The home that was originally purchased by Pat McCully in 1993 has been expanded to three buildings on a double lot, housing a computer center, library, rooms available for rent to visiting sponsors, a playground with basketball court, a small auditorium, and space for health clinics and other activities to benefit the community.
Computer classes and internet access are offered to anyone from the neighborhood, for a nominal fee. The lending library (the only lending library in northern Nicaragua) and playground are also available to all community members and their children.
- annual quinceañera for the group of students turning 15 years old that year
- mandatory classes for both students and parents, that include seminars on subjects such as domestic-violence prevention, family planning, environmental protection, and health and hygiene
Developed by CdA sponsors, the Ayudate Project is about self-empowerment through family home-gardening. What started as a shot in the dark to alleviate hunger has turned into a much more significant venture. Don Luis, night guard at CdA headquarters in Jinotega, has taken the helm, recruiting over 20 families to participate. With donations from Home Depot and The Rotary Club, our community members are learning to grow their own food. As this project expands, we are looking to offer nutrition and cooking classes that will further broaden the knowledge-base of our community. Find out more by watching our informative short clip.
CdA is involved in changing community literacy patterns with a full-time librarian, book club, contests, and news kiosk. Our goal is to encourage residents of surrounding neighborhoods to enjoy reading throughout their lifetime. Students have mandatory reading time and our library is now open on the weekends, to further allow interest in reading to blossom.
Lowering Pregnancy Rates
In conjunction with the Peace Corps and local health authorities, CdA is currently developing a program aimed at reducing teen pregnancy rates.
Círculo de Amigas has campaigned to change families from cooking with rain forest wood to propane. As of December 2002 we had provided 82 set-ups of 3-burner stoves, complete with valves, fittings, fuel tanks (full), stands, and a safety lesson. While the shift away from traditional cooking methods has met with some resistance (lifetime habits of cooking and eating can be difficult to change, and propane refills are a relatively large periodic expense as compared to weekly wood purchases) there have been successes as well. The program is currently (Fall, 2011) being evaluated and improved, to allow for better participation.
Access to Clean Water
We in the developed world take for granted our water taps. In Jinotega, finding water is often the first hurdle. Storing it, free from bugs and debris, is the next. Círculo de Amigas has worked to help get water delivered to the barrio, and to get covered barrels to families for them to store it in. In 2009 the European Community financed the extension of the city water supply and sewage system to the poor neighborhoods surrounding CdA. We are working with the families of our sponsored girls to evaluate their ability to connect to these water systems, and to provide assistance with costs, or alternatives (such as correctly-designed and installed latrines) for families in areas which cannot access the lines due to geography and topography.
Sewing, Crafts, and Income Generation
Teaching a group of poor Nicaraguan women to sew is how Círculo de Amigas began. In 1986, Pat started collecting sewing supplies and pedal-operated sewing machines. The following year, she delivered them to 23 families who lived in 16 houses without electricity.
Pat says, “I came to know some incredibly strong women; women who work on a par with the men in the fields; who clear the brush and prune coffee bushes with machetes that scare the hell out of me, but who were scared to death of sewing machines. These women shared their stories of fleeing their homes and leaving behind everything they owned when burned out by the Contras during the war.“
In 1991 Pat returned to another Nicaraguan village with a pickup truck full of more donated supplies. She stayed there three and one-half months, hiring a local widow–and mother of 13 children–to help her. The sewing program blossomed from there, allowing women to augment their income. CdA still occasionally receives donations of sewing machines, but has moved on to working with area women to identify other crafts or businesses that may be used to generate income for the community.