Spring 2018 Newsletter
Message from the President
My tenure as President of Friends of Batahola ended March 31. When I first visited the Center in 2005, I had no idea the special journey I was about to go on. I have learned so much about the Center and about Nicaragua and Central America. I have made many friends here in the U.S. who are devoted to the work of the Center and in Nicaragua, and I cherish those relationships. I never thought I would have good friends in a foreign country, but I do in Managua, Nicaragua, and I’m thankful for it. I never thought my involvement would lead my youngest daughter, Kelsey, to become a Spanish major and, ultimately, a volunteer at the Center. It has been a great ride, and although I’m no longer President, I’m not done working for and with my friends who work so hard and make such a difference at the Cultural Center of Batahola Norte.
The Friends of Batahola board members extend a warm thank you to Mark for his years of service on the board and for the devotion he has shown to the mission of the Center. You can read more of Mark's reflections below.
The Center Celebrates 35 Years
The first chapel
The first sewing class
Where the first sewing, music, and basic adult education classes were held
Typing Mass leaflets
In March the Cultural Center of Batahola Norte celebrated its 35th anniversary. To commemorate this moment, four women reflect on the Center´s early years and the deep joy of knowing and loving its beloved co-founders, Sr. Margie and Fr. Ángel.Marta Centeno
I remember when Father Ángel and Sister Margarita came knocking on my door in 1982. They talked to us about all of the projects they wanted to start and invited us to Mass. They later asked the government for a bit of land to start a church for the people. We cleaned the rocks, garbage, and weeds off the land, and in 1983 construction began.
We were 20 women in the first sewing class. Sister Margie got us four donated sewing machines. One of us would sew for a bit and then another would use the machine and then another. We were a close-knit group that would all go on to study cosmetology and cooking, collecting money amongst ourselves to pay a small contribution, not even a salary, to the teachers.Cony Melendez
We started with nothing. It was beautiful because it began with the community. We held Mass outside, standing the whole time, beneath a lamppost, with just a small table.
They started with the sewing class and then basic adult education classes. It was so exciting to finish my elementary school degree here every Saturday. I learned much at the Center as a woman, especially about my self-esteem. I felt like a new woman, a new Cony.Ileana Zúniga
I came to the Center because I wanted to learn sewing to help support my three children. Once I was here, my eyes were opened, and I recognized myself as Ileana, a woman with rights. We had never dared to see ourselves like this before.
I remember Sister Margie told us to teach basic adult education classes. At first, I was afraid because I had never taught before, but Margie said, “You can do it! Take a risk!”
Just by looking at us, Sister Margie knew if something was wrong. She had time for everyone. She never said she was busy. Each morning, she would greet us singing, “Good morning, my white doves!”Cándida Martinez
“Our first building was the Guadalupana chapel, just a roof and a cement floor. Then, two wooden prefabricated homes were donated. That’s where we held music, sewing, and basic adult education classes. We had no fence, so a group of us women were the “security guards” at night. We took turns in groups on the night watch and stayed up all night, talking and cleaning.
The next courses were cosmetology and cooking. I remember Margie met someone working at a restaurant in the airport and she brought her to the Center to teach us. Everyone took the course and afterwards Ileana and I would take what we had made and sell it on the street.
The classes were free. No one received a salary. Father Ángel started classes to help with our spelling. I wrote up the Mass leaflets on a typewriter, and I remember I had to redo them hundreds of times because Ángel was very strict. However, we always missed something!
An Interview with Outgoing President, Mark Overley
Kelsey Overley, Gleris Ruiz Loredo, Mark Overley, Karla Zamora, and Claudette Overley
How did you first learn about the Center and Friends of Batahola (FOB)?
I first heard about the Center when Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) Parish (Cincinnati, Ohio) began twinning with the Center in 2000. As a part of my job, I travel to Managua and thought I could take things to the Center as a part of my travel.
What made you get more involved with FOB?
In 2009, my oldest daughter, Lauren, and I traveled to the Center on the annual IHM immersion trip. That trip really opened my eyes to the Center and the great work they do. I didn’t know it then, but that was the start of my involvement with FOB. Later in 2009 I was asked to join the board, and in 2014 I was asked to be President. I felt moved to say yes, and the rest is history!
Do you have one memory of the Center that stands out above all the others?
There are many memories that stand out for a variety of reasons. I have come to appreciate the Gender Based Violence Prevention Program as one of my favorite programs at the Center. Two years ago on our annual FOB board visit, we attended a violence prevention presentation by the men. To understand the power of this presentation, you need to know that the success of this program begins with the women and children and works its way to the men, so to be with the men was a very special moment. Each one had a unique story of how they came to understand the hurt societal norms were causing their wives and children. The stories of their awakening moments were emotional and moving. It struck me that I was witnessing firsthand a transformation of critical importance to the family and the nation. I love this program and have great respect for the people who work so hard to make a difference.
What are your wishes for the Center and FOB going forward?
I wish wisdom and vision for both the Center and FOB. It will take faith for both to see the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit helping them see their path forward.
Friends of Batahola: Tippmann Family
Cole, Chloe, Nancy and Jim Tippmann
Jim and Nancy Tippmann are parishioners at Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Because of IHM’s twinning relationship with the Center, the Tippmann’s became actively involved in the parish’s fundraisers and other activities benefiting the Center. Jim and Nancy are also major donors to Project Education for Batahola, an IHM-sponsored program which provides sponsorships for students to enroll in classes at the Center, as well as to attend grade school, high school, and college.
Nancy said, “When Jim and I grew up, our parents expected us to go to college, and we did. Our educations greatly influenced who we are today. We know that there are children around the world who cannot afford to go to school. When we invest in education, we provide students with the knowledge and skills they need to change their futures.”
In 2009 Jim, and daughter Chloe, visited the Center. In 2014 Chloe returned with her brother, Cole. The family found these trips inspirational, seeing firsthand that people from different cultures have many things in common: They love to laugh, play, learn, and to praise God for their blessings.
Nancy said, “I am a Friend of Batahola because God has given me the opportunity to help others. I enjoy reading the letters from students we have sponsored over the years. We have heard from young and adult students in a variety of situations. It is rewarding to be a part of that.” Jim said, “Because I have been to Batahola, I’ve seen for myself how we can help those who are less fortunate. Even a small amount of effort can make a big difference. I support the mission of the Center.”
Our Students Succeed
Karina and her young son
When Sonia Olivares, then head of the Education Department, heard that Karina de los Ángeles Galeano Perez was finishing high school, she called Karina to encourage her to apply for a college scholarship through the Center. Karina took her advice, qualified for the scholarship, and was accepted into the public university where she began work on a veterinary degree. She also began her volunteer hours in the library at the Center. (All scholarship students are required to volunteer, in return for their scholarships.)
“The scholarship volunteer program helped me so much with college,” Karina remembers. “I learned how to be organized, speak in public, express myself, and manage groups of people.”
Today, Karina continues to use these skills as a veterinarian who oversees the law enforcement canine health program. “I have to teach the canine administrators how to recognize if their dogs are ill or off, and I use the group management skills that I learned at the Center when I’m teaching,” she said.
“The scholarship didn’t just benefit me economically, it changed my life,” said Karina. “Sometimes, one’s economic resources are so limited that it’s hard to succeed. This scholarship was a platform, a means that helped me to advance in my studies, graduate, and find a job in my field.”
Online Extras: Reducing Gender-Based Violence
Marvin Cajina (right) plans to recruit 160 men for the “We, the Heroines of our Lives” project
With Marvin’s help, the men gradually develop a new model of masculinity for their children
Marvin Cajina is on a mission to reduce gender-based violence (GBV) in Nicaragua, which last year claimed the lives of 63 women and girls. Marvin is working at the Center with the “We, the Heroines of Our Lives” project. His goal is to recruit 160 men and change their ideas about masculinity.
“We start by going house to house, asking men to join one of our groups. But, we never say we’re going to talk about GBV prevention. We just say that we’re going to show them how to strengthen their relationships with their families, how to communicate, and how to get along better with their kids. If we say we’re working on GBV prevention, they’ll automatically think we’re calling them aggressors, and then they won’t participate,” Marvin said.
Only the community leaders know the ultimate goal of the team, and they gratefully provide access to schools, churches, and other spaces, with the hope that their community will see positive change.
“It’s in the process of talking about family issues that we cultivate awareness. The men begin to see that they initiate violence. They think it’s natural, and that they should dominate or tell others what to do. We need to create a new model for men,” Marvin continued.
The key to the project’s success is creating small groups of 12-20 men to discuss the issues amongst themselves. As Marvin explained, “They may question these new concepts, but if they’re in a group, they won’t feel weird or like something isn’t right. They won’t be alone when they develop this new way of thinking.”
With Marvin’s help, these men will gradually shift their paradigm and will provide a new model of masculinity for their children. Then, a new generation of men who respect women and their rights can rise.
Online Extras: Board Members Make Annual Visit to the Center
In mid-March, Friends of Batahola (FOB) board members traveled to the Center for three days jam packed with meetings, concerts by the students, doña Cony´s delicious food, a beach getaway, and a spiritual retreat. It was a productive time, and both the Center staff and FOB came away renewed and inspired for the future.
Mora Garcia, the Arts and Culture coordinator, said ¨Getting to know members of Friends of Batahola board was a motivating experience. They´re a great example of devotion, willingness, and action. Knowing that they daily donate so much of their time to help us from within their own communities and parishes, and seeing how responsibly they care for our relationship, made me reflect on what I give and invited me to commit myself even more deeply to the Center´s mission and vision.”
Mark Overley, past president of FOB, said, “These trips to the Center get better every time we go. I always look forward to the annual board trip to be reunited with my friends, share information and to get reenergized for the coming year.”
For certain, both the FOB board and the Center’s staff are committed to the Center’s mission and vision for itself.
Online Extras: How You Can Help…
If you’d like to contribute to the ongoing mission of the Center, please click the DONATE NOW button above. Our students need your support. Thank you.
Friends of Batahola is a registered 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. 97% of all donations go directly to the work of the Center.
Online Extras: Shop Amazon Smile and Donate to the Center
Now you can support the work of the Cultural Center of Batahola Norte through the Amazon Smile program. All you have to do is nominate Friends of Batahola as your chosen charity, and Amazon will donate 0.5% of every qualifying purchase you make on its site to us. There’s no extra expense to you and a small but significant contribution to us. Follow the three easy steps below:
- Go to https://smile.amazon.com (or Google Amazon Smile) and sign in using your Amazon account.
- Type Friends of Batahola in the charitable organization search box.
- From now on, do your shopping on Amazon as you normally do – just remember to use the Amazon Smile address instead of the usual Amazon address. You may find it useful to add https://smile.amazon.com as a bookmark/favorite in your browser so you remember to use this address.
Online Extras: 7 Ways You Can Help the Center
Together, we’re transforming students’ lives at the Center through education…the most powerful force for positive change. You can help be the change by making a donation…no amount is too small. Click the Donate Now button above on the menu bar, and get started as a Friend of Batahola!
|$10||Provides weekly tutoring for students to get help with homework and learn good study habits from older students.|
|$30||Gives two grade school students notebooks, pens, and other school supplies needed for one month.|
|$55||Covers the cost of one session of games and projects for 30 families, fostering healthy parent-child relationships and encouraging child development.|
|$80||Provides staff and supplies for 150 young children to develop a love of reading and learning. Eager readers are tomorrow’s leaders!|
|$100||Buys 15 books for the Center’s travelling library which visits local schools.|
|$200||Subsidizes art classes for children, making the study of art more accessible.|
|$500||Repairs or replaces 75 damaged books and buys supplies to keep the Center’s library up to date and well maintained.|
Friends of Batahola is a registered 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. 97% of all donations go directly to the work of the Center.