Tag Archives: Gail Nystrom

My Book is My Friend

There wasnt a shelf…

As with all our projects we try to anticipate needs. But..we also live in a place where what we think might happen doesnt. Like the time we were building a classroom and had to move a HUGE rock away. And we just did it. No fuss. A lot of sweat.

So..I went to Suretka where our building for the first indigenous library is complete. My goal was to set up the space for the materials we were donating. When I arrived I found quite a bit of construction debris so the school cleaning lady and two of the male staff swept and mopped and cleared out stuff. Then we brought in our boxes of materials.

You think this was easy!? It was sweat induced hot. The sweat was dripping off my nose. There was a great white table donated by Michael and Michaela..with the legs unscrewed for storage convenience. There was no phillips head screwdriver to be found. And no shelf on which to put the materials.

No problem you say? Just head over to the local ferreteria for 18 cement blocks and four wooden planks and a screwdriver. They offered me a huge fancy screwdriver for $10…I said…” I just need a little one”. and voila..they came up with a perfect teeny screwdriver for $1,50. Unfortunately they didn’t have one cement block or one wooden board. So, off I went on a hunt for these materials.

Thus..Giselle got to meet the neighbors. I found a place where a guy was cutting wood and he gave me four boards. and miraculously the school came up with 8 cement blocks and I had my shelves.

We brought life and color and learning to these kids.

Africa Here I Come…

The tickets are bought and..I will be off to Kenya in two days!

In order to prepare I have been watching the Kenyan counterpart to CNN. I share this journey as our students and teachers have prepared letters for the people I will meet there. I have a LOT of people praying for my safe return. Me…I just want to make sure I get on the right planes at the right time for now. And that I hold my good health. And that I dont make some foolish cultural faux pas.

A Mother’s Struggle

Yesterday we visited Oneida, mother of Osmani who is the 13 year old who is still in the hospital after being caught in a gun incident. Child welfare and police inspectors visited her house on Tuesday. They declared the house inadequate.

She is not allowed to talk to anyone for legal reasons. It is an active investigation . She has to move out of La Carpio. She spends her days and nights between staying in the hospital with Osmani, searching for food and taking care of her other kids. If child welfare makes a surprise visit and finds the kids without a caretaker they can take them all away and she will not be allowed to see them or know where they are.

Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation goes into action. We loaded her down with food. We will provide her with a child care person. And we will search for a home for her. Somehow we have to get her out of this nightmare. This is such a clear case of severe trauma coming at her from all directions.

No images for security reasons.

Pedro and Rescate Soccer Team

Soccer coach Pedro has 150 youth under his care. He has been doing this for 15 years. He is the father substitute for all of them . He takes them to games, to outings, to get the food. He sets up their competitions with other leagues. He organizes training sessions. He gives them advice and counseling. He lives in the community and he is available 24/7. When they lose a game he consoles them. When they win he celebrates.

His philosophy is that it is not about the win. It is about the play. He has made La Carpio to be respected and not made fun of. Before and after every game he does a circle and prepares the team for what is to come. I think this is Love.

Please consider supporting this cause through a donation to the CRHF. Your financial support is critical to developing healthy communities. Donations can be destined for specific areas of interest, including ‘youth sports’. Thanks for considering us for your giving! Click here to donate

Persistent Alan Carries On

Monday July 3rd, 2023

He’s off…to another round of treatment and operations. This is Alan who had one leg half amputated. But now the knee on the other leg needs work. But.. before.. take a look at this furniture he refurbished. With a donation of seven very used tables and 28 chairs he created a whole new look. He was working until they came to pick him up for his hospital stay.

Tuesday July 4th, 2023

We are happy to have Alan safely back at home after his surgery. He had a lot of fear to overcome because he had surgery in the same ICU that his mother died in. Talk about trauma triggered experience. He has great faith with which to face these situations. The 23rd Psalm has been especially relevant.

We have been providing him with essential goods and services through these difficult times. He is looking at months in a wheelchair….if anyone has an idea for a crafty project with wood for him please let us know. He knows all about painting, varnishing and carving.

Celebrating 25 Years – Love Grows

Many people talk about the epidemic of violence and hatred that is flooding our lands in the past few years.  They are horrified at yet another mass shooting or tiktok post urging people to take negative action.  One wonders where is the Good that used to be? How are we to combat this emotional virus that seems all around us?

One group of people committed to the ideals of empathy and compassion seem to have found an antidote to this illness through a systemitized effort that brings together a diverse group of people who believe in a dream. This dream is shared as people learn to show empathy – a heart mind connectio – and compassion – a heart soul connection that fearlessly performs Right Actions to make real change in the lives of many people.

On Sunday May 7, the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation or CRHF sponsored its 25th year anniversary with a gala event at the Hotel Marriott in Belen Costa Rica.

After months of preparation, the people of La Carpio displayed the products of their efforts to cure their barrio.

Crafts made by grandmothers, teens and indigenous, bunkbeds as part of a shelter program, basic food baskets, sports activities, educational packages, and much more were on display to that visitors could get an idea of how this organization works.

Our spiral model of development was represented by a large model created out of hula hoops and brightly colored ribbon.

Three theater productions were featured.  One with the grandmothers showing how a woman came to La Carpio after her difficult abusive relation.  Another presented by the teen girls linked the story of Anne Frank with Covid in Carpio and Ukraine.  The third presentation was by the men of our group and is designed to show how youth abuse affects men from Nicaragua.

The Hotel Marriott generously provided a wonderful meal served with all the formality of the day.  Surprised to see a fork AND a knife, AND a piece of cloth called a napkin, the members of our sport league Rescate took valiantly went at the cutting of the meat. Meanwhile, the little kids were thrilled to find a bathroom faucet with HOT water coming out,

To make the cultural exchange even more interesting, the guests were interested to see the modified Montessori program that the Foundation sponsors and to learn about our Street children rescue program.

Then the show began….

The “minis” of our Montessori program sang the song “We are the Flowers of the Garden” showcasing their delightful costumes as flowers, sun, rain, and earth.  Who could resist the site of little children wiggling and singing a song about nature’s rhythms?

The soccer boys and girls made a pageant of the song “We Are the Champions” complete with a mockup of the wonderful bus we had been donated.

Next, the group of elementary kids sang the song “Prendo una vela”.. l light a candle …to honor 12 of their chosen heroes.  The candle they held was in a hand painted bottle with a copy of a painting by Patricia Erickson called “The Moon is a Woman’s Thing”.  Each of the children then gifted a candle to the women in the audience.  The men were given a hand painted rock with the saying “Upon this rock my church will be built”.

Then, the whole group sang the song “You Raise Me Up” ending with the creation of a human pyramid as the kids raised their arms in gratitude to the audience.

To end the evening, one girl, Francini came out alone and sang our theme song..Love Grows..one by one…two by two…four by four.”  She was soon joined by the rest of the group of children from the La Libertad section of La Carpio who repeated the song and its hand movements.

And finally, everyone stood and sang the song together.

Love grows..one by one…two by two…four by four. Love grows round in a circle and comes back to you to knock on your front door.

My final words to everyone: 

I was I


You were you.


I am you…

And you are me…


We are We

It was a sweet evening indeed.

Gail Nystrom

Founder and Director

Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation

We are very grateful for all the people who assisted and supported us in this very important event. We would also like to thank everyone who has supported us through the years and provided the resources to change the lives of thousands of the most vulnerable people in Costa Rica. We hope to have honored your support for our cause. Thank you for sharing our dream!

Proceeds from this activity will go toward:

Libros para todos program for the northern zone

A library program for, about and by indigenous in Suretka Talamanca

A Museum/Library in Amubri de Talamanca

Food baskets for La Carpio

Housing for la Carpio

Small businesses for single mothers heads of household

Preparing for 25 years

Creating something beautiful and impactful always has its challenges. We have done a lot of activities to give people a chance to showcase their work over the years. I’m glad to have had past experiences to keep me calm for this upcoming event at the Marriott; Sometimes I don’t know what possessed me to try this experience. But, here we are. The people are so serious and committed to creating a wonderful evening.

The montesori kids have to hold a candle..they practiced yesterday how to hold the candle with Reverence. They have worked so hard to create their visual display of their hero. And they are so attentive to our instructions about how to listen to the music to know when to turn around, when to hold the candle up, when to hold hands…Full attention to our instructions and giving ideas as well. The same with the minis. They are so excited to be dressed as flowers and sun and rain. They are learning that they ARE the flowers in the garden of life.

And the soccer boys…just amazing to see those big strong guys lifting their trophies into the air. The teachers and the Auto Mercado staff and the former street . kids are all preparing their displays to showcase the work they do day in and day out. The grandmothers are practicing their play and creating handcrafts. The teen girls have revamped the scenery for their play and it is so impactful. Harold is creating a scary looking airplane for the scene about Ukrania. We will be making a bus as well. The two French volunteers are hard at work making a giant spiral out of hula hoops. And Katya is busy at the computer creating all the pamphlets and publicity and lists and instructions.

And the indigenous are coming in all the way from Talamanca with their crafts and their necessary presence.

I have a lot of errands to run to keep everyone supplied with what they need. No matter what happens, they will all have the satisfaction of knowing that they have worked hard as a team to create something epic. It won’t be perfect but it will be heartfelt. I doubt I’ll make it through without crying…not for sad, but for happy.

“love grows one by one two by two….four by four…love grows…round in a circle…comes back to …you and knocks at your front door”

CRHF 25 year celebration

It is our honor and privilege to invite you to share in the celebration of 25 years since the establishment of the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation. We have been working tirelessly since 1997 to find creative and realistic solutions to complex challenges related to situations of poverty and inequality.

We will provide an evening of gratitude for all the people who have supported, served and received services through the efforts of the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation.

Peace Pilgrim

Peace Pilgrim continues her pilgrimage.

Three weeks ago, there was some news rumblings that President Trump was going to attack North Korea with a nuclear or at least, big bomb. Someone emailed me and said, “World War III has begun”.

What does one do in the face of imminent world war? I decided to go to the University for Peace…the place where Costa Rica tries to educate future peace leaders. And, there is a monument there to many well known Costa Rican Peace makers. And, supposedly, somewhere there, a monument to the Peace Pilgrim, an older woman who walked 25,000 miles thought the US for years, talking to small groups, individuals and fellow travellers about peace and its importance. I had recently learned about her mission and her message and was quite taken with it.

I asked around, “Where is Peace Pilgrim” . Everyone just kind of shrugged and responded with great ambivalence. This is not possible, I thought. How can there be all these great statues to a lot of people, but the Peace PIlgrim, whose $18000 statue had been placed here over 17 years ago was missing Many people had sacrificed and worked hard to raise the money and make the ceremony for the installation of the statue under a huge Guanacaste tree in the park of the university.

Finally, I found an older caretaker of the property who told me that the statue had been taken down and for the last THREE years, it was in a storage área. How is this possible? A Peace Pilgrim who worked for peace relagated to a stoarge área for three years .

After some more investigative work and the collaboration of the groundskeepers I finally found her. Indeed. Stuck in a storage shed along with piles of old chairs and desks and the grounds lawnmower. When I saw her in the dark of the shed, it took my breath away. She was just standing there, abandoned. And her arms were broken off. And here she had been for three years. At the University of PEACE for heaven’s sake.

I decided that this could not be and that it was necessary to get her out of there. A few phone calls, a lot of friendly banter with the keeper of the keys and last Friday we went at 8 am with a group of four very good friends from Piedades to pick up Peace. She is a small person, but when made out of bronze we are talking about a lot of weight. When they opened the door to the shed, once again, I felt so mournful to see someone who dedicated so much of her life to peace and peaceful messages stuck in this place.

The lawnmower was removed, the pickup truck backed into place and seven men so gently and good naturedly picked her up and placed her in the back of the truck laying her down on a thick quilt I had brought.

The guard opened the gate and magically we were allowed out of the grounds with the statue.Off we went on our journey though Little villages to take Peace to a temporary home to be fixed up while we look for a more permanent site for her.

You see, she was a teacher, giving lessons to children and adults alike about the message of peace. Something that seems to be missing in the environmnet of today. Good.

We got her to the home in the mountains where we were told she could stay. But, the owner of the home took one look at her laying in the back of that pickup truck and said, “She looks so scary”. And indeed she did – dark and armless and with stains on her head and face. And since she is a statue she had those eyes without eyeballs that a statue is has.

I began to walk around the front of the house. There was a large and long staircase and no way were only four men going to be able to take her up the stairs.

And then, right before my eyes, right in front of the house I saw this Little protected ares. A concrete slab with plants all around it. Flowers, Green ferns, and even a Little palm tree exactly the same size as Peace. Right next to the truck.

This is the place I said, She needs to be here, in the sun, surrounded by plants and growng things, welcoming people to this house. And, the owner of the house said, this is symbolic. Peace seems to be broken and fractured now and the Peace Pilgrim comes here with no arms.

We are her arms, I told her. We are the ones to do the work now that she left behind. The presence of this statue is going to bring great blessings on your house. She can heal here and you will be part of that.

When she is better, we will take her to her permanent home.

In tears, I watched as the men set the statue gently on the concrete, made sure she balanced. And I felt as if Peace herself was so grateful and relieved to be out of that storage shed.

It was as if this statue were a symbol of so many things that are not right in 2017. The times we live in. Women and their wisdom has been relegated to the dark hidden places and locked up. Older women are placed in lonely nursing homes where they sit in wheelchairs in the hallway waiting. Waiting. The valuable contributions of the elderly are ignored or mocked and not honored. Life goes on. But in what direction? Where are we headed now?

And suddenly I thought…this could be why I’ve been feeling so melonchaly lately.

The sense of impending doom from the political scene. The failure of a peace institution to care for one of its spokespeople. The sadness of the aging process and the battle to stay pertinent and active. Who are our models for this part of the human experience? How many wise and gentle people like Peace are being put away and forgotten, their lives not mattering and their accumulated experience not honored?

Yes, this statue for me was political and personal historical and epic. She is a symbol of so much that could be right in our human condition and is not right as we are living it now.

I plan to work on a teaching curriculum about this fine lady and when we place her in her permanent home, we will give classes about her message and her life. The rising up, as at Easter, of the spirit in a way that can be seen by many

Book Presentation

The “book” has weight and substance and reality. Here I am presenting it..It is fluid in that the pages need to be organized and who knows what we need to do with the actual text. The final chapter will be written in the next few months…it will be called “Everlasting Love” and will have a lot of information about death, dying, violence, grieving and transcending.