La Mariposa News – more upbeat – come on down!


Welcome to La Mariposa

La Mariposa has students and reservations – We have been busy with students at the Mariposa Spanish School and Eco Hotel. First a family of 5, including Cheyanne, 3 years old, stayed with us for 6 weeks over Xmas – they helped us release 30 iguana back into the wild. It was very hard to see them go as they had become part of the Mariposa but the same day a group from the USA arrived to stay in the hotel, take classes and do trips. This group included another family with a child of 8, she enjoyed her one on one teachers, the cooking class and of course our animal life.

It seems from talking to members of the group that people feel safer coming here with an organised group than travelling alone.  This one was co-led by Brian Peterson, an old friend of La Mariposa and of course our wonderful staff were on hand to arrange anything from a special outing to a room change. The success we had with this group made me think we should do it again! Also worth remembering that La Mariposa has many years of experience working with groups of university and high school students at the Study Center which is available and much cheaper than the hotel…….SO if any of you are in a position to recruit a group, of any age group, let us know. Or indeed if you know anybody who might be interested. The work on your side really involves mostly the publicity – we can do the rest and as we employ excellent tour guides you are welcome to be a group member rather than leader once here. I attach the flier we used for this trip…..If you can bring 6 or more, we will offer a special price and YOU get a free place!

2019 Nicaraguan Adventure Brochure (1)2019 Nicaraguan Adventure Brochure pg. 2 (1)

We are now offering our FULL program of afternoon/weekend activities from live volcano, beach & colonial city to horseriding & salsa classes! As well as one on one Spanish with trained and experienced teachers, accomodation in delightful natural settings and great, mostly vegetarian, food. You can volunteer…below Mark leads a horse on our equino therapy project for disabled children. We very much welcome families with children of any age – they also have one on one classes or activity sessions with specially trained teachers. 

We do currently have a scattering of reservations throughout the year and it does seem as if international tourism is beginning to make a slight but noticeable recovery. It is important to stress that Nicaragua is SAFE for tourists and, in spite of the deteriorating economic situation here for many people, ordinary crime has NOT risen. And please note that the UK, USA and Canadian governments are still advising caution but not against travel here.

Read and pass on our reviews from December 2018 and this year.

La Mariposas SKYPE class initiative has also been going well and kept several of our excellent teachers employed. At $12 per hour they are great value. Contact us on for details.

News from Asocacion Tierra and the projects – ALL of our projects are up and running,and we still have 60 employees, though clearly we have cut back on outgoings in general and most are on half time. Chispa de Vida, the equino therapy, the hydro therapy, the community based children’s reading and play centers, the English class project in Panama are all still going strong. We are maintaining the nature reserves and are planning a lot more reforestation in the coming year. The crisis has also had the positive result in pushing us to grow more of our own food – so we now produce more of our own organic coffee, beans, fruit, eggs as well as veggies. We had a huge harvest of mandarins this year.

You will probably all think us crazy – opening a new community based childrens project when we have no money. Two reasons – the need is obvious, around 100 kids and their parents turned up for the opening.
Second, this is in a barrio commonly referred to as El Chirigete which is highly offensive and means ‘dirty’ – it is the barrio everyone else blames for thefts or when anything goes wrong! Ignored in general by the authorites (except the police), the people of San Pedro were very involved in the opposition to the government and the building of roadblocks. Most of the young men fled from this barrio during ‘Operation Clean Up’ and are now in Costa Rica.
So the idea of this project was to contribute to the process of reconciliation – I have been invited 3 times to join the local Council of Reconciliation and have always accepted the invitation with great enthusiasm. But as far as I know, it has never actually met so we decided to go ahead and do our bit anyway.
It seems to have worked – you can see how many kids showed up! A message of hope and a future for the kids of this community.
If you would like to contribute, please donate via


Although we have cut back on sterilization clinics, we are still helping animals. A  magnificent two toed sloth arrived at the gate. We normally resist the purchase of wild animals for obvious reasons but sometimes the need of the individual animal takes over. They are in danger of extinction and now rarely seen around here. Our vet Sergio happened to be around and he pronounced her very healthy so she was taken to join our male (as luck would have it) at the Canada Honda nature reserve.
We have also taken in a few abandoned puppies and kittens- below they are being bathed and deflead by Sergio.

We have also undertaken a number of environmental projects including regular street cleaning with the Ministry of Health and building ‘pozos’ in backyards to clean soapy water….we are trying to persuade local people to join us!

Lots of people – students, staff, interns – have helped us enormously to stay alive and keep some employment and hope alive in our community. Too many to thank everyone individually – below is Michelle doing a fundraiser for us.


Wish us all luck and if you would like to help us help the environment and people of our community, especially the children, and our animals then please contribute on THANK YOU!


NICARAGUA & MARIPOSA UPDATE -Sad and Worried for the future

I imagine most of you are enjoying holiday festivities, however you spend them! Please take a moment out to read this and reflect on whether you can help us just a little bit more at this time of giving.

Small one

As most of you know, Xmas this year in Nicaragua will be a sad occasion for many people, including us. Yesterday I had a meeting with over 50 of the Mariposa staff – a meeting which broke my heart as it was called to inform people that roughly 50% will lose their jobs after the 15th January. Some will try their luck in Costa Rica (not easy as there are already over 30,000 Nicaraguans there desperate for work), some will survive on casual work around here – we will help wherever we can – and some will depend on other family members. Those who stay with us will suffer yet more pay cuts (already on half pay and half time). Some of the projects will close, others will have their hours reduced again. Thanks to special donations the Xmas party for the disabled children and their families will go ahead though less extravagant than in previous years! The community animal projects will be suspended, hopefully temporarily.

We will maintain the basics at La Mariposa (a skeleton staff, the essential buildings etc ) so we can always respond immediately to requests for accommodation, classes, activities. Luckily all of our workers live locally so can easily return to work for a day or a week, whatever we can offer.

It seems doubtful that the kind of tourism we attract will recover soon. As with life generally in Nicaragua the situation is bizarre, unreal. We have just a handful of visitors over the Xmas/New Year period (and they are mostly friends of La Mariposa and have been before) and we are hugely grateful for their support – emotionally, morally and financially. But it is not enough to keep us going, sadly.

Mariposa group

In total contrast, in Leon last week there were enormous groups of people…..from cruises docked in Corinto. We are talking 5000 from just one ship, but they pass through in a day and so do not help restaurants and hotels. Much less Spanish schools and eco hotels! The number of cruise ships is certainly increasing rapidly…. their operators either have some kind of special deal with the government or they have no idea what is happening here. Or both. It is extraordinary to see bunches of retired folk on the roof of the cathedral and in the Museum of Modern Art when we can hardly persuade anyone to come. Ah well…..

Cruise ships

And why aren’t these groups concerned about ‘safety concerns’ which is always the reason given when I enquire why not come to Nicaragua? For tourists it is perfectly safe, and has been throughout the months of the crisis. As I say, bizarre in the extreme.

On one level life is, as the government never tires of repeating, back to ‘normal’. There are no obstacles to moving around now and the better off Nicaraguans can be seen in their multitudes enjoying holiday breaks at the beach or the Laguna de Apoyo. But life is, in many ways, a show – it is all about appearances. Government supporters can march, wave flags, hold parties, fill up the bars in the evenings. There are massive road building programs going ahead….. the presidential couple recently opened, with great pomp, a fly over in Managua which will cut minutes off a journey to Leon. Meanwhile schools, less showy, are falling to pieces and health budgets are being cut. The road between Jinotepe and Nandaime is being expanded to 4 lanes – thousands of mature trees have been felled – this might make sense if the road actually carried heavy traffic which it doesn’t. Nicaragua already has the best roads in Central America….why continue with these projects when there is so much else that requires attention? Because it is a show…..

road building

Then there are the show trials. I cannot bear to follow them in detail – but catch headlines such as the prosecution asking for 30 years for Masaya teacher for the usual list of crimes including torture and kidnapping. Two sisters sentenced to 20 years each in maximum security. And on and on. There seem to me to be far more people on trial than crimes actually committed. And if one agrees that those accused of real crimes should be brought to justice then what, WHAT about the paramilitaries who terrorised communities and committed crimes at will. Not one has even been investigated.

In the 13 years I have been here, life has improved for many Nicaraguans but is still phenomenally difficult for many. Life is not cheap here and gets more expensive by the minute….20 cords for 3 small tomatoes ( average wage C1200 per week), bus fares rising constantly. This is in the context of general economic collapse – not just tourism but commerce, construction are all in free fall. What is cheap here is labour and the zona francas (sweatshops) are taking full advantage of people’s desperation – the only area of the economy to be expanding. Xmas will be sad time for many. Even Guillermina knows she will not get any presents this year.

On the personal level, it is hard watching the Mariposa fall apart, watching Nicaragua fall apart. I often wake up crying, get lots of headaches and nausea and, though it does not seem possible, each day the news is worse than the day before. The Ortega/Murillo government never seems to run out of new ideas for repression – right now it is journalists and NGOs who are getting it in the neck.

On the up side – Guillermina is coping remarkably well, and in general is being very helpful wherever she can. I love my little house, my garden, my animals, my glass of wine and the company of both resident and visiting friends. My admin team have been magnificent – Ismael, Rosa, Josimar, Felix, Donal, Melba and many of the workers are incredibly supportive. I also have a great intern right now, Jaime who spent forever applying for a grant to the Dog Trust (we will know in January). I do still spend some money on trying to keep our small piece of the natural world alive whilst the rest is destroyed before our very eyes. Thanks to a special donation we will release iguana on Xmas day – I cannot think of anything I would rather do!. We still feed wild birds, plant rare trees and flowers for bees and butterflies though their numbers are vastly reduced this year (I blame pesticides and anti-mosquito fumigations mainly).

Birds and bananas!

Just a final note on our dogs, cats and horses. Ismael did a great deal for us and we have food for them stored until the end of January. We have applied for a grant to see us through 6 months – if we don’t get that we do have a backup plan of euthanizing. It sounds horrible maybe but there may be no option. If my heart isn’t broken already it sure as hell will be at that point.

Dog food

So of course I need to ask for help yet again. I so wish we could return to earning our living which we have proudly done for nearly 13 years but I see no way at present.


We are so grateful for all of the donations we have received – particularly helpful are ongoing regular amounts as this helps me plan ahead a bit! You can donate on from the USA or with in the UK.

Also we earn approx. $2000 per month from SKYPE classes which have proved to be very helpful indeed.

Could you help by distributing our flier (if so contact me or taking classes yourself – improving your Spanish as a New Years Resolution!!

And please note we are introducing half hour conversations on WhatsApp, more flexible than skype and especially useful for intermediate/advanced levels – contact us if interested.



Although visitors have yet to return to NIcaragua in large numbers, many tourist hotspots, including the Masaya Volcano, Laguna de Apoyo and Granada (photo above) have reopened and the country in general is in a calm state though still somewhat tense. The government is now firmly in control and the opposition soundly defeated. La Mariposa has continued to welcome the occasional student and friend to stay throughout the crisis…important less for financial reasons but keeps our spirits up. We are always ready to host individual Spanish students (though we cannot cater for just one so bring a friend!), volunteers, families and groups of up to 20.


with a campaign -THIS IS THE TIME to come to Nicaragua to
HELP US REBUILD OUR COMMUNITY with practical help on projects as well as help rebuilding relationships shattered by the crisis. In La Mariposa people of all political persuasions work with the local community together in an atmosphere of respect and dialogue.
Ideas for putting this into practice
(1) progress projects planned but suspended eg children’s communal eating area in Palo Solo
(2) complete the sustainable building project & playground for Chispa de Vida
(3) initiate new childrens project in barrios in San Juan most heavily affected by the recent political crisis where people can feel isolated from the rest of La Concha.
HELP US PROTECT OUR ENVIRONMENT which has also suffered from increased hunting of wildlife (birds, iguana, turtles) and tree felling as a result of the political crisis. Some ideas…
(1) develop an educational program especially for use in children’s projects
(2) continue with reforestation, improving our tree nursery with rare and threatened species of trees
(3) raise donations and grants for purchasing land as pretty much the only way especially now to preserve trees & other plants, birds, bees, frogsAs well as helping us, visitors will improve their Spanish, learn about Nicaragua (including recent history) and have some fun!

Recent tripadviser review

 I travel a lot internationally and give thought to where I head – and I have chosen to visit Nicaragua and the La Mariposa three times already this year – in April, May and July. Previous plans will keep me away in August, but I’ll likely be returning in September as well.
If you are considering visiting, remember that the nature of news is to focus on the dramatic scenes and then use them over and over which makes it seem as if the entire country is engulfed in violence 24/7. It is not and never has been (pay close attention to the dates on the media credits and you’ll see what I mean). The reality is that, in much of the country, life is going on in a usual manner and has been doing so the entire time.
No one is interested in foreigners – not in the least bit – and there is nothing that points toward this changing. This has been very much an internal struggle.
And, most importantly, the staff at the Mariposa knows what is going on – their news gathering network is a wonder to behold – and they will not allow guests to take the slightest risk.
So, on with it! There is, with the help of excellent teachers, Spanish to be learned. There is volunteer work to be done and community projects to support, there are wonderful people to meet, there are dogs to play with and horses to ride and wonderful food to eat. Go.

On a personal note – Chester is leaving the magagement team, he is worn out and rather depressed by only working with cancellations! Hopefully this will be temporary, depending on whether we can recover in Dec and Jan 2019. If we do not then we will have to close permantly.
Paulette too is hoping to take something of a break to recover from exhaustion.

For the past 2 months we have survived on donations from friends and ex students. You have been incredibly generous with us and we estimate we can continue as we are (workers and projects on half pay) until Oct/Nov. We have made some hard decisions such as whether to spend money now on repairing the roof, vehicle upkeep – hoping against hope it is not money wasted.
We have tried to thank everyone…if not please accept our apologies and thanks!
If you would like to donate from the USA go to (our new 501)
From the UK, use Sustainability Partners button on our webpage http://www.mariposaspanishschool.comYOU CAN ALSO HELP BY TAKING SKYPE SPANISH CLASSES -$12 per hour
as in true Mariposa style we still try and earn our way!
Contact Josimar on

ESO NO SE HACE – Paulettes take on the troubles, 30th April

What is really pissing people off, at least the ones I have been talking to (neighbors, Mariposa workers, of all political parties and none) is that Daniel Ortega is not confronting the situation and talking directly to people. Most believe that the government was primarily responsible for the violence that led to the deaths of at least 60 people and so far uncounted injuries. But whatever the detailed statistics of who was to blame for what – the government really needs, in my view, to tackle this head on and not blanket everything in a suffocating silence, which is how it feels right now.

The official TV channels did not cover Saturdays march which was huge and peaceful, not a uniform in sight. Interestingly it had been called by the Catholic Church but the priest that I listened to talked a lot about the Virgin Mary but not much else! Oh well.

Similarly no report yesterday on how the National Dialogue went. OK it will take a while for some resolution to emerge but SAY something!!! Rumor has it the chief of police has resigned. Don’t leave this stuff to gossip and rumor….come clean and tell us what is going on.

Daniel Ortega has not lost all credibility, still many respect all of the good things he has achieved in Nicaragua, and no one sees an alternative, at least not now. However, he does need to start connecting with people to build on what remains. And he needs to promise that nothing like this will happen again.

Of course the short and long term effects of all of this on the economy, on people’s jobs can only be speculated on. But it sure as hell is going to be a bumpy ride. Tourism as we at La Mariposa know only too well is totally dependent on reputation and, as a friend commented, we have only just convinced many especially from the US that Nicaragua is NOT the violent place it is often portrayed as. How hard will that job be now???? Especially as many North American travelers are super timid and take fright easily.

Personally I feel 100% safe here, always have done and I was first here in the Contra War. Nicaraguans like having foreigners here (unlike other countries I could mention!) and not one has been targeted or even affected by the “troubles”.

La Mariposa will survive thanks to the huge amount of support we have had, both financially and emotionally, from ex-students and friends and to the students who are still planning to come…..but almost certainly not in its present form.

For now, a deep breath and we continue the struggle to provide decent employment, help local kids to learn English, support disabled kids and their families, and rescue unwanted domestic animals. Above all, whilst this crisis grabs the headlines the planet continues to burn, literally and we must continue to act proactively on that front as well.

Mariposa Permaculture Project



The word “permaculture” is often associated with organic farming. Of course this is a part of it – and an important part – but by no means the whole story. At La Mariposa we have integrated permaculture principles into all aspects of our work and have added an ethic to the basic 3 (care for the earth, care for people, and fair share) which is respect and care for animals, both domestic and wild. This has to be a critical element, especially in the modern day world of the cruelties and abuses of factory farming especially of pigs, chickens and increasingly cattle both beef and dairy, the widespread destruction of forests for cattle ranching and the overfishing of rivers and oceans. In this sense we should not be “imitating the relationships found in natural ecologies” too closely as the human race is, frankly, too powerful and too destructive a predator – the current rate of extinctions of other species is terrifying. Thus we include protection of our wildlife, rescue of injured or neglected animals and a largely vegetarian diet as part of our Mariposa permaculture principles. Additionally, the human body also benefits from ingesting less meat and more vegetables and legumes and we have also discovered the therapeutic benefits of horses and dogs for humans – a further example of integration in our practice.

Of course you cannot in practice care for people or animals without caring for the earth – so it is a holistic, integrated approach that is required of us all. We certainly need to observe and analyse what is going on around us both in the immediate vicinity and globally (Nicaragua is already dramatically affected by climate change) and then open ourselves to learning what works in the here and now to improve the situation


Ethic – Caring for People

La Mariposa started some 12 years ago as an employment project – to try and help the local community by finding a way of offering sustainable employment. From 5 employees we now have over 80 (not all full time permanent workers) from Spanish teachers to organic gardeners. We opt to maximize the chances of employment so wages are reasonable but not high – we also provide attractive working conditions and adhere to labor laws. Our workforce is exclusively drawn from the local community and we ensure that visiting volunteers contribute skills and labor but never replace a paid worker.

We fund several children’s projects in the poorest barrios of La Concha. For example, in the barrio of Panama we try and give young children a head start by offering English classes (this also has the side benefit of providing extra work for our teachers) which have proved very popular. Other projects assist with reading and writing skills and provide opportunities for craft work, learning folklore dancing and play!

Our biggest project by far is Chispa de Vida supporting disabled children and their families (as well as providing jobs for 5 people). We offer physical therapy, equino therapy – using our rescued horses, thus integrating two projects – hydro therapy and educational help. Sustainable materials including straw, adobe and recycled tires were used to construct the buildings and playground, and as an added bonus, it is really beautiful, fitting in with the environment. Furthermore, this project is situated in our urban Nature Reserve so everyone will be able to relax and enjoy natural surroundings.


Ethic – Caring for Animals

La Mariposa funds a range of initiatives following the principle that animals, both domestic and wild, are an integral part of our environment. We do not serve red meat – many of the animals are raised and slaughtered in “industrial” conditions which are cruel, often also polluting the surrounding environment. We do serve chicken and fish though there is no real justification for doing so except human demand (note the chickens are often given huge doses of hormones so they grow at great speed which of course is accumulatively damaging to human health). We always offer a vegetarian alternative for those aware of this.

Approximately 2000 dogs and cats have been spayed and neutered under a Mariposa program, working jointly with World Vets in Granada. We actively care for over 100 rescued dogs and cats (many more have been adopted), 20 horses and provide veterinary services to local people who could not otherwise afford it. We hold “free pet days” offering treatment to eliminate parasites. We take care of several monkeys and parrots who cannot be released into the wild due to loss of habitat or they are too tame to survive.

Animals we have released into our Nature Reserve or other suitable locations include over 50 iguana, 200 parakeets, armadillos, foxes, and howler monkeys. We continually try to provide mammals, reptiles, birds and insects with a fair share of our land, our food, our water to ensure their survival.


Ethic – Caring for the Earth

Trying to implement this principle requires challenging the demands of the ever encroaching consumerist ethic which encourages a focus on THINGS, not relationships. However, it is important that those who come from the West with our fancy “organic” ideas need to remember that in Latin America, for example, the emphasis has been on pushing Westernization of culture, of agriculture and so it is somewhat arrogant to be suddenly saying “actually you indigenous peoples had it about right….life 500 years ago was probably better than it is today”. The response may well be along the lines of “yeah right, you in the West have it all and now you are telling us not to consume so much………” Tricky.

However, caring for the earth is paramount and one way is bringing to life existing but often dormant knowledge/s about traditional farming methods as well as incorporating ideas about saving water, using less chemicals generally (eg soap) and not creating waste by following the principle of REDUCE REUSE RECYCLE (with the emphasis on the first!).


Fair Share Ethic

This one is crucial and requires an understanding of historical forces which havd shaped the world so that resources are so unfairly distributed – between rich and poor, between developed nations and “developing” nations and why we seem incapable of sharing the planet with species other than the human one. Why indeed we seem driven to destroy our own home with massive deforestation across the planet contributing massively to climate change all in the name of greater profits. But if each person who gets more than enough to eat could CUT meat and snack consumption by half (also reducing the problems of obesity and diabetes) – this would start to impact the multinational drive for more and more of the earth’s diminishing resources. As Naomi Klein points out “global capitalism has made the depletion of resources so rapid, convenient and barrier-free that ‘earth-human systems’ are becoming dangerously unstable” (P450 This Changes Everything).

Clearly we all have to do everything within our individual and community power (obviously this includes political protest and other actions at this level). Whatever decision each of us makes now has to pass through 4 filters – and this now has to include the decision whether or not to have children and how many (it is the consumption of the developed world driving global destruction NOT so called 3rd World overpopulation)

  1. How will this action impact the environment (soil, water, air, creates waste or pollutants)? Positively, or negatively?
  2. How will this action impact my community (which includes but does NOT ONLY apply to immediate family?
  3. How does it impact of the life of another species, does it lead to preventable suffering or death? eg is the fact that I like the taste of beef worth the suffering of a cow?
  4. In this decision/action – am I taking more or less of my FAIR SHARE of the planets resources? Am I being driven by a THING principle or an EARTH/HUMAN principle?

Permaculture was first developed practically by Austrian farmer Sepp Holzer on his own farm in the early 1960s and then theoretically developed by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren and their associates during the 1970s in a series of publications. —

Central to permaculture are the three ethics: care for the earth, care for people, and fair share. They form the foundation for permaculture design and are also found in most traditional societies.


Protecting Protected Areas


Please sign the petition asking the President of Nicaragua to protect protected areas;


Nicaragua has suffered another environmental disaster (and there have a been many – the above photos were taken during the fire in the Masaya Volcano National Park) with the burning of the Biological Reserve along the Rio San Juan. Much of this area has already been raised to the ground for African palm (palm oil) and large cattle ranches. 5000 hectares of tropical rainforest have disappeared together with incalculable numbers of endangered species including jaguars, tapirs, anteaters, macaws……..this reserve is also home to indigenous Rama peoples. We are asking the government to do more to protect protected areas…this is important whether or not the Indio Maiz fire is now extinguished!

There is a great deal of confusing information out there about the Indio Maiz fire and the governmental response to it. I am happy to try and make my own position on this quite clear!

First and foremost I wish to stress that I have been an avid supporter of the Sandinista government and, indeed of the Ortegas, for many years, particularly in relation to their very successful efforts to tackle rural poverty. However I do not think that means that criticism is not allowed though I think this is the approach taken by many.

I am very critical of the global response to climate change, I totally accept that countries such as Nicaragua are suffering greatly from something they have done next to nothing to create. My view is that we all have to try and respond to this threat to our future existence as best we can, within our own individual and community limits. My relevant point here is that the Nicaraguan government could certainly do more to stop deforestation, at least in the protected areas, which we now know to be one of the major causes of climate change.

I have personal evidence of this issue, originating in my experience of trying to help fight a major fire in the Masaya Volcano National Park. I myself took photos of this fire still burning after the government had announced it was out. Bear in mind also that roots of trees, especially big ones, can carry on burning for days underground after the surface fire has been extinguished. I also visited Bosawas a couple of years ago and saw first hand the destruction of the rainforest there.

In my view it is a serious issue, not only for Nicaragua but globally. And, to repeat, each of us needs to do what we can, including the Nicaraguan government.

La Mariposa takes this very seriously…we have spent most of our profit in the past years buying land to conserve – we have a very rare nature reserve in that it is not also used to produce coffee or anything else, it purely exists to help protect local water supplies as well as fast disappearing flora and fauna. In the past 10 years we have planted over 30,000 native forest trees, including several acres dedicated for local community use as firewood……..please let me know if you would like to know more!


IMG_2439 - Copy

We were not just looking for a building to house our project for disabled children, Chispa de Vida, but for something connecting our project themes, in this case – providing services for disabled children and their families, using sustainable building techniques, situating the project in our nature reserve so that the kids can enjoy and learn from nature and –not least – involving students from ‘the developed world’.

Below – bringing in the recycled tires for the playground, stomping down the straw in the walls and nailing the wooden frame together

A group of women friends and their kids from Portland, Oregon came and helped with the building, learnt about our techniques and contributed their own ideas. Such was the energy and enthusiasm generated between the group and the Mariposa construction workers that progress was remarkably quick. There was a lot of mutual learning. And a lot of fun was had by all!

Below – The Chispa de Vida help out painting tables and seats made from recycled tires, the education building begins to take shape and Heidi and Erika after a hard days work!

The project itself will consist of rooms and patios for physical therapy, educational support, a kitchen and dining area (to be completed in stages) as well as a mini house where kids can learn household skills such as making their own bed. A playground and specially designed garden are also underway. Hopefully, we will have sufficient funds to employ a third worker to help Margene and Marisol.

Below – Hopscotch, trying out the play horse and a colorful bird

Walls are constructed from straw stuffed into wire cages, sewn together and then covered with homemade adobe. All the materials are, as far as possible, sustainable and recycled – we incorporated a couple of old cartwheels for a fun child height window. The playground emerged from the combined imaginations of Mauricio (a director of Asocacion Tierra) and the Portland kids and was great to see. Ideas on using recycled tires seemed to multiply daily – discarded bicycle tires became pretty birds!

Below – Fun windows at child height, a passing horse nibbles the walls! but the building continues to progress

The group process was as wonderful as the building progress. Initially there was some nervousness amongst the women that La Mariposa building team would live up to the macho image many have of Nicaraguan men. Instead, there was a tremendous sharing of ideas and techniques as well as humor and life experiences. The head of our team, Pablo, laughed and smiled much more than is his custom and the group shared an emotional moment or two on their last day, as well as a large cake! Lori, one of the women, said to me “Did you hear what Pablo shared during our closing circle? He said that our group ‘brought something out of’ the Nicaraguan workers. His comment made us all tear up and I’m pretty sure it was mutual”.

Below – Tina and Gabriel working side by side and Erika sewing up the walls

And Tina commented “Our experience at La Mariposa was profound. It was a reminder to me that anything is possible when in community. I feel so blessed to have had my daughter, new and old friends together in a space of creativity. This was one of those experiences that will be remembered for many years to come”.

Below – the closing circle with Melissa (who organised the group of women and kids) in the blue Tshirt


This, perhaps, was the most significant part of the whole workshop!