Summer 2019 Newsletter
Message from the Co-Presidents
The Cultural Center of Batahola Norte Thrives
It is hard to believe that it has been 18 months since the political crisis started on April 18th, 2018. The good news is that the Center has survived, thanks in no small part to the generosity of our donors who came through during our emergency fundraising campaign. The Center was able to stay open because of this financial support and the administration’s and staff’s incredible courage, determination and vision.
This newsletter is filled with amazing stories illustrating how the Center continues to provide an environment that educates and empowers its students. As the unemployment rate soars the Center’s enrollment has grown. The administration has adjusted the hours, added more psychological support and safe spaces for the children to meet the current needs.
Many nonprofits have left Nicaragua following the political upheaval and grants are few and far between. We are so blessed to have donors like you that have faith that the Center will be there for generations, carrying on the vision of Sr. Margie and Fr. Angel that a New Dawn will come.
Peace and Blessings,
Pat Berning and Sue Keefe
Students Give Back to the Community
Working daily at the Center, we witness amazing work as a result of our different courses which aim to develop skills founded on the values of community service and the right to live with dignity.
Women who are part of the General Beauty and Hair Styling classes not only get invaluable skills to become entrepreneurs, but also learn the importance of giving something back through community service. In this occasion students welcomed mothers and children from a non-profit organization called God’s Treasures that aims to benefit disabled children and their families. The women walked away with a free makeover and a boost of self-confidence while students got valuable hands-on experience and a sense of fulfillment from sharing their skills for the benefit of others.
Student Success Story
Gema came to the Center three years ago requesting a scholarship for her son. In doing so she found opportunities not only for her son, but for herself too. Since then she was able to take advantage of each opportunity, taking courses in Computing, Cash Register and Pastry-making.
Thanks to all she learned through her Pastry-making course, she decided to start a small business on weekends; “I remember, one day I didn’t have any money and I looked around and saw a pan, a stove and ingredients to cook a pizza, so immediately I decided to take a risk and as a result I made a delicious pizza, the most delicious pizza I have ever made. I sold it to my neighbors and that day I earned 15 dollars when the day before I didn’t have anything in my pocket.”
Gema at her Pastry making class.
Everything that Gema learned in each course she has put into practice to earn some money. Besides pizza she also makes sandwiches, donuts and vanilla cakes, saving the profits to purchase materials, ingredients and tools because she wants to continue learning and specializing her skills. For this reason she is planning to take the Cake Decoration course this semester.
For next year, Gema has very clear goals. With the profits of her small pastry-making business she plans to save up to go to college, “I want to study pharmaceutical chemistry because in the future I would like to have my own drugstore at home in order to have a profession and a family life at the same time. I will never give up on my goal, I will achieve it even if it happens when I turn 40 years old, but I know I will make it happen.”
A Getaway for Center Staff
The Center’s Staff at Habitarte, El Crucero.
On a sunny Friday morning in June, the Center family took a trip to an Ecological Sanctuary called Habitarte in El Crucero. They celebrated life, spent quality time together, enjoyed a two-hour walk on trails and shared food. Below are some comments from our staff members about this activity:
“It was a very nice place to walk around. There was a lot of solidarity among colleagues, we cheered each other on to achieve the main goal: getting to the finish line” Gissell Falcón, Coordinator of Integrity program.
“I loved doing yoga with Ms. Karla.” Cándida Martínez, Human Resources
“I slept, I felt relaxed. It was a very pretty and quiet place, so I had time to reflect and think.” Isabel Quezada, Janitor.
This space to relax and be in nature together is very important for reducing stress and maintaining bonds between the Center family.
New Accounting System
The Finance team. From the left to the right: Rosa Gómez (Financial coordinator), Faviola Espinoza (Accountant), Lizeth Velásquez (Cashier) and Gleris Ruíz (Accounting assistant).
In April the Center implemented a new tool for the accounting area called RubyLedger, a system developed in Nicaragua which aims to improve control of accounting processes in a faster, easier and safer way. Rosa Gómez, Coordinator of the Finance department comments “this new system is constantly adapting to our needs as an organization. This makes our accounting information more pliable, in order to control it quickly, transparently and tidily.
We have three months using it and employees of the Finance department are attending trainings organized by the service providers. Changes in accounting have been notorious since we started up with this system and the most important thing is having better tools to organize finances, especially for each sponsor.
Second Semester Begins
Cake Decoration students
This June, Centro Cultural Batahola Norte started registration time for its courses at the second term. This semester it offers General Beauty, Hair Styling, Pastry-making and Cake Decoration. At the present we have reached 74 students, but our goal is to get 100 students enrolled by the first day of class.
According to Ingrid Perez, Assistant of Educational Area, the most popular courses are Pastry-making and Cake Decoration: “We had to open two courses of Cake Decoration due to its high demand, these classes help to produce good profits in a short period of time; it means when students learn a new recipe, they practice it at home, then they sell their products in the neighborhood.”
Administration and financial team during training progress
Technology is constantly changing and evolving and due to this, companies & organizations need to transform and adapt to those changes in order to improve procedures. For this reason the Center took the initiative to offer a class for staff to update knowledge about Excel and enhance their computer skills.
The computer teacher, Virgilio Medina teaches this course twice a week and it will last two and a half months. Workers will learn how to make math estimates on a spreadsheet, to create tables and organize accounting procedures which aim to develop and update their computing skills, because this is extremely important for their day-to-day work.
Musical Partnership with the GITAR AWA Academy
Students of the Center and GITAR AWA Academy at guitar recital “Entre Cuerdas”
On July 12th the Center hosted a Guitar recital called “Entre cuerdas” performed by guitar students. Its purpose was to strengthen musical skills among our kids and youth who are part of the Center with the hope that they can go on to study music professionally some day. The GITAR AWA Acadamy makes this dream possible by partnering with the Center to award two young people with scholarships to study music in a five year bachelor’s degree program. This partnership began in February 2019, and the first student awarded with a scholarship was Rolando Jose Murillo. These scholarships are in recognition of extraordinary and talented students who have a well-known trajectory at the Center.
Friends of Batahola: Dick Gruber
In 2008 I represented Immaculate Heart of Mary parish at the 25th Anniversary of the founding of the Center. I had just recently become active in the Center’s cause, recruited by Sue Keefe, and I traveled alone to Managua with only a vague notion of what to expect; it was my first trip to Central America. Since then I have traveled five more times to the Center, each trip drawing me deeper into a richly rewarding two-way relationship in solidarity with this amazing and graced community.
Among those I encountered on that first trip were some of the founding members of the Friends of Batahola and they quickly became dear friends of mine as well. I was invited to join the FOB and a few years later was honored to be asked to join its Board and have served in this capacity since then. One of my favorite roles over the years has been picking up our Nicaraguan visitors at the Cincinnati airport and introducing them to the city: taking trips to the Zoo, the Aquarium, the Art Museum, as well as tasting our city’s favorite ice cream.
In retirement I have enjoyed world travel, photography and gardening, but most of all I have enjoyed opportunities to visit with my children (4), grand-children (10), and great-grandchildren (6). I have shared with them my commitment to the Center and several members of my family have become regular donors to this great cause.
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. 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.