2018 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) 8390-4192
Fax: (506) 2282-7629

Year Report 2018

How quickly the time goes by year after year.  We have been so active and full of enthusiasm for so long, it just seems like second nature.  This year, I would like to give a summary of our special events and then, make a tribute to our special donors who keep us growing and evolving.

La Carpio

This village of hope continues to be the mainstay of our daily work.  We continue with our initiatives to eradicate poverty and to teach our volunteers about the challenges and successes in the process.  We work with the themes of food, shelter, health, education, job training, employment and self development.  Our local women collaborators are becoming constantly aware of their importance in the community and the great contributions to development they are making.  Our three  Family Well Being Centers continue to function with projects and activities on a daily basis and we are now seeing more than 300 children in the combined centers. These children get a safe place to study, explore, interact, read, do homework and to talk with a caring adult about their issues.  We did a remake of our Montessori style center and created a lovely prepared environment for our children to learn in.  The Centro Modelo, with teacher Gloria and Marisol in the library room see more than 80 children combined and are always doing projects and special activities with the children. Their traditional graduation this year was as always, exquisitely organized and executed.  Libertad is the community drop in center with more than 200 kids on the attendance role.  We were lucky to host the volunteers from Utah this year, including Maria who is a professional English teacher. She has those kids talking so much English, enthusiastically.  So, thanks to Maria and other volunteers, all our participants have improved their English through our Instituto Carpiano de Idiomas.

Our sports program continues to flourish and grow.  It is such a joy  to see those 100 youth playing, strategizing, joining in on sessions of self development, eating our hot lunches and making healthy choices consistently. This year we upgraded the soccer court and the kids have been using it for their training sessions and special activities. As coach Pedro says, “It is ok if we win or lose. But that is not the point.  We are forming a new generation of men for the future of our community,  the country and society at large. “

Café Britt continues to support our sewing women with purchase orders coming along n a regular basis. The women have done some experimental sewing to see if they can innovate some new products. 

During the year, our food distribution program support by Auto Mercado provided for for nearly 20,000 people total during the 52 weeks of the year.  Hats off to Nina and Veronica for their selfless dedication to preparing the food bags six days a week and monitoring the distribution with care and responsibility.

The abuelas continue with all their energy and motivation to create a wonderful learning experience for the volunteers through their now, almost bilingual play.  That event, coupled with the crafts display by the younger women makes a powerful final momento for our volunteers.  We were gifted some professional paintings by Patricia Erickson, famous artist on Costa Rica, depicting the scenes in the play and are hard at work making this into a book. In the meantime, it is a series of postcards available to volunteers.

In respect for the people murdered in the States in the Jewish synagogue, we have created a new gift for our volunteers which is a Tree of Life ornament which we hope will motivate people to become more empathetic to the plight of others.


The program in the northern area of Costa Rica continued during the year and families coming in from Nicaragua got support for their life situations with the help of Nela and family.

Rio Claro

With great thanks and gratitude to Fransisco and the volunteers from Go Beyond, our center in Uvita now has a volunteer overnight room ready for some willing party to help out with the program.  We are slowly but surely buying the property and have even installed water and electricity in the two buildings.

Indigenous groups

Our friendship and support for the Huetar, Cabecar, BriBri, Boruka and Terraba groups continued and flourished this year.  We are so happy that our volunteer groups return to learn from these wise ancient souls and to participate in activities with them.  We are especially grateful to Aftermath from Canada for their special interest in the Boruka and Terraba group.  A sad event happened with the death of one of our friends from Cabecar.  Jenny, our dear friend called to inform us that her brother in law had passed away…her words were full of sadness when she said , “This death effects all of us.  We all know each other so well.  There are not many of us left.  So, we are becoming fewer and fewer and each death is very difficult for us” .  My analysis was, yes, this is true. The women have been taking birth control.  They are having fewer children.  But people are still passing away and fewer are being born.  Also, the way to their homeland is being decimated by the cutting down of ALL the trees on either side of the road in order to make into a four lane highway.  It is heartbreaking to see those huge old trees just laying down on the ground.  This seems to be the story for indigenous groups around the world.

Special Projects

After completing the remake of the Montessori classroom, we were approached by Drew Irwin, a movie producer.  Along with a writer/director, he was promoting a very unique idea…the story of a young man released from jail and returning to his community.  In order to make this film more realistic, Drew and his crew chose La Carpio as the site of their story.  We were then asked to provide the food service for the cast and crew. Wow!  Little did we know what that was going to entail.  We were in La Carpio by 4 AM every day to prepare breakfast for at least 25 people per day.  We cleaned up the breakfast only to get the lunch ready by noon.  It was fascinating to learn the whole process of film making, scheduling, security, props, weather restraints…a Little of everything.

So, the movie is being edited and prepared completely but in the meantime, we are enthusiastically looking at ways we can develop a curriculum using this and several other films and multi media materials to work with youth who struggle with their loneliness, anger, boredom and lack of meaning in life. 

As soon as them movie filming was done, we got involved in creating a new Montessori school in a neighborhood outside of La Carpio.  It is state of the art and will be attending children from a higher income level on a regular basis, but, our teachers will receive training and our kids will be visiting this school  throughout the year.  Thus, the dream of bringing Montessori to the working class is coming true in yet another way.

The Volunteers this year built a house for a family living down by the river and painted over 200 houses.  We wanted to make the area around the Brand new school in Carpio look spectacular so we used a good quality of paint to make the houses in the area look more special.  We helped Marisol, one of our collaborators get into a new living situation upstairs from her mother’s house . And, we created a great place for Maritza who had just recently arrived from Nicaragua with her kids, a decent place to live.  We also completed a Project with a house for another single mother and her four kids .

We supported many people in their search for social security health care and legalization of papers to live in Costa Rica. When the situation in Nicaragua got worse, we gave short-term assistance to many families, especially to Bismarck who we have known for more than twenty years.    

In November, we assisted a volunteer group with their Project of providing eye checks and glasses to more than 1500 people from Carpio and the indigenous reserve.  It was quite the experience to get all the legal documentation prepared with a full blown strike going on and no one willing or able to give us the paperwork needed.  In the end, it was a great Project and we are going to be doing something similar with another group in February of 2019.

In late September I got a call from one of the former street kids, Pirri.  He was distraught and in prison for past crimes.  It seems that he was very very ill…diagnosed with cancer, tuberculosis, hepatitis, and AIDS.  I managed to get a special visit designation and when I saw him, it was so alarming.  He was obviously very ill, maybe near to death.  We worked with the social worker of the prison and got him meds, a blanket, socks, broth, other things he needed including, much to his chagrin, diapers.  We decided to battle this illness combination and with what to me was so little I gave him, he began to get better and to climb up out of his dark space.  He is writing the story of his life and has found meaning to stay alive. 

The year came to a loving close with meetings of all our collaborators together, planning for next year and sharing of our frustrations and joys.  Thanksgiving was brought to us by the volunteers from Gary Kaplan’s foundation and business and volunteers and….of course  our wonderful Christmas festival sponsored by Gary .  More than 600 people will share a great day of swimming, playing soccer, food, ponies, jumping castles, face painting, music, Santa, Presents and lots of games. 


Over the years, as I have been working with different populations, I have been writing about the experiences. The “books’ sat in drawers and boxes complete or nearly complete and ready to get out in the public.  Finally, we devised a cool Little Project in which children are given a “kit” which is a hand sewn envelope with one of two bilingual books, an original art work done by Maicol Urena, boy in the wheelchair, a bracelet made by a single mother and a bookmark made by the grandmothers.  The idea is for the child to read the book, look at the artwork, put on the bracelet and color the book with own inspiration illustrations.  The proceeds from the sale of the kit will go to the grandmothers, Maicol, the single mothers, the author of the books and the Foundation.  These first books are part of a series called “Lessons in Nature for Children and Big People Too”. Out hope is that through the sales of these kits, children will learn about the beauty of

Nature. Our hope is that through the sales, the  the Foundation can become more financially independent as well. 

Fund Raising

When I began this work, I was determined to find a way to earn the income to keep the organization financially stable through the personal interaction with volunteers and people who knew us directly.  This has been a great experience and we are so grateful to the volunteer groups who agreed with us and, along with the payment for their hotels, food, transportation, excursions and educational activities, were able to give the organization a donation for our monthly expenses.  However, as costs for volunteers rose, we see that we need to supplement our income in order to maintain the quality of our programs.  So, I worked on writing grants for two different entities.  It was a great experience that forced me to define very clearly what our goals and Budget needs are.  I wound up with a quite extensive explanation of our work using the vocabulary of the funding organiation.  Then, when it was time to submit…we had a computer glitch, mainly due to my lack of knowledge about how to fit a certain number of words into a field and how to use passwords and user names correctly.  To be optimistic, at least the meat of the projects are already done and saved and can be pulled out from the files when needed.  We will work toward this for 2019.


To our trusted and loyal donors.  We would like to take this time to recognize you for your essential role in our dream/vision to make a better world for everyone.  We are so proud of what we are doing and appreciate beyond words your continued interest and caring about us. Without Gary Kaplan, Barry Schwartz, Bob Epstein, Britt Palmedo family, Jeff Fischer and the Wells Mountain Foundation, we would not be able to continue any of these programs.  You are the angels of the Foundation and we are enormously indebted to you for your continued caring.  Just when I am at the end of my rope financially, along comes one of you to reach out your hand and pull me out of the hole.  It is difficult to run an organization with so many plates spinning in the air and no steady income.  In spite of feeling sometimes that I want to quit, something always happens to remind me of what we are doing and why.  Your financial support is what gives me hope for the continued evolution of our work…and the IDEA of the work as we make it a reality…It is so important to know that we have a relationship of mutual trust and respect as we strive to make permanent and real change in the world.

Our motto has always been, “Thank you for sharing our dream”.

Then I found myself writing something new on the board in our yearly team meeting…

Cambiamos Historias de la Vida ..

Which then became:

“Evolving Life Stories one at a time”

“Evolviendo Historias de Vida de Una en Una”

We evolve the people who participate with us and, as they evolve and change their life story from one of poverty, hopelessness, discouragement, violence, drugs and loneliness they carry many others with them.  So, mothers change, fathers change, families change, institutions change, society changes and humanity evolves.  It truly is a blessed work.

It is indeed an evolutionary world we live in.

Gail Nystrom

December 2018