Year End Report 2005

2005 Year-End Report
CEDULA JURIDICA: 3-006-204046.
Gail D. Nystrom, MA Ed.
Executive Director
Apartado: 458 Santa Ana Centro,
San José, Costa Rica
Telefono: (506) 390-4192
Fax: (506) 282-7629

Year Report 2005

Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation

This was another year filled with challenges and accomplishments, friendship and struggles. But, as usual, we have prevailed and can now report that all our programs continue to flourish, grow and make big changes in the lives of the people we serve.


Our Cabecar friends now have a fully developed visitor program. This consists of a one hour hike up to their little village where we are greeted by members of the community ready with ten different teaching stations that are designed to help outsiders understand the traditions of the group with hands-on experiences. After an introduction by the tribe’s head, Otilio, and a song by his father, the tribe’s elder, volunteers learn to make rope and hammocks, plant crops, light fires, use a bow and arrow, make natural dyes, speak a few words in Cabecar, and understand the Cabecar story of creation, among other things. We continue to bring to the tribe proceeds from the sale of their bark cloth crafts and weavings, as well as the crochet work we have taught the women. The group now also has weekly doctor visits, monthly dentist visits, and daily academic classes in their schoolhouse. Teacher Michael Purpura and his group of Country Day School fifth graders have done an amazing job fundraising and organizing events to raise the awareness among Costa Ricans of the indigenous peoples. This year they raised money to start the construction of a pedestrian suspension bridge across the river, which will mean that the people will no longer have to get wet and put their lives in danger when the river is too high to cross. Thanks to a grant from the Dutch embassy, through a contact from Chris Thomas construction on the bridge will begin in January 2006.

We continue to support Juan Sanchez and the Huetar group near San Jose, sending an average of two groups per month to visit his sacred temple. He has been helpful to us as well when we need a cleansing ritual or a helping hand with some of the people we work with when they are ill.

Women’s groups

We have been working very hard all year with the La Promesa community of eighty families, mostly women heads of household. With the help of general donations and the Unity group from the north shore of Chicago, we were able to finish the construction of the community center we started two years ago, as well as landscape around it. Thus, we now have a beautiful meeting place.

Woman to Mujer
With the help of Jessica Magdison from Dartmouth, we began a program called Woman to Mujer in which women from the States sent a one time donation of $100 to women in La Promesa to help them set up a small business enterprise. We had women selling things as diverse as plants, shampoo, chocolate bananas, bread, flowers, cheese and vegetables. The La Promesa women learned to knit and formed a craft group for which they meet once a week to knit and support each other.

Another business enterprise for women this year was our network of pizza shops. Thanks to the donation of pizza dough by David Feinberg, ten women were able to start up their own little pizza making businesses. Also, once again, our friend Chris Thomas provided us with help by delivering 20 bouquets of flowers for women to sell each week.

The women in La Promesa were inspired after treating volunteer groups to typical dances, delicious food, testimonies by the women and tours of the community. Two of our women were featured in television interviews on the Good Morning program here in Costa Rica. These hard working women also came to La Carpio and La California neighborhoods to inspire other women struggling in these very low-income areas to never give up. It was moving to see these mostly Nicaraguan refugee women with tears in their eyes as they realized that there could be hope for their futures as well.

Like with La Promesa, our work with women in La Carpio and La California neighborhoods continue. In La Carpio, our clinic’s supervising doctor sponsored several support group sessions for women and since then we have continued the support groups with a program called Stone Soup. This concept borrows from the children’s tale of the village that learns that if each member brings one part of the soup, everyone can eat a healthy meal. So, we actually make a food item each time we meet with ingredients that everyone brings in. We have worked together on issues concerning domestic violence, abuse, child rearing, and just keeping dreams alive in the face of harsh adversity. In La California neighborhood, we have begun the ground work for hosting visitors coming from the airport. The concept we have been developing is to invite tourist groups to stop at the school for a short visit as a welcome to the country. We continue to look for sources of income for women and support them as they try to raise their children with enough food and education to sustain them.

We had a wonderful moment when Nuria, a former homeless woman from the street, got her daughter returned to her by the child welfare department of the government. This organization had illegally taken custody of her daughter and had kept her for nearly four years. Nuria is now living happily with her husband and three children and is selling flowers which we have been donating to her at various festivals for a living. She has said that she wants to help other women with flower selling and will be working with us this year. In addition, we have helped countless women with small donations so they can buy food and help their children stay in school.

La Carpio

This project became our biggest of the year. We were able to keep the clinic running with the funding and hands-on assistance from individual volunteers and the help of groups from Berea, Common Ground and elsewhere. We now see over 100 patients a week in the downstairs medical area of the clinic and over 200 children upstairs in the education and prevention program. We have provided treatment for parasites to more than one thousand children and have given many education programs in the public schools of La Carpio. We began a trash removal and neighborhood beautification program to both clean up La Carpio and raise awareness in how gardening can enhance the neighborhood. With the help of our volunteers and our children’s neighborhood brigade, we planted over 2,000 plants all over the community. We have also implemented an animal welfare campaign, providing educational workshops to children and working with other welfare groups to provided subsidized neutering of pets for interested pet owners in La Carpio.

There are over 200 health education workshops that we have prepared, presented and reproduced in the various communities with which we work. I am now teaching a university class in community development and helping my mostly upper class Costa Rican medical students understand and be more empathetic to the reality of the population they serve in La Carpio. The Patronato (child welfare department of Costa Rica) is giving classes to over 50 parents with their children at the clinic in the evenings. In addition, we have been training a group of ten women from another section of La Carpio to create a similar program in their section of the town, and construction there of a second clinic/education center is almost halfway completed now. All the furniture for the centers will be donated by the British School and we are looking forward to having the educational materials donated by the Country Day School community. Funding for this project will come from Foundation donors and the Costa Rican government.

This year we built and furnished a house for a community member, Jessica, a single mother who struggles to raise her four children on her own. Many of our volunteer groups worked with this project and we are proud to see how we have changed the lives of these five people. Jessica is now in charge of our plant program in which we have donated plants to decorate the school in the neighborhood. One of our former street youth, Nela, has become the mentor to Jessica and she spends three days a week at the house helping Jessica keep her house clean and keep her relationship with her children positive.

Our daycare center run by Mavis continues to care for local children. Mavis struggles to learn to read and to keep the center clean and well run, but she now has the model of our own program upstairs at the clinic. Her charges now have the benefit of weekly medical care and upstairs workshops. Mavis recently received her fourth grade diploma through a Ministry of Education sponsored program.

We have several special cases we have worked with this year, and they have all shown remarkable progress:

Josue and his family have already moved into their new house. His new doctor was insistent that he must move out of the toxic environment he has been in. We are very grateful to volunteers Pedro and Elizabeth as well as Dianna for their work with Josue. He just beams when he talks about these very special friends of his. At the end of the year, Josue was treated to a two day trip to Arenal volcano by Pedro,Elizabeth, Rocio (Pedro’s mom) and the Foundation. It was the dream of a lifetime for him.

Paula, the little girl in the wheelchair has completely blossomed as a result of our work with her family,. Paula now smiles, laughs, interacts with all the other kids, is learning to read and actually walked down the stairs without some help the other day…She is getting ready to enter first grade in school this year.

Marcela has improved her relationship with her mother and no longer seems to be in health crisis. She recently passed her sixth grade exams.

Marvin, the little two year old who appeared at our door step this year, is also doing great. He now comes to class bathed, ready and enthusiastic. Although he doesn’t talk much yet, he is showing improved understanding and control over his environment and better ability to play with others.

La California

We completed the construction and furnishing of three classrooms at the low-income public school in La California, thanks to the generous donations of McMath high school and Barry Schwatrz’ foundation, Do the Right Thing. In addition, McMath provided the funding for a new computer set up for them, and British School donated three computers so the kids can become computer literate. This is the beginning of a new computer lab for the school. We are looking forward to setting up the internet for this school as soon as the phone company brings the lines into proximity for the school.

The community has benefited from our presence by the construction of a community center which we use for classes, eco-camp programs, health education classes and workshops for members of the community as well as for medical clinics. This is thanks to donations from Common Ground, Sidwell Friends, CPI language school and individual volunteers.

School 2 Escuela

This program continues to function beautifully and we now have the approval of the Minister of Education for our initiative. This year we worked with schools from Tortuguero to Monteverde to rural villages west of Santa Ana, providing them with infrastructure improvement, didactic materials, structured educational classes, English lessons, science workshops, and clothing and shoes for their families.

Homestay program
As far as we know, we are the only organization in the country that has such an extensive and well prepared homestay program. We have over 100 families trained and ready to provide the support our volunteers need in order to do their jobs with confidence and good spirit. We can guarantee good food, a healthy environment, plenty of learning support, help with Spanish, and a shared commitment to what our organization is accomplishing. In addition, none of our families are doing this work for financial gain, rather they understand and support our mission. Our families meet once a month for education or recreational activities. We exchange ideas about cultural differences, how to best meet the needs of the volunteers, and about the broader impact of our work on the Costa Rican society and the world as a whole. Our two homestay coordinators, Norma and Ana, have done a magnificent job working with the mothers of the homes where volunteers stay. Their coordination requires hours of work and preparation, as well as time and energy when the volunteers are in country.

Street kids

For the first time in more than four years, I went to the supermarket without having to worry about how to feed numerous street kids. This is the indicator that things have continued to improve for our sponsored kids and they are still here, moving through life with more confidence and independence. As of this writing, Nela and Keyla still live near the Foundation. Keyla is going to a local daycare center where she gets good hot meals and adequate care. She is learning to play the piano and had her first recital this year where she played Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Nela got the highest grades in her ninth grade class and after taking another series of ministry exams, will be starting tenth grade later this year. We thank Rosemary Ingalls for her support for Nela and her growth. Nelson is living right now in the drug rehab center along with Jose Angel and Alonso. Jose Angel continues to develop his skills as an artist and was greatly inspired by his friendship with the two lovely volunteers from France this summer. Henry has found his community and is working and living in La Promesa where he is accepted and valued as a friend. Julio returned this month to Nicaragua, probably to stay with his family there permanently. All the boys in prison are doing well, studying, working and keeping off drugs. Unfortunately, Abram is back on the street, as is Jason. Jason tried two drug treatment programs but left both of them and Abram could not get along in the child welfare shelter but he keeps in constant contact with us and we are working on finding a new place for him to live and learn. It is my hope that these two will be among those who enter the new drug rehab shelter that the next president will put into place. All of the sponsored kids were instrumental in the Foundation’s construction work and other projects going on this year.

Kindergarten Tortuguero

With the help of the Lifeworks groups, we were able to build and stock a kindergarten in the jungle village of Tortuguero.

Children’s Center Puerto Viejo

The children’s center in Puerto Viejo beach community got a new tiled floor and a cleaned up library thanks to the work of the Overland group.

Homeless Shelter and Street Visitations

We continued our weekly work at the soup kitchen and implemented a program of foot care for the homeless. It was quite moving when we returned there after a short month break and met one of the participants who told us that because of our foot clearing program he had learned to appreciate and value himself and had gotten off the drugs and booze he had been using.

We visited people on the street all year, providing them with food, clean water, soap, toothbrushes and art supplies to draw and paint with.

The drug treatment shelter for young men benefited from our monthly donations as well as food, art supplies, and recreational and therapy programs. Also, they helped us with the construction of our daycare center in Carpio in exchange for a donation to the shelter. We finished the year by providing them with a full course Christmas diner which one of the youth said was the first time he hade very had a real Christmas. Keyla, Nela’s daughter, sang twinkle twinkle little star in English to the men.

Prison support program

We visited seven different prisons on a weekly basis all year and provided support for the youth there through food, soap, shampoo, tooth care, school and art supplies. Nela has been in charge of this program and has done a wonderful job keeping the boys motivated and moving along. Our work is based on the concept of body, mind, soul and spirit health. We work with the kids in all those areas.

Thanks to the motivation of Sue Kalmbach, we worked with her to plant over 3,000 flowering plants in the prison for women. It was beautiful to see the women help us as we placed red, yellow, orange, purple flowering plants in each of the pavilions there.

Casa Fredy
With the help of the hard working Berea volunteers, former street youth, and individual volunteers, we built a beautiful three bedroom house for a wheelchair-bound man named Fredy and his four daughters and wife. This work was done by our great Berea volunteers as well as the hard working individual volunteers who were her this summer. Henry and Jose Angel loved working on this project and it gave them a real sense of accomplishment to realize that they were giving something back to society.

Un Futuro Digno

Working with a consortium of other organizations, we tried to problem solve the situation of street children. We are also now on a pre-presidential commission to work on this issue and to provide some insights into the work we have done over the last five years with street youth, violence, and drug addiction. A book co-written by the kids and myself and edited by Christina Palmer will hopefully be printed this year.

Canasta Basica Program

Through a generous donation from Harris Epstein and his family, as well as a collection from World Gym here in Costa Rica, we provided basic food baskets all year long for hundreds of destitute families, mostly single women heads of household or youth living alone. In addition, we invented a project of giving people “soup kits” in which the ingredients to make two big pots of nourishing soup were provided at the height of the rainy season in Puente los Anonos slum neighborhood, as well as in La California and La Carpio.


Our biggest administrative milestone this year was the training of Ana Lobo to document all our accounting on the famous Quicken program. What a sense of accomplishment for this former bored housewife to see her accounting work all lined up in neat files and approved by our CPA. And what a joy for all of us to see the boxes and files of reports and receipts all neatly organized.


Our website has been upgraded and improved, with more pictures from current projects and a more complete description of what we are doing. We thank Sarah Gross, Bryan Muir, Asa Tapley and Jim Stoll for their support on this project.

This year we brought holiday cheer to a broad spectrum of communities we serve. We were donated a large quantity of presents, and hosted outings, parties and other celebrations for more than 500 kids and their families.

In La Promesa, under the virtuoso direction of Barbara Nace, we held a Christmas party for all nearly 200 children in the community, providing refreshments and food, entertainment by clowns, and games and face painting by Country Day School students. Santa Claus, our ever faithful friend Susan Tessam, came and gave every child some wise advice about how to live a good life, an individualized present and all mothers in the community received wonderful basic food and supply baskets.

For children in La Carpio we held two parties outdoors, one in La Sabana, San José’s “Central Park,” in which we played soccer and did face painting, took the kids for horseback rides, and had a big lunch, Christmas cake and individualized gifts for all. The second party, for La Carpio children who attend the upstairs clinic’s daycare area, we took the children to another park near La Carpio. We played games, performed art projects together, ate lunch and cake, and celebrated with a piñata and gifts for all.

One of the most memorable holiday events was taking 21 children to the movie theater for the first time during Christmas week. It was truly a season to be jolly and feel the love for all these people we are impacting.

Magda, the Tia and substitute mother for all of us, made a delicious Christmas dinner and we took the food to the boys living in the drug rehab center. With tears in their eyes, more than one boy told us it was the best Christmas he had ever had. Tablecloths, candles, music and a shoulder massage accompanied boy.


The International Humanitarian Foundation has continued to support our work, offering the incentive of tax free donations through their 5013/C status in the United States and through their constant loyal support and consulting to our work.

If you enjoyed this year end report, and were able to receive it on your computer, it is thanks to the kind donation of John Currie, who donated a new laptop, camera, mouse, dvd player, palm pilot and small computer. I have had quite the fun time learning to use all these new toys and am appreciating enormously the ability to finally document all the hundreds of activities we do.

The Car

And speaking of wonderful gifts, thanks to a donation from Jim Stoll of Lifeworks, and other individual volunteers, we are now the proud owners of a 12 passenger mini van that is a real dream to drive and use. We were able to

explore new parts of Costa Rica with the vehicle this year and hauled everything from construction materials to eco-camp supplies.

I would like to give special thanks to individual volunteers Lauren Mysinsky, Jack Leather, Sarah Gross, Hyla Verbshow and Laurie MacGillivary for their special support and fun times during the first part of 2005. They were, as Jack from England would say, “brilliant”. We also remember and cherish and think every day of all the other wonderful and special people who believed in our dream and shared their precious friendship, goods, services and finances with us.

On a final note, my own personal most precious moment this year was seeing my lovely daughter Sara dressed up for her first formal party. She was a picture of grace with her simple but elegant gown and her high heeled silver shoes.

The words of inspiration for this year 2005 come from the moment I spent holding the rock I bought at the Holocaust museum in Washington, DC several years ago. It is a smooth rock and has the word “remember” stamped into it.


Remember how it used to be before before before. When all life was balanced. When humans took responsibility for the true stewardship of this beautiful orb we call earth. When it was possible to feel a tree…really feel and know it. When it was possible to see vibrant beauty in a sunset. When killing was not a solution to any problem.


that longing. Feel that light. Feel that powerful caring.


Make a plan. Know what you can do to bring us back to balance. To find justice. To find the trusting hand of a child in yours. To know that you have done well and you have done good.


And after all is said and done, be true to your plan. Make your actions every minute of every day go in harmony with your thoughts, your feelings and your memories