Year end report 2019

Year End Report 2019

Each year since 1994, I have the privilege and honor to review all the moments of the last twelve months.   The challenge is how to show these moments to people who are not here or don’t share physical time and space with us. 

Israel is one of our first students

Our grandmothers pose with a group in the Centro Modelo

In general, this year was one of our most positive ones.  All our programs continued and got stronger and we discovered new needs to be met.  Many of our past beneficiaries came back to visit with their children and grandchildren to thank us for what we did for them.

Food

Thanks to the support of the Auto Mercado chain of supermarkets, we are now providing food to nearly  1,000 people a week.  Each day our vans with a driver and a helper go to four different Auto Mercados.  We are donated an in-kind equivalent of between $400 and $500.  This includes fruits, vegetables, prepared foods, bread, pastry, juice, cakes and roasted chicken.  These donations are brought back to our main center in La Carpio.  On two days a week, one of the vans stops to give donations to a daycare center in the community of Leon Xiii which serves 180 children per day.  When the food arrives in la Carpio, a team helps to carry the baskets up the stairs and we prepare two bags of food for each beneficiary.  These include single mothers heads of household, elderly, refugees, multi child families and people living on the streets.  If there are any greens left over, we bring them to the local animal rescue center We then prepare a healthy lunch for the kids in our daycare center and all our colaborators.      

One day a week the children make their own sandwiches.

The children at our daycare center receive the food as well as the other centers that we have in La Carpio.  They get a healthy snack every day and a hot lunch before leaving for home or school. Once a week, we host a lunch for forty refugees from Nicaragua and every day all the people who help us run our centers can have lunch.  In addition, our grandmother’s group has meetings once a week, which include a lunch.  The grand total being 1,120 people per week. This program has provided more than just food.  We have been able to teach all our beneficiaries about the importance of hygiene, healthy food preparation, the presence of vegetables in our diet, the use of quinoa, asparagus, broccoli, mushrooms and whole-wheat products.  Every day we share recipes and ideas on how to prepare food.  For example, recently we got a big donation of celery.  We gave ideas about how to use the celery in fresh juice or omelets.  The joy that this food brings  us cannot be emphasized enough.  Every day is like Christmas for all of us as we take the food out of the baskets and place them into the bags

One of our hot lunches prepared for the children.

The Auto Mercado has also been donating dry goods like rice, beans, pasta, sauces and cleaning supplies. These are also donated to the populations we serve so they can afford toe at more regularly.

Shelter

In the area of providing dignified housing, we began educating all our beneficiaries with a workshop called “Cuerpo Sano, Casa Sana”.  This workshop included ideas and practical assistance in keeping our bodies clean through regular hand washing, shampoo, use of deodorant, clean clothing.  This is a particular challenge in La Carpio because we don’t always have water on demand.  In the Casa Sana worship, participants learned to take a survey of their own homes and see where the secret unhygienic spaces are.  They then applied this to the classrooms and places they work. 

We upgraded ten different houses this year, including putting in floors, roofs, stronger walls and internal divisions.  Each of these upgrades was designed to make the living space healthier and more dignified.  Separating a room for a mother and her teenage son, putting the children in their own sleeping space, dividing a multi family home so each of the mothers could have their own space for their children. 

And, we finished a complete build for one family, giving them a concrete prefab house with a beautiful food, floor and back yard.  Now, nearly all of our collaborators have a beautiful house to call their own.

We painted over 100 houses during the year and gave plants and flowers to over 200 people.

Health Care

This is an essential part of our program and we were able to provide health checks to over 2,000 people complete with extensive health interviews, diagnosis, and correct medicines.  In addition we gave dental care to nearly 500 people including the indigenous groups we work with and eyeglasses to another 800.  We now have a medical file for most of the people we have been seeing.

People line up outside the clinic we provided for them in the indigenous area.

Health Education

As we interview people, we see the trends and have learned to anticipate the kinds of chronic problems the people have.  Mostly they are diabetes, high blood pressure and chronic pain.  We work with the people to explore ways they can help themselves to have a better quality of life through exercise, yoga, better diet and vitamins, which we provide.  We have found that people become less stressed just by being able to tell their life stories and by feeling honored with our intense listening.

Another situation of health education and care was helping our long time beneficiary from the days of the street kids to come back to life after his diagnosis of HIV and cancer and tuberculosis and bronchitis. He was in the prison when he called and told me in a small voice about the diagnosis   When I went to see him, he could barely walk or speak.  I spent every Sunday with him as he grew stronger, learned about his disease and used the meds they gave him.  I am so proud of him for overcoming this disease which has so much prejudice against it and begin to study, to help take care of the prison garden and looking just great.  And we shared many hours of quiet talks, and writings   I hope to publish his story some day.

Children in our Centers participate in yoga and meditation classes.

Education

This component continues to be our strong suit as we provide daily education to hundreds of children at our various Family Well Being Centers.  We work with infant stimulation, preschool, elementary school with homework support.  Our Instituto Carpiano de Idiomas is a well-known entity in La Carpio now and we have students of all ages learning English vocabulary and descriptions.

Young children are supervised and guided to work with materials that are appropriate for their age.  At the end of the year, children are given a diploma at a ceremony where the parens come ad share with them.

Our teachers have created a real Montessori classroom as supervised by a certified Montessori teacher.  Six teachers are receiving this formal Montessori training and are combining it with their own creative educational model in order to meet the real needs of the children in these low-income communities.

We have been donated real quality Montesori materials to use with our students.

Children learn about the heartbreak of 9-11.  

    The kids learn “home is where the heart is”.

This year in May we received a group of children who came to Costa Rica after living the trauma of their situation in Nicargua.  These children had witnessed the violence in the streets and several of them saw their own fathers murdered.  We placed a great deal of emphasis on the healing from Trauma program that we developed and were able to stabilize and normalize these students.

Individual counseling is provided when needed.

Art and theater have not been forgotten in our education centers as the children celebrate the Costa Rican holidays, social events and birthdays with plays, drawings, and presentations.  We have created the first children’s choir in La Carpio with our children.

Training

We have had  a variety of workshops presented by private organizations, government personnel and  even university students. Our collaborators are now experts who are ready to give their own workshops to others.

Small business enterprises

We try to find ways for anyone who wants to find work.  We provide resumes, bus fare, preparation, c;lothing, job searches, and small financing.  For example, one of our women got a little machine to squeeze oranges. She sold glasses of fresh orange juice and is now able to open her own little restaurant.  We give the men work in whatever handy work we need done and they always help us with the home upgrades and constructions.  This year the Kaplan Foundation emplyeed thirty of our refugee population with very dignified work for three months while finishing his new office building.

The group of  refugees has been working hard on producing their business plan to be presented as a way to make a living wage.  They are all requesting a start up fund of $80 and intend to double their money every week.  These initiatives are humble – making tortillas, selling cheese, making tamales, making piñatas are just some of the ideas.

The refugees are also taking part in our book publishing enterprise as they work with us to tell the story of their childhood in Nicaragua, their participation in the wars, their flight to Costa Rica and their time living there.

The artisan women are producing new products all the time and have been selling with moderate success to volunteers and supporters. Their newest work is to create hand-sewn squares with their life story on them. Also, Francis has sold seven of her animal alphabet quilts with an animal to match every letter of the alphabet.

Francis is rightfully proud of the amazing handwork she does.

Empathy, Compassion and Self Esteem

We constantly explore with everyone in our Foundation their own life purpose and the importance they have in the world  The grandmothers have presented their play more than 500 times over the years and this is used to educate others about the situation of being a refugee or being the mother of a child using drugs. 

Our workshops about Abuse and its truly harmful effects have been presented to over 200 people and they are all grateful for the support we give them.  The refugee especially are engaged in these workshops since they are fleeing from government abuse

Our indigenous groups continue to challenge and intrigue and guide us to understand our true place in nature and the role we have to play in protecting all the living things on this planet.  The Eco camp program takes place at our Finca Hope and gives children the chance to experience activities in nature.  Unbelievably, as part of his master’s thesis program, Fransisco got two big grants for the Foundation.  One is from the Swiss government to upgrade the bridge we built 13 years ago and another is from the Japanese government to provide clean constant running water in the homes in three communities and a clinic in each of six communities in the Chirripo area of Talamanca.  This grant is from the people of Japan to the indigenous people of Costa Rica and 

Children and volunteers share an eco camp experience

But, the main thing we do is show the people who visit us, how to provide support through goods, services and financing that life can be filled with hope.  There may be hard times, times when we want to give up…but that if we work together, we can make changes to ourselves, our families, out communities and our countries. 

( More than a ) Sports League

We would also like to feature for this year, the wonderful coach and youth of our Rescale soccer league.  For more than ten years, we have accompanied Pedro in his work as coach while he leads this group of 100 boys through their games, their training sessions, their talk times, their defeats and their victories.  Pedro has been the mainstay of this program and has dedicated his life to making sure all these boys stay in school, study, work, and lead a decent life.

The boys do community service once a month helping either at the finca or in La Carpio.

Administration

We continue to keep up to date with our financials and our reports to the tax and treasury departments of the country. 

But this year we had some extra help from Francisco my son who was completing his Master’s degree from the University of Peace and chose to do his thesis and course work by becoming an intern for the Foundation. He upgraded the webpage, improved the Facebook, did an impact study of the Foundation, and came up with a myriad of ideas for projects, funding and general support.

We now have an advisory board made up of a business person, a grant writer and a political person.

Gail often meets with leaders of other organizations or projects

Volunteers and Donors

Once again we thank all of you who so loyally continued to support us on our sacred mission.  Gary Kaplan has been kind in so many ways by putting on roofs, sponsoring lunches for refugees, supporting our education program through monthly subsidy and helping our sports team with a monthly stipend.  We are looking forward to finishing our year with the annual Mega Christmas celebration sponsored by Gary!

Jeff Fisher once again comes into sight when our funding is low and he is sable to sell a house. HIs loyalty and support over the years are so much appreciated.

The Palmedo Family Foundation and the Epstein Family foundation have been helping us over the years with their kind donations during months when we have no other source of income.  We are so glad that they are happy with our use of their funds and they are assured of their appropriate use. 

Volunteers…what can be said to these wonderful kids and their teachers and companies who make the decision to spend their free time with us, learning, teaching, building, painting, playing, crying, sharing, being.  Each year the experience with and for volunteers gets more intense and deeper.  As we learn more about the true root of abuse and true deep effect of poverty we share with our visitors and are heartened by their active listening and compassionate actions with us. 

Volunteers give all of us a boost to our energy and a iight in the dark.

We finish our orientation seminar for volunteers with the concept of Right Action and share together the true meaning of compassion in action.  We have learned that RA, who was the sun God of the Egyptians, means shining our light in all the dark places of the world. And indeed, there have been some dark places lately.  But no matter, because these kids are ready to go. Ready to go to the places where there is darkness in order to bring hope.  La Carpio is soon becoming the true place of light it was meant to be thanks to all the resources and energy that has been put here.  Thank you from the deep heart of all of us.  We sincerely hope that you will be inspired by what we have shown you here and can donate something to keep our work going strong.  It is a big job to eradicate poverty.  But, here we are. 

Christmas Celebration

We will end the year with our annual Christmas event sponsored by the Gary and Holly Kaplan Foundation  This year we will be adding even more participants with our refugee group and our the staff at the Auto Mercado which helps us so much with all our food projects.  

Nystrom Family

At the end of every year report I tell something about my own family…Felipe, my older son became the champion bicycle competitor of all of Costa Rica this year.  Sara, my daughter, blessed us with a lovely baby girl named Emma of which her mother and father are so proud.  And Fransisco completed his Master’s degree at the University of Peace.  My whole family came to visit Costa Rica together and had a wild time with me, keeping up with all the goings on here. It was all so wonderful to experience. 

Favorite volunteer story of the year..

A group of African American volunteers from DC come to work with us.  I begin my normal orientation speech and notice the slouching, the eye rolls and the yawns.  And, yes, I say to myself, what are YOU, an old white woman going to teach these kids anyhow?  Who do you think you are?  So…I ditch the speech and say, you know, kids, I think you have to teach me stuff. So…what worries you, what upsets you, what makes you feel crazy..and without one moment of hesitation, one of the girls says, my brother was killed by the police.  OK…so we go off on a tangent.  And we talk and talk and talk.  And I listen and listen and listen.  This is it, the real thing.  Kids who go through what I see on TV all the time.  And how lively and lovely and funny and bright and active and outgoing they all are. And I connect with theirk suffering because I tell them about my street children who were also murdered.   I really really like them. 

The next day’s activity is to go to the plant nursery and get pants to bring back to the kids of Carpio. Needless to say it was an amazing morning. They walked through the nursery with me, helped the men to make soil with horse caca in it..We laughed and joked.  As we were leaving, I said, do you want to ask me anything else?  Anything at all.?   They responded.  Of course, anything at all. and so they asked if they could touch my hair…of course you can..And so they gently surrounded me and starting touching my hair. Which I take quite for granted but apparently they had never touched a white girl;s blonde hair.  They kept saying, it’s so soft it’s so soft. And they were so gentle with me.  So, then I said can I touch your hair…of course.  And I said, it’s so strong, it’s so lively…So there we were in a circle. And maybe for that moment we were feeling something like love, I don’t know but we sure did end up hugging each other and just talking some more and some more.  How lucky am I? 

Challenges and Plans for 2020

Next year we hope to stabilize our financial situation with more steady and reliable income per month. 

We will publish the books that are now  print ready in rough draft form.

We will begin the work to formalize our educational model for children living in poverty.

We will create educational materials and activities suitable for children living in poverty and stress. This includes children in refugee camps. Low income communities and transition situations.

We will present workshops about our work to other populations similar to ours

We will strengthen the small business component of our work in order to make sure everyone has a living income.

.We will complete the renovation of the hanging bridge over the river to the indigenous area in Bajo Chirripo with a grant from the Swiss Embassy.

We will provide a clean drinking water system to three indigenous communities and renovate or update the six clinics in the area with the aid received from a grant from the Japanese embassy.

We will begin to transition out of La Carpio on a daily basis as the Costa Rican government begins to provide for the needs of their citizens through their health, education, small business enterprise, and housing programs.  We have worked daily in this community for more than 25 years and have seen two generations of children grow and thrive.  They are ready to become the new world citizens who know about the importance of peace and development through gradual growth and law rather than revolution and war. 

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