Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Proyecto Laguna is Making a Difference

Check us out and Join Our Good Work

Since its inception in January of 2007 Proyecto Laguna has achieved the following:

  • 501(c)3 non-profit status,
  • Registered as an official non-governmental organization with the Nicaraguan government.
  • Provided school supplies twice per school year to over 800 students.
  • Provided over 600 pairs of shoes.
  • Provided over 200 school uniforms.
  • Provided 50 teachers with classroom supplies.
  • Provided basic medical care to over 900 students.
  • Worked with the schools to register them with the American Nicaraguan Foundation to receive furniture and school supplies twice per year.
  • Provided furniture, such as a cabinets and bookshelves, to the schools. Furniture was made by a local carpenter.
  • Provided sporting equipment to the schools.
  • Installed wall mounted pencil sharpeners in every classroom.
  • Provided small rewards every month to two students in each class as a form of motivation. A reward is given to the student with the best grades and the student who has put forth the best effort.
  • Formed parent groups in each of the three schools that work in concert with Proyecto Laguna to set goals for the schools. Parent groups are responsible for assisting with grant applications and fundraising. They raise funds through raffles, clothing sales, food sales, and movie nights. Each parent group has a savings account and use the money they earn to assist the school with maintenance and other needs.
  • Formed a cobblers co-op in Diria that makes shoes for the project.
  • Formed a seamstress co-op in Diria that makes backpacks for the project. The seamstress co-op has recently started marketing handmade bags and received contracts from businesses in Managua to make reusable grocery bags, beach bags, and other types of bags.
  • Received a grant from the Pangea Project in conjunction with the Living Earth Institute and installed a municipal water reservoir tank, a rain water collection tank, rain gutters, a drainage system, and repaired latrines in the Ruiz Castillo School.
  • Repaired and remodeled the pre-school building at the Anne Frank School which was previously in a dangerous state of disrepair.
  • Installation of new water reservoir tanks in the Anne Frank School.
  • Provided potable water to two schools with no water source by paying for water and transportation by ox-cart.
  • Applied for a grant to build school kitchens in two schools. The grant was approved and we are now on the waiting list for construction.
  • Proyecto Laguna is currently being considered by Pangea for a second grant for $10,000 to be used to install water reservoir tanks in 5 schools and repair existing latrines.
  • Received a grant from Google for advertising valued at $120,000 per year. (This is not a cash grant but we receive the equivalent from them in online advertising.)
  • Provided emergency food and clothing for families in severe need.
  • Provided medical care to several special needs cases including the following:
    • CT scans and medications for a child with epilepsy,
    • Orthopedic shoes and/or braces to 15 children,
    • Paid for surgery and medication for a child with an intestinal blockage,
    • Paid for physical therapy for several children,
    • Paid for psychological counseling for children with special needs,
    • Currently working to assist a child with an extra digit on each hand and foot receive plastic surgery,
    • Coordinated with Operation Smile to enroll children in Diria with cleft lips and palates to receive surgery, and
    • Paid for a mother with severe heart problems to receive testing and medication.
  • Organized the school gardens initiative in conjunction with the Ministry of Education and the American Chamber of Commerce.
  • and more!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Proyecto Laguna Bazaar-An Opportunity to Support Socially Responsible Nicaraguan Organizations

Proyecto Laguna is holding a bazaar to help support socially responsible Nicaraguan organizations and to give you a chance to do some holiday shopping.

To date 25 socially responsible non-profit and for-profit organizations are attending and will be selling a variety of items such as:

Handmade Toys
Newspaper baskets
Handmade Clothing
Mosaic and painted tables
Homemade soap
Iron Art
Gift Cards
Artisan Chocolates
Handmade paper
Dried Fruit
and more!

This event is hosted by Proyecto Laguna and will be fun for the entire family with a children's story time, visits with Santa, organic food from Ola Verde, a full bar, and much more.

Please come down to Frontera Books on December 6th and support the non-profits of Nicaragua while doing your holiday shopping.

Saturday, December 6, 2008
11:00am - 6:00pm
Frontera Books
Semf. Enitel Villa Fontana, 200 v al lago, Esquina Sur Mama Delfina
Managua, Nicaragua

Changes to Service Delivery in 2009

Dear Proyecto Laguna Supporters,

We hope that as an exciting year comes to an end you are all well and enjoying life.

On behalf of Proyecto Laguna, we are sending this letter to inform you of some changes that will be making in 2009 to how we deliver services to our communities and schools. Proyecto Laguna is currently working in three schools in Diriá, Nicaragua, and we have over 800 children registered in our child sponsorship program. We have decided to reformat the child sponsorship program to ensure that we deliver the best services to the students in our schools more equitably. We will continue to provide school supplies and medical care to children in need but we will no longer run the program through individual child sponsorships.

For those of you who have sponsored children, he or she will continue to be sponsored throughout the time you have committed.

In 2009, we will continue to provide school supplies and backpacks to the children who are involved in our program to help ensure that they are able to attend school. As funding allows, we will also provide shoes and uniforms to those in need. You, our generous donors, can continue to help keep these children in school by making donations to Proyecto Laguna that will be used to help these students. We hope that this move away from individual sponsorship will allow us to support a greater number of students instead of focusing on a select few.

Proyecto Laguna is dedicated to helping the people of Diria. We are working hard to continue our programs with the parent groups, sewing co-op, school directors and the health programs. We still rely solely on the donations of our supporters for funding. This year, your tax-exempt donation will go to benefit not just one child, but many more, and we hope that your support will continue.

Please visit our website frequently for blog updates at If you have any questions about the project or about this change, please don’t hesitate to email.

Thank you for your continued support,

Proyecto Laguna Staff

Proyecot Laguna Supports Diria's Seamstresses and Tailors

Proyecto Laguna is currently working on marketing the products of Diria's seamstresses and tailors to other organizations and businesses to assist in providing a steady source of employment for these residents.
The seamstresses and tailors currently have a contract with Don Pan, a bakery chain, to make reusable grocery bags. They also have a contract with Ola Verde, a restaurant in Managua, to make canvas catch-all bags. There are several other business interested in their products and we hope to be signing contracts with them soon.
The seamstresses and tailors are very happy that they have this source of income and we hope that we will continue to be able to find businesses interested in their products.

Monday, November 3, 2008

2009 Calendars Available!

  It is with great excitement that we announce that our 2009 Calendars have arrived and are available for sale.  Our friend Kristine Ambrose has been working hard to get the design perfected using her photographs from her visit last year.  

We are very pleased with the outcome and think you will be too.  The sales of the calendar is our major fundraising event this season.  We know that money is tight all over the world right now and for this we especially appreciate all donations made to Proyecto Laguna.  We are hoping to sell all 1000 copies before the end of the year.  These funds will give us the budget to purchase school supplies for the new school year starting in January as well as keeping our nurse on staff and supplied with basic necessities.

For those of you in the United States, purchasing calendars is easy. The donation per calendar is $20 each.  Simply go to this link on our website to use our secure server: .  Click on "Give Now" and use the General Donation option.  You will receive a confirmation email including a tax deductible letter.  Then your calendar will be mailed to you from Los Angeles.  

For purchases in Nicaragua please email us at: and we will let you know where they can be purchased or get them to you.  The cost for the calendars in Nicaragua is 200Cordobas and we can accept cash or checks.  

This is our first year selling calendars as a fundraiser and we hope to continue in the future.  Please consider giving the calendars as gifts this year for the holidays.  The donations made for each one goes a long way here in Nicaragua to make a big difference in the life of a child. Remember that all donations are tax deductible.  Also, if you are interested in helping us sell them at your work, school or church, please contact us and we will be happy to send you as many as you would like.  Thank you!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Nicaraguan Students Celebrate Columbus Day

In Nicaragua Columbus Day is celebrated as Hispanic Day. Nicaraguans celebrate the unique culture they have as a mix of Spanish and Indigenous blood and culture. In the Diria schools there was a large celebration with folkloric dances, marching bands, and presentations of poems and songs.
Everyone had a nice morning as children and parents from all of the area schools gathered at Ruiz Castillo for the celebration.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Clothing Sale Helps Students Raise Money for Graduation

A few months ago Proyecto Laguna was approached by the graduating high school students at the Anne Frank school. They asked us to help pay for their graduation ceremony. We decided that what we would do is help the graduating classes from Anne Frank--preschool, 6th grade, and high school--raise money for their own graduations.

Saturday was the big day and Proyecto Laguna brought in donated clothing and housing goods and the parents and students of the classes that are graduating held a sale. People from the community were able to come and buy clothing and household goods for very affordable prices and the students and parents were able to raise over $200 for graduation.
It is the hope of Proyecto Laguna that by providing an opportunity for the community to raise money for itself we are also empowering them and teaching them to help themselves and put the effort forth to make things happen within their own community.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Proyecto Laguna and ANS Drama Club Unite

This week Proyecto Laguna recieved great news from the Drama Club at the American Nicaraguan School in Managua.  We have been chosen by the group of about 70 Middle and High School students as their Community Service project.   This is a great opportunity for both sides.  The students at ANS will be learning how they can make a difference in the lives of children less fortunate while the foundation benefits from all the extra assistance!  The Drama teacher, Mrs. Jennifer Gallegos, says that Proyecto Laguna was chosen because of our diverse projects including;  improving access to education, providing basic health care, distribution of potable water and working with the community providing sustainable jobs.  This week founder, Tracy Finch, spoke with the group about the foundation's mission and goals.  We have begun discussing ways that the Drama Club can raise money and exactly how those funds can provide aid.  
We would like to thank the school for this opportunity and we are looking forward to a long and successful relationship with the students at ANS!  

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Proyecto Laguna Purchases Materials to Make 850 Backpacks

Last Friday, Proyecto Laguna, with two Diria seamstresses, purchased materials for 850 backpacks at the Oriental Market in Managua. The Oriental Market is the largest market in Managua and is always an adventure full of sights and sounds and the frantic market pace. All of the supplies were delivered to Diria and distributed among the 11 seamstresses and tailors who are now getting started on making the backpacks we will need to distribute to the students of Diria for the start of the new school year in February. By working with local seamstresses we are able to provide employment for local residents and the money we spend on backpacks stays within the community.
Proyecto Laguna is currently working on marketing the products of Diria's seamstresses and tailors to other organizations and businesses to assist in providing a steady source of employment for these residents. The seamstresses and tailors have made several sample bags and we have gotten some interest from businesses in Managua. We hope to complete contracts with these businesses soon and have more work for these seamstresses and tailors.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Minister of Education Visits Diria

On September 23 the Minister of Education visited Diria. The local educational community was very excited to receive his visit and prepared a large meeting including folkloric dance performances and presentations on the state of the education system in Diria. Teachers were given an opportunity to bring up their concerns directly to the minister; lack of latrines in some schools, a need for more classrooms, and a lack of basic supplies. The minister spoke of the literacy program that is working to eradicate illiteracy in Nicaragua and about the steps he hopes to take to improve the education system.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Donating by Check is Now Easier!

Proyecto Laguna is happy to announce a new and easy way to make donations.  Our bank in the United States, PNC, is offering a convenient way to make your tax exempt donation.  You can simply mail a check to them directly with our account information in the memo line and the amount will be deposited into our account.  When we receive confirmation that the check has cleared, you will receive a tax exemption letter to use while filing your taxes.  

This time of year is critical for fundraising so please take this opportunity to make a donation today!  We have many children that still need to be sponsored (only $100 per child, per year) so that they can have new shoes and uniforms to attend school.  All donations to the general fund go to support the school nurse and basic medical supplies, school supplies at three schools and water delivered to two schools weekly.  

To use this easy method of donating, simply send a check written to Laguna Project with our account number in the memo line, #5528164743.

Mail your donation check to:

PNC Bank
attn: Bank by Mail
PO Box 8108
Philadelphia PA 19101-8108

Thank you so much for your support!  Without all of our generous donors, we wouldn't be able to continue our important work here in Nicaragua.  If you have any questions about this donation method, please contact us anytime.  

Monday, September 15, 2008

Nicaraguans Celebrate Their Country

The last week has been full of parties and parades as it was the week of celebrating Nicaraguan Independence. The culmination of the week was on both Sunday Sept 14th, which is the anniversary of the battle of San Jacinto and Monday Sept 15th which is Independence Day. The schools had been preparing their marching bands for weeks and had a wonderful parade through Diria on Sunday.
On Friday afternoon there was a party in Diria and all of the students gathered to watch a torch, that had been touring the country, go by. The parent's group prepared juice and snacks and sold them at this party to raise funds to help maintain the school. The tamales Carla made where a smash hit and sold out in 10 seconds flat!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Proyecto Laguna Receives Grant From Google!

It is with great pride that we formally announce that Google, the internet and information powerhouse, has enthusiastically provided Proyecto Laguna with a grant to help increase awareness of our work in Nicaragua. After many, many months of communication we received the approval and notification from their organization two weeks ago. This is incredible news for us and also a sign of the impact that we are having in this area of the world.

So what does this mean for Proyecto Laguna and what is the grant for?

The grant given to us by Google is a marketing and advertising grant valued at US $120,000.00 per year. The grant is a permament grant and will be made available to Proyecto Laguna for as long as we operate in good standing within the regulations of our US 501(c)(3) status. The grant will provide advertising and marketing services from Google for increasing awareness of our programs and will help spread the word to potentially millions of people around the world. The importance of this is immense because now we have permanent "like kind" funds for an internet marketing budget, which is our greatest marketing and awareness resource.

The impact this grant will have on our work is substantial and the fact that we received this support and recognition from one of the largest, most well known and influential companies in the world reenforces the value of our work and programs here in Nicaragua. It is our hope that other companies will recognize the importance of what we do and will follow suit. So, if you are a company, business, corporation or group trying to locate a reputable foundation to support take note - Google has found unsurpassed success in making wise decisions - and they have chosen Proyecto Laguna as a foundation to support, this says great things about the value and integrity of our programs.

Thank you for your continued support and thank you Google! If you have any questions about Proyecto Laguna or would like to know how you can help please contact us.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Local Seamstresses Employed by Proyecto Laguna

Proyecto Laguna recently met with local tailors and seamstresses to get started on making 850 backpacks for the start of the new school year in January. We work with local skilled workers in order to provide employment within the community of Diriá instead of spend our money on products shipped in from other countries. With this model we are able to empower locals, provide employment, and the money we are spending stays within the community of Diriá.

Attached is a photo of our parent’s group and the 10 seamstresses and tailors who will be making our backpacks this year. They are excited for this opportunity and we have hopes that we may be able to market their skills and have them make backpacks for other organizations in Nicaragua too.

Preschool Building at Anne Frank Inaugurated

We have finished the remodel of the preschool building at the Anne Frank School. We were able to replace the rotting roof beams with longer lasting metal beams, replace the tin roof, amplify the windows, replace the doors, and build an attached office for the school directors with a storage area in the back. A group of students from the University of Washington visited last month and painted the newly remodeled building and also painted murals all over the school.

Last week the school had an inauguration party for the new school building. The children performed traditional dances and had a piñata. The parents of the kindergarteners presented Tracy Finch, founder of Proyecto Laguna, and Jennifer Schwinn, Community Development Director, with baskets of fruit to show their appreciation.

New Water Tanks Installed to Improve Access to Potable Water

Thanks to a donation from Carol Caldwell we were able to install two new water tanks at the Anne Frank School. This school currently has to buy water that is transported from 3 kilometers away by ox-cart. The old tank was broken and had several leaks. Access to potable water is integral to health and now the students of this school have improved access to this resource.

Rain Gutters and Water Tanks Installed

For the past year we have been working with the Living Earth Institute and Pangea to install rain gutters and water tanks at the Ruiz Castillo School. Construction is now done and the children of this school will no longer have to wade through standing water in the rainy season and they have a water storage tank that will provide potable water even when the municipal source is unavailable. This improvement of the school environment makes the school a safer and healthier place for the children to study.

School Supplies Distributed to the Children of Diria

In late July Proyecto Laguna distributed over 750 packets of school supplies to the students of Diriá. July is the middle of the school year in Nicaragua. The packets included notebooks, pencils, pens, colored pencils, and more. The children and parents were very thankful for this help.

Thank you to all of you who sponsor children and help us ensure that the children of Diriá are able to have the appropriate supplies to attend school. Many children in Nicaragua do not attend school for the sole reason that their family cannot afford to buy them paper and a pencil. You can make a difference.

If you would like to sponsor a child please see our

Monday, June 9, 2008

June Newsletter

May was a very busy month for us here at Proyecto Laguna. The rainy season has definitely started and each day it pours down rain, shutting down everything in Nicaragua until it stops. The roads out to Anne Frank and La Nicaroa are turning into rutted muddy lanes and soon it will be difficult to get to these two schools until the rains stop. It also was a month full of celebrations, fundraisers, and new projects.

A lot happened this month; we started construction at the Anne Frank School, had a movie night, held a garage sale, started working with a local furniture maker, and participated in Mother’s Day and Children’s Day celebrations.

Mother’s Day is the second largest holiday in Nicaragua (the first is Easter) and the festivities were wonderful. Unfortunately, due to a very intense tropical storm on Mother’s day, festivities were delayed a few days, but there weren’t any less fun. The children did folkloric and modern dances, read poems, and sang songs.

Children’s Day was also a fun day. Jennifer, our Community Development Director, was asked to hand out candy, in a clown suit! The teachers and school staff did dances and sang songs for the children in crazy costumes, and Jennifer danced around in a clown outfit handing out lollipops (she learned that dancing in a clown outfit in the sun is a sweaty business).

We have started a remodel/refurbishment of the kindergarten at the Anne Frank School. The existing pre school building is dark and dank, very little light comes in the windows, the wooden roof beams are rotting, there are holes in the ceiling, and the doors are hanging on their hinges.

We are replacing the rotting roof beams with longer lasting metal beams, replacing the tin roof, amplifying the windows, replacing the doors, and building an attached office for the school directors with a storage room in the back. The school directors currently have no office and have been using part of a classroom divided off by a couple of bookshelves.

For the past several months we have been working on getting all of the permits and finding a contractor so it is very exciting to finally have started construction.

We would not be able to do this project if it were not for the large donation made in the name of Stephanie Lerner which is paying for the majority of this remodel. Thank you so much for making it possible for us to provide a safer, nicer preschool classroom.

Movie Night and Garage Sale
The parents groups at Ruiz Castillo and Anne Frank are going strong.
They have set the goal of buildings kitchens in both schools this year and are working on raising money for smaller projects and to save in their maintenance fund.

This month Ruiz Castillo had a movie night. The parent group raised over $100 by charging children 25 cents to watch a movie projected on a big screen, and selling snacks during the movie. The parents were so excited with the results that they plan to start doing movie nights more often.

At Anne Frank the parents group had a garage sale. Many people have donated clothing and toys to Proyecto Laguna. We brought these things to Anne Frank on a Saturday and the parents had a garage sale. This is a great model in a couple of ways; the parent’s group is able to raise money to use to meet their goals and the townspeople are able to buy nice toys and clothing for very low prices. The parent’s group raised close to $250!

A few weeks ago the La Nicaroa School asked us for help.
In this three room school, housing preschool through sixth grade, there was a problem. The pre-schoolers and first graders were sharing a classroom and they were constantly distracting each other. The first grade teacher asked if we could pay for a temporary wall to be put in the middle of the classroom. We took this a step further and are currently working with a local carpenter, Alfredo Ortega, to make a series of book shelves, some with doors and some without, to use to divide the classroom. This way, not only will the classroom by divided but the divider will be useful and more able to muffle sound.

Also, through working with a local furniture maker, who is the father of a child attending Ruiz Castillo, once again we are putting the money we spend to improve the schools back into the community.

We would like to thank St. Vincent de Paul High School of Petaluma, CA. We would not be able to build this furniture were it not for the donation they made to us. Thank you for helping us improve the quality of the educational environment at La Nicaroa.

Thank you

Thank to everyone who made a donation in the month of May. We depend on donations from persons such as you. A special thank you to those of you who are renewing your sponsorships-thank you for choosing to help a child succeed in school and in life.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

May Newsletter

May Newsletter
After the heat of April we are all looking forward to the rainy season. It has been so many months since the last rains that it is hard to believe that in a couple weeks the rain will start and not stop for several months.
April has been another month of planning and preparing for future projects. The parent groups at both Ruiz Castillo and Anne Frank completed applications to solicit funds to build kitchens in their schools. We have met with the Ministry of Education in Managua, with builders, and with school administration.

Seeking Sponsors
Proyecto Laguna currently has 685 students registered in our sponsor program and that number is growing all the time. Less than 20% of these children are currently sponsored.
We have a big school supply distribution coming up in July and we hope to have more children sponsored by then.
Sponsorship costs $100 a year and your sponsored child is provided with shoes, uniform, backpacks, and school supplies at the start of the year, a supplemental packet of school supplies in June, basic medical care, and supplies are provided to their classroom.
Please take the time to sponsor a child today. Child’s sponsorships make great gifts.

Medical Support
Proyecto not only provides basic medical care through our school nurse but we have also been able to help children with serious medical problems.
Last week as Jennifer was at the Anne Frank school she was approached by a woman who reported her daughter had been having severe abdominal pain for over a week, she couldn’t walk and she couldn’t eat. The mother couldn’t afford transportation to a doctor’s office let alone the price of the doctor and asked if Proyecto Laguna could help. Dina, the school nurse, accompanied this mother and daughter to a doctor and an ultrasound appointment in Masaya and a follow-up with an endocrinologist. The doctor reported that the little girl had a blocked colon that was threatening to perforate her small intestine. Luckily, we were able to start treatment before this little girl needed surgery, a colostomy, or had a dangerous infection due to a perforated colon.
Proyecto Laguna has paid for CT scans for an epileptic girl and medications to manage her epilepsy which has significantly reduced the frequency of her seizures. We have bought orthopedic shoes and/or braces for several children. We have paid for a dermatologist for a child with severe eczema and a physical therapist for a child with congenital hip dysplasia. We have purchased thousands of dollars in prescribed medications that families can’t afford to buy.
When we are approached by a family with a child in medical need, we pay for the treatment if we have the funding. If we don’t have the funding we seek it out.
When you donate to the general fund of Proyecto Laguna you help us meet the medical needs of children in Diria.

The cobblers just finished an order of 124 shoes which were distributed to the children last week. So far this school year we have provided 328 pairs of shoes to children in need. Not only has this benefited the children but it has also provided employment to cobblers in Diria. We have about 20 more pairs of shoes that we plan to make, for sponsored children.
Please help us ensure that all of the children in Diria have shoes to wear by sponsoring a child or making a donation today.

Incentive Program
Proyecto Laguna is currently launching a new program in the hopes of rewarding and motivating students. Proyecto Laguna is going to provide a monthly “reward” to two students in each classroom. The rewards will go to the student with the best grades and the student with the best attendance and effort. Rewards will be something small, a fancy pencil, or a small coloring book. We hope that providing this reward will help motivate students to work hard in their class. As part of this program, we will also be providing larger rewards to the top students in these two areas at mid-year and at the end of the year.

Thank you
We would like to thank Rebecca Krzywda for her help with our accounting. Rebecca has been kind enough to assist us in setting up our accounting program and teaching us how to use it. Thank you Rebecca!

Thank you to everyone who made a donation in April, especially those of you who renewed your child sponsorships. We can’t do the work we do without your donations. Thank you for deciding to help a child in Diriá, Nicaragua to succeed in school and in life.

April Newsletter

April Newsletter
March has been a month full of holidays, fundraising, planning, and setting goals for the future. Semana Santa fell in March this year. Semana Santa is the week leading up to Easter and is the biggest holiday of the year in Nicaragua. School was out for a week as many people went to the beach and/or participated in innumerable street processions. Semana Santa is a beautiful week where the churches are decorated with flowers and fruit, fireworks are constantly going off, and there are frequent parades in the streets.

March was a great month for us for fundraising. We are very thankful by the generosity of our donors. Tracy Finch, co-founder, utilized a vacation to the states to do fundraising in Maryland and Virginia.

We are continuing to work with the Living Earth Institute on the water-tank/rain gutter project, and with the Ministry of Education on the school gardens project. Also, we are starting construction this month on remodeling the preschool at Anne Frank.

A Family in Need
Blanca is a single mother of 3 children; Alondra, Miguel, and Isidro. Recently, Blanca separated from the father of these children because of domestic violence. She now is struggling to get by. Blanca has no stable source of employment. She takes in washing and does odd jobs when she can find them. She is struggling to provide adequate food to her children and doesn’t have any extra money to provide them with school supplies, shoes, or medical care.

Blanca’s children have been enrolled with Proyecto Laguna for a year, but have not yet been sponsored.

Isidro is 7 years old and in the 2nd grade. He reports that his favorite food is bread and butter and he wants to be a lawyer when he grows up. Miguel is 8 years old and in 4th grade. He likes to play basketball and wants to be a doctor when he grows up. Alondra is a charming little preschooler who likes playing with dolls.

To help these children succeed in school and in life please sponsor one or all of them now. Sponsorship is just $100 a year per child and provides the child with all necessary school supplies, shoes and uniform, basic medical care, and provides didactic supplies to their classroom. To sponsor these children please contact us at

This month we worked with the parent groups at Ruiz Castillo and Anne Frank to set goals for this school year. The parent groups both set the goal of building a kitchen with an attached cafeteria.
Currently, one mother from each classroom cooks each day, on a rotating schedule. The mother picks up the dry rice, beans, and corn and the next day brings it to the class for lunch. This system is difficult and inefficient. The parents, who already have scarce resources, are responsible for providing wood to make a fire to cook and for paying to grind the corn. If a mother forgets to pick up the food, the children in that class don’t eat, and sometimes food gets picked up from the school but never makes it back. It is also hard to control food hygiene when the food is prepared off site.

With a school kitchen only three mothers a day, on a rotating schedule, would have to cook. Two would prepare rice, beans and cereal, and one would prepare tortillas. There would be less wood used because all of the food would be prepare in one large batch instead of several small batches. And a cafeteria would provide an eating space for the children to use where we could ensure there are always available plates, cups and silverware-currently some children do not eat lunch because they cannot afford to buy a plate to keep at school.

The parent groups are currently working on writing up a proposal soliciting donations for this project. The photo in this section is of the parents and school directors at Anne Frank who are applying for funding for a kitchen.

We estimate that the cost of building a kitchen is $3000 with $2500 extra for the attached cafeteria. If you are interested in donating toward this project please contact us. If you are interested in fundraising at your school, church, place of work, or other organization, for this project, please contact us, and remember all donations are tax deductible!!

Fundraising Success in March
“A Night for Nicaragua” charity event was a success. The Kiss Café in Baltimore, was gracious enough to donate the event space and cook delicious Latin/Caribbean food. Over $3000 was raised for Proyecto Laguna including 12 new child sponsorships.

On Easter Sunday, Tracy Finch, our co-founder, spoke at the Westminster Church in Richmond, Virginia. Tracy gave a presentation on our project; what we do, why we are here, and what the realities of life in Nicaragua are. Parishioners donated over $2000 including 18 new child sponsorships. The Parishioners reported they were touched by Tracy’s speech and that the pictures she showed helped make the stories real.

Last week we received a check from the Baraca Bible Class from Westminster for $1248! In an attached note they told us, “we especially liked the fact that you seem to have found the best solution to empowering people to help themselves.”

We would like to say Thank You to the Kiss Café, Sammy Williams at Westminster Church in Richmond, VA, and the Baraca Bible Class. We truly appreciate all of the support you have given us!

Pre-School Remodel
The pre-school building at Anne Frank is in a state of disrepair. The walls are crumbling, the wooden beams holding the tin roofing is rotting, the paint is chipping off, there are no lights or electric sockets in the classroom, and the room is dark and uninviting.
Next week we will start construction and remodel this classroom. We plan to replace the wooden roof beams with metal, replace the roof, replace the doors, expand the windows, connect electricity, and patch the walls. We also plan on adding an attached office that will be used by the directors of the school. Currently the directors have a very small room that is sectioned off from a classroom by a bookshelf. We will build an office that is attached to the preschool that has a storage room in the back to store the dry rice and beans for the school lunch and plenty of space for the directors to work.

We are very excited for this project and look forward to working with the parents of Anne Frank who are will be volunteering their labor for this project.

Thank you
Thank you to everyone who made donations this month. We depend on your donations to make a difference in the lives of the people of Diria.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

March Newsletter

“A Night for Nicaragua”
As most of you know, Proyecto Laguna is hosting our first annual fundraiser on March 20th at the Kiss Café (2400 Boston St) in Baltimore, Maryland. Tickets are $45 in advance and $50 at the door. Ticket price includes Latin cuisine, beer and wine, mojitos, and entertainment. There will also be a silent auction featuring Nicaraguan crafts as well as many local donations. Tickets can be purchased online from our website, clicking on “donate now”. Even if you can’t make it, all donations are welcome and appreciated. We are looking forward to seeing many of you at this great event!
To buy tickets or make donation click here -

Living Earth Institute
We are making progress toward our goal of installing rain gutters and a back-up water tank at the Ruiz Castillo School. This is a goal the parents and school administration set in March of 2007 and it has been wonderful to see the pride and empowerment they have felt as this project has taken steps forward. Two engineers, Robin Kirschbaum and Pam Elardo, visited from the United States in February. Robin and Pam are from the Living Earth Institute ( and worked with Proyecto Laguna to earn a grant from Pangea ( engineers visited the Ruiz Castillo School and met with school personnel, our parent group, and a local contractor. They are currently working on their final technical designs. We hope to start construction in April.

School Gardens and Health Education
We continue to work with the Ministry of Education on the school garden project. In the month of February a Ministry of Education representative gave a seminar to Proyecto Laguna and school personnel on nutrition and how best to utilize a school garden.We are also in the process of coordinating with the Ministry of Health to set up health and hygiene classes for the schools. We hope to start these classes in the next few weeks

Thank you
Thank you to everyone who made donations this month. We depend on your donations to make a difference in the lives of the people of Diria. A special thanks to the Robeson family who, after reading our previous newsletter, decided to sponsor to the Guadamuz family. Thanks to the Robeson’s generosity, the Guadamuz children will be able to attend school this year.

Photos in this update are courtesy of Kristine Ambrose. To see a selection of the photographs of our project taken by visiting photographer Kristine Ambrose please link to her website:

How You Can Make a Difference Today
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For questions or comments feel free to contact us at

Website and Blog Updates
You can find complete details and read current and past blog updates on our web site:
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Monday, March 3, 2008

February Newsletter

School is in Session
The first day of the new school year in Nicaragua was on February 4th. The weeks leading up to this day were busy for us!
Proyecto Laguna distributed over 500 backpacks filled with school supplies to children registered in our program at the three schools we work in. We were also able to supply a backpack to each of the teachers filled with notebooks, markers, pencils, pens, glue, scissors, and more. Each school also received supplies of blank paper, art materials, and office supplies.
Children and their parents renewed their contracts with Proyecto Laguna agreeing to be responsible, attend school, and complete their school work. Over 100 new children registered with us and will receive school supplies starting in July.
The children and teachers were happy to have their new backpacks and the community gifted Proyecto Laguna with oranges, toasted corn, kisses on the cheek, and blessings as a way of showing thanks. Parents thanked us for giving their children an opportunity to attend school.
We were thankful to have two of our board members, Kathy and Buzz Belcher, as well as three volunteers, Hazel Alemanza, Raul Planas, and Christy Myers, to help us distribute backpacks. We couldn’t have done it without their help.
The cobblers have finished the first batch of shoes and they did a great job. The shoes are well made in high quality leather. The cobblers should be finishing up our initial order in the next week.
There are still children who will not receive shoes this year, as we receive more donations we hope to continue providing more shoes to more children.

Special Cases
In the last month Proyecto Laguna was approached and asked to help two families in great need.
The Guadamuz family was recommended by the vice principal of the Ruiz Castillo school. He reported that this family was extremely poor, the children had not attended school the previous year as the mother could not afford shoes, uniforms, and school supplies. In this family there are 4 generations living in a one room house. The grandmother and mother take in washing but the money earned from this barely pays for food.
The vice principal helped the mother register the children for school but he knew the children would not attend school without shoes or uniforms and would be unable to do their school work without paper and pencils.
The Leyva family lives in a small community called El Arroyo, about 30 minutes down a rough dirt road. We do not normally work in this community but were touched by the story of this family. Five months ago a mother of 5 was tragically killed in this poor farming community. The 5 children were taken in by their great-grandmother, Berta. Berta is an old woman and is unable to do any physical labor. She has no source of income and now lives with her 5 grandchildren in her one room house made from sticks tied together. The whole community has tried to help support this family by providing them with food but due the crops loss and prices increases no one has much to spare. The director of these children’s school had heard of our program and approached us to ask if we could help.
We visited both of these families and explained how Proyecto Laguna works; we would provide them with the necessary school supplies and in return they would be responsible for attending school regularly and completing their school work. Both families registered with us.
Upon hearing about the Leyva family Christy Myers agreed to sponsor all 5 children. The Leyva’s are very grateful. Due to Christy’s help we are able to make a difference in the lives of these children.
We do not yet have a specific sponsor for the Guadamuz family. Please contact us if you can help out with this family.

Penny Wars
We would like to thank The St. Vincent de Paul High School of Petaluma, California for choosing Proyecto Laguna to benefit from their Penny War fundraiser. As one of the charities benefiting from this fundraiser we have received a $1500 donation. This money will make a big difference in the lives of the children of Diria.
Penny Wars are a fun and effective way of raising money in a school, dorm, church or office setting. If you are interested in raising money for Proyecto Laguna please contact us and we will provide you with the information you need.

The American Nicaraguan Foundation
The American Nicaraguan Foundation has accepted applications from Proyecto Laguna’s schools. This means that our three school with benefit by receiving a shipment of teaching supplies twice a year. This will greatly benefit the schools and supplement the supplies that Proyecto Laguna is already supplying. We look forward to working further with the American Nicaraguan Foundation.

Sofia Kelly sets a great example
Sofia Kelly, a recent kindergarten graduate from the US, decided that she wanted to raise money to help Freddi, the boy her family sponsors. Along with a friend, she set up a lemonade stand and raised over ten dollars. Sofia mailed her earnings to us along with personal letters to Freddi wishing him well. We were impressed by Sofia’s caring and her willingness to work hard to try and help out a little boy who lives so far from her. If a young girl can raise $10, imagine what you could do.

To see a selection of the photographs of our project taken by visiting photographer Kristine Ambrose please link to her website:

February is shaping up to be an exciting month for Proyecto Laguna. Mid month the engineers from Living Earth Institute will be visiting and completing their technical designs for the water/sanitation project at Ruiz Castillo. The school’s staff are very excited about this project and we look forward to it as well.
We also will be kicking off the school gardens project this month, working in conjunction with the Ministry of Education. We hope to have working gardens at our schools that will help to provide nutrition to the students as well as providing a hands-on natural science laboratory.
Proyecto Laguna will also start working with the Health Ministry to provide a variety of workshops for the students at our schools.
We hope that this year we continue to grow and flourish. We thank you all for your support in our first year and hope for your continued support.

Thank You
Thank to everyone who made a donation in the month of January. We depend on donations from persons such as you. We would like to say a special thank you to Karen Ameloot, Rebecca Parr and Natalie Christensen who donated several personal hygiene kits to Proyecto Laguna.

January Newsletter

Non-Profit Status

Proyecto Laguna received a wonderful holiday gift this year, non-profit status! Proyecto Laguna is now officially a 501c3 Certified Non-Profit Public Charity in the United States. We are very excited for the opportunities this brings us and the benefits it brings to you, our donors. All donations are now tax deductible, and having governmental recognition opens a lot of doors for us.As a result of our non-profit status, all donations made in 2007 are tax deductible. We will be sending out receipts to all of our donors in the last year to use for tax purposes. If you don’t receive your receipt by the end of January please contact us at

Sanitation Project

In other good news, the Living Earth Institute has been awarded a grant from the Pangea Foundation to come to the Ruiz Castillo school and install two water tanks, rain gutters, and repair/replace the latrines. Our parent group is very proud of themselves as they helped solicit this grant, and the teachers and parents are all very much looking forward to the benefits the children will receive as a result of this project. The engineers from Living Earth plan on visiting in February to work on their plans. They are working in conjunction with Proyecto Laguna. We will be responsible for doing the community organizing and educating that is necessary to make this project a success.

Packing Day
In December teachers and parents from Diria came into Granada and helped us pack the backpacks that will be distributed to the children later this month. About 15 people showed up and helped us pack 700 backpacks with notebooks, pencils, erasers, dictionaries, pencil sharpeners, crayons, etc. Next week we will be distributing these bags to all of the children enrolled in our sponsorship program. Your efforts have made this happen and will make an incredible impact in the lives of these children.

Making Shoes
Proyecto Laguna is working with shoemakers in Diria to make pairs of shoes. Yes, there really are still cobblers! As we didn’t have enough money to make shoes for all the children, we asked the teachers to help us pick out the children who were most in need. The ones who are most in need are those who wouldn’t be attending school next year because they had no shoes. The teachers helped us gather shoe sizes for hundreds of children.Proyecto Laguna is working with local shoemakers because we believe it is important to keep investment within the community. By employing local workers, the money we pay to make shoes will go right back into Diria. If we were to buy shoes in the marketplace our money would go to shoes made in China. We have also found that by employing locals we get much higher quality goods, people take pride in making goods for their own community.As we receive more donations we hope to continue making more shoes for the other children registered with us. We need your help in this matter as there are children who need shoes who will not receive them at this time.

At the end of December we had a visit from Kristine Ambrose, a professional photographer from Los Angeles. Kristine visited several of our families and took some truly amazing pictures. She plans on displaying her photos and donating a portion of the money she makes to Proyecto Laguna. We are also able to use her photos for our website and other advertisements. All the photos in this newsletter were taken by Kristine.
You can visit her website at:

Thank you
We would like to send out a special thank you to Turf Valley Country Club located in Ellicot City, Maryland. They collected over $600 and donations of medicine. Thank you for your generosity.
We would also like to thank everyone who sponsored a child and those who donated money this month. Thank you for supporting the work we are doing and helping the children in Diria succeed in school and in life.

This newsletter will be sent out monthly and will keep you informed of our news and the projects we are currently working on. Your help is greatly appreciated.