SUSTAINABLE BUILDING WORKSHOP – Hard Work and Fun!

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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

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

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“Wonderful”: the Panama Project

written by Hannah Chinn, La Mariposa Intern

Because La Mariposa has multiple focuses, and there are a variety of initiatives that are proposed by people in the local community, we have quite a range of projects. Our newest one opened about three months ago…  it’s called the Panama project, and it focuses specifically on offering English classes (usually to children between the ages of 5-12).

The original Panama project began when a friend of Paulette’s (who now does one of the homestays — his name is Hector) asked Paulette to visit the school he taught at. The school itself was in Panama, one of the poorest barrios in La Concha, and the lack of resources there was staggering; the only teaching materials available in his classroom were a chalkboard (no chalk) and a ruler.

Hector asked it’d be possible for La Mariposa to support the school by providing things like books, paper, pencils, and chalk, and pointed out that some of the students in the community were affected by a lack of resources as well.

He noted that there were two young sisters who only came to school on alternating days; he had realized it was because they only had one set of clothes between them.

With this in mind, La Mariposa began to collect donations and accumulate resources. In addition to providing student supplies and various classroom materials, they used funds to mend the roof, paint the school, put in latrines, and build a dining area for the children. The school continues to use these today — however, a few years ago, the project itself was forced to close due to some issues with the Nicaraguan education administrators.

After the first project ended, La Mariposa began to work with a family who lived in the local area and were close with the Mariposa community; their names are Doña Maria and Don Martin. LM rented a small piece of land from them and built an area to hold classes (Doña Maria takes care of class area upkeep as well).

The program launched this past April, and there are currently 5 English teachers for 50-60 children (and sometimes adults!) every afternoon.

The children themselves are extremely bright and energetic — “Good afternoon”, they shouted at me when I said hello — and intently focused on learning. Initially, I was hesitant about the concept of them having to learn English (colonization of language and all that), and Paulette tells me that she was too… but many Nicaraguans in the local community supported the idea of English lessons, and insisted that this would be a good idea.

During my ride in the microtaxi, I asked Tania (one of the primary teachers — she’s the one in the orange shirt) about this. Why did she think it was important for the children to learn English?

In secondary school, she told me, English is often taught — these classes offer children a background in the language and some extra preparation that will become more and more important as they continue in their education. In addition, learning English often expands the amount of opportunities available for Nicaraguan students; “they don’t have to be fluent, but one or two words here and there are helpful to know”.

Tania herself studies English at the local university every evening after she finishes teaching at the Panama project… and even though this means her days are incredibly long, she cares about the children and she thinks this project is important and she keeps doing it.

Even the littlest students — the ones who are too young to read or write — are learning.

“Ask them a question,” their teacher requested, and I hesitantly queried, “Um… how are you?”
They smiled big and the boy next to me shouted, “I’m fine thank you!” The little girls next to him responded, “I’m good!” “I’m great!”, and the last one threw her arms into the air and exclaimed, “I’m WONDERFUL!”

wonderful.

 

 

if you’re interested in helping these kids by donating to the Panama Project (and the other projects that La Mariposa regularly sustains) you can do so by going to our homepage and scrolling down to find the “donate” button… thank you so much!