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Registered Charity No. 1028085 Supporting educational initiatives and projects in Nicaragua www.santarosafund.


November / December 2013


A few of the Santa Rosa Funds former volunteers who were present at the event on Friday 25th October. From left to right: Amy Haworth Johns, Doug Specht, Rick Blower, James Watson, Rosie Mayston (Report inside)

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On the evening of Friday 25th October the Santa Rosa Fund took over Tavistock Town Hall to hold an information and volunteering event for supporters and potential volunteers. It turned out to be a novel and interesting way to report back to the SRFs supporters on the many projects assisted by the Fund, and we are extremely grateful to all the former volunteers who turned up to share their experiences with other supporters:

Rosie Mayston, (2004) James Watson (2007) Doug Specht (2007) Alistair Williams (2007)

Rick Blower (2007) Amy Haworth Johns (2010) Jason Searing (2011/12)

Jason, shown below, spent many months in Nicaragua and Honduras during which he worked on a number of environmental projects, especially a sea turtle conservation project in north-west Nicaragua ( He also had time to visit The Little Cob in Matagalpa and a number of the projects supported by the Santa Rosa Fund in and around the town of El Viejo. He is now trying to establish here in the UK a support project for an organisation in the city of Len which attempts to treat and rehabilitate drug and alcohol addicts in the city. Rick Blower, Doug Specht, James Watson and Alistair Williams were the first of the Funds computer training volunteers in 2007, helping staff at the Santa Rosa School in Managua to learn how to use the computers which had been provided by the British embassy in Costa Rica. This work was later continued by Sue and Ken Martin (in 2009) and by Amy Haworth Johns and Rachael Wright (in 2010). The Fund is still keen to place more volunteers at the school to continue this necessary work of training staff and pupils at the Santa Rosa School. Potential volunteers should contact the Santa Rosa Fund see contact details on the back page of this newsletter. The event was also notable for the food offered to all who attended. Many volunteer helpers under the direction of Pat Blower in the town hall kitchens prepared Mexican bean burritos in tortillas with salads and salsa. Coffee, tea and donated cakes were available and the town hall bar was open. We are ever so grateful to all those who helped on the night and to the town hall staff who were very obliging and helpful. Although the event was always intended as an Andrew Watson (left) keeping kitchen helpers Martin, information evening rather than a fund-raising Lorna and Frances Legg amused, with Pat Blower in opportunity, through the generosity of those who the centre. attended and some who werent able to attend, we raised 397 : 80, which after costs represents a profit of over 250 to be returned to SRF funds for further support for our Nicaraguan partner organisations and projects. Jack Quinn, a student at Swansea University, attended the evening and said, Thanks again for the Santa Rosa event enjoyed it very much. I thought the speakers were great and the food was very good.

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In part of August and September this year, SRF membership secretary Martin Mowforth happened to be on fieldwork in Belize with students from the University of Plymouth. After the fieldwork programme finished, he took the opportunity of being in Central America to pop over to Nicaragua to pay very brief visits to several of the Funds partner organisations and projects. The following page gives extracts from his reports back to the SRF trustees. The Berriz Sisters, Centro Catequstico, El Viejo I had lunch with the nuns (4 of them) and four of their volunteers (all from Mexico). Sister Abdontxu and Sister Ruth (from the Philippines) were the only ones I had met before. Sister Teri from Mexico and Sister Chela (nickname) from the Philippines were new. The Mexican volunteers put me through an extended Mexican Inquisition which covered the SRF, economic globalisation, the use of pesticides, having children, emigration, US intervention in Syria and the US war machine, the principles that an atheist can share with them as religious people, amongst others. They were particularly concerned about the situation of families affected by emigration an interesting counter-balance to the particular concern of immigration in the UK. They are no longer just concerned about the lack of fathers in the upbringing of children, but are now particularly concerned about the number of mothers who are emigrating because of the lack of economic opportunities available in this region. At best, this leaves the children to be brought up by grandparents; at worst, there is simply nobody to guide the upbringing. And all of them (the nuns) were genuinely gravely concerned about this situation.
Standing, from left to right: Sister Chela Prez, Elsa (volunteer), Sister Ruth, Gloria (volunteer), Mercedes (volunteer). Seated (L. to R.) Sister Teri, Sister Abdontxu, Ana Mara (volunteer).

El Viejo Youth Centre / Centro Recreativo (CR) Sister Abdontxu took me over to the CR to meet Elizer and Ftima, the two people who have taken over from William both at a half time rate, and whose salary is paid for by some of the annual donations which the SRF makes to the nuns. We had to run the gauntlet of a street full of banana plantation workers all queueing for their weekly pay, their line covering the entrance to the CR and winding all round the place. Fatima and Elizer were great. Its the first time Ive met either of them, but after seeing and talking with them, I have no doubt that they are really good as joint coordinators of the centre. Of course they also rely quite heavily on local volunteers.

Sister Abdontxu with Ftima and Elizer

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Other projects in the Cosigina Peninsula The pre-school and the library at the primary school in Villa Espana, which have been helped by SRF funds in the past, have a new director who is not keen to work with anyone but the government. The Berriz Sisters respect that decision even if they dont fully understand it, and so they have shifted their attention and funds to the Colonia Narciso Zepeda which has major problems. This colonia (or estate) houses the school which the SRF helped a few years ago in their purchase of the corrugated iron for a new roof for two of their classrooms, the Escuela Santa Maria de la Merced. The sisters obviously think highly of the headteacher there, and are keen to continue support for the school in a variety of ways. They will use some of the SRF funds for this support. The Santa Rosa School, Managua I made a brief visit to the school on Thursday morning before going up to El Viejo. Classes were in full flow, but the major activity taking place was preparation for the processions to commemorate the Battle of San Jacinto see photo. The school, of course, was heavily involved in these processions and all preparations were being master-minded by Modesto. Following that, they had to take part in the national processions for Independence Day. Headteacher Maria Elizabeth showed me the computer situation. Four out of the five are working well, so maybe we could consider providing a new one? Also, they'd like another dongle to extend their internet connection $30 (USD) per annum plus rental. There is a new librarian, Xavier Rivera, and I didn't find out what had happened to the previous librarian, Marta Elena Gadea, although I suspect that she has retired on health grounds because of awful throat and voice problems. Librarian Luz Marina Rosales was keen to show me their record book of loans which was very full and very impressive see photo. The library has also recently been flooded because of really heavy rains. Books and other materials were not affected, but many of the plastic chairs were in a sorry state. They said that they couldn't expect anything else from MINED as MINED had just replaced some of the corrugated iron sheets on the roof of the library and wouldn't do anything else just yet.


Just as this newsletter was in preparation, the SRF heard from Dominique Olney who runs The Little Cob Library in the city of Matagalpa. So often we hear news of damage, degradation or disaster from Nicaragua; so its great to hear good news of a project supported by the SRF. We have included here a few short extracts from Dominiques report, along with a few photos of The Little Cob, which acts a little like an after-school school. There are several areas in Little Cob that I am eager to develop but that at the moment are dormant or semi dormant for lack of funding, materials and volunteers. I would like to

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offer structured tuition in crafts such as jewellery and recycled paper / plastic to the youngsters who have attended workshops for several years and would be capable of moving towards selling their products. Sewing is also high on the list (we have some old sewing machines). It would be a great help for the Littlecobblers if we could build a roof over the terrace below Little Cob at the moment the space in which they work and play is very cramped. This would mean that the space inside Little Cob could be dedicated to reading books and doing homework. Ideally we would like to have a strong lockable cupboard to house the craft materials within the covered space. Having a rustic tiled floor would be a dream! We need shelves and cupboards built on the premises that provide (mouse free) storage. We can always do with volunteers who would enjoy exchanging techniques. The cob walls of Little Cob have never been given the finishing cob coat which will make it smooth, beautiful and more weather resistant. This is a job for a small team of mudslushing volunteers! Volunteers could also help the children finish the small shed we started to make with plastic bottles. Then well have a great place to store all our recycling materials! Any games, books (mainly Spanish or if in English, with diagrams and pictures) of all sorts, and art materials donated always generate joy!

A Lending Library
Help in any of these areas would be of great value to us, but if sufficient funding was offered to Little Cob, the area my present volunteers and myself would unanimously give priority to, is the setting up of a proper lending library. We have been thinking of the logistics of creating a library providing books we could lend both for pleasure and for study mainly for primary and secondary school pupils. We already have some story and reference books that the children use on the premises, but would love for the littlecobblers to have a more comprehensive range of texts. In Nicaragua, 40% of pupils give up attending secondary school mainly because they cant survive without the text books. The parents of many of our children earn between 2 and 5 dollars a day, when they have work. The cheapest text book costs $10. Most of the children in areas as poor as the slum around Little Cob therefore have no books to work from. In order to set up the lending library efficiently, we would need to find funds for text books as a priority, but would love to also have a range of story books to encourage the love of reading. We would need to have two part time university students who would receive a grant to help pay for their studies against working at Little Cob as librarians, both to help set up the logistics of the projects as well as running the library, dealing with the loans and helping with homework and educational activities. Having extra books would require us to have new cupboards built to ensure they do not get damaged. The lending library would become the main focus of Little cob, although it would by no means result in the ceasing of the craft and art workshop that are provided by the volunteers that come to help. ...... We have four computers and being able to provide internet 3 days a week for the older children who need to do research would be extremely valuable and could be provided at a reasonable cost. Thank you again for your interest! Dominique

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Kit Lambert from Bristol is studying Hispanic and Latin American studies at the University of Liverpool. His course allows him to spend the third year abroad, so he is currently working in Nicaragua with two NGOs whilst also carrying out research for a dissertation. Some of his work is in Montessori schools in Puerto Morazn, a port in the north-west of Nicaragua which is twinned with Bristol. [BLINC is the Bristol Link With Nicaragua.] [Montessori education, developed by Italian Mara Montessori, emphasises independence, freedom within limits and respect for a childs natural, psychological, physical and social development.]

Link between Montessori and BLINC While primary and secondary education in Nicaragua are free and compulsory, pre-school teachers do not receive a salary from the government and parents take on the responsibility of managing the schools. BLINC and Friends of Morazn provide financial support for seven Montessori Schools in the Puerto Morazn municipality, using money donated to them to pay teachers salaries and provide materials for the children to work with. An adapted version of a Comparative Report Between Children Who Attended a Montessori PreSchool and Those Who Did Not Differences mentioned by 1st/2nd/3rd grade teachers: The main difference expressed was the childrens literacy skills. The majority of children attending Montessori schools can read and write to a much higher level than the other children. The other major difference mentioned was that those pupils who attended Montessori are a lot more confident in tackling problems that they have never encountered before whilst also simply seeming more self-assured in everyday life. Children who went to pre-school can retain information given to them in class better than those who did not attend any pre-school at all. Montessori is a very positive thing; it helps the children, and their general development and also helps the teachers in primary schools. The children who went to a Montessori school crave more knowledge. 15 Children from 1st/2nd/3rd grade who had previously attended a Montessori pre-school When tested, all of the pupils in these groups could: write their full names / identify all colours (except two who said grey was black) / could all count to at least 100 / read any word which I put before them (although I used a Montessori material to test this so these children may have had an unfair advantage) When asked about the manner one should work in class, the pupils gave the following responses: Quietly / in order / happily / slowly / work hard on the things you dont know / share with others. 14 Children from 1st/2nd/3rd grade who did not attend a Montessori pre-school Before starting primary school, children from this group either attended non-Montessori pre-school or did not SRF News No. 42, Nov/Dec 2013, page 6

receive any kind of education. When tested: only five knew how to write their first names / three knew how to spell their first and last name but not their middle names / two could not write at all / four wrote their full names without trouble one child could count to 10 / two to 20 / six to 100 / five to 100+ children could recognise all colours apart from nine who said grey was black and two said purple was pink When asked about the manner one should work in class, the children gave the following responses: Well / in silence / reading and writing lots. Closing remarks From my non-expert point of view, I could notice major differences between the two groups. All of the children who attended Montessori appeared to have higher cognitive function than those who did not, performing better on every task presented to them (reading, writing, counting and recognising colours). From this very small sample of children, I feel that Montessori education has been hugely beneficial to the childrens development and performance in school. Furthermore, it did not appear to have any detrimental side-effects such as a lack of drive once the children reached primary school. All the teachers were fully behind it and any child who was educated in a Montessori pre-school spoke fondly of it. Kit Lambert


Following our report of a school journey to Nicaragua in SRF NEWS No. 40, we received a number of comments about the nature of the volunteering opportunities on offer through the Santa Rosa Fund. Whilst in no way disparaging the value of the volunteering journeys made by school groups or the value of the experience for those who take part in them, we are prompted to make the following comment about the volunteering opportunities offered by the Santa Rosa Fund and its Nicaraguan partner organisations. Those who consult the SRF website volunteering page will be aware that the volunteering opportunities arranged by the SRF require a commitment on the part of the volunteer of at least one month and normally longer. In fact, after our first computer training volunteers worked at the Santa Rosa School in 2007 and after discussions with members of staff at the school, everyone involved in the exercise agreed that future volunteers for computer training at the school should spend at least two months there. (It is only after a month that a volunteer gets to know the situation and personalities well enough to start making a difference through their work.) The essential point behind this requirement of a firm and longstanding commitment to be made by the volunteer is that such volunteer opportunities are meant to be a two-way experience, not just of value to the volunteer, but of genuine value to the recipient school or establishment or community which hosts the volunteer. The Santa Rosa Fund is not in the business of supporting relatively wealthy UK citizens in their quest for rich experiences in the Third World. Rather, we are in the business of supporting educational initiatives that will help relatively poor people lift themselves out of poverty. The principal beneficiaries of the volunteer opportunities offered through the Santa Rosa Fund and its partners in Nicaragua are the Nicaraguans. SRF News No. 42, Nov/Dec 2013, page 7


In March this year, the Nicaraguan government made its second disbursement of products for the school lunch programme to 10,000 schools in all 153 municipalities in the country. The programme covered 100% of pre-school children in community, public and subsidised schools and public and subsidised primary schools 1.1 million boys and girls from 3 to 12 years of age. Supplies for the school lunch programme amounted to almost 200 million pounds of food, including beans, corn, fortified cereal, vegetable oil and wheat flour. It is a component of the poverty eradication programme. The photo shows headteacher Mara Elizabeth with the school lunch provisions in the Santa Rosa School in Managua.

New Gift Aid Form - enclosed

You may have noticed that we have changed the format of our gift aid form. This is because we have to enter more information when we fill in our gift aid claim form for HM Revenue & Customs. As from this year where possible all claims must be made online which should mean that the claims are processed more quickly. Now, however, we have to give your title, first name, surname, the first line of your address and your post code. We have just finished a claim and we were able to find these details for nearly all of our supporters who have signed a Gift Aid form in the past. So there is no need

for supporters who have ever filled in one of our subscription / Gift Aid / standing order forms to send in a new form.
For new supporters, however, we would be really grateful if you could make these details as clear as possible on the form by writing in capital letters, and there must only be one name on the claim form as we are no longer able to make claims under joint names. Additionally, to all our supporters, we would be grateful if in future you could let us know if you change your name or address or no longer pay enough tax to allow us to claim Gift Aid on your donation. Gift Aided donations give a great boost to our income as it means that we can reclaim an extra 25p on every 1 you donate; so thanks to all of you who are able to support us in this way. Pat Mayston, Santa Rosa Fund Treasurer.


Chair: Pete Mayston, Rose Cottage, Tuckermarsh, Bere Alston, Yelverton, Devon PL20 7HB Tel. 01822 840297 Email: Secretary: Jacky Rushall, Culliford House, The Down, Bere Alston, Yelverton, Devon PL20 7HG Tel. 01822 841676 Treasurer: Pat Mayston as for Pete (above) Twinning links representative: Rick Blower, Cloberry Cottage, Brentor, Tavistock, Devon PL19 0NG Tel. 01822 810600 Email: Membership secretary: Martin Mowforth, 51 West St., Tavistock, Devon PL19 8JZ Tel. 01822 617504 Email:

PRINTED ON RECYCLED PAPER SRF News No. 42, Nov/Dec 2013, page 8