Tag Archives: Gail Nystrom

TBT ThrowBackThursday – La Promesa

The year was 1997, the CRHF had just been legally founded in Santa Ana. Our volunteer work was centered in this area of Costa Rica. Down the street from the Foundation/Educational Resource Center was a squatter community of around eighty families. (more on the ERC in future posts)

The Beginnings

We mainly focused our volunteer work in La Promesa with single women heads of household, some of who were Nicaraguan refugees. The houses were all made of tin and some wood with dirt floors.

This is when our bunkbed program started with the Boy Scouts of CR. We also had our first theatre presentation called “Your Home Is Where Your Heart Is”

Reallocation

After more than 4 years of squatting the land, the government institutions were able to come to a peaceful resolution and reallocate the community to a low-income housing development. The CRHF served as a mediator and was able to help with the transition.

The houses the government agencies built are a simple but durable design made of prefabricated concrete. The CRHF, with the help of numerous volunteers helped paint and beautify the community, including gardening and cleaning-ups.

Right Action

In 2003 we began the construction of a two-story community center (seen in the picture) which culminated in 2005. This in part thanks to the efforts of national and international donors and volunteers. This center served as one of our first Family Well-Being Centers (FWBC). This is a model we have replicated throughout some of the most impoverished and marginalized communities in Costa Rica.

The community as a whole then reached what our Poverty Reduction Model of Development (PREMDEV) would call a level of Right Action. This means we were no longer needed as they were able to become self-sufficient in a sustainable way. By that time we had already began working in La Carpio and with children living on the street.

Transparency

You can read more in the 2005 year end report, the FWBC’s and the PREMDEV on the CRHF.org website. By clicking on the magnifying glass, you can search for this information using keywords such as “Family well being” or “La Promesa”.

As part of our transparency pillar, we try to make all our projects and financial reports as available as possible. Financial reports are available upon request. Please consider volunteering with the CRHF and for your donations to nonprofits in Costa Rica. Click here to donate or below for paypal. Thank You For Sharing Our Dream!

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A Time for Support and Mourning – ‘Lean on Me’

We shared our pain. This is Elsa. She has a fourteen year old daughter with severe cerebral palsy. While I was tending my father in his last days, Elsa came to my mind often.

As four of us turned my father to the other side, or gave him liquids to suck on a sponge, or caressed his forehead, or patted his back, or sang to him…I thought of Elsa who has been doing this all alone for 14 years for her daughter, in a one room place, often with no water.

Elsa has not gone out alone in all that time except to take her other kids to school. I don’t know how she has done it. But…yesterday she came to get her weekly basic food basket. I wanted her to know….that I now know.

And because my singing voice is cringeworthy, we put ‘Lean on Me‘ on the speaker and we stood back to back leaning on each other whole holding hands. I will never desert Elsa. Or any of the others.

I am in mourning one week, and feel like a turtle on its back. She has been in mourning for 14 years and loves her daughter ferociously. Her weekly food supply provided by donor Howard and our Automercado program is so much more than food. I get it.

Building Peace: Costa Rica’s Approach To National Security Without An Army

How does a country with no army protect itself from invasion? From a neighboring country, from drugs traffickers. From gangs. From gun violence. From any other disturbing situation?

Our president AND his advisors have cooked up a plan. First and foremost. Strengthen the education system. Second reinforce pride in the country through unified celebration of national holidays. A small gesture..renovate the school uniform rules. And then, introduce the word sovereignty to the national vocabulary.

A firm unified and led concept. Like when mom and dad sit the wayward child down for a talk. Clear rules and expectations. Coupled with ,”we know you can do it”. Attention and praise for small improvement and consistent steady encouragement.

Then…hire 300 more well trained police and publish videos of them together at an induction ceremony. Not to threaten or be aggressive but to REMIND. We are here. Standing firm. Tighten up consequences for small infractions like speeding or running a traffic sign. Align the judicial system, with the police system, with an attitude of restorative justice. Use the press to keep communication open.

And I’ll tell you what we don’t do. We don’t all walk around carrying guns. We don’t lose our daily courtesy. We don’t forget to greet each other no matter what soccer team you are rooting for. And when we discover a bully or a grooming or a cyber danger our government and ngo system step in to educate and support the situation.

Costa Rica is still far from the country it dreams of becoming but it certainly is way beyond the hatred and it’s consequences found in other sadly suffering parts of the world. We are blessed because we have strong and wise leadership. And we know our children will not have to go to war. We believe in ourselves.

Reuniting in Plaza de la Democracia: Liberation, Family and Unexpected Celebrations

The day of the commemoration liberation from the army we were standing in the Democracy Plaza. Waiting. Someone said…look, there is the president and they are filming him. Of course we had to go and cureosiar. Sure enough. There was a film crew filming a president…But it was an actor look alike of President Figueres…doing a reenactment of the speech had dismantling the army.

BUT we were there for another mission. We were waiting for volunteer Julie, who had arrived just a week ago, to meet for the first time since she was nine months old, her very alive mother. It “only” took a few days to find Julie’s long lost family and there we were.  Waiting. Suddenly, we saw them mother, brother, sister and two delightful nephews walking toward us. Then there were hugs as they found each other again. Tears flowed and there was a kind of peace in the air. A relief and a calm.

Then we gathered ourselves to walk across the street to a local restaurant that had been tipped off about this life changing event. The Calypso band asked ” what song shall we play?’ and all we could think of was “happy birthday to you”. So there it was…and the whole restaurants broke into applause. A great meal, profound conversation and wonderful little drawings by the two little kids as a gift for “tia”. And all this transpired right there in the Democracy Plaza. Where years ago an army leader took a sledge hammer to a fortress wall forever changing the destiny of all Costa Rican children. Even the adopted ones.It was a good day.

Empowering Communities: Gail Nystrom and the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation

In the realm of humanitarian work, certain individuals shine as beacons of inspiration, dedicating their lives to uplifting communities and creating positive change. One such luminary is Gail Nystrom, whose impactful contributions through the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation have left an indelible mark on the lives of many.

The Genesis of a Visionary

Gail Nystrom’s journey into humanitarian work began with a profound realization – the power of community-driven initiatives to transform lives. In the late 1970s with the Peace Corps, she found herself in Costa Rica, where she witnessed the challenges faced by vulnerable populations. Undeterred by the enormity of the task, in 1997 Nystrom founded the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation, driven by a vision of creating sustainable solutions to alleviate poverty and improve living conditions.

Focused Initiatives for Lasting Impact

The foundation under Nystrom’s leadership has been instrumental in implementing a diverse range of initiatives aimed at addressing the root causes of poverty. From education and healthcare to housing and microenterprise development, each program is designed to empower individuals and communities, fostering a sense of self-reliance.

One standout project is the foundation’s commitment to education. Recognizing the transformative power of knowledge, Nystrom and her team have tirelessly worked to provide educational opportunities to those who might otherwise be left behind. Scholarships, health programs, school construction projects, food security and vocational training programs have become cornerstones of the foundation’s efforts, opening doors for countless individuals to build better futures for themselves and their families.

A Ripple Effect of Positive Change

Gail Nystrom’s holistic approach to humanitarian work has created a ripple effect, impacting not only the individuals directly served by the foundation but also the wider community. By fostering an environment of collaboration and inclusivity, the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation has become a catalyst for positive change, inspiring others to join the cause and contribute to the collective well-being.

Challenges and Triumphs

No journey of humanitarian work is without its challenges, and Nystrom’s path has been no exception. Economic uncertainties, logistical hurdles, and the ever-evolving landscape of social issues have tested the resilience of the foundation. However, it is precisely in overcoming these challenges that the true strength of Nystrom’s commitment and the foundation’s impact are revealed.

Triumphs, whether large or small, paint a vibrant picture of the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation’s success. Improved healthcare access, food sustainability, thriving local businesses, and empowered individuals breaking the cycle of poverty are testaments to the unwavering dedication of Nystrom and her team.

A Legacy of Compassion

As Gail Nystrom continues to lead the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation, her legacy is one of compassion, resilience, and positive change. The foundation stands as a beacon of hope, demonstrating that sustainable solutions and community-driven initiatives can create lasting impacts on the lives of those in need.

In a world often beset by challenges, Gail Nystrom’s story and the work of the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation serve as a testament to the profound difference one person can make. By empowering communities, fostering education, and addressing the root causes of poverty, Nystrom has not only changed lives but has set in motion a wave of transformation that will resonate for generations to come.

Why We Do This

We sang. We laughed. We Saw each other. Children of the Massai. Pure sweet innocence.

Some people ask me why I do this work…sometimes it is genuine curiosity or desire to know. Sometimes people don’t believe our stats. And some might just be jealous. Lately, I got challenged from someone calling me a failure because I didn’t recruit more volunteers. And someone unrelated hinted that I was doing it for “ego”.

Let me make one thing clear…There is absolutely NOTHING that you can say that I haven’t already turned over in my head…remember it has been 40 years to try one thing or another. I feel like I’ve been pretty well honed.

And then there are moments that just bring it all to my heart. I call them moments of grace when there is a glow in the air and I can hear the universe hum. And thats what happened yesterday… because 13 year old Osmani came home alive after 3 months in the hospital. The tears of joy were flowing…there is a mini mini, a mini, a 9 year old, an 11 year old, osmani and a 16 year old girl who wants to be a doctor. and an extremely dedicated mother who learned in the hospital how to bathe, dress, carry and help with the toilet for her son. But yesterday all the chorus was tears, “we missed you sooooo much” repeated over and over.

With our donor we paid the rent, gave them food baskets 3 days a week, got a full time caretaker so mom can go get some work. Got them a new stove top etc. They are set up. Tomorrow we will get the bathroom bathing chair.

And this is why..it doesn’t always work like this but as they say all the time with God’s help we are so grateful. At least we try. Only room for great humility here.

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

In 2007, as part of a college graduation project, Francisco Nystrom created the Rescate Soccer league. This initiative started as a few trainings and matches with just 10-20 youth from La Carpio.

Due to the benefits, demand and interest from community memebers of La Carpio, the Costa Rican Humanitaria Foundation made this an integral part of its program in La Carpio. Since then the CRHF has sponsored thousands of youth to become a part of the sports program.

Thanks to the donations and sponsorships the Costa Rican Humanitarian Foundation receives we have been able to provide the resources needed, including providing stipends to the collaborators in coaching and assistant coaching.

The CRHF has provided CRHF collaborator/soccer coach Pedro and assistant coaches with a stipend so they can continue to assist with the care of 150 youth from La Carpio. We have been doing this for 15 years.

Pedro and the assistants are like father substitute for all of them . The CRHF provides the resources so they can take them to games, to outings, to get the food. We set up their competitions with other leagues. We organizes training sessions. The coaches give them advice and counseling. The coches live in the community and are available 24/7. When they lose a game we console them. When they win, we celebrates.

The Rescate team philosophy is that it is not about the win. It is about the play. The sports program has made La Carpio to be respected and not made fun of. Before and after every game, the coaches do a circle and prepare 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