Spring 2019 Newsletter
Classes Exceed Capacity Amid Challenges and Insecurity
The instructor María Antonia Centeno teaching her students cutting hair techniques.
Students making bread.
On January 8, the Center opened its doors to the community and began enrollment for 2019, amidst uncertainty regarding the sociopolitical violence in the country and the resulting economic crisis. By February, 679 students were enrolled, meeting its goal and even exceeding classroom capacity.
Currently, the most demanded courses are Natural Medicine, Cashier, Computer Operating, English, Sewing, Cosmetology, Cake Decoration and Baking and Pastry. Baking & Pastry is a free course, which was originally intended to last three months and now for its success and demand will be extended to five months. For the second semester the students are asking for specialized courses, such as barbershop, acrylic nails, among others.
In order to insure the safety of our students and teachers, the Center has installed a surveillance camera system. There is also a security guard 24/7, and students are reminded not to walk to or from classes alone. Students are asked to maintain regular communication with teachers through WhatsApp. Currently the classes are back to regular schedule, but if there is news of unrest, classes will be suspended for the safety of students.
The Center’s classrooms are filled to capacity, due to the increase in unemployment in Nicaragua. Now more than ever, Nicaraguans need affordable access to technical and vocational training, in order to start a business or find work. The Center’s social commitment is to promote entrepreneurship, so people can generate their own income and have a dignified life.
Financial Security at the Center
By Andi Newton, Treasurer for FOB Board of Directors
Safeguarding the gifts of our donors is of utmost importance to the Friends of Batahola (FOB) and the Cultural Center of Batahola Norte (CCBN). Since the beginning of the political crisis in April 2018, FOB has partnered with the Center’s Finance Coordinator and General Coordinator to closely monitor the banking situation in Nicaragua and co-develop new processes in response to the uncertain political climate.
FOB holds video conferences with the Center at least quarterly to obtain updates on the status of banking in Nicaragua as well as the Center’s financial results and cash needs. The Center also keeps FOB apprised of any updates as they occur. As certain local Nicaraguan banks have been closed, we monitor the status of the financial institutions utilized by the Center to ensure they remain operational. In addition, the Center is focused on responding to all government requests expeditiously to ensure it is in compliance with regulations and reporting requirements.
A key operational change that has been implemented since the crisis is the frequency in which funds are transferred from FOB to the Center for operating support, grants, and other restricted gifts. Historically, funds were transferred approximately quarterly. Given the heightened risks surrounding the political environment, the Center maintains relatively low cash balances, and we now transfer funds on a monthly or as needed basis based on the Center’s cash needs. We believe that this is the most appropriate way to ensure the Center’s funding needs are met while safeguarding its assets.
Friends of Batahola: Sue and Pat Keefe
Sue and Pat Keefe
I met Sr. Margie in 1998. Sr. Margie was a faith-filled & determined force who had begun the Cultural Center of Batahola Norte in 1983 in Managua, Nicaragua with Fr. Angél Torrellas, OD. It was a Holy Spirit moment when my parish knew we needed to work with this woman.
IHM began twinning with the Center in 2000. I have found that every twinning relationship needs a cheerleader; I am the IHM cheerleader. I love working with the youth and thus began the 15 annual trips with teenagers visiting the Center. Our relationship with the Center has changed so many lives both in Cincinnati and in Batahola. Over 300 people from our community have visited the Center, and 17 people from the Center have visited our parish. My husband Pat has gone every other year with me to the Center and all three of our children have visited.
I joined the Friends of Batahola (FOB) board in 2002. I have served as recording secretary, corresponding secretary, and now co-president. I pray every day that the work of the Center continues in the political climate that exists today. The administrative team is courageous, dedicated, and selfless. I love the Center, the staff, and students. They represent what is good in this world and have become family not only to me but to my parish and my family and friends. FOB offers hope to the staff and students, and we must continue to be their anchor in this storm that surrounds them.
Student Success Story
Dentist Adriana Hernández
Adriana Hernández: Dentist and Artist
Adriana Hernández grew up knowing that something was missing in her life. To feel complete, she practiced sports, sang in the Church choir and studied dentistry, but something was still missing. She said, “I loved the time of my adolescence very much; however, there was still an empty feeling, and it was my enormous desire to paint.”
Illusioned by the dream of childhood and adolescence, through a friend of her brother, she found the Center. Adriana said, “Finally, I could do what I liked so much. There I met one of the sweetest people I know, my dear Professor Gerardo Arias. Seeing his passion and the love with which he teaches, I felt more and more motivated to paint.”
Adriana says in painting she finds a moment to be with herself, to be silent and enjoy life without pressure. “In the darkest moments of my life, where depression was a bitter drink, painting kept me focused on the things life was worth living for,” she said.
Some works that Adriana painted in classes adorn her dental clinic.
The young dentist feels very grateful to Father Ángel and Sister Margarita for having opened the doors of the Center to the community, and said, “I certainly do not know a person who has been in the Center who can say that his or her life did not change for good.”
Resilience in the Face of Crisis
Young woman decorating a cake.
Dance students with their mothers in a session of Biodanza.
Given the political violence unleashed in April 2018, the Center set out to care for children, adolescents, young people and women affected by the ongoing socio-political crisis.
Why does the Center focus its attention on these target populations? On the one hand, children are the most vulnerable of the groups and are affected in many ways by the devastation that accompanies violence. On the other hand, young Nicaraguans have been the main protagonists and the main victims of the government violence. The murdered, imprisoned and exiled have been mostly young students, which has caused the disintegration of the social and family structure in Nicaraguan homes.
For this reason, the Center has carried out a wide range of activities to respond to the specific needs of our target groups. During the crisis, our target groups demanded psychological attention, recreational activities and short-term courses to acquire vocational skills that would allow them to insert themselves quickly into the working world and confront unemployment and the economic crisis.
To give an effective response to the demands of the community, all areas and programs of the Center joined forces to work together to face the crisis. The conflict has given the Center an opportunity to exchange experiences and points of view and to reflect on the current challenges and explore the advantages of working together, to achieve greater cohesion as a team to serve the community.
A Call to Action: How You Can Help
In this time of crisis and extraordinary need, we are asking for your help, in order to keep the doors of the Center open to our students and to people in crisis in the community. Please consider making a donation today in the enclosed reply envelope. Our students need your prayers and support more than ever. 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.
Welcome Anielka Sáenz López!
Psychologist Anielka Sáenz
In March, the Center welcomed the new Integrity area psychologist - facilitator, Anielka Sáenz, for the second time. In 2010, Anielka was part of the Integrity team in the project: “Law, Affectivity, Equity and Respect for the Gender Based Violence Prevention” in the Jorge Dimitrov neighborhood, in Managua. When the project ended she developed workshops with the teachers at the Center on gender and human rights and how the teachers can apply these concepts to the classroom and their daily life.
Anielka never left the Center, and now that she is permanent staff she says that she has a lot to contribute and she wants to continue working with the Center’s target groups. Anielka told us that: “The Center is a place where you can acquire technical skills in an environment that offers safety & well-being; it is a space where you can achieve personal development through recognizing your rights and recognizing that as women we have a space and we can take up that space with our own resources.”
The current context of work with target groups in Nicaragua is a challenge due to the constant violations of human rights, but Anielka is sure that the respect and defense of those rights is fundamental, especially, “recognizing that children are also subjects of rights and as adults we must respect and protect them.”
Online Extras: The Center Has a New Roof!
Workers changing the CCBN roof.
Thank God and the Ruckstuhl Foundation for making it possible to replace the roof at the Center. Now teachers can teach courses and work from their offices safely throughout the entire year.
Every year during the rainy season, the water had seeped in from the roof because it was damaged. Students had to be moved to areas where they did not get wet or classes were suspended. Now, thanks to the Ruckstuhl Foundation, students will be taking classes under a new and safe roof.
Online Extras: Ash Wednesday at the Center
Community of Batahola in Ash Wednesday Mass.
Lent is a time of reflections and repentance. The marking of ash on the forehead on Ash Wednesday means to enter this period of reflection and to seek the mercy of God, especially now in asking God to bring peace, justice and love back to Nicaragua.
On Ash Wednesday, many from the Batahola Norte neighborhood and nearby neighborhoods attended Mass in the New Dawn chapel at the Center and received ashes in the sign of the cross, beginning their Lenten journeys of repentance and sorrow for sins.
Online Extras: Mark and Kelsey Overley Visit the Cultural Center
Mark, Kelsey & Professor Michael Quezada (on his knees) enjoying the Cultural Presentation prepared by English students
On March 20, 2019, Friends of Batahola (FOB), Mark and Kelsey Overley, visited the Center. During their week-long visit they bonded closely with students and heard testimonies of how the Center has changed their lives.
Mark and Kelsey also shared laughter, dancing and tears with the staff. Everyone at the Center deeply appreciates their love and commitment to the Center, especially during these difficult times.
Mark is past president of FOB and a current board member. Kelsey is a former volunteer at the Center.