New Volunteer Scheme

What follows is pure unadulterated propaganda – forgive me! The volunteer/homestay scheme is however an exciting  way of expanding the Mariposa without building any more on our precious bit of land. It has also been a great way to get to know more of and about the local community – Manuel, the mayor for example, invited me after our meeeting discussing re-aforestation projects to accompany him to an event which could only happen here in Nicaragua. As part of their rural development campaign the Sandinista governemnet is giving cows, pigs, chickens to poor rural families and Manuel invited me to watch the cows being handed out. All sounds simple enough – but once inside the La Concha baseball stadium with 100 or so cows (many of them with small, utterly terrified calves) and all thundering around like crazy, being chased by a few hapless young men trying desperately to lasso them. They are cattle from the north and, as such, are unlikely to have ever seen a stretch of wire fencing much less travelled crammed together squashed up in a truck only to be released into the space of a baseball pitch! They were mad as hell. The families awaiting their precious cow were standing on the sidelines also looking completely terrified – they must have been wondering how on earth they were supposed to get this enormous, wild beast back to the finca! I watched for  a while and then, as a vegetarian, gave my apologies. On the way out I passed a couple of guys struggling to tie a wayward bullock to a lampost.  The whole event, like so much here, was utterly unpredictable and just – well, just LIFE!!! As it happens. Sadly I didn’t take the camera.

Manuel, La Concha's Mayor

Manuel, La Concha's Mayor

So now for the advertsing bit…….

VOLUNTARY WORK AT THE MARIPOSA – The Mariposa operates a uniquely rewarding scheme for visitors to Nicaragua who wish to contribute directly to the local community and environment by doing volunteer work.

La Concepcion (also known as La Concha) is a small, laid back, friendly town in the hills just south of Managua. It has a population of around 35,000 – but it doesn’t feel that big as the houses are spread out over a wide geographical area. And almost every house has its mango and coconut trees out back, giving La Concha its unique green surroundings. With a traditional Spanish-style park and church at its centre, it is an unusual mix of urban and rural. We can take advantage of this and offer placements with an urban flavour alongside options on local farms or undertaking re-aforestation projects.

Thanks to our employment policy and the projects already undertaken by the Mariposa within the community of La Concha, we have developed a wide range of contacts from the town Mayor to farmers in local co-operatives. We can easily arrange a whole range of different types of individual placements for our visitors.

What is so unique about the Mariposa volunteer scheme?

  • You combine volunteer work with Spanish classes – we offer 20 hours formal classes (2 hours of grammar and 2 hours of conversation) within the delightful garden surroundings of the Mariposa. For newcomers to Nicaragua we also recommend starting your time here with a week or two joining in with the Mariposa programme of afternoon and weekend activities in order to familiarise yourself with Nicaragua, its history and culture and with the immediate surroundings of La Concha.
  • We do not place groups of volunteers – only individuals. This ensures flexibility to meet your learning needs and that you do not spend your time here mainly interacting with groups of other Westerners – on the contrary, we maximise the opportunities for you to work alongside and so get to know individual workers in La Concha.
  • In keeping with the Mariposa principle of maximising local employment opportunities, we do not use volunteers to replace local workers. Instead, we place each individual volunteer alongside a Nicaraguan worker (this of course has the additional benefit of improving your Spanish)
  • We offer opportunities for volunteers to become immersed in the community of La Concha by working within the community alongside workers from local organisations – such as working alongside a pre-school teacher in a school, working in the health centre, or even with a bee project – so you can really get out there to see for yourself, experience and understand how the community functions.
  • We also have a range of volunteer opportunities within the more protected setting of the Mariposa – you similarly work alongside one of the Mariposa workers.
  • Volunteers live in homestays with local families (all known to the Mariposa). This of course enhances the opportunities to get to know a Nicaraguan family and practice that Spanish!
  • Weekly de-briefing sessions are held within the Mariposa, in English, so you can share the upside of your placement, reflecting on learning aspects. Also to help you make sense of some of those more demanding and difficult experiences (led by Dr Paulette Goudge who has a PhD in Development issues). You can browse the excellent selection of books on both Nicaragua and development and aid issues which are available in the Mariposa library.
  • Because we work on a purely individual basis and not with groups we can offer you a placement suitable to your particular needs, subject to availability. You can also opt to do a combination of Mariposa activities and placement; or a combination of two or more different placements.
  • We can offer you placements doing practical work within the Mariposa for as little as one week, but we ask for a longer time commitment if you prefer to work with people, suggested minimum one month.
  • Placements vary as to their availability – check with Paulette – paulette.goudge@googlemail.com

Currently available placements

  • Teaching English – the local secondary school (across the road from the Mariposa) welcomes help with both formal grammar classes and, especially important, offering conversation to small groups of students. Some of the Mariposa staff are also keen to improve their English
  • Pre-school children reading and writing – both rural and urban schools need people to work alongside their teachers to help small groups of children (primarily pre-school and primary age) improve their reading and writing skills. We also support a project offering reading groups to children outside school hours.
  • Health – There are always placements available for nurses, doctors, physiotherapists, laboratory assistants, social workers. Preventive health care workers are also welcome.
The chiefs of La Concha's health centre - Arlen & Mercedes

The chiefs of La Concha's health centre - Arlen & Mercedes

  • Town hall – 5 local municipalities (La Concha, Nidiri, Ticuantepe, El Crucero and Managua) have joined together, supported by the Norwegian government, to undertake a re-aforestation project designed particularly to help water conservation (available until end of 2009). The Town hall would also welcome help with reception duties and working on the civil register.
  • Los Quinchos – is a project working with ex-street children and is a short bus ride away from the Mariposa. If you are interested in doing a placement there, you should check out their website – www.losquinchos.com. You can combine that with classes etc at the Mariposa.
  • We always have a range of things happening at the Mariposa. Going on right now – a small literacy project for our staff; building a traditional roof on an outdoor classroom; digging a latrine; farm work – caring for fruit & coffee trees, chickens, tomatoes; caring for our rescued animals – horses, dogs, cats, monkeys, parrots; small-scale re-aforestation; gardening work; organising cleaning brigades. Occasional help from someone with computer skills would also be greatly appreciated!
Ismael out checking the mariposa tomato plot

Ismael out checking the mariposa tomato plot

  • The Mariposa also funds and builds small-scale constructions, requested by the community. At present we are completing a latrine in a primary school and will shortly start a project re-siting a water tank & pipes for another local primary school – start date approx 1st Sept.
Finally, Gabriel and Henrique completing the latrine for the Panama school

Finally, Gabriel and Henrique completing the latrine for the Panama school

  • Volunteers are welcome to help with any of the Mariposa’s on-going work or project initiatives and we also welcome suggestions as to where we might put our energy and available resources next!

What we ask from you

  • Above all, an ability to reflect on how things work – or don’t work – in Nicaragua (the second poorest country in the Western hemisphere) and the reasons why. Good health is essential and an ability to go with the flow is invaluable.
  • An understanding that though we work closely with the organisations to ensure that your placement runs as smoothly as possible – from both your point of view and the organisations’ –  we cannot offer guarantees. Plans often have to be changed in Nicaragua due to unforeseen weather or other contingencies. Please note that we reserve the right to terminate a placement.
  • Depending on the placement, at least a basic knowledge of Spanish is generally advisable. The Mariposa is an excellent Spanish school and we can orient your classes to the needs of your placement.
  • Placements with the health authority require a copy of your professional certificate and a reference from your university, hospital or other working location. These need to be faxed to us before you arrive here.
  • Teaching English placements require evidence of a TEFL qualification (except conversation practice).
  • Any placement which involves children under 15 years requires two appropriate references.
  • All placements require that you have your own internationally valid insurance covering illness, accident, theft etc and a liability disclaimer.
  • Volunteers with Los Quinchos need to follow their application procedures – see www.losquinchos.com
  • The majority of the placements are within walking distance from the Mariposa or a short bus ride away (fares are around 10 cents, you are responsible) – for placements further afield we can arrange the loan of a bicycle or even a horse!
  • For more detailed information write to Paulette – paulette.goudge@googlemail.com

PRICES FOR VOLUNTEERS:

  • Per person per week (7 nights):           $250
  • Per person per month (4 weeks):         $800  (a saving of $200)
  • For 3 months:         $2000 (a saving of $1000!)
  • This price includes:
    • Homestay with a local family
    • 3 meals per day
    • Organized and supported volunteer placement
    • 20 hours of  Spanish class per week
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