Fall 2020 Newsletter
Message from the Co-Presidents
Pat and I first met Sr. Margie Navarro, co-founder of the Center, in 1999 when she came to Cincinnati to visit family and to speak at our parish, Immaculate Heart of Mary. We met Sonia Olivares, now the Center’s Coordinator, during our visits to the Center in 2000 and 2001. Since then we have watched Sonia develop with such a strong sense of purpose and responsibility. Today she is surrounded by a very dedicated administrative team of women who help keep the Center’s mission alive. Sr. Margie would be so proud.
These women continue to persevere despite the continuing political and economic crisis and now with COVID-19. As we write, the Center’s art and music classes are being taught remotely via WhatsApp. Batahola and the surrounding communities continue to depend on the Center to get an education and develop occupational skills to support their family.
Sr. Margie loved this quote from Julia Esquivel. “I will remain with my people, the dispossessed, the deceived. With the people who keep standing up and surviving and beginning again….yes, I will remain with my people.”
Friends of Batahola will always remain with Sr. Margie’s people.
Pat Berning and Sue Keefe
Friends of Batahola: Amanda Otero & Melvin Hamilton
A New Round of Classes
In spite of the socio-political and health adversities that the country has been through, the Center has begun the enrollment process for five vocational training courses for the second semester: Pastry, Cake Decorating, Bakery, Beauty, and Hairstyling. These courses were opened in response to the constant demand of adults and young people seeking skills to be able to make a living during these difficult times. The Center has initiated this new registration cycle, but always with a permanent safety and hygiene plan. This includes a minimal number of students per course in order to provide a safer environment for both teachers and students.
Roxana Zamora happily commented, “I just finished the Pastry course, and despite the difficult economic situation I decided to enroll in the Cake Decorating course. Before I had a fritanga at home (a family business selling traditional Nicaraguan street food), but I was not selling as much as I regularly did. So instead I’ve been making bread, pizza and other baked goods that I learned in the pastry course. Thanks to God I have sold my products to people in my neighborhood and I have been able to financially support my family until my fritanga business can open again.”
Welcoming New Teachers: Yanuaria Saballos & Geraldine Fischer
At the start of classes back in February, the Center welcomed Yanuaria Saballos as the new English teacher. She has 5 years of experience in teaching English as a second language. She has also worked for several public and technical schools. Mrs. Saballos said, “Being in charge of this group has been an amazing experience. First of all, because the Center has a kind of family environment where the staff have created strong and trustworthy ties. And secondly, because my students encourage me to give the best of me in every class. I can really see their effort and love for the language, so for me, that is the most valuable reward.”
The Center also recently welcomed a new Natural Medicine teacher, Geraldine Fischer. She is an example of one of the many successful students who come back to serve the Batahola community. “My first encounter with the Center happened when I took the Natural Medicine course, motivated by my mom. I realized that this was my vocation and I decided to continue studying, but this time to get a bachelor’s degree in Oriental Medicine. I had the opportunity to come back to the Center in 2019 to teach the course that initially inspired me to launch my career. I hope to give all my effort and enthusiasm to guide my students and share my knowledge.”
Violence Prevention Work Continues during Pandemic
The violence prevention program has continued leading activities at the Center and in the Acahualinca community. The work dynamic has changed due to the pandemic, but the main purpose will always be the same: to bring support to boys, girls, adolescents, men and women so they are able to live free of violence.
Mothers and guardians of children and adolescents of the scholarship project have learned how to guide their children to build new and healthier concepts of masculinity. Participants have shared that it's essential to transmit this knowledge to their relatives.
Leaders in the Acahualinca neighborhood have met for workshops led by psychologist and facilitator, Marvin Cajina, and lawyer, Ana Rizo. This group of men and women said that being part of these workshops allows them to create awareness on how to prevent and stop the virus from spreading in their neighborhoods and in their homes.
The violence prevention program also led its first emotional healing workshop with the Center’s teachers. One teacher commented, "For us, these kinds of encounters are important because they allow us to identify and understand the stress that we are suffering from, and find out ways to release it in a healthy and balanced way."
Student Success Story: Nercy Mercado
Nercy Mercado is a first-generation college student thanks to the Cultural Center. Nercy is the third daughter of 15 children who were raised by her grandmother and her father. It was difficult for her to find opportunities to continue studying because of the hard economic conditions in her family and her father's alcoholism.
She first came to the Center to study a computer course and then she applied to be part of the scholarship program sponsored by Immaculate Heart of Mary’s Project Education. Nercy graduated with an Accounting degree and is currently taking a masters program in Finance at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua in Managua.
“I have great memories from my experience at the Center. I learned how to speak in public, how to lead activities with children, and also I had the chance to put my accounting knowledge into practice.”
The scholarship program not only gives students economic support, but also offers spaces to develop leadership skills and a healthy self-esteem. Nercy concludes, “For me, the Center will always be my second home, and I am so grateful to the staff and mentors that I met there. Because of you, people like me can make a dream a reality.”
Save the Date for Sunday, November 8th!
Join us for a virtual gathering with Sister Helen Prejean to find out how Learning is Unstoppable at the Cultural Center of Batahola Norte. You will hear inspiring and funny insights from Sr. Helen, get a tour and update from the Center, have the chance to bid on a wonderful list of auction items and more. Stay tuned for an invitation coming to your inbox soon!