Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Apply to Volunteer with Us!

Friends of Batahola Volunteers (FOBV) is searching for the next two volunteers to accompany the Centro Cultural Batahola Norte for two years beginning in the summer of 2009!

Who are we?

FOBV is a new volunteer program that works with the Centro Cultural Batahola Norte in Managua, Nicaragua. The program was started by Christine Ruppert and Laura Hopps, both graduates of Boston College in ’07, in collaboration with the Center.

Where do we Work?

The Centro Cultural Batahola Norte (CCBN) is a technical training and holistic education center focused on the empowerment of women and youth in the community for social transformation. It was founded in 1983 by Sister Margie Navarro, CSJ, and Fr. Ángel Torrellas, OP during the U.S.-backed Contra War in Nicaragua.

Over the past 24 years the CCBN has helped over 2,000 women and youth to defend their rights, find and develop new sources of income and improve their living standards. We currently offer a varied program of basic adult education and vocational training that is approved by the National Technological Institute (INATEC) and coordinated with the Ministry of Education (MECD). Approximately 500 students enroll in 25 different technical and domestic arts courses each year.

Courses include:
- Literacy (basic adult education through 6th grade)
- Basic Accounting
- Computer Science
- Typing
- Communicative English
- Cooking (including national and international cooking classes, pastry making, cake decorating, etc)
- Natural Medicine
- Handicrafts

Art programs include:
- Music lessons
- Choir
- Orchestra
- Painting and drawing
- Theatre
- Dance (Latin dance and folkloric)

The CCBN also provides a scholarship program to help young people to continue their formal education and a 5,000-volume library open to the public. We also seek to support the healthy development of young people through the arts, offering classes and performance opportunities in folkloric dance, music, painting and theatre. Since 1994 we have enabled over 100 young people from poor families to finish their studies (primary through university levels) and become trained professionals, including lawyers, doctors, translators, social workers, journalists, business administrators, physical therapists, engineers, and musicians.

Our Mission:

Friends of Batahola Volunteers is a 2-year program that brings young people from the U.S. to live and work in Nicaragua. Volunteers seek to accompany the Centro Cultural Batahola Norte in its mission of empowering women and youth for social transformation. Volunteers dedicate themselves to the development of their spirituality and social consciousness through their community life.

Our Values:
Accompaniment: Batahola Volunteers strive to live and work in solidarity with the Nicaraguan people through their commitment to simple living within the community of Batahola Norte. Volunteers open themselves to learning, listening, and sharing with community members.

Social Justice: Batahola Volunteers’ methodology is one of praxis, the cycle of action and reflection upon action for social change. A commitment to social justice is lived out through work focused on empowerment, especially of women. Volunteers contribute through a stewardship of their time, energy, experience, and talents to collaborate with the community. Batahola Volunteers also commit themselves to searching for nonviolent solutions to poverty and oppression in their work and community life.

Community of Faith: Batahola Volunteers live in a community of faith, in which volunteers share and explore spirituality together and with the larger community.

What do we do?

The work of FOBV volunteers depends on the interests, artistic, musical or other skills, and the needs of the Centro Cultural.

Some of the work Christine and Laura have done include:

- Creation of an English program for working adults
- Accompaniment of a women’s quilting collective
- Facilitation of a women’s reflection group to focus on self-esteem, intra-family violence, and
other issues
- Help in the creation of a micro-enterprise course
- Creation of a weblog to promote international awareness of the reality of Nicaragua and a
solidarity network to support the CCBN
- Participation in a Central American youth conference on gangs, drugs, and violence
- Youth organizing to create a group to focus on formation, education, and action in the
community around issues such as: environmental protection, HIV/AIDS awareness, gender
equality, and others
- Organization of a micro-enterprise fair to sell the goods of local collectives and cooperatives

Living in Nicaragua:
Friends of Batahola Volunteers is supported by the non-profit organization VMM, an ecumenical Christian organization that provides volunteers with:

- Medical and life insurance, including 3 months of medical insurance after completion of service
- Monthly stipend
- Pre-departure orientation
- Visa expenses
- Spanish language training
- Annual retreats with other volunteers throughout Central America
- $1,000 re-entry stipend upon completion of service

As part of the program, volunteers spend one month before their arrival in a Teaching English as a Foreign Language program.


Volunteers live in a simple but comfortable house that belongs to the Centro Cultural Batahola Norte, and is located adjacent to the Center. Each volunteer has her/his own room. Rent and electricity is included in the program, and volunteers pay for other utilities from their stipend.

Who We Are Looking For:

We are looking for 2 highly motivated young people over the age of 21 committed to learning about and participating in social change. Women and men are welcomed to apply. A high level of Spanish competency is required, and a college degree or equivalent. We welcome applicants of diverse races, faiths, nationalities, sexual orientations, and physical abilities to apply.

We have a preference for people who have spent time previously in Latin America for 3 months or longer and have knowledge of the cultural and historical context.

The Centro Cultural Batahola Norte is an exciting and dynamic work environment. We encourage applicants to apply who can work well independently as well as collaboratively, are flexible, and have a strong commitment to social justice and their own personal growth.

How to Apply:
If you are interested in applying to the program, please email us with your resume at bataholavolunteers@gmail.com and we will contact you with further instructions.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Laura & Christine

Speech from Julio Perez at the School of the Americas Protest Nov. 2008

Julio Speech
Get your own at Scribd or explore others:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sign Petition to Change US Foreign Policy in Latin America

Dear Friends,

Please see Witness for Peace's Petition to President Obama outlining changes in US foreign policy in Latin America.

We are all elated at the election of Obama--but we must organize to demand that he make the necessary changes on domestic and foreign policies!


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sign Petition to President Obama to Close the SOA

Sign the Petition to call President Obama to close the School of the Americas. The military training school at Ft. Benning, Georgia has trained thousands of Latin American soldiers, many of whom have gone on to carry out scorched earth campaigns against civilian populations, political assassinations and other atrocities in the name of protecting U.S. economic interests.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Transforming Violence Through Art and Education

I am excited to share with you that this month I am starting to focus on youth organizing in the community to form a youth group at the Centro Cultural Batahola Norte. I recently had a planning meeting.

We sit around the table in our living room in a “cool” (68 degrees F) Sunday night in Managua after Church. Ernesto sits in a rocking chair, his “Che” baseball hat cocked to one side, sipping hot chocolate. He is a senior anthropology student working on a thesis on Nicaraguan immigrants to Costa Rica. Clarisa, a graphic design student, in a black and white striped shirt sits in another chair opening a packet of cookies. Melvin, an engineering student and member of the Batahola Choir, leans back in his chair turning over the cover of a documentary on teen pregnancy. “There is so much misinformation out there,” he says. “And so many young girls who are dying.” “Next Friday,” says Ernesto, “we’ll have the first meeting, we can invite all the young people from the Center.” “We will need to organize games too,” added Clarisa, “We can talk about serious things, but we need to make it fun as well!”

The youth group will be a space for young people to come together and socialize in a safe environment, educate themselves on important issues like intrafamily violence, sexual health, and environmental protection, reflect on their reality, and organize events to reach out to others in the community. Ernesto, Melvin, Clarisa, and other scholarship students of the Center are excited to get the group going.

One of the central values of the Centro Cultural Batahola Norte is of solidarity, of encouraging students who benefit from the Center’s projects to pass along what they have learned to others. This is the focus of the youth group—to bring together the Center’s high school and university scholarship students to organize educational campaigns and activities in the community to reach out to other young people with the aim of preventing an increase in violence, delinquency, teen pregnancy, gang activity, and other social problems.

Some of the Center’s staff members are working on similar issues with youth in the Oscar Romero Center in then nearby neighborhood of Jorge Demitrov. Patricia, the dance teacher, Gerardo, the art teacher, Bayardo the theater teacher, and Karen, the psychologist have been working at the Romero Center since March on a violence-prevention program.

Every passing car creates a dust-storm on the narrow street. The children momentarily cover their faces, then return to hopping in potato sacks across the street while the Reggaeton music blasts. Neighbors are laughing to each other, crossing street to see the new mural at the Romero Center. Gerardo had to plaster over the bullet hole punctures before starting the mural, but now the wall is covered by images of children disarming a gun, a green tree bearing fruits of peace, tolerance, solidarity, and hope, and loving families. A teenage boy shows off his work to his mother and aunts, explaining the meaning of the different images.

Demitrov is one of the most dangerous neighborhoods of Managua, and the Oscar Romero Center is on the border between the two most powerful gangs in the community. Each month at least two people are killed. Most of the children who come to the Romero Center have family members who are in the gangs and have lost loved ones in the violence. The goal of the Romero Center is to give children and young people a space in the community where they can be involved in healthy activities.

On November 1, there was a celebration of the project between the Centro Cultural Batahola Norte and the Romero Center, which included dance, theater performances, and games. The streets, usually empty for fear of the gangs, were filled with children playing and dancing to music. The children were proud of the mural they helped to paint, and to take part in dance and theater performances. It was a rare moment in Demitrov when people came together to promote a culture of peace.