Update on TASK

Posted January 20, 2011 by carrollairey
Categories: TASK

2011 has rolled around very quickly it seems, and it is time for me to return to Nicaragua to do the work of Take A Stand for Kids (TASK) in Santa Rosa del Peñon. I’m leaving Jan 30-March 4, with two 50-pound duffle bags of donations and 6 or more bags to follow, thanks to Greg Cormier, global ed teacher and his students at West Vancouver Secondary School. I will meet them in Managua on February 28, to gather the bags and personally take them to Santa Rosa, before I return home.

I am looking forward to going very much, not because I’m longing for some sun, since we are in the midst of full-on winter weather here in Houston, B.C. I love winter and all the sports associated with it, but because TASK’s projects have moved forward significantly this year, from the reports I have had from the community.

Last year, Bertha and I discussed the need for some restructuring of the projects and it appears that those changes, although somewhat difficult for some of the people working there, have made a significant difference to the productivity of the projects.

Here is a brief summary:

  • TASK’s projects include Education: preschool, school supplies, scholarships, children’s library, community development; Health: maternity clinic, health promotion, nutrition program, garden
  • All the projects were organized with committees

Education

  • Margeene, an education student receiving a scholarship from TASK, was chosen to run the preschool. They graduated 8 small students in November with great ceremony—caps and gowns, music and speeches. The Ministry of Education has accredited the little preschool after this second year of operation. They now will provide some assistance. I’m really looking forward to finding out more about this recognition, as I had no idea it was even a possibility.
  • School supplies were distributed to 258 students in 5 different schools
  • Scholarships were distributed to students who applied for help, although I don’t have the exact number yet. As a condition for receiving a scholarship, all the students were expected to volunteer in the various programs.
  • The library was moved into the education centre
  • Getting into the rural communities to organize development projects was very difficult this year with the torrential rains

Health

  • The maternity clinic has been reorganized with new staff. It is now working in close association with the Ministry of Health (MINSA) and their staff at the medical clinic in town. MINSA is now providing some help for the Casa Materna.
  • Ana Belkys, a nursing student (one of TASK’s scholarship recipients) has been taking care of the Casa Materna and is working as the Casa’s midwife. Glenda, a registered nurse (one of TASK’s former scholarship recipients) is in charge of the rural health promotion program.
  • Juana, one of the founding members of the Casa Materna, is responsible for everything in the storage room and for the inventory of the Casa Materna
  • The nutrition program provided one meal a day for 25 preschool children and pregnant/breastfeeding women. In addition, a new program was developed for families with children over preschool age who are experiencing nutritional deficiencies. Families, in close proximity, meet once a week to cook; sharing cooking utensils, firewood, water and food resources. They are also provided with nutritional education through the Casa’s nutrition program.
  • The garden has a coordinator and he planted a lot of fruits and vegetables. However, the rainy season was severe this year and spoiled a lot of what they attempted to grow. They resurrected the wire fence but really need a chain link fence to stop intruders from stealing the produce.

Other

  • TASK received a special grant in late 2009 for Arts and Culture, from Art for People in Rossland, B.C. The funds were used for training young girls in folkloric dance and dance costumes; other children and youth in painting, making piñatas, sewing and embroidery, and making crafts from recycled materials, that will be sold to support the Arts and Crafts program.

I can’t wait to see the changes in action. I think this year will prove to be the most productive year since I started working in the community. There are always challenges and this year, I see having enough money for the scholarship program is my BIGGEST CHALLENGE.  If anyone is interested in helping out a young person in Santa Rosa del Peñon to attain a post-secondary education so as to improve their life and that of their family, please go to the CONTACT TASK page, found in the column on the right, for more information.

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Who’s Helping TASK? High Road Services Society

Posted January 8, 2011 by carrollairey
Categories: TASK

In the spring of 2010, Cara (DeTeves) McCormick contacted me to discuss the idea of selling the Fair Trade products that TASK uses to raise funds. In 1998, Cara, at age 10 and in my Grade 5 class, initiated the Children Helping Children Club at Twain Sullivan School, in the wake of Hurricane Mitch, by stating, “We need to do something to help!” (see more info in “About TASK” page)

Cara, now a community support worker at High Road Services Society, works with a number of individuals in Houston. In May, Cara and three of the adults she supports, began setting up a table on Wednesday mornings in the local mall to sell Café Etico coffee, Cocoa Camino chocolate products, teas and various other items. Since they began in the spring, Cara along with Carla, Richard and Chad have sold more than $1300 worth of products. Twelve years after initiating this project “to help”, Cara, along with the individuals she works with, is continuing to be involved in this project. Many THANKS to Cara, Carla, Richard and Chad for all their hard work.

Cara (second l) helps (l to r) Carla, Richard and Chad sell Fair Trade products in the Houston Mall to support TASK's projects in Santa Rosa del Peñon, Nicaragua

Who’s Helping TASK? William Lyon MacKenzie Collegiate Institute

Posted January 7, 2011 by carrollairey
Categories: TASK

In May 2010, I received an email from Samantha Sinanan, a member of Librarians Without Borders, an organization at the University of British Columbia (LWB@UBC), to inform me that an Ontario high school was interested in helping TASK’s small library in Santa Rosa del Peñon, Nicaragua. They had a club called World At Large Humanitarian Club sponsored by teacher, Ms. Willa Lee. One of the students had contacted an Ontario Librarians Without Borders member, who had informed the club about LWB@UBC supporting TASK’s small children’s library. The high school club was interested in raising some funds to help TASK’s children’s library. I contacted Ms. Lee and she informed me that her students were busy fund raising by selling freezies to quench the thirst of the students at the school. In less than a month, at the end of June, the students raised $250 for TASK. They wished for their donation to be directed towards books or library services and infrastructure.

So, what to do with the money? My plan at this point is to use some or all of the money to train one or more interested person(s) to look after the books and to provide programming for the children of Santa Rosa del Peñon. In February 2011, I will consult with the local community to determine the best use of this donation. MANY THANKS to the students in the World At Large Humanitarian Club at William Lyon MacKenzie Collegiate Institute in North York, Ontario.

Who’s Helping TASK? Muheim Elementary School

Posted January 3, 2011 by carrollairey
Categories: TASK


Muheim Elementary School has been a supporter of TASK in the past, and teacher Mrs. Mary Brise, decided to introduce the students to the projects of TASK again. October 25, 2010, she invited me to visit a group of six Grade 6 students, who were interested in taking on a leadership role in the school. They listened intently to my presentation about TASK’s nutrition program for pre-school children (see Nutrition Program page) and decided it was something they would like to support. Before I left the classroom, the students were enthusiastically discussing all the ways they might be able to raise funds in their school. On December 7, 2010, I was invited to attend the Muheim morning assembly where I was presented with a cheque for $359.70 from the Grade 6 students, collected over the month of November by way of popcorn sales, a coin drive and a bake sale. TASK extends a huge THANK YOU to Mrs. Brise, the Grade 6 students and all those at Muheim Elementary School who donated to the project.

Carroll (l) gratefully accepts a donation for TASK from Mrs. Brise's Grade 6 students.

Who’s Helping TASK? Twain Sullivan Elementary School

Posted December 30, 2010 by carrollairey
Categories: TASK

Twain Sullivan Elementary School (TSES)…where I spent 25 of my 30-year career as a teacher-librarian. TSES…where my relationship with Santa Rosa del Peñon, Nicaragua began (see History in “About TASK” page).

There are still teachers, who I worked with during my career at the school, who are interested in social justice issues and are supporting this little organization that has its roots in their school. Their latest project to help TASK began in the 2009/10 school year. In meeting with the interested teachers, we decided that the students might make a connection to children in Nicaragua who are not able to go to school due to poverty.

Before I left for my February 2010 visit to Nicaragua, the staff invited me to come to the school and do a presentation for each of the classes, to inform the students about the problems children face in Santa Rosa del Peñon. That week, the school began a coin drive in each classroom where the students collected pennies and other coins that would help provide school supplies for the neediest children in Santa Rosa. When I returned, I visited each of the classes again to update the students on the situation for the Nicaraguan children. In the municipality of Santa Rosa del Peñon, at the beginning of the school year in February 2010, 30% of the children were not enrolled in school due to extreme poverty. The TSES students were shocked by this information and ramped up their fund raising. I was invited to the year-end assembly where the students proudly presented me with a symbolic cheque for $916.29. They vowed to continue their efforts in September on their return to school.

 

Children from the Grade 4 class display the symbolic cheque that represented the fund raising efforts of TSES at the end of June 2010, for the children of Santa Rosa del Peñon, Nicaragua

At the 2010 Christmas concert, the school’s renowned music group, The Twain Band & Choir, directed by teacher Dave Conway, was selling CDs of their latest hit: You Can’t Always Get What You Want, of which half the proceeds will be donated to the TASK school supplies project. I will be taking the school’s donation, for school supplies for the children of Santa Rosa del Peñon, to the community next visit in February 2011.

Who’s Helping TASK? Librarians Without Borders at the University of British Columbia

Posted December 28, 2010 by carrollairey
Categories: TASK

On my return from Nicaragua in early March 2010, I made arrangements to meet Samantha Sinanan, a member of Librarians Without Borders, an organization at the University of British Columbia (LWB@UBC). Samantha had initiated the relationship between TASK and LWB@UBC and was instrumental in beginning some fundraising for TASK’s children’s library project. In February 2009, I had been invited by LWB@UBC to speak to their members about the development of the children’s library in Santa Rosa del Peñon. My presentation sparked their interest in my grassroots project. The students raised funds through activities such as selling Café Etico coffee, bake sales and the sale of greeting cards. At that meeting in March, Samantha presented me with an envelope containing $357.65. They continued their fundraising efforts to the end of the year and were able to send a cheque for another $110.

Samantha (l) presenting Carroll (r) with the Librarians Without Borders@UBC donation for the children of Santa Rosa del Peñon, Nicaragua.

How to use the money wisely? That is always my mission. In the past, I have visited Kidsbooks, a fabulous children’s bookstore in Vancouver, and a number of times have emptied their one shelf of Spanish books. In addition, a teacher friend in California has sent me the Spanish edition of Scholastic book orders, from which I ordered books and she delivered them to me when she came to visit. Through these means, I have been able to provide about 300 books for the little children’s library in Santa Rosa del Peñon. However, most of books I’ve managed to procure, are translations of North American children’s books and do not represent or reflect the life and experiences of Latin American children.

In February 2010, we stopped in Granada for a couple of days. By coincidence, we happened to be there during the annual poets’ festival. Wandering about the central square, I noticed a booth with a lot of children interacting with books. Immediately, my curiosity drew me to the booth and there I discovered the jackpot!!! Libros Para Niños…a private organization, promoting reading and books for children, in Nicaragua, with their central office in Jinotepe. They provide services for non-governmental organizations that work to promote books and reading for the enjoyment of children. In addition, they support local authors and provide training for those interested in learning about library programming for children. My understanding it that they will match any purchase one makes. So the answer to my question, “How to use the money wisely?”,  may be with Libros para Niños. In February 2011, I plan to visit the organization in Jinotepe before heading to Santa Rosa. I hope to spend $300 of the LWB@UBC‘s donation on books, which should materialize into $600, if I have understood the terms of the program correctly. What a windfall for the children of Santa Rosa del Peñon. I can’t wait to go shopping!! My idea for the remaining $167 is to organize a proper bookshelf for all the books and have cushions made for the children to sit on while they listen to stories. However, my final decision will be made following consultation with the community. Another of my objectives for the upcoming trip is to work with interested youth to teach them how to handle the books and read to the children. I can hardly wait to get started!!

Charity, Computers and Curses

Posted December 19, 2010 by carrollairey
Categories: TASK

My goal for 2010 was to apply for Canadian charity status for TASK. With a group of local interested people, we began investigating the process in the fall of 2009. During my trip to Santa Rosa del Peñon in February 2010, I spent many hours working with Doña Bertha and other members of CENMIN developing the goals, objectives and activities of each of the projects TASK supports.

Carroll (second right) meeting (l to r) with Lilliam, midwife at the Casa Materna, Maria, manager of the Nutrition Program and Bertha, TASK's contact person in Santa Rosa. The conversation is translated with the help of Tania Gutierrez (r).

In the past, I’ve always carried a pen and notebook to record all the details of my trip. Since there was so much writing to do, I purchased a small PC Netbook, which I thought would make recording of all the information much easier. Little did I know that my petite laptop would get REALLY cranky in the extreme heat (high 30s C) and misbehave VERY frequently!! I had an external mouse but decided to leave it home…just another thing to lose along the way. However, I was unaware of the extreme frustration a mouse pad can inflict on a person in a hot, humid place. Constantly sweaty fingers DON’T slide smoothly over the mouse pad!! The curser refused to move, would jump all over the screen, and almost always dug its little heels in when I tried to position it in any specific location. In addition, the screen would frequently shudder and do a little dance, the curser would disappear and curse words welled up in my head, sometimes escaping into the room! I work on a wonderful MacBook at home, and found the updated Word for Windows equally frustrating. So my bright idea to use a computer, instead of handwriting everything and bringing it all back to retype, created a lot of stress for me. I don’t get frustrated easily, but that trip, I took many deep breaths to calm myself and learned that if one gets up at 3 AM when the temperature has cooled to about 27 C, my little Netbook behaved most acceptably until about 9 AM, when the temperature starts to rise for another day.

Working at 4 AM, on the bed, a surface in the house where I stay, that is a comfortable height for typing.