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SANTA ROSA FUND

NEWSLETTER
Issue 30, November 2007
Registered Charity No. 1028085

Five go to Managua

Santa Rosa Fund volunteers spent a month at the Santa Rosa School training
members of staff in computing skills
Teachers at the Santa Rosa School with their volunteer computer trainers:
L to R: Melba Hernndez, James Watson, Acting headteacher Marcia Isabel Ordeana, Doug
Specht, SRF trustee Rick Blower, Alistair Williams, Martha Lorena Martnez, Karla Ninoska
Flores, Luz Marina Rosales, Esperanza Ruz
The Santa Rosa Fund volunteers tell their own tale on the next page.
SRF Newsletter November 2007, p.1

COMPUTER TRAINING FOR STAFF OF THE SANTA ROSA


SCHOOL
Regular readers of the Santa Rosa Fund Newsletter will be aware of the provision of five computers
and two printers to the Santa Rosa School in Managua by the British Embassy in 2006. Supporters
of the SRF who are also experienced teachers may be able to cast their minds back 20 25 years to
the time when British schools were computerised and recall the fear that this struck into our
teaching staffs at that time.
Well, perhaps not too surprisingly, the staff at the Santa Rosa School share that fear of the
unknown, the untried and the not-to-be-trusted. So from December 2006 the Santa Rosa Fund paid
for four members of staff to attend basic computing classes every Saturday for six months. The four
members of staff were Marcia Ordeana, Mayra Caldern, Claudia Ramrez and Mara Surez.
They all now have their certificates and their competence; but due to circumstances in Nicaragua
the cascade training of other members of staff by these four is not easily instigated. Consequently,
the SRF has provided a further $1,300 (US dollars) for the training of eight more members of staff
for six months each.
Additionally, the SRF advertised for a small number of students to volunteer their computing skills
for a month of intensive one-to-one training of a few staff members during July this year. Our
volunteer trainers were Alistair Williams,
James Watson and Doug Specht, and they were
assisted by SRF trustees Rick Blower and
Martin Mowforth.
Doug made his report in the form of a film in
fact he made several films, one of which,
entitled Nicaragua Una Ventana, was shown
as part of Plymouths In The Flesh festival.
DVDs of his films are available from the Santa
Rosa Fund. Alistairs report follows this
introduction and focuses on the computer
training and the Santa Rosa School. James
report follows after that and focuses on the
broader experience of volunteering in Central
America.1

Our three student volunteers with some of


their student fan club at the school

Teaching Computer Skills at the Santa Rosa School Nicaragua


By Alistair Williams
Despite a number of problems, our short computer course in the Santa Rosa School was remarkably
successful. The project aimed to provide very basic computer literacy for a few teachers at the
school, to enable them to use the machines already donated, and in turn to pass their skills on to
others. The programme mainly focused on the use of Microsoft Word, in an attempt to teach basic
word processing and keyboard skills. We also introduced other basic programs such as Paint, and
Solitaire to improve their use of the mouse. Because the programme was one on one, it enabled us
to tailor each lesson to suit the student, which meant the more able students were able to learn other
useful skills, such as file and folder management, and how to use a search engine on the Internet.

SRF Newsletter November 2007, p.2

The project took place during the month of July this year, and the first problem we encountered was
that we had actually arrived during a school holiday. This obviously reduced our already short
teaching time, but the school had organised for all the available teachers and students to come in
and welcome us, and gave us an opportunity to orientate ourselves around the school. We were also
treated to several dance performances, the Nicaraguan national anthem and more embarrassingly
God Save the Queen, being blasted out on several large speakers, powered from an extension lead
coming from the shop next door. This brings us to another of our problems; the lack of electricity.
Since the recently elected left-wing FSLN party came to power, the school system has been made
public. This means that rather than parents paying fees directly to the school and the school in turn
paying the electricity bill, the parents now pay through taxes. Unfortunately, due to complications
with the distribution of electricity and the different companies controlling various parts of this, and
ultimately the government not paying the bill, the school is not getting power. This obviously put a
damper on our plans to teach our students on the computers that they will eventually use, but
fortunately there was an internet cafe within easy walking distance that was affordable and had
electricity (albeit with semi-regular power cuts, though we were usually able to work around these).
After a few days of switching students and working out the timetable most convenient for
everybody, we settled into a pattern of each teaching one student before lunch and one after. We
initially planned the lessons to be between an hour and an hour and a half, but this soon grew to be
more as the students got more into the course, and their enthusiasm was encouraging. Initially, the
lessons were very tiring for us, as none of us were IT experts or had Spanish as a first language.
However, as the students progressed, it became increasingly rewarding and worth it. We overcame
the language barrier without too many problems for Martin and Rick this involved a few
specialist IT words before the lessons; for the rest of us it involved a lot of pointing and repetition.
Nevertheless each of our students seemed to learn a lot, and were all able to produce simple Word
documents by the end of the course. They also
received a certificate signed by their teacher and
Martin as the SRF representative at the time.
About half way through our time there, the school
had realised that we could be put to use teaching
English as well as IT, and so most afternoons after
we had finished teaching IT we went into the
classrooms and attempted to get the students
speaking some English. Because we were only
there for such a short time, our aim was to provide
James with Esperanza and Alistair
the students with a chance to hear and to speak
with Karla
some English (and to have a bit of fun), rather than
an intensive grammar course. Despite being quite tired after teaching two lessons already, this was
a great experience for us and hopefully for the children too we had a lot of fun and it looked like
they did too.

My experience of volunteering and its value


By James Watson
Our trip to Nicaragua was a fascinating
experience, and one which I personally, and I
think all of us, enjoyed immensely, at the same
time as learning a great deal. I feel like my
horizons were expanded dramatically by being
able to witness and be a part of supporting the

people that we met over there. We were able to


travel around quite a lot in Nicaragua and have
introductions to numerous different struggles
of different communities and groups. From the
population of the tiny, isolated village of Los
Pozitos trying to find resources to provide
SRF Newsletter November 2007, p.3

schooling to their children, to the banana


workers camped in Managua struggling for
government recognition of their problems with
carcinogenic agricultural chemicals. Meeting
these people as part of the Santa Rosa Fund
(and ENCA2) and being able to offer real
support gave a powerful feeling of
connectedness to their struggles.
In addition to these introductions, what we
were really there to do was get directly
involved teaching computer skills to the
teachers of the school. Apart from letting us
really get to know the fantastic people at
Colegio Santa Rosa, this was when we were
able to put in our own efforts to help, and
solidified our sense of connection, a sense of
our ability to exchange with the people of
Nicaragua.
After this teaching, I had a month free in
Central America, and so travelled to Costa
Rica, to the village of Longo Mai, and started
teaching English classes along with some other
volunteers that I met there. There were many
more challenges teaching English in Longo
Mai - we had to find our own students for a
start, and also found that English is a much
more complicated thing than computers to
structure classes for. These experiences gave
me a clear idea of the difficulties that can crop
up in different contexts in a foreign country.
Volunteering in Central America was a
learning experience. Ultimately what strikes

you most clearly when working with


organisations like the Santa Rosa Fund is how
tangible a difference the money that they bring
can make to the projects that receive it. Even
small amounts of support can make a huge
difference to small scale projects and the
communities they help, which often have
specific material needs that are cheap to us, but
are beyond their investment abilities. The
gratitude that they express is at times
overwhelming, and the sense of solidarity and
friendship that develops so easily (Central
Americans really are the nicest, friendliest
people you could hope to meet) really grabs
you and makes you realise that their needs are
no less important than ours. And aside from the
awakening that my experiences provided me,
just the chance to get out of England, see some
beautiful places, and avoid being swamped in
the summer floods was a good enough reason
for me to take part in something like this!
Notes
1
Please note that the volunteers and trustees paid
their own return fares to Central America along with
their accommodation and living expenses.
2

Environmental Network for Central America

N.B. The Santa Rosa Fund is hoping to repeat the


volunteer training exercise in summer 2008, but this time
for two months rather than just one.
Anyone interested in this volunteer opportunity should
contact Martin Mowforth on 01822 617504 or
mmowforth@plymouth.ac.uk

DELIVERY OF SANTA ROSA FUND MONIES, 2007


The July and August visit of the trustees to Nicaragua enabled a second tranche of money for the
year 2007 to be disbursed to the projects and initiatives supported by the SRF. The total funds
delivered to Nicaragua during 2007 were as follows:
*
$3,855 to the Santa Rosa School (monthly purchases; general school fund; staff bonus)
*
$2,750 for the costs of computer training (courses for the staff) and computing extras
*
$ 860 to the Asociacin Quincho Barrilete (street childrens organisation)
*
$2,880 to Villa Espaa (Pre-School; Primary School; Library)
*
$2,996 for other projects and schools in the Cosigina Peninsula
This gives a total of $13,341 (US dollars) of your donations transferred to projects in Nicaragua.
The exchange rate between the pound and the dollar is currently at a high of around 2.1, but most
of the SRFs money was exchanged at a rate of just below 2 dollars to the pound. So if you divide
the above amounts by 2 you get an approximate idea of what we sent out in pounds sterling.
SRF Newsletter November 2007, p.4

The Santa Rosa Fund buys a roof


The SRF group of volunteers and trustees took a couple of days out of their computer training in
Managua to visit the Berriz Sisters in El Viejo and a number of the projects in the Cosigina
Peninsula that are supported by the Fund. Sister Lilliam took us to the Santa Mara de la Merced
Primary School in the town of El Viejo. As well as its primary classes, the school also has three
pre-school classes, but one of these was not running because its classroom lacked a roof. To
provide the roof would require $850 (dollars) as 40 zinc sheets would be necessary to cover the
classroom, along with the nails and the apex cover. The labour would be provided free by the
parents of the schools pupils.
It was clear that this should really be the responsibility of the government in the form of the
Ministry of Education (MINED), but it was also clear that MINED had other urgent priorities and
that the school would remain without a roof on its classroom for several years unless it was
provided by some other organisation. Lilliam asked if the Santa Rosa Fund would be able to help,
so the two SRF trustees who were there (Rick and Martin) decided to consult the other trustees by
email to ensure that it was agreed that this would be an appropriate use of the Funds money. All
agreed within a week, enabling Rick and Martin to withdraw the money and return to El Viejo to
deliver it to another non-governmental organisation, Amigos de Holanda, who would make the
necessary purchase and deliver it to the school.
That was in July. Then in mid-August, another SRF trustee, June Mowforth, visited Nicaragua.
With Martin, she visited the Santa Mara de la Merced School to find that the roof was already in
place and that pre-school classes were being held in it.
BEFORE .. (July 2007)

AFTER .. (August 2007)

The same classroom in the Santa Mara de la Merced Primary School, El Viejo.

The Jos Coronel Urtecho School


In 2006 the Berriz Sisters based in the town of El Viejo drew our attention to the plight of the Jos
Coronel Urtecho School. Located in a rural area of the Cosigina Peninsula, not far out of the town
of El Viejo, the school and all its pupils are extremely poor. At the end of 2006 the Santa Rosa
Fund donated $200 (US dollars) and this year we provided $400. In July the two SRF trustees, Rick
Blower and Martin Mowforth, were able to visit the school with Sister Rosvia and to chat with the
teachers and a few of the pupils.
SRF Newsletter November 2007, p.5

The school has 130 pupils covering all six primary school grades. The three primary teachers
(Angelina Mayorga, Karla Villalobos and Lucretia Ramrez) have responsibility for two grades
each. Additionally, 14 pre-school pupils are taught by Martha Ramos.
Most of the 2006 money donated by the SRF was used to buy satchels and exercise books for the
children. Our trustees visit in July afforded an opportunity for the teachers to lobby Sister Rosvia
about their most urgent needs at the school in the knowledge that $400 was available for the nuns to
make purchases for the school.

Our partners in the Cosigina Peninsula of


Nicaragua, the Berriz Sisters
Ever since Hurricane Mitch devastated the area in 1998, the Fund has been increasingly involved
with the Berriz Sisters (Misioneras Mercedarias de Berriz), a Spanish order of nuns who work in
the Cosigina Peninsula of Nicaragua with a base in the municipal town of El Viejo. The nuns have
effectively taken the option for the poor and spend all their time working on projects which in
some way or other address the issues and causes of poverty in this rural zone which is characterised
by extreme poverty and hardship.
It is an area which has often been hit by the natural disasters of hurricanes, tsunamis, landslides,
droughts and floods. These add to the human disasters brought about by neoliberal economic
policies, structural adjustment policies and transnational monocultivation practices to produce the
bananas and other products that we demand in the north.
The projects and initiatives supported by the nuns involve many aspects of human life, including
health, education, issues affecting adolescents and development of the whole person. Their work
always lays emphasis on the empowerment of people to run their own development programmes
and sort out the solutions to their own problems, rather than imposing a solution from outside.
There is no better organisation that works in this region in which the Santa Rosa Fund could place
its trust; their reach within the zone and their understanding of the factors affecting the problems
that people face in this area are second to none.
In the past the Santa Rosa Fund has supported specific projects and initiatives in the area in
response to requests from the nuns. In 2007 the Fund supported nine educational projects in this
area (to a total value of just short of $6,000), via donations made to the nuns. For the year 2008 the
nuns have requested assistance with two other specific projects, and the trustees wish to continue
supporting those projects with which it has already developed a relationship, such as the Pre-School
and the library in Villa Espaa. Accordingly, at their October meeting the trustees of the Fund took
the decision to grant a total sum of $7,000 (US dollars) to the nuns for their educational work in the
Cosigina Peninsula rather than allocating specific amounts to each project. This will allow the
nuns to use their own discretion in making decisions about specific projects without having to ask
for a specific small amount for any particular project. It will also allow them to respond quickly to
urgent needs without having to refer to the Santa Rosa Fund. At the same time we have asked the
nuns to bear in mind our wish to continue our support for particular schools and projects where
appropriate.
The trustees of the Santa Rosa Fund have requested a report from the nuns on the use of the Funds
money to be received every September. We hope that this new arrangement with our partners will
meet with the approval of our supporters in the UK.
SRF Newsletter November 2007, p.6

Virginia Gmez Guilln an appreciation


In May this year, Virginia Gmez Guilln retired from her post as headteacher at the Santa Rosa
School in Managua due to ill health she had had heart problems for some years. The Santa Rosa
Fund has known no other headteacher at the school since the work of the Fund began in 1988. She
was the instigator of everything which the Santa Rosa Fund has managed to do at the Santa Rosa
School since 1988.
Virginia started her teaching career in 1969 in Las Jahuitas just outside Managua. After four years
there she moved into the capital and in 1980 she became headteacher at the Alfonso Corts School
in the Primavera barrio of Managua. Also in 1980, along with Modesto Flores who is still teaching
at the Santa Rosa School, she took part in the renowned Literacy Crusade for which the then new
Sandinista government gained a UNESCO award. In common with many Nicaraguans, she is
immensely proud of her participation in this campaign.
In 1987 she was appointed headteacher of the Santa Rosa School, or as it was called at the time, the
Ernesto Ch Guevara School. For the people of the Santa Rosa barrio of Managua and all others
who know the school, its success is associated with Virginias hard work and dedication, not just to
the school but to the whole barrio and all its residents. The hardship fund established by the Santa
Rosa Fund, for instance, could not have been administered by anyone other than Virginia who
knew the families of the barrio well enough to be aware of those who needed economic assistance
in order to be able to send their children to school. This dedication was officially recognised by the
Nicaraguan Ministry of Education when she was awarded the distinction of the Best Headteacher in
Managua for five consecutive years (2002 to 2006).
As if managing the school were not enough for her, Virginia with her husband Rory Hernndez
have raised six of their own children from whom they now have six grandchildren. Virginia does
not receive a pension, and now continues to work (although with marginally less stress than that
associated with her post of headteacher) as Academic Director of La Verde Sonrisa, a nongovernmental organisation which gives refuge to abandoned children and those who live in extreme
poverty. It is of course absolutely typical that Virginia should involve herself in this type of work.
When the Santa Rosa Fund first heard of Virginias
retirement, it was immediately clear to us that the
significance of her work for the school, the barrio and to
the Fund could not go unacknowledged. So it was decided
that an inscribed commemorative plaque should be made
and presented to her in July by the visiting trustees. The
plaque is inscribed in both Spanish and English and the
photograph shows Martin Mowforth of the Fund
presenting it to Virginia in a simple ceremony at the
school. The plaque now holds pride of place on Virginia
and Rorys front room wall.
The Santa Rosa Fund is extremely grateful to Virginia for all she has achieved in her career. We
wish her a long and happy retirement, although we know that she is not the kind of person who will
retire altogether.

SRF Newsletter November 2007, p.7

HURRICANE FELIX AND INCESSANT RAINS


At the beginning of September, Hurricane Felix hit northern Nicaragua and caused the loss of lives
and extensive damage to property. In the Pacific coastal area, it was followed by two tropical
depressions and 47 days of torrential rain which left many areas flooded and many people
homeless. One of the areas worst affected was the Cosigina Peninsula where the Berriz Sisters
work and where much of the SRF money goes to support a range of projects. By the 18 th October it
was reported that the municipality of El Viejo was housing 1,600 homeless people from the rural
areas of the peninsula, many crops had been destroyed and wells contaminated. SINAPRED
(System of Prevention and Mitigation of Disasters) reported a high risk of landslides. The UN Food
and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) warned of potential widespread hunger in the coming months.
School classes were suspended in the rural areas because many schools were acting as refuge
centres for the homeless.
At the end of October the Nicaraguan government forecast that it would need $392 million to
alleviate the humanitarian, ecological and productive tragedy. Over the country as a whole,
255,000 acres of beans, corn, rice and vegetables and 50,000 cattle have been lost, and the UN
representative in Nicaragua said that the threat of famine was imminent. Additionally, four cases of
leptospirosis (a disease often associated with and carried by rats) have been reported in El Viejo
along with the appearance of super rats that are resistant to the poisons designed to eradicate them.
Clearly the situation is precarious and we are awaiting news from our partners in the region, the
Berriz Sisters. If a separate appeal is deemed appropriate by the SRF we shall make one. In the
meantime, our supporters may wish to know that the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign (NSC) has
launched an appeal for survivors of Hurricane Felix in the North Atlantic Autonomous Region of
Nicaragua. Their address is: NSC, 129 Seven Sisters Road, London N7 7QG.

ENCLOSURE A CHANCE TO RENEW YOUR SUPPORT


Enclosed with this newsletter is our annual subscription renewal form. We invite all our supporters,
and others, to renew their support for the work that the Fund enables. As always we are keen to
emphasise that we are proud of the fact that a high proportion of our funds are delivered to the
intended beneficiaries in Nicaragua rather than being lost in administration. For those who make a
donation to the SRF by standing order (and for which we are very grateful), please ignore this form.

SANTA ROSA FUND CONTACTS


Chair:

Pete Mayston, Rose Cottage, Tuckermarsh, Bere Alston, Yelverton, Devon PL20 7HB
Tel. 01822 840297
Email: mayston@waitrose.com
Secretary:
Lorna & Martin Legg, Rock Cottage, Morwell Cross, Gulworthy, Tavistock, Devon PL19
8JH, Tel. 01822 833934
Email: tavyleggs@hotmail.com
Treasurer:
Pat Mayston as for Pete (above)
Twinning links representative: Rick Blower, Cloberry Cottage, Brentor, Tavistock, Devon PL19 0NG
Tel. 01822 810600
Email: r.blower@btinternet.com
Membership secretary: Martin Mowforth, 51 West St., Tavistock, Devon PL19 8JZ
Tel. 01822 617504
Email: mmowforth@plymouth.ac.uk

PRINTED ON RECYCLED PAPER

SRF Newsletter November 2007, p.8