Growing pains

Growing pains

First day in El Sauce, we rode up the mountain to Las Minitas and past to Cerro Colorado, for a meeting of the Fuente de Pino basket-making cooperative.

These are the women who make the baskets out of pine needles that fall near their homes; simple yet intricate functional art with no environmental impact and no cost except time and thread.

Feliciana is going to be away for some time (she’s wearing blue and stripes), so the women needed to elect a stand-in vice president to lead the group.

They are learning to run the co-op by themselves, and this meeting was a three-month workshop of looking at the income and costs of the effort.

People were pretty hesitant to step up, but in the end, Yarmilda was elected.


And in this space ..

And in this space ..

This is the existing preschool-kindergarten that The Friends Project is helping the farmers replace with a one-room shoolhouse with a few windows, blackboard and supplies!

Work starts Monday and I’ve brought the mascot for the kids to name when they get to know him.

A heavy load

A heavy load

Our gravel started its life today halfway up to Las Minitas, filling the truck to the brim.

Popped a tire from a rock somehwere between Buena Vista and Las Minitas, and that plan was kaputt.

Franklin, Juan and the others had to drive it back down the mountain, after changing the tire … with the gravel in it.

We’ll do it all over again Monday. It’s now living in a garden a few blocks from here so the truck doesn’t sit there all weekend with what, a ton of weight? I’ll ride in the back with it and the mason Monday morning.

We’ll post the rope over the footprint, and start to dig some holes.

Holy 100 degree heat Batman.

We did it!


The final total is in and WE raised more than $5,500 to help the families in Las Minitas, Nicaragua, build the FIRST preschool-kindergarten in their community, for 20 kids now and generations to come.

Our bare bones was $4,000.
Two fundraisers, a lot of well wishes and supporters and belief in the power of everyday people to make a huge difference, and we will build this sucker!

When I hit Nicaragua tomorrow, we, my friends, will have enough to add a window for some light, and purchase educational materials .. and some benches/desks.

Really amazing.
If I wasn’t so excited, I’d be weeping for joy!

It’s a partnership. Gustavo and the guys will be building this with the mason, and me.

starting right about ….. NOW!Image

Wanted: these people

Today’s quote of the day comes from me,  actually,  as I tried to explain to my police officer friend that I am going on this trip and while I am on it I am going to find people who are making a difference in their villages all over the world and you know, like
“someone who resuscitates TWO people and brings them back to life but doesn’t tell anyone he did it. A photo of that guy and a little write up. Because not telling anyone you saved people makes it even cooler.”

He laughed.
My friend is that guy who revived two people. A fine example.
I’m glad I get to know that guy.

A new view.

Wish you could see the new school through the kiddies’ eyes when they run up to it and walk in for the first time?
Let’s do it.
I just personally invested in a GoPro because … they are awesome.

Love kitty cams? Me too.
Bob Krzaczek is building a special Kris cam so you can follow my travels to Nicaragua and building the school and beyond… we’ve already taken a few test photos!!

Delivering school supplies

Iquitos, Peru, Amazon, 2006:
The Friends Project is launched in the Amazon of Peru, when I volunteered with Earthwatch Institute scientists.
I spent some time in Iquitos, the port city, and its poorest neighborhood, Belen.
I stopped into a school, and asked the elementary teacher what they needed most, that could actually be fulfilled. Notebooks, pens, the basics.
That was the answer.
So here we are enroute with the basics to outfit 90 schoolkids for several months. $90.
Small but a lot to kids who arrive without anything to write with or paper to write down what they want to remember as they learn.

Now that’s homegrown

Now that's homegrown

One morning on my last visit, I went out with Bernardo and his sons as they picked ripe, deep-red coffee beans from their trees, as they prepared to dry them in the sun and then de-husk them.
I had never seen the process before in its entirety; it’s SO far from factory coffee it still seems a bit shocking.
They run it through a press that looks like its from the industrial revolution, all hand cranked, no motors, and wash it as the beans fall through. They use a plastic bucket with water they’ve collected.
They then lay out the beans in what looks like garden beds, and dry it with the hot Nicaraguan sun.
When it’s time to roast, they have a man-sized mortar and pestle and de-husk it.
For their families, they toast it in a pan over their open cooking fire.
For more, they use the barrel/earth oven that The Friends Project helped them build.

Transforming it from toasted aromatic bean to delicious coffee is another post, so stay tuned — and for a recipe to make your own, “cowboy style.”

Spoiler: Lots of sugar!

**Javier Rocha is our teacher for the English class for farmers and their families in Las Minitas (also known as Ocotal) where we are building the preschool and have assisted cooperative members with projects for training, equipment and other resources to be more self-sufficient and grow their ideas and businesses.

He’s writing frequent diary entries for us from the field so we are part of this Sunday mountain classes! Enjoy. **


English class in Ocotal is going well, students look enthusiastic about learning English, and most of them are doing a good job. Some students have faced some difficulties to stay at the class, because they have to work in their farms.

There are 14 students in the class, Most of the students have already presented to the whole class about their families, their favorite sport, their pets etc. Nelvin, who is the youngest from the class, always comes up with new vocabulary that he gets from some English books that he owns, and it is nice to see him presenting because he is very talkative and very intelligent.

I really enjoy the time when l am teaching in Ocotal, l like the community so much and l am very proud of my students because as l told you they are doing a good job.

Sean, the Enlace intern, and l have been working in the English book for the class in Ocotal, we are almost done, we sent it to kellan and Yacarely to check it and probably next week we are going to print it out and give it to the students.

This month the students from the English class in El Sauce who won the competition by acting the skits in the Christmas party that we had last December, are going to Ocotal to spend one day over there as a prize that we are giving to them, so probably my students from Ocotal are going to meet them up there and to do some activities to practice their English and interact with students from El sauce.

                                                                                                                                                       — Javier Rocha