the gap between the Divine and the world,
        the labor and the pushing – the beginning of cracks and chinks in the wall, the cry of the baby – the shield comes crashing down,
        the angels' song – the affirmation that the falling of the shield was good news – be not afraid. Good news of great joy! For when the shield falls the saving starts.

    For Christians, Jews, Muslims, all of us who are people of this world, when our shields fall, then we can save and we can be saved. But until the shields fall we are stagnant and we think we are "safe". When the shields fall, we can feel the pain of our sisters and brothers and move. When the shields fall, the road to peace and justice can be walked.
         but only then.

    May the shields be lowered in this time of lights, birth, and new beginnings.
         Happy Hanukkah
         Merry Christmas
         Happy Kwanzaa
         Happy New Year
        and a Blessed Time of Darkness for the Northern Hemisphere and Light for the Southern.

- Kathleen

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