"Hey, what's that new little building over there by the sports court, the clinic, the Coci-Nica factory and the community center"?
"Oh, that's the barber shop that one of the neighbors is going to open"
That's how we know "community development" is really happening!
Multi-Use Sports Court
We have always been interested in the health and welfare of all the residents of the community. In 2017 we were contacted by the NGO courts for kids, wondering if we would like to partner in having a sports court built in our community. We jumped at the chance, having recently purchased a piece of property across from the clinic, that would be perfect for a court.
In August of 2017 a group of 20 student/athletes from Kansas State University spent a week in the community building the court with the help of local residents. The result is a junior sized court set up for soccer, volleyball and basketball and other community events.
The Court is well used. In the mornings you will find young kids playing pick-up basketball and soccer. In the afternoons and evenings volleyball takes over and often on the weekends a young adult mens soccer league provides the action. The court, being the only dry, flat place in the community also gets used for large community cultural events and fiestas.
Sports That Build Community
Under the leadership of Georlengy Vallejo, we now have a huge volleyball/leadership program in the community. More than 40 adolescents are becoming profficient in the sport, while undergoing leadership training with real world applications. In exchange for their uniforms and other perks, the volleyball kids participate in community clean-ups, teaching English, and providing the younger children in the community with academic stimulation through a "Reading Corner". As the leadership group gives back to the community they are gaining skills and self esteem which should last a life time.
Improving School and Community Infastructure
When the Coci-Nica team is not otherwise occupied with stove making they are making improvements to our two elementary schools and other infastructure through out the community. We have a good relationship with the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education and the crew coordinates their efforts with the needs of the two local schools. Over the years they have built bathrooms for both schools, repaired roofs, brought in water and electricity, built and repaired furniture, built play structures and painted murals. We also coordinate our efforts in the schools with the tutoring program of Hotel Con Corazon and with building projects supported by Casa de la Mujer. The crew has also built drinking fountains for the sports area improved court lighting, and fenced in the court so balls don't get popped in the surrounding thorn bushes! Pictured at right is a group of fathers working under the supervision of Coci-Nica to build a covered event area at Escuela Berta Gutierrez that will greatly expand the space available for activities and outdoor classes.
Expanding Services to the Entire Community
Los Querubines, the community's preschool is now operational. Over the past several years we've been working with Casa de la Mujer, a Nicaraguan NGO that supports the needs of women, and Zukunft Durch Bildung, a German NGO to build a preschool and community center. In February of 2019, through the combined efforts of our donors, the preschool opened. The first year saw an enrollment of 15 students. The current program works with children three to five years of age. The basic facility with its two classrooms, bathrooms and play area are the best educational facilities around and have plenty of space for program expansion. Casa de la Mujer administers the program which currently employs two teachers and an administrative assistant.
The Centro Comunitario our new Community Center was completed in December, 2019 and began operations in January, 2020 with the hiring of a full time center coordinator. Teodora Iglesia came on board with experience, community organizational skills and boundless energy. Two months in, she has already establish a tri-weekly Zumba class, sewing classes for women, English classes for both adults and children, not to mention movie nights and holiday celebrations. In March she plans to add music classes for children sponsored by the Granada cultural center, Tres Mundos, and computer classes. She does all this while coordinating the scheduling and use of the facility. Many of the large group activities take place in the huge covered porch known as the multi-use area. The pre-school classrooms are used in the afternoons by smaller groups attending specific classes and for meetings.
Teo with her partner Ramon who teaches computer classes at the Centro Comunitario.
For years we have been interested in the idea of creating a community center within the Comarcas. There is a huge need to increase the educational, cultural and economic opportunities available to the 3000 residents. In Nicaragua if you want to accomplish anything such as get a road fixed or hire an additional teacher, the community needs to act in concert to accomplish such goals. To that end we knew it would be helpful to foster a greater sense of community in a large geographic area that is spread out over five kilometers. And finally we wanted to provide a space for entertainment and fun where people can relax, share and play together. With the help of several NGO's and our donors this vision has become a reality.