FOB Volunteers | Friends of Batahola

Friends of Batahola Volunteers was founded in 2007 by Laura Hopps and Christine Ruppert, graduates of Boston College and the Casa de la Solidaridad program in El Salvador. Batahola volunteers are young people from the U.S. who accompany the Centro Cultural Batahola Norte in its work of empowerment of women and youth for social transformation. Volunteers live in the community as friends and coworkers, learning from the CCBN and contributing to the development of new initiatives. Currently we have had to place our volunteer program on hold but hope to reinstitute it in the future. Some of the projects in which the volunteers have been involved include:

  • Taking part in the continuing formation of a 2-year volunteer program
  • Designing and teaching an English course for adult students
  • Updating this blog and writing periodic articles to keep friends and supporters in the U.S. updated on current events in Nicaragua, the Center, and our experiences as volunteers
  • Facilitating an art class for adolescents in a violence-prevention program, in an outreach project of the CCBN
  • Facilitating formation workshops for scholarship students
  • Leading bi-weekly Taize-style reflection spaces for staff
  • Coordinating youth trips to a local farm school
  • Leading monthly creative workshops for kids
  • Orienting short-term volunteers and translating for delegations to the CCBN
  • Being involved in community activities, classes, and weekly Mass

Previous volunteers committed 2 years of their lives to helping CCBN. Who are they and where are they now?

2007 – 2009

Laura Salazar-Hopps:

Laura currently lives in Houston, Texas, where she works as a Palliative Care Chaplain at a local hospital. After her time as a volunteer, Laura attended Harvard Divinity School, where she earned a Master of Divinity degree in Buddhist Studies. She then returned to Nicaragua, as was the Program Director of the Quaker nonprofit, ProNica. In that role, she supported local grassroots community organizations that focused on women’s health, sustainable agriculture, rehabilitation of street children, and educational initiatives, and also hosted delegations of college students and community groups who visited to learn about Nicaragua. She moved to Houston in 2014, where she met her now husband, Daniel, and completed her chaplaincy residency training. They live with their dog, Remy, and cat, Croissant.

Christine Ruppert:

Christina lives in Takoma Park, MD and works at a charter school for adult immigrants in Washington DC. She got her clinical license in Social Work and provides mental health counseling to adult students of all ages. The majority of the students are from Spanish speaking countries, and come to the school to learn English, get their GED, or attend one of the vocational certificate programs. Aside from providing individual therapy, she particularly enjoys the weekly relaxation/meditation class she teaches at the school.

2009 – 2011

Greta Acklin:

In 2014 Greta returned to her hometown in Pennsylvania, where she met and married the love of her life. She currently plays piano for her church and volunteers for a local youth ministry. When her two-year-old son goes to kindergarten someday she plans to resume leading drumming therapy groups for women in rehabilitation from substance abuse, teach piano from her home, and participate in more volunteering in her community.

Amanda Otero:

After completing the Friends of Batahola Volunteer program in 2011, Amanda Otero stayed on at the Center as the International Communications Liaison until returning to the US in 2014 with her husband Melvin Hamilton (whom she met at the Center). She then began working at TakeAction Minnesota as a community organizer and is now the Organizing Director at this non-profit dedicated to racial, gender, and economic justice. Amanda and Melvin live in Minneapolis with their daughter Luz, born in 2018. Amanda is on the Board with Friends of Batahola, and her family continues to visit extended family in Nicaragua as often as they can.

2011 – 2013

Andrea Kraybill:

Andrea currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California. She moved there in September 2014 to begin studies at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA, and completed a Master of Divinity, with emphasis in Theology and Art. Her graduate studies got her back into art-making. She has been maintaining a regular studio art practice, and began participating in some art shows and fairs in Los Angeles. She recently got news that she was awarded an artist residency (2 weeks to go make art around other artists) at a center in France in August 2019 for which she is very excited!

Andrea enjoys living in a predominantly Latino neighborhood of Los Angeles and is part of a Spanish-speaking Episcopal church there called All Saints Pasadena Church. She hopes to continue to find ways to connect with the Latino community in Los Angeles, particularly as there are so many problems with the U.S. immigration system right now.

She’s had many different jobs since she began studies in California, but in September began working as a project manager at a small marketing agency. It is something new for her, and she is very grateful for work that supports her right now. For fun, she enjoys hiking, continues to dance salsa, cook with friends, practice yoga, and care for her little garden. Andrea’s family is far across the country in Indiana and Chicago, but she tries to see them as often as she can.

She was deeply impacted by her time at CCBN and continues to hold the people of Nicaragua and all of those from FOB close in her heart. She hopes to plan a visit again soon and find ways to remain connected for years to come!

Samuel Estes:

Sam recently got married (in January). He and his wife Alejandra are now living together in Minneapolis MN. He works at a nonprofit called Portico Healthnet that helps people find health coverage and apply for health insurance. Through Sam’s church, Sagrado Corazon de Jesus, he is involved in a faith-based immigrant rights organization called Asamblea de Derechos Civiles. In the fall, he hopes to begin studying for a Master of Public Policy at the University of Minnesota.

2013 – 2015

Kelsey Schrock:

Lives in Managua and works at an U.S.-based NGO called Grid Alternatives who has an international program office in Masaya. Grid Alternatives install solar in rural communities without access to electricity and also do hands-on training with international and local volunteers. She’s a project manager and in charge of communities in Matagalpa and Esteli. Her job requires her to travel a lot, sometimes up to 10-12 weeks in the year. She’s been working at Grid Alternatives since she finished her volunteer term at Batahola in September 2015.

Erica Koe:

Erika is currently working on her PhD in political science at Indiana University. Her focus is on the relationship between democracy and civil society, and she is planning a research project to do in Nicaragua this next year. She is a member of a Capoeira Angola group in town and is always working to find more meal prep ideas.

2015 – 2017

Clare Morrison:

Clare is finishing up her Masters in Library and Information Science degree at the University of Washington in Seattle and working as a site coordinator for a literacy-based after school program.

2017 – 2018

Kelsey Overley:

Kelsey has returned to Cincinnati and is working at a local coffee shop while applying for residency in Spain. She is a Spanish tutor and in the afternoons has mini conversation groups with previous students.