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"Open Sesame" (Processing Plant)

    The February 2014 newsletter of the CDCA in Nicaragua is now online, and readable below... let us know what you think, please. You can also access it as a PDF (printable) here:      
                                                                                                                                        Thanks, Sarah for us all
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Twenty years ago we moved to Nicaragua and began working on-site in Ciudad Sandino.  In those 20 years many things have changed for us and for Nicaragua.  And we have acquired incredible skills and gained so much information out of necessity and from mistakes… but, all in all, the CDCA has made progress.  We hope you will celebrate with us.

COPROEXNIC, the web sesame plant
                                        outside 2organic agriculture cooperative, finally signed the lease to the only functioning sesame processing plant in Nicaragua!!!  This took eight months of negotiating, pushing and pushing the government, which owns the plant, and then laying down a deposit, etc. etc. etc. … but the lease is now web Mike at
                                        processing plant OANB photo 3signed!  This comes none-too-soon because harvests are in and crops need processing.
    Last year, as you may remember, we had problems with the mishandling of the organic peanut and sesame crops; therefore, together with COPROEXNIC we now have a different peanut processor, who though much more expensive, is also much more responsible and capable.  The newly leased sesame plant is the only sesame processor in the country.
    Now that COPROEXNIC has the sesame plant, we have begun the laborious tasks of cleaning and painting, getting lights and water back on, repairing the machinery, 
hiring staff to run
                                          cleaning sesame plant - Maria
                                          Adamson photo 3the plant, and hiring good management.  Funding is needed to get the plant up to certification standards and to hire staff.  The plant is north of León, about two hours of driving time away from us.
    Folks from Once Again Nut Butter and from Nuts to You have helped in the process of correcting last year’s mishandling of crops by the processing plants and shipping lines.  Lloyd from OANB came frequently last year to lend advice and talk to the government about moving more quickly on the lease of the sesame plant.
    When COPROEXNIC is able to process sesame this will enhance three important aspects of their work:
  1. ensuring the organic crops are handled properly and quickly;
  2. adding value to the crops for the farmers themselves; and
  3. giving employment to people who will work in the plant.
web Bena and Raul in cotton Bena
                                  Burda photo 2    Organic cotton from 560 acres is coming in and soon the gin will be up and running again.  This will give full-time seasonal employment to 25 people, who will also receive benefits.  Two representatives from Maggie’s Organics came in December to visit cotton farms.
web El Porvenir coffee cutting
                                  Jen Aist photo 3
    Organic coffee is being processed (40,000 pounds) from El Porvenir and is almost ready to ship.  

    As we look to the new years we set goals for each programFor our Sustainable Agriculture and Economic Development program we have the following goals for 2014:
  • To acquire the lease of the processing plant (done)
  • To assist COPROEXNIC in bringing the quality of the processing plant up to international export standards  (in-process and needs funding)
  • To assist COPROEXNIC in stabilizing all post-harvest handling and processing of peanuts (in-process)
  • To add value to sesame by making oil with the by-product sesame
  • To increase cotton production/ginning to make the gin economically viable
  • To form a young women’s group in Nueva Vida to begin the process of empowerment and self-dependency (in-process)
web BNB screen replacing with
                                      VC Maria - Paul Susman photo 2Our new volunteer coordinator, Maria, cut her teeth on the January Bucknell Brigade (Lewisburg, PA).  They painted at the clinic, climbed up high to clean and replace screens several meters in the air, removed a tree, web BNB replacing high screen
                                    clinic - Paul Susman photo 3dug water lines for a new exam room, and brought thousands of dollars worth of much-needed medications.
    Bucknell also brought an ob/gyn who is helping us get a program started addressing the prevention and early detection of cervical cancer.  More Nicaraguan women of reproductive age die of cervical cancer than any web Marion with patient Paul
                                    Susman photoother cause.  This doctor is helping us start See and Treat Therapy  which the World Health Organization promotes.  We have written a grant for some of the equipment.  We need a cryotherapy gun for freezing and a colposcope to better see precancerous lesions… so doctors, if you have either and want to upgrade yours and donate the old one, write us please!
web Nora Becky painting mural
                                      cropped 2    In January we also hosted nursing students, coming with the nurse practitioner who worked one morning a week with us last year.  In addition, we had  the services of a pediatrician and long-time friend, Becky,  who together with Nora painted a beautiful mural and brought hand-sewn bags filled with baby necessities to give to new mothers.
web Healthy Plate clinic
                                      poster 2

    Funding was given to the clinic in honor of a long-time supporter and volunteer, Dr. Don, for posters.  We created them ourselves to fit the reality of the Nicaraguan poor and our clinic.
    Two other volunteers are working long term with us.  Laura from Belgium is working in our lab and is helping us get better lab equipment, being purchased through a grant written on our behalf.  Alice is helping us discover ways to make our clinic a more clean space.  We do a good job, but we can always do better.
web Alice filing - Maria
                                  Adamson photo 2
web - Dr Perez and Hairont
                                treatment 2
The biggest news from the clinic is that our volunteer orthopedist of eight years, Luís, is now on our staff part-time.  He could no longer commit to coming voluntarily for personal reasons.  He always has a full morning seeing 30 or more patients and helping them relieve pain.  There is no one else in the area who provides this kind of care.  We decided to go out on faith that funds would come in for his salary and hired him.  He now comes three mornings a week instead of two and we are fundraising for his salary and the increase in medication costs.

    When the clinic staff sat down to come up with goals…we ended up with 48 really good goals.  This is what we combined and narrowed down for our focus:

Health Care 2014 goals:
  • To begin fundraising for, and construction of, the third building at the clinic to incorporate training space (with kitchen and break room), a lead-lined x-ray room, minor surgery room, etc. (awaiting funding)
    web Nora Becky Coury
                                      pediatrics nursing Ben Kaufman
  • To expand and start new health clinic programs, such as:
  • To modernize the existing clinic buildings and upgrade equipment and supplies in dental areas, lab, and exam rooms (in-process)
  • To improve effectiveness of working relationship with web
                                    school dental teaching 2ORPHANetwork’s feeding centers in getting children into
    the dental clinic consistently (in-process)
  • To increase from 32 to 50 the number of lay health promoters
  • To locate and apply for donated medications and equipment  (in-process)
  • To research how to set up an endowment for the long-term sustainability of the clinic 
We are writing blogs ( to talk about all our goals and further explain why they are important.  You can sign up to receive our blogs straight into your in-box.

We have also completed our 2013 Year-end Report.  This booklet is not just financial numbers but also a compilation of the CDCA’s accomplishments and problems throughout the year.  Drop us a line and we will be happy to send you a copy.
And… a new way to help that was suggested by a volunteer… If you already shop AmazonSmile-smaller-150x136 3
on Amazon, you can support this work with just a couple clicks.
    Go to  to register us as your charity of choice, and then when you shop be sure to log onto your own Amazon account through and they will donate a percentage to our projects.
JHCommunity:1996 JHC in truck with Cesar
                                    and Henry cropped 2

When we reflect on the last 20 years much has changed for us personally as well as the work:
  • Paul, Becca, and Eibhlín joined us and then soon after little Orla was born.
  • Tiff graduated from a boarding high school, then college, and now lives on the west coast.
  • Jessica moved away to boarding school, then college, and in time had a family of her own.
  • Coury (age 5) and Daniel (age 1 ½) are now men… MEN!  
  • And our Joseph (Chepito) who was born in our home here, is now 18 years old!  
  • Most of the original 5 adults are now in their 60’s and have lived here longer than anywhere else in their lives.
    In December and January we enjoyed visits from adult children, grandchildren, parents, and friends visiting from the States.  

    Now Sarah is busy getting ready for her speaking tour when she will also see her daughter and grandchildren.  She will be touring from N.C. up to Maine… if you live on the eastern side of the States, then look at her schedule ( and go hear her update and see the faces that go with the progress.


    Coming home from taking my folks to the airport I was thinking about the sesame plant and all the hassles that the CDCA’s work seems to endure again and again and I started muttering… I am a great mutterer when I get alone… and I guess you could say I have a lot of rage.
    "So why can’t SOMEthing go right?  We get the sesame plant but then stuff has been stolen and NOW the electric company wants US to pay someone else’s overdue electric bills… what’s with THAT?”
    “AND what’s WITH Yelba1hellip;doesn’t she have ENOUGH?  HOW can she be so mean?  And then there is Jack²…what is it with the rich always getting away with harassment, breaking laws, and just plain meanness and greed?”
    “Oh yes! Speaking of THE rich… how can the 85 richest people own more that the poorest HALF of the world’s population… 3.5 BILLION PEOPLE?3"  
    And then inevitably… “Ya hear me, God?  What IS with all this?”
    Then I realize I am listening softly to one of the boys’ CDs, and it is a song from The Hunchback of Notre Dame4 and I hear:
web girl in city dump
                                        Solomon Bill photo 3I ask for nothing
I can get by
But I know so many
Less lucky than I

web boy in dump -
                                        Solomon Bill photo 2God help the outcasts
The poor and downtrod
I thought we all were
Children of God

    And I realize that though my indignation may be well-founded and based in truth and frustration… it is nothing compared to the people we work with who seem to NEVER get a break.  
    Laws are seldom made to protect the poor… it is the rich getting richer and getting away with theft… they just steal sooooo much more than the poor shoplifters who steal a loaf of bread.
    Justice is seldom for the poor… it is for the powerful who get away with murder, torture, and stripping away dignity… they just kill sooooo many more than the poor when a robbery goes wrong.
    Living a full life of interest and joy is seldom for the poor… it is for those who can afford to have luxuries like books, travel, and well-fed children.
    I mutter, I feel put upon, I feel taken advantage of, I feel rage, I feel weary and tired to my bones and the quiet voice reminds me:
                                    squatter shack woman poor family -
                                    Anil photo 3
I ask for nothing
I can get by
But I know so many
Less lucky than I

God help the outcasts
The poor and downtrod
I thought we all were
Children of God
                                            - Kathleen
 1Yelba Carvajal is suing; challenging our legal ownership of the CDCA’s land in the Ciudad Sandino courts… she already lost in the Managua courts.
2Jack Coker received $150,000 from us for spinning plant machinery and never sent the machinery… which led to the collapse of the Genesis spinning cooperative, loss in revenues,   and left us with a debt we are still paying back.
4Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
Each year we send out a summary to our donors of the accomplishments and problems of the year… if you haven't already received it, we think you might be interested in what happened in 2013.
  • With the funds in the Vida Fund we were able to make loans in 2013 of $790,995.01.  (FYI:  loans made to date from the Vida Fund are over $1.5 million!  Most are credits to small farmers.)
  • Loan payments and interest received in 2013 was $436,174.48.
  • COPROEXNIC added an administrator, which brings them to 4 full-time staff, a part-time accountant, and seasonal workers in the gin. >
  • We helped COPROEXNIC export 5 containers of organic cotton… 139,618 pounds from 2013’s crop.  This year’s organic cotton, coming in right now, is from 560 acres.
  • The gin employed 25 full-time workers for 3 months ginning 5 containers of organic and conventional cotton.
  • COPROEXNIC, with our help, exported 23 containers of sesame, most of them organic… 982,500 pounds!
  • Together, we exported 16 containers of organic peanuts... 836,000 pounds.  Unfortunately some were rejected and most had to be blanched costing additional fees, all due to the above mentioned problems. 
  • >Together, we exported 38,800 pounds of organic coffee to two buyers.
  • We hosted different groups of buyers from Once Again Nut Butter, Nuts to You, Their-Bucks Coffee, and Maggie’s Organics.  Many buyers came to negotiate face-to-face with the growers. Lloyd from OANB has been in and out of Nicaragua helping us deal with the mess with the processing plants.
  • Mike went to Boston to meet with other representatives in the Domestic Fair Trade Association on developing more fair trade certification guidelines that benefit the farmers more.
  • In the Nueva Vida Health Clinic, we treated 10,441 patients15% were new patients and 22% were 5 years old and under. These patients were seen by two part-time physicians, a full-time radiologist (June-December), and volunteer physicians. 
  • We obtained a donated portable ultrasound machine and our radiologist performed 55 ultrasound exams in the last 6 weeks.
  • A volunteer orthopedist saw 2,218 patients 2 mornings a week. Through a grant’s funding, our orthopedist was able to inject 8 treatments of hyaluronic acid into 4 patients’ knees and surgically repair an arm.
  • We gave out treatment and medicines for 16,544 conditions and diseases. This is an increase from last year by 174%!   
  • >At the clinic we hired a new part-time general physician, a full-time administrator, a full-time radiologist (who also fills in during the hours our other part-time doctors are not there), and an additional cleaning staff member.  
  • We rebooted our chronic care program…we have 144 patients in the program.  They come for monthly check-ups, medications, and monthly meetings to learn about diet, exercise, taking the medications properly and giving each other support.  Most have type 2 diabetes but we also have hypertensive patients and patients with Parkinson’s and thyroid issues.
  • Pat, our part-time counselor, saw 271 clients… 37% were from the ages of 6 to 12 years.
  • Our laboratory completed 3,155 tests in the clinic for 1,602 patients (almost a third referred from other clinics) and we did approximately 1,000 additional tests outside the lab.  We sent out 336 PAP tests to be read by a pathologist.  We added H Pylori blood tests and began curing patients with the bacteria.  We hosted a volunteer lab technician from Belgium who is working with us for 6 months.  
  • We continued our program with ORPHANetwork to see 1,200 children twice a year in our dental clinic.
  • Our dentist became full-time in June.  In August we hired a full-time dental assistant.  Our full-time hygienist was out on maternity leave for the last quarter.  All of them and volunteer dentists saw 2,619 patients (46% were under the age of 12 years) and performed 4,413 procedures (51% were preventive care [cleanings and sealants] and only 11% were extractions…this is amazing for Nicaragua!). 
  • Our dental clinic has been open for 7 years; and 46% of all new patients were added in 2013.
  • Our dental staff incorporated teaching in their care on the importance of good oral hygiene and also gave 17 classes on good oral hygiene to 1,448 children in feeding centers.
  • Our one-morning-a-week eye correction clinic saw 320 patients and gave out 441 pairs of glasses.  In 2013 they also took glasses and successfully examined eyes in a remote rural community.
  • Our community outreach and health education included the following:
    • Continued the new mother’s group and included classes on pregnancy, labor and birth as well as family planning.
    • Increased our lay health promoters from 23 to 32 and included promoters in 3 rural communities.
    • Provided 4 trainings on HIV and did limited HIV testing. 
    • Maintained the nebulizers and first aid kits in the homes of lay health promoters. 
    • Held 59 different health trainings on topics of diabetes, sexual health, family planning, etc. for 1,198 participants.
    • Surveyed the Nueva Vida barrio of 12,000 re family planning and started offering free family planning.
  • We hosted 12 delegations that stayed from 6 – 19 days. 
  • We hosted 36 volunteer medical and dental professionals in the clinic.
  • Four speaking tours encompassed 17 states in the U.S. for 175 speaking engagements. 
  • We hosted 22 groups from other organizations based here in Nicaragua, speaking about and showing them our work.
  • We hosted 36 individual volunteers from a week to over a year.
  • We significantly increased our Nicaraguan staff salaries.  
  • Once each quarter we sent out over 14,500 newsletters with more than 40% going by email.
  • Our on-line pledged giving increased by 17%.    NOTE:  Your gifts are extremely important!    Three-fourths of our cash donations are $100 or less. 
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