Winter 2020 Newsletter
Message from the Co-Presidents
Happy New Year,
As we read through the articles in this quarter’s newsletter, we were so impressed with the hopeful tone of all the stories: From all the creative fundraising ideas, to the excitement over the new truck, the wonderful celebration of Gloria Milord and the good news about the choir director David Gutiérrez, the inspiring story of Yader Hernández, and the Center’s ongoing Violence Prevention programs. All these stories highlight the Center’s commitment to providing a safe learning and empowering environment even during these very difficult times.
The Center’s incredible resilience, courage and creativity has inspired the Friends of Batahola (FOB) to work even harder to support their ongoing mission and vision of a New Dawn for the people of Nicaragua. We would like to thank the folks who have given very generous gifts over the last year. We are looking for ways to reach out to you and keep you updated on the situation in Nicaragua and the events at the Center. We are also looking for ways to raise awareness about the Center and the incredible work they are doing. We are excited that Sonia and Candida are coming up for a visit, the first time since 2018. Some board members are considering a trip to the Center in June. These face to face gatherings have been sorely missed.
With the beginning of a new decade we are looking at 2020 with hopeful anticipation.
Sue Keefe and Pat Berning
Student Success Story: Yader Hernández
Yader Antonio Hernández’s story at the Center began in 2007 when he was 13 years old. He lived in Batahola Sur, a nearby neighborhood to the Center. According to Yader, he knew about the Center because of his aunt Johanna Ocampo who worked as the Culinary Arts teacher at the time.
“My aunt talked to my mom because at home we had lots of needs and she recommended applying for the scholarship program.” According to Hernández the Center was an open door that he needed after coming from a dysfunctional family. His parents never took care of his 8 siblings and him. He was raised by his aunt, a woman who worked washing and ironing clothes to put food on the table.
During Yader’s six year term as a beneficiary of the Immaculate Heart of Mary’s Project Education his social service was focused on the Support team—a group of students in charge of welcoming visitors, guiding the mural tours and helping at the library. “I have wonderful memories of the Center because of the people who helped shape me during a crucial time. I remember Karen, the psychologist, that I used to see who helped me overcome my emotional fears, especially the trauma I lived during my childhood. Since then, I started to change; to transform into the best version of myself, all thanks to her guidance. My resilience was possible because of the Center.”
Thanks to generous donors that sponsored his scholarship through IHM’s Project Education, Yader had the opportunity to finish high school and go on to get a degree in Social Communication.
Currently Yader works for IDB, the Inter-American Development Bank, an international organization with its headquarters in Washington D.C. They provide financial and technical assistance for projects in health, education and infrastructure in Latin American and Caribbean countries. In May 2019, Yader also fulfilled his second degree in Marketing and he isn’t planning to stop studying anytime soon; “my next goal is to learn English.”
The Key to Success is Teamwork
Flea market by volunteers of Project Education
Every year, the bazaar has been a tradition of the Center. This past year, under the country’s declining economy, they have had to be more creative and resourceful to keep working to help their beneficiaries and the community. Every department at the Center worked to raise funds through several activities in order to improve the Center’s sustainability and outreach to the local community.
Flea Market by employees of the Financial Department
Flea Market by employees of Administration Department
The 2019 activities were:
- Flea Market: Visitors, parents and students had the chance to get secondhand clothes in good conditions at an excellent price. All the clothes were collected and donated by the Center’s staff.
- Raffles: Teachers and students from different departments raffled off various items including a basket with food products, a printer, a set of kitchen utensils and an electric mixer.
- Food Fair: The Integrity and Art & Culture Departments sold jam and typical Nicaraguan food to the Batahola community in order to support the cause
- Health Fair: Students from the Natural Medicine course opened their doors to the general public, bringing relaxing foot massages as well as iris readings during 6 consecutive Saturdays in September and October. They also measured blood pressure and body-mass index and sold their handmade natural medicine products, donating all the profits to the Center.
Raffle of a printer, won by a mother of an elementary scholarship student
A student of dance course won the raffle promoted by the Basic education for youth and adults.
Friend of Batahola: Michael Keefe
The first and only time I visited the Center was back in 2005 with a group from the Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church. My first impression when I walked into the Center was a sense of welcome. It felt like a peaceful space in the midst of a busy Managua neighborhood. I loved the murals and meeting the wonderful people there.
Since then I decided to make the Center an important part of my life. I give my support financially and also by donating my time. I have been on the Friends of Batahola board for 17 years and I’m a member of the Communications Committee and the Investment Committee. I enjoy using my strengths in business and marketing to help the Friends of Batahola and I always try to stay up-to-date about what is going on at the Center and in Nicaragua in general.
My wife, Kirsten, and I live in Washington, DC. Kirsten visited CCBN in 2015 and was equally moved by the experience of meeting our friends at the Center after having heard so much about them. My wife and I both participated in a one-year volunteer program after college and met at our volunteer placements with a non-profit housing agency in Baltimore. We have three curious, funny, book-loving girls who demonstrate caring for their neighbors and the world. We hope our daughters will inherit the volunteering bug and that they will be able to visit the Center one day.
Art for Gloria: A Life of Faith and Justice
This November 30th the Center celebrated its Cultural Center Closing Program entitled, “Art for Gloria, A Life of Faith and Justice” dedicated to their unforgettable and beloved friend Gloria Milord (R.I.P.), a great defender of human rights, a tireless activist in social work and promoter of social justice. “I have been blessed with many opportunities to serve the Lord in my daily life with my job and through my volunteer work.” Gloria Milord (1945–2018).
Art pieces created by the Drawing and Painting course
Gloria was a social worker for almost 30 years and integral part of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) Catholic Church in Cincinnati Ohio. She was an active participant in the Mission Sunday Multicultural Mass and the IHM Building Relationships Luncheon with the Latino community. In 2017, thanks to her commitment, and arduous work, IHM Social Action Coordinating Commission awarded Gloria the "Living A Faith That Does Justice Award.”
During the Cultural Center Closing Program, parents of students and the general public were delighted with a beautiful repertory of Nicaraguan music and dancing performed by students of guitar, violin, flute, and dancing courses. These 131 children and teenagers performing in the event are part of the Art & Culture and Integrity programs from the Batahola Norte and Acahualinca neighborhoods.
The event was a special way to honor the life and faith of Gloria Milord.
Dance group New Dawn
Students of guitar courses playing Nicaraguan music
Gallery of Gloria Milord
The New Choir Director: David Gutiérrez
Choir Director David Gutiérrez
David Gutiérrez came to the Center for the first time in 2012 and enrolled in artistic courses. He already had a background in music; in high school he had learned how to play the flute. His love of music inspired him to make the decision to study a bachelor degree at the UPOLI Conservatory of Music.
Soon after he got word that the Center had a choir director position available. The Conservatory’s principal advised David to apply for the job position.
The opportunity to lead the Ángel Torrellas choir was a challenge for David despite his experience directing several choirs. David mentioned that he had never seen a choir where the children can play instruments and sing at the same time. Children are also reading musical scores properly which makes them more proficient and confident artists. David claims “these qualities make them unique compared to other choirs. I see in them Ángel Torrellas’ legacy”
“Working with children and teenagers has been great for my growth as a musician and a professional—I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
A Call to Action: How You Can Help
Looking for ways to donate to your favorite charities? Instead of donating those unwanted household and garage items to the local drop off, help Friends of Batahola through the E-Bay For Charity program. Click here to learn more.
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.
Violence Prevention Program
The Integrity program at the Center works arduously to expose the prevailing issues produced by gender violence, not only in the Batahola community but also in the Acahualinca neighborhood. Despite it being a year full of challenges with the country’s political context, there was a very active participation in the program.
Thanks to this group of projects many more girls, teenagers and women know their rights and this will allow them to defend themselves with more confidence and determination. Likewise, it has helped boys, teenagers and men in the Acahualinca Neighborhood to develop healthy masculinity in order to have more equal and respectful relationships.
Youth soccer league tournament in Acahualinca
An activity of the project sponsored by the Sisters of the Precious Blood
Activity in celebration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women: “Girls Preventing violence to protect each other”
Online Extras: The Center Welcomed a New Pickup Truck
In 1993, our beloved founders, Father Ángel and Sister Margarita, acquired two vehicles, a green and a white pickup. For many years, these two pickups transported the Ángel Torrellas Choir and the dance group, New Dawn, to different places where they performed and also helped the Center’s employees in their daily errands.
These two pickup trucks helped enormously to support the community during difficult situations. Ileana Zuniga, head of the Administration Department, said that during the catastrophe of Hurricane Mitch in 1998, Sister Margarita Navarro and a group of women from the Center decided to go to Chinandega. They brought food, water, clothes and medicines to one of the hardest-hit areas in the spirit of solidarity. After this horrible catastrophe, the Center’s group realized that these communities had more issues to overcome than just the natural disaster. So the women’s group continued to accompany these communities through 1999 by providing families with classes in sewing, crafts, beauty and cuisine. Also they gave workshops on self-esteem and human rights, knowing this population needed more than just food to rebuild their lives after this painful experience.
In August 2019 the Center was able to buy a new Nissan pickup truck thanks to the support of Friends of Batahola, Center for Central American Empowerment and the Voluntary Missionary Movement. This vehicle will not only help with their daily activities, but will also help to continue supporting Nicaraguan communities when they need it the most.
Online Extras: Jenna Denlinger: A New Volunteer From the Mennonite Central Committee
Jenna Denlinger is a new volunteer serving at the Center for an 11 month term through Mennonite Central Committee’s Serving and Learning Together (SALT) program. She is 20 years old and she is from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. This past May she graduated from Hesston College, a small two-year college in Kansas, with an Associate of Arts degree with a concentration in social work. “I decided to take a year off of school to improve my Spanish, experience life in another culture, and serve. I plan to go back to college next year to complete my Social Work degree. I am living with a host family here in Managua and am enjoying getting to experience and learn about Nicaraguan life with them. During my time at the Center, I have been helping out in the library preparing crafts, taking an inventory of the books, and more. I have also been helping with violin and English classes a few times a week. While I am here, I hope to be able to support the Center in whatever way I may be able to, whether that be cleaning tables, helping students practice their English, or building relationships with the people around me. In the three months that I have been here so far, I already feel that I have learned and grown so much and I am looking forward to the rest of the year!”