All posts by Jaime Belden

Making moves……

They say if you want to be an expert at something, do it for 10,000 hours. I feel like I have sang the same songs for about that long….oh yeah and every song has a very active dance that goes along with it. Last year was all about how to incorporate music into preschool in Nicaragua. It seems really easy: give them kids music in Spanish. If only it were that easy. Changing an education system that has operated a certain way for hundreds of years takes time and energy. The schools here have been operating in survival mode, doing to best they can with what they have. Many of the teachers (and adults in general) had childhoods filled with experiences many of us can only begin to imagine. Instead of memories reading books, playing at the park, or going swimming, they tell me about dictatorship, fear, death, war, violence, abuse, starvation, sickness and natural disasters.

People continue to suffer from the trauma of the past and poverty, abuse, nutrition are all still real problems facing Nicaragua today. But somethings have gotten better. For example access to education has improved immensely. More kids have the possibility to go school today in Nicaragua than ever before in history. This is really important because approximately half of the population is under 18. Not all kids go to school and the schools are at maximum capacity. The school system expanded very quickly, under very difficult circumstances and faces many challenges. They don’t have enough trained teachers and its not a desirable profession. Why would someone pay money to get a teaching degree when they will earn so little they will live below the (Nicaraguan) poverty level? Most teachers have high school diploma, but some don’t and all of the teachers are products of the same struggling education system we are trying to change. So to ask them to do something that has never been done before (sing songs they don’t know and dance with little kids) it is asking them to step out of their comfort zone. It requires them to step back from the authoritarian role and overcome their embarrassment, not to mention the logistics of managing a class of 40 kids who are singing/dancing.

On returning to Nicaragua….

The influence a teacher has often isn’t seen for a long time. Working with 3-5 year old children in preschool I often wonder if they will even remember my existence. I, personally, remember almost nothing about preschool and I have no memories of my undoubtedly lovely teachers. So each year when I leave Nicaragua, to spend a few months in Minnesota, I always hope the kids will remember the meaningful connection we have made. Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like and if they don’t remember me….

The first school I visited since returning was the school that originally brought me to Nicaragua in 2009 when it was built. The classes are overflowing with kids who didn’t have a school until 7 years ago and the kids I first knew are either in high school now or have dropped out. I have made a point to continue to visit and share all the tools, strategies, games and music with the community that first inspired me to work in this country: Pantanal.

I entered the classroom of Profe Claudia, one of my favorite teachers, and was overwhelmed by the reaction of her 3rd grade students who still remember me from preschool….3 years ago. Their faces lit up, several of them jumped to their feet and they started shouting out fragments of what they remember… “The monkey song….Que te pasa? Calabaza!……the little octopus!!” These kids, now much bigger and better behaved, still remember!

The preschoolers are in 3rd grade!
The preschoolers are in 3rd grade!

Going on tour…

We have been working hard to improve the school system in Nicaragua and it hasn’t been easy.  A systemic change in education takes dedicated teachers, hard work and patience.  The sad truth is that the schools are actually doing better now, than they did in the past.  Only forty years ago, there was a dictator and the right to an education was a privilege of the wealthy. Today the classrooms are crowded and all kids have the right to attend school.

classroom

Unfortunately  the education they receive is substandard because most teachers have no training and they lack very basic resources.

Last year we paired with the Ministry of Education to help with the monthly vocational trainings for all of the preschool teachers in Granada, Nicaragua. This month we began phase two: Visiting the classrooms.  During our visit we were able to assist in the implementation of new ideas and it was inspiring to see the change happening.

Check out this short video and try not to laugh at the little ones who are struggling with the macarena and trying to learn the months of the year at the same time.

It’s hard to say who appreciates our visit more: the students or the teachers. The final words from the teachers are always”We will be here waiting for you” and all of the visits end the same way: kids lining up for hugs and high-fives.

 

When you meet someone special…

One of the hardest parts about living in Nicaragua is the amount of suffering happening all around you, everyday. It’s hard to accept that you can’t help everyone, even though your heart tells you that it is the right thing to do. This means setting limits and investing your resources in projects that will make a sustainable difference. However sometimes you meet someone who breaks your heart wide open and you would give anything in the world to help them.

Meet 5 year old Nayansi and her mother Francisca.

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Nayansi was born with spina bifida, hydrocephalus, and is paralyzed from the waist down. She has already had 7 surgeries and will need at least 5 more.

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She lives in a very poor rural neighborhood, far removed from any non-profits or organizations that could potentially help her, and the only landmark is the landfill full of burning garbage.

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Her father abandoned them after finding out about her birth defects, when her mother was 4 months pregnant. Life for Francisca has been beyond difficult as the sole caretaker of Nayansi AND of her father, an amputee, who suffers from diabetes. The three of them live together in this windowless shack made entirely of corrugated metal. Making ends meet has been impossible, given the situation, and as a result they live a life of abject poverty.

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Francisca did not ask for money, but instead for a wheelchair for her daughter that she has carried everywhere for the past 5 years. Thanks to generosity of Darrell Ward, a Rotarian from Oklahoma, her wish was granted.

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Despite Nayansi’s physical disabilities, she is a happy little girl who makes jokes, smiles and laughs. She was thrilled to receive the assortment of art supplies and books we were able to give her.

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This little girl has touched our hearts in a way that words can’t describe. We are committed to doing everything possible to continue to help her family. We are beginning to gather resources and if you have any connections or suggestions of people/organizations who may be able to help, please contact us at: futurerootsproject@gmail.com

Stay tuned for updates and sign up for our newsletter if you’d like to receive a monthly summary of our projects!

Fundraiser

Fundraiser FinalWe would like to take this opportunity to invite everyone to our annual fundraiser.  We will be back from Nicaragua to visit all of you & share about the work we have been doing for the past year. This benefit will help to raise money for us to continue working with the children in both urban and rural communities in Nicaragua.

We are excited to boogie with some of the greatest bands in the Twin Cities, seriously guys, THANK YOU!

Rich Lewis

The Rich Lewis Band plays a soulful mix of R&B, New Orleans and Motown. This blend of musical styles creates an infectious sound that makes you want to stomp your feet or shed a tear.

http://www.richlewisband.com/index.html

Take a sneak peak at what you are in for listening to this awesome group! In the words of Earl King,

“Society has no priority, were all one part of a whole.
When people scream and shout, you hafta hear em out. Everybody is a beautiful soul.
You gotta pull together, go hand in hand. You really got to do your best.
Wouldn’t it be a perfect sight to see: the whole world filled with happiness.”

Back for their second year, we are more than excited to welcome this four piece, bluesabilly band, The Abiders!

The Abiders

The band members are equally entertaining as they are talented. They have great chemistry both on and off stage and play lively originals and covers. Julie Weisenhorn writes the original songs full of relatable lyrics and adds a driving rhythm acoustic and vocals that can be sweet-as-pie one minute, and soulfully bluesy the next. From Liverpool, England, Doug Molland plays the perfect gritty vintage bluesman, pulling off licks and lyrics that harken back to Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf. In the true blues harp tradition, Karl Weisenhorn presents his own style making you think of such heros as Junior Wells, Norton Buffalo and Paul Butterfield. Rick Anderson keeps the groove going on stand up bass, and his vocals have that great rockabilly twang that makes the crowd go wild.

https://www.facebook.com/TheAbiders/timeline

 Last year was a blast, we had a full day of dancing and fun with our family, friends, and community!  We want to thank you all for of the wonderful memories.  Here are a few photos…

Clean Water Project

This past month Darrel Ward, the President of the Muskogee, OK Rotary Club, visited Nicaragua to continue working on a clean water project in the area.  We had the opportunity to work with Darrel in Pantanal last year where he gifted a Sawyer water filter to a local community center.

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These filters use the same technology that is used for kidney dialysis. The tiny micro tubes in the filters are so small that 99.999% of bacteria cannot pass through them. This means that the bacteria that cause cholera, typhoid, dysentery, and e. coli-related disease cannot be transmitted in the clean, filtered water to those who drink it or cook with it.

The filters can produce one gallon of safe water in 10 minutes and can be backwashed to continue to provide virtually bacteria-free, drinkable water for decades or up to 1,000,000 gallons. Because the water flows through the filter by gravity, no electricity is needed.
Through its annual wine tasting event, the Rotary Club of Muskogee has been involved in providing clean water to developing countries, first in Tanzania and now in Masaya, Nicaragua.We are doing this for two primary reasons:

1. Lack of safe drinking water is the primary cause of disease in the world today. Two million people (many of them children) die each year due to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene and more than 50 countries still report cholera. Almost 5% of the world’s disease could be prevented by improving water supply, sanitation and hygiene.

2. There are now better tools and procedures to improve drinking-water quality and there are simple and inexpensive ways to treat and safely store water in homes. Muskogee Rotary is concentrating its effort in Masaya, Nicaragua.

•Less than 60% of people in rural Nicaraguan communities have access to clean, safe drinking water.
•Though an international community, Masaya is close by and accessible.
•Masaya Rotary Club members, including the minister of health and a physician, are working with us to bring clean water to Masaya. (http://www.muskogeerotary.org/)

Pantanal, Nicaragua


When you eliminate waterborne disease from a village you empower that village in more ways than you can imagine.

•Recent studies have shown Sawyer filters eliminate up to 85% of all diarrhea disease within the community just weeks after implementation.

•The filter pays for itself within a year with money that would have been spent on medical bills or fuel/wood to boil water.

•Income that was spent on medical bills for preventable diseases is now spent on food and other essential items.

•Men and women are healthy enough to work and earn a living.

•Parents don’t have to stay home from work and tend to their sick children.

•Children can attend school and get an education

~Darrell Ward

Darrell and his club are currently working on disturbuting 300 plus bucket filters to rural communities that remove bacteria and viruses from existing water.

IMG_2568  IMG_2569Pre-studies on this project showed that on average households were using one third of the family income on clean water, these filters now provide clean water at no cost to residents.  In a country where the majority of people live on $2 a day, a third of your income can be life changing, allowing for a recognizable increase in quality of life.

These are the types of projects we are grateful to be a part of, they provide a necessity that we as teachers cannot provide, however, we are able to help facilitate the implementation of project in communities who need them the most.

waterClean water projects here in Nicaragua provide an essential basic need to people whom live in extreme conditions. One huge issue we hear about all the time is lack of water and we look forward to continue working with Darrell upon his return in September.

Preschool Revamp

Can you Help

We are in the process of revamping a preschool classroom in the Laguna de Apoyo and it is looking really great! Painting 30 year old boards really spruced up the place, however we are running low on paint, so here is where you come in. We are looking for a donation between $8-$12 to buy the paint to finish these boards which are being transformed into learning spaces in the classroom and also a location to showcase class art! To make a donation visit www.gofundme.com/futureroots Thank you!

 

Semana Santa

In Nicaragua, the combination of strong traditions and a celebrative character make the Holy Week celebrations one of the most commemorative events of the year for many Nicaraguans. It is a moment of interesting, massive processions, as well as a period of summer vacations during which diversion and relaxation form the main priorities. There are furthermore even culinary expressions related to this particular period of the year.

During Holy Week, or Semana Santa in Spanish, Christian cultures like the one in Nicaragua commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus. These celebrations take place at the end of March or at the beginning of April. The exact date is set by the Catholic Church and it depends on the phases on the moon.

It is surely true that Holy Week is a passionate religious week for Nicaraguans. However, not the whole population partakes in the prayers and traditional processions. In fact, for the major part of the Nicaraguan population this period has a more mundane, less spiritual meaning: it is a time of summer vacation, during which resting, relaxing, having fun, and partying on a large scale (in Nicaragua referred to as ‘bacanalear’) are the most important aspects.

In general, visiting the beach or other bathing sites during Holy Week is a traditional custom. Inhabitants of both rural and urban areas often spend one or more days at the beach, at Lake Nicaragua, around lagoons, or at one of the many different rivers. This is not an illogical place, given the extreme temperatures of the tropical summers during this time of the year. (https://vianica.com/go/specials/12-holy-week-nicaragua.html)

We had a wonderful time running on the beach, swimming watching futbol, and eating local food with our students. We also had a super fun day on the water in Topochiva, the only boat found in La Laguna de Apoyo, dancing, eating hot dogs, and just enjoying a nice cruise with our neighbors! Thanks for everyone who make our week special!

February Update

After school programing in Pantanal, Nicaragua.
After school programing in Pantanal, Nicaragua.

It’s been a busy 2015 for Future Roots Project, we are collaborating with Proyecto CocoMango, located in La Laguna de Apoyo, a rural community outside of Masaya, Nicaragua.

Laguna de Apoyo Masaya, Nicaragua
Laguna de Apoyo
Masaya, Nicaragua
After school programing at Proyecto CoCoMango

We focus on youth and adult literacy and nutricion education, similar to the work we are doing in Pantanal as well. After school tutoring and art activities are also a large part of our work in both communities.

English class at Centro Lindsay
English class at Centro Lindsay

We want to again thank all of the amazing people who continue to support our work to improve the realities of illiteracy and malnutricion in Nicaragua.