Project Update – May 2017


This is a summary of the projects currently being undertaken by La Mariposa and Asociacion Tierra – if you would like to donate, please go to our main website and scroll down the homepage to the Mas Mariposas ”Donate” button.

There are six categories of projects, although they don’t have rigid boundaries since we try and be as holistic as possible. Please note that the core project of La Mariposa (and indeed the reason for our existence) is to assist the local community through providing as much sustainable employment as possible, using the income earned through the Spanish school and eco hotel. There were 10 employees when we opened, there are now around 70 though not all full time. The projects listed below not only provide help in the way described but also through providing additional employment. As we say in our Responsible Tourism policy – we aim to “Maximize employment…teachers, guides, admin, kitchen, cleaning, building maintenance and construction, gardens, animal care, project staff. We do not pay high wages to a select few but pay above minimum wages to as many workers as possible, thus assisting as many local families as possible”.

  • Children’s projects: One of them (the Ruben Dario project) is currently situated in a school, with a library and a paid worker to help children with the basics of reading and writing – the project worker also organizes holiday play schemes based more on having fun. She has planted a surrounding garden with our help and other schools are interested in following this model. Normally around 30 children use the project daily. 3 children’s projects (La Soya, Karen’s Cultural Center and Los Martinez) are situated in community based locations and in addition to the above services we offer folklore dance classes and will be offering English classes in the future. Around 70 children currently attend the 3 projects. There is in addition a small project in our own nature reserve – La Reserva.

Costs – Each of these projects costs between $150 and $200 per week – this covers the “ayuda” for 2 workers and provision of extra materials – most of the play, art and reading materials are donated by La Mariposa students. It does NOT cover one off costs such as building a covered patio area in Karen’s Cultural Center

  • Our newest project, opened in April 2017, is the Panama project — this one specifically focuses on offering English classes to younger children. Panama is one of the poorest barrios in La Concha so the idea is to give these children a head start with a basic knowledge of English classes (in general it is only taught in secondary schools). It also allows us to offer additional work to our Spanish teachers who also speak English — especially important during the low months! Currently there are 5 teachers working there.

Costs – Including teachers’ pay, transport and some materials (again the majority is donated) – around $250 per week. The costs of constructing the space were $1350 plus $470 for tables chairs shelves and basic materials

  • Finally, we have the disabled children’s project. We employ 3 workers who provide a variety of educational opportunities and physical therapy. We also provide equino therapy (on our rescued horses) and hydrotherapy. Recently we started with a small employment project for some young disabled people working in the organic veggie garden. Currently there 28 children and adults registered.

Costs cover salaries for the teacher, the physical therapist, and materials, transporting the children and young people to and from the various parts of the project, payment to a local swimming pool for hydro therapy, salaries for the workers who care for the horses taking part in the equino therapy sessions. We also provide the neediest families with help for the purchase of medicines, nappies, milk and food. The total is over $600 per week – $80 is the weekly salary cost for half time (the workers will return to full time in a few months).

  • Environmental projects: This includes donation of eco cookers to the poorest families (so far over 750 at a cost of $12 each), and purchase of land threatened with monoculture or development to create nature reserves and preserve local sources of water. It also involves working closely with local communities eg Palo Solo to assist with their immediate needs in return for helping with conservation efforts. In the case of Palo Solo we deliver a truck load water per week to supplement the municipal deliveries and are planting 6 acres of trees specifically for firewood for local people on the Nature Reserve. We also do reforestation on our land and in the communities (to date we have planted over 25,000 trees). This category also includes our ecobuilds, use of solar power, recycling, water reuse, growing vegetables organically, establishing a medicinal garden, minimization of trash……

The costs of reforestation etc are difficult to estimate but we can itemize the following. Purchase of Cañada Honda (in the community of Palo Solo) was $97,000, the land for La Reserva was $100,000. We employ 5 park guards specifically to look after the land – $400 per week. Provision of water costs $130 per week to 2 communities.

  • Health Projects: We assist the local health clinic in La Concepcion with volunteers and donations of supplies. To help out the volunteers need a medical qualification but we can also set up observation placements. Recently we have started to work with their Natural Health Clinic – they can take volunteers with experience in massage etc. We also provide them with medicinal plants for their garden.

No ongoing costs are involved here but we do respond to one off request for help – eg provision of medicinal plants at a cost of $75.

  • Animal projects: We care for rescued dogs, cats, horses, parrots, and monkeys, and return many others to the wild. Over 1500 dogs and cats from the community have been sterilized. We also support the very little wildlife that still exists in this area… that includes birds, insects, reptiles, and some mammals.

Costs for food for horses (higher in the dry season when grazing is limited), dogs, cats, monkeys, parrots, rabbits etc – around $500 per week. Plus purchase of bananas and other fruit to maintain local wildlife. Plus vet bills – $50 to $200 per week.

  • ”One off” projects: The bakery, eco builds, are examples of projects with definite end points! We also help individual families with medical needs and, in the case of several disabled children with very poor families, with food etc. In one case we repaired the house of a disabled boy.

Examples – the bakery – $10,000. Jader’s operation (not included in section on Disabled Children) – over $4000. (You can read Jader’s story here). 


  • Building a center for the disabled children’s project. It will be built from sustainable materials – such as straw from the rice harvest and adobe. It will have rooms for physical therapy, education and occupational therapy for the older children and adults. Its location is in a corner of La Reserva, close to the road and very accessible for the people of San Juan who use this project, but surrounded by trees and other plants. We will plant a special garden and create a sustainably built playground. Though designed for disabled children, the children from other projects will also use this facility thus encouraging more interaction between disabled and non-disabled children. Cost will be in the region of $15,000 — we have already raised $10,000 towards this.
  • Working more intensively with the community of Palo Solo (where Cañada Honda is situated) to improve their access to water (currently no houses have running water) and firewood (see section (4) above). WE will use a small accessible area of the reserve to build a storage space for local peoples dragon fruit harvests (this does not include those responsible for large monoculture farms) and a “comedor infantile” – a communal eating area for children. Costs of construction will be around $5000 and we are also looking for a sponsor to help provide the food on a long term basis.
  • The Los Martinez Children’s Project needs an extension on its patio to accommodate the high numbers of children who attend. Cost will be $1500.

Mariposa Community Environmental Education

Las Conchitas (3)

The orange line encloses the new land (called Las Conchitas) just purchased by La  Mariposa. It is very close (as the crow flies anyway!!) to the existing Mariposa….just follow a straight line to the bottom of the above photo and you will be here (though in practice of course we have to go round by the road as our neighbours would on no account let us walk through their orange plantations!). you can see how incredibly close we are to the Masaya Volcano National Park. I have written previous posts (and on facebook too) about problems with this park (and indeed with other reserves too, such as Bosawas) including the impact of  a massive fire which destroyed about 25% of the forest (the damage is still visible one year later) and the ongoing impact of illegal logging of precious woods, taking firewood out of the park, hunting animals within the park…etc etc. Our hope is that having this land can help in some small way to conserve and improve the environment locally…maybe to offer a sanctuary to some of the beleaguered park wildlife and to act as a resource for concerned local people who are seriously worried and affected by global climate change as well as what is happening on their doorstep. The communities that are currently working with us are those that go out on the right hand side of the photo.


So below are some of our ideas so far…….we would love to get comments and suggestions….and help!!

Overall objective of Las Conchitas

  • To establish an environmental education centre for both local people and visitors to the Mariposa (both Nicaraguans and extranjeros)
  • To build an extension of some aspects of the current Mariposa (Spanish classes, accommodation….especially camping) in the hope of bringing in some income to support the first objective
  • Entrance to the new environmental education centre (to be!) and Mariposa camping

    Entrance to the new environmental education centre (to be!) and Mariposa camping

Progress so far

  • Reforestation (about 700 fruit and forest trees planted. PS the fruit is for wildlife!)
  • Live fencing planted around bottom edge of land
  • Mapping for potential camping areas, this was carried out by Bettina and Chad a couple of Mariposa volunteers. Map complete and some costing work begun. There is the possibility of using wood from 2 fallen trees to construct camping platforms.
  • Constructing bat boxes, a volunteer family is working on this now.
  • There is an existing house on the land with 2 rooms (one large), a patio, latrine. Needs renovating but could be either the nucleus of the EE centre (favoured option) or communal eating area for campers….
  • Meeting held on the patio of the house on 5/6/14 (see below)
  • Hard at work planting trees

    Hard at work planting trees

Meeting with community representatives

  • Present were several Mariposa workers (including teachers, maintenance staff, gardeners, project managers) and people from Las Sabanas, Arenal, Camillo Ortega, Venetia (poor rural communities close to the Masaya Volcano National Park) and several problems were identified. These included – contamination of drinking water from use of, amongst other things, flushing toilets – shortages of drinking water – lack of rain especially this year affecting the bean crop – logging of precious trees including in the national park – taking out firewood – loss of local biodiversity – poisoning of soil from use of pesticides – disappearance of pollinating insects esp bees.
  • Some tentative ideas were suggested for addressing some of these problems but with the necessary caveat that many of them have global origins. It was stressed that the over exploitation of the land and natural resources has gone hand in hand with the exploitation of the poor. In the case of Nicaragua, this started with the Spanish 500 years ago and still effectively goes on today under CAFTA.
  • La Mariposa will take on paying for the help of 5/6 community activists to help us work  directly with the local communities.
  • One of the issues we talked about...use of pesticdes and the disappearance of bees (yes, here too)

    One of the issues we talked about…use of pesticdes and the disappearance of bees (yes, here too)


  • Develop the land primarily as a nature reserve (with possibility of camping etc) – to include (1) water feature (pond, moving water) for frogs dragonflies etc (2) a butterfly and hummingbird centre (mariposera) (3) planting of fruit trees and flowers to help with nesting/feeding places for bats, birds and iguana, also install feeding places and nesting boxes (4) investigate how we might help larger mammals eg deer (almost extinct here due to hunting), guatusas, ?????? (5) plant rare and native trees, shrubs, flowers as much as possible to increase biodiversity as well as caring for the trees and plants that are currently growing there……this work will include building a retaining wall to contain the roots of two large cenizero trees and removing a rubbish tip from the edge of the land.
  • One of the beautiful cenizero trees, covered with orchids and bromeliads

    One of the beautiful cenizero trees, covered with orchids and bromeliads

  • Work with the local communities through the paid reps to identify where we can combine help with environmental education and improvements. For example, Franklin has identified 8 families, living in the poorest area close to the national park, who have no electricity and take firewood from the park. One possible solution is to offer them solar panels and eco cookers in return for their help in protecting the national park.
  • EE centre – to include (1) wildlife observation and information (2) permanent exhibition on what is happening to the environment both locally and globally with historical and geo political explanations (3) workshops, seminars, practical demonstrations from local people and others on what we might actively do in our own lives such as implementing worm projects (save on pesticide use and expenditure), build eco cookers, use eco friendly building materials etc. (4) trails and walks offering info on plants and wildlife and the links between this and current environmental issues (5) a small library where people can access info on eco building, organic farming etc (6) meeting spaces for large and small groups
  • With the local communities and the reps, establish links and dialogue with (1) members of other communities around the national park who might be interested in this initiative eg Nindiri AND relevant authorities including (1) the local town hall and their environmental team (2) the national park authorities and MARENA (3) the EU, currently funding a tourist initiative in the national park (4) the national press
  • Establish an NGO with the above objectives
  • And of course it would not be La mariposa without a rescued dog or two....this is Linda doing her best to help out! Thank you Chad for the photos!!!

    And of course it would not be La mariposa without a rescued dog or two….this is Linda doing her best to help out! Thank you Chad for the photos!!!

Dog Clinic day

Every so often Ruth, the senior Mariposa intern who has been with us a year now, collects up any unspayed female dogs she can find and heads off to Granada to a vetinary clinic. She comes home dirty, somewhat smelly and grinning from ear to ear!! This is her account….

PS One of the future dreams of the Mariposa is to accomodate brigades of vets in our new study centre so if anyone reading this has any ideas, please get in touch!!!


Every now and then La Mariposa goes to Granada with our pickup truck filled with female dogs.  There’s a clinic in Granada that operates on dogs for free to help people to have less puppies when they can’t take care of them. They have had two special Mariposa days where we could take up to 15 dogs per time to get them operated. First we got a few dogs operated that live at the Mariposa, the farm, the project or dogs from the workers.

Last time we went twice with dogs from the different barrios close by. We went into the barrio and talked to the people about the clinic, explained them that we would pick up the dogs in the morning and bring them back in the evening. A lot of people were really interested and we were able to take up a lot of dogs to get their operation. It’s a long day, starting at 6 am getting the dogs from all around and loading them in the truck. Some go in the kennel and others sit in the back of the car with us. Some are small, some are big, some are friendly, others are just really scared.

The drive on the back of the truck is very pleasant and with beautiful views. Upon arrival in Granada we drop the dogs off at the clinic and leaving them for the day. From then on is just waiting around, enjoying a coffee or two at one of the coffee shops and chatting with one of the vendors in the park. This lady knows what we do there and is always happy to have a small chat. She offers us a seat and talks about her life and her daily activities. It’s very nice and good for the Spanish.

At the end of the day, this varies at what time; we get a call from the vet that all the dogs are ready to go home….

This time all the dogs are a bit more sleepy and some of them easier to put back in the pickup. All the way back again and then it’s time to reunite owners with the dogs. This is the nicest part…seeing the owners waiting for their dogs and really happy to see their dogs back at their homes. The day ends with sitting on the back of an empty truck, enjoying the views and seeing the sunset.
A cold  bucket shower is more than welcome and our home stays and a plate of warm gallo pinto awaits when we’re all clean and done for the day…….It was enjoyable, worthwhile and I hope we can do it again soon.

Animal Rescue at the Mariposa – could you help us by sponsoring one (or more?) of our horses, dogs, cats, monkeys…….

Before the Mariposa had even opened its doors to Spanish students and eco-hotel guests, we started taking in stray and unwanted animals and providing them a happy and loving home. Even whilst the construction team was still at work, they had to step over puppies, kittens and a poorly horse wandering around the building site! And of course the numbers just keep on growing as we try never to say no!

It is not possible to generalize about the treatment of animals here in Nicaragua any more than in any other country but the ones who have come to us have not, on the whole, been physically maltreated. Rather they have not been fed. In some cases this is because they are living semi wild on the street and have to scavenge for their food. Sometimes local people do feed the street dogs – Foxy is an example. Though a street dog she came to us in a fairly healthy condition. Often it is the case that families are too poor to feed their animals properly and this applies to horses as well as dogs.  This was the situation Condor was in – he had an owner, it turned out, who was a very poor pineapple farmer and whose wife had died the year before. He was so poor and depressed that he didn’t feed himself let alone his dog! He agreed to us keeping Condor.

We now take care of 14 horses, 20 or so dogs, 7 cats, 4 monkeys and about 30 birds of various species. The monkeys and parrots came to us as creatures confiscated by the Nicaraguan police in their battle against the illegal trade in wild animals (at the time the zoo, which usually took the confiscated animals was full to bursting point). Not all of the dogs live with us; we help a small number of poor families to feed their pets by buying them supplies of dog biscuits.

As you can imagine this is all costly! Dog, cat, monkey and bird food, supplementary food for the horses costs us around $150 per week. On top of that we need to buy supplies for building horse corals, the large bird and monkey cages, rent grazing land, buy medicines and flea shampoo!! We also pay a worker full time at the Mariposa and we have a team of 3 caring for the horses. That is another $250 a week.

The animals are also neutered as soon as possible; the males by the head of the Spanish school Bergman who moonlights as a vet! We take the females to Granada where there is sometimes a clinic run by volunteers from the US. One of our future hopes at the Mariposa is to set up a vet clinic here in La Concha.

So if you can help us by sponsoring one of our animals we, and they, would be most grateful! You can either make a general donation or sponsor your particular favorite! You can stay in touch with her/his progress as we post regular photos and updates on our facebook page. You can donate through Paypal on the website and specify which animal you would like to sponsor. Even a small amount donate regularly would be so helpful.

Thank you from all of us!

Here we present some of our animals!!


Sultan came to us whilst we were still constructing the Mariposa. He was passed to Bergman literally in a shoebox, together with his sister Susie. Their mother had died and the owner felt he could not look after two puppies but thought that we could. The guys building the Mariposa had to step over the pups in order to get to the building supplies as they lived initially in the storeroom! Susie sadly died from a scorpion bite but Sultan grew and grew. He is now our biggest dog, resembling a Holstein cow, a well loved character who likes nothing more than to pester students, especially when relaxing in a hammock, asking to have his back rubbed!











About 3 years ago, Paulette received a phone call from an ex-Mariposa student who was helping out a vet brigade in Granada neutering cats and dogs. Donna said they had rescued a street dog “the cutest little lady” but they had no room for her at the rescue centre and she was being kept in the bathroom. Could I possibly find her a home? I said yes and Bergman immediately headed off in the pickup truck to bring her to the Mariposa. On arriving, Foxy jumped out of the truck, ran upstairs, found Paulette on the computer and sat down by her side. Foxy has held that position ever since!










Molly came to us as a very sick little puppy, her owners explaining that they could not afford the operation she would need for her hernia nor the necessary medicines.  Bergman had to operate on her twice but she not only survived, she became one of the Mariposa’s favorite dogs with the students. She is also however the naughtiest (maybe the two are not unconnected) and Paulette can often be heard shouting “Molly!!” for some reason or other. She especially loves to provoke the monkeys until they pull her ears!











Another one who came to us as a tiny unwanted puppy. At a few months of age, Jaz contracted a kind of canine flu and we thought we were going to lose him. He recovered but is now is our most accident prone dog. He is forever crossing fences that are too low for him or going though gaps that are too small. Brave and loyal, he and Sultan formed an incredible father/son bond, with Sultan carrying Jaz as a puppy around in his mouth. These days they still mostly hang out together and it is their job to look after the Mariposa at night, letting us know if anything untoward is happening.










The very first Mariposa dog! Holly was a Xmas gift (hence the name!) from one of the workers. Initially she lived with Paulette and Guillermina in their homestay. On one occasion, she was stolen and the whole family spent an entire day searching for her. Half way through the night Holly rushed into the house, dived under the bed and didn’t move for 3 days. She had chewed through the cord which had been used to tie her up and run home as fast as she could. She is now a very nervous, undemanding but affectionate dog who has produced two litters of 11 puppies and, extraordinarily, one litter in between of just one puppy before we could get her neutered. Though she has always been a great Mum (see below) she certainly seems very happy not to be running the risk of having more pups and runs around like a little puppy herself these days.











Whilst living in a homestay down in San Juan de la Concha in 2006, Paulette came face to face with a skeletal dog but who has the most beautiful eyes crossing the street. He was on his way to the rubbish dump to scrounge for food; she told Bergman that, come what may, they were going to adopt that dog. It took several weeks of offering food before he was confident enough to allow himself to be stroked. He was given the name Condor as he circled the house many times, knowing there was something there for him but not daring to come in. Now the grand daddy of the dogs, at around 10 years old, he prefers dozing on the terrace to going on walks with the others. Though he can still deafen us all with his loud bark, often setting the others off, welcoming the group home from the afternoon trip out!













A few months ago, the Mariposa received a phone call from the dog rescue centre in Granada advising us of a very thin and sick female dog with puppies in Ticuantepe (about 12 kilometers from us). We immediately set out in the pickup to bring her and the puppies home. Sadly, the apparent owner, drunk and belligerent, told us he had already sold the puppies but we were welcome to take Canela. At first she lived on the farm but she is big and ebullient, the farm is small and tightly packed with vegetables, and so she has been moved to the new study centre where there is a lot of space. Marlon, who lives next door and works with us, takes care of her with his own dog, Brandon. The two are now great friends. Plus a third, very timid and very thin, puppy visits and Marlon feeds her too. Eventually she will become part of the group.

The photos show Canela when she first arrived and now. You can even see the difference in the color of her fur and how it shines with health now! She still needs to put on a little more weight but we are getting there.
























Rosie was picked up in the street, where she was lying in the gutter, by a group of volunteer Mariposa students on their way to work at the Santiago community garden project. She was horribly thin and covered in sarna, a skin disease which eventually kills. Bergman, who treated her, and is holding her in the second photo, was surprised that she survived. For the first few days with us she lay curled up in a ball, only waking to be fed a mixture of milk and soaked dog biscuits with a tiny amount of minced meat. She is a lively bundle now. Still tiny but very brava and defends Carlos and the farm against all intruders!






















So named thanks to his coffee with cream coloring! He is our biggest horse and nearly always takes someone out for the Sunday ride. An ex- hippica horse means that Cappuccino was trained as a dancing horse (similar to dressage) and would have taken part in the celebratory parades that are part of every town’s yearly fiesta for the local patron saint. For some time after coming to us he would break into a little dance if the ride passed a house where loud music was playing. We don’t know his age exactly but think he is around 10 years and will retire completely from working within the next year. We will find him a green field in which to live out the rest of his days in well earned retirement!











Meaning ‘bird’ Parajo lost an eye in an accident so his previous owner did not want him anymore. He can be a little nervous if something happens on his blind side, such as a dog running out of a house barking at him, but he goes out with the group riding on Sundays as he is happy to tuck himself behind another horse and follow along!












Panuelo and Chepito

These two were the first horses to find a home at the Mariposa. Working all their lives as riding horses on the beach at La Boquita, their owners were looking to replace them because of their age. Chepe was actually very ill and almost died from a form of arthritis which can affect horses very badly. Rather than give him lots of injections and medicines (horses are very delicate) Paulette decided the best treatment would be keeping him warm and giving him regular massage. It worked and Chepe now gives horse rides once a week with the rest of the group.

The photo first shows Chepe when he first arrived.













Sadly this foals mother, Coralea, died after stepping on a rattlesnake (the horses have since been moved to a much safer grazing area) and she was left orphaned. We did not know whether she could survive as she was very young but, with the help of a volunteer called Karen (after whom she is named) and a lot of bottle feeding she pulled through and is a now a lively teenager.

Karencita now likes nothing better than to hang out with her papa, Panuelo!











Born 2 months ago this little baby is proving to be a big hit! He is already very tame and likes to be petted between the ears. He is still supplementing Mum’s milk with the bottle!! That’s Mum in the background, she is in extremely good health which is great. His name Ceniza means ‘ash’ as he was born on the side of the Volcan Masaya.