1. Finances: Pete White gave a brief financial report, including grant monies remaining for local needy.
2. Water project in Nuevo Amanecer: Before leaving for Nicaragua at end of December, Mike Cipoletti described the status of the project in Nuevo Amanecer. George also provided information from Andrew Longley, the water engineer. Some members had questions about the various phases (I, II, and III), arsenic levels, surrounding villages, etc. Subsequent to the meeting, Mike sent a message that he attended the water inauguration. While we await more details, it seems that Phase I is completed (Phase I cost approx. $80000, Friends having provided $28500, with the rest from the municipality of Telica, the local town government). The water is flowing from the original well provided by Students for 60000 in 2007-8, and is pumped to a tank in nearby La Union for distribution to La Union, Nuevo Amanecer and El Cortizal. The water from this Phase I of the project contains arsenic levels higher than allowed, so it is mostly for non-consumption purposes, i.e. bathing. Phase II includes filtration, and Phase III includes bringing fresher, potable water from springs in nearby mountainsides.
3. Chacraseca children’s nutrition project, the Comedor Escolar Project: George Pardo provided a comprehensive report on this project by Gerry Arguello. Sister Liz Salmon, and several Chacraseca parents and teachers began the CE project in 1998. Over the years the project has grown, and provides lunches to more than 1500 children most days, but is only about 30% sustainable. Following a school-by-school visit and analysis by Mike last year, George suggested that Gerry, who has worked with Students and Friends on past projects, do a comprehensive study. The purpose of the study is to make the project more successful, more sustainable, which is part of the overall goal of Friends. Friends provided $500 toward the $3000 study. George brought the 113-page study in Spanish, will provide a summary to Friends, and highlighted the following points:
- Gerry has more calculations to provide, i.e. how much food kids will eat in 9 months, etc.
- $42000 a year is required to feel all the children, or about 5 cents a lunch
- Main farm to be established to follow different principles, to include plantains, pigs, sheep, chickens, eggs.
- Gerry has worked with USAID on other projects, studied in Spain and the U.S.
- The plan hopefully will provide full or improved sustainability within 3 years, and could cost $75000 over three years.
- A Board of Directors is to be established, which will change.
- Alberto Berrias school, which is centrally located and the largest school in Chacraseca, will be the central school.
- A technician is to be hired to oversee the whole project.
- Cooks, wood still need to be provided by community volunteers.
- A nutritionist is to be hired to oversee and recommend variation in diet.
- The study revealed a significant percentage of malnourishment: Chacraseca 15%, Nicaraguan average 19%.
- 80 % of Chacrasecans are overweight, mostly from poor diet.
- The minimum needed for a family of 6 to survive in Nicaragua is $483/mo. Chacrasecans’ average income is $86/mo.
- The purpose of the project is not only to feed kids, but to provide guidance, to teach them.
- Up until now, much of the CE project has been decentralized. The study recommends moving to greater centralization.
George also discussed the idea of gardens at each school. Some schools have them, some do not. Much of the CE lands, purchased by Students for 60000 over the years (73.5 manzanas – a metric measurement, or about 125 acres), are located a distance from each school, making it hard for many to volunteer to work the fields. Some schools rent their land. Discussion also of seeking assistance from grants, USAID, or other, providing clear job descriptions, the roles of Lisa, Mike, George and others, and stipends.
4. Holiday postcard fundraising: Pete provided update on holiday postcard fund raising activity. Postcards were mailed or personally given to more than 200 members of Friends, alumni for whom we had addresses, etc. Pete contrasted last year’s postcard fund raiser where the response was approximately $4500. This year, the total is about $1600 so far. Some checks do continue to trickle in even though the holiday season has passed. Discussion about this activity included the following: perhaps this is a difficult year for some people, the card may be confusing, a larger card with fewer options may be helpful, etc. Importantly, ways to contact more alumni and former Students members are being examined – all ideas welcome. The cards will be posted on the website and on Facebook.
5. Membership: Discussion of a new initiative involving asking for a modest annual sustaining membership contribution (i.e. dues). Suggestion was $15-$20. In return, contributors would receive a regular newsletter to learn about Friends’ projects and activities. Alumnus Bob Hodum offered assistance with the preparation of a regular newsletter to be made available to Friends’ sustaining members.
6. Website and Facebook presence: Discussion of Friends information and presence on the web and on Facebook, so that people can find us more easily. Fran agreed to become the website “Gatekeeper.” This job, formerly done brilliantly by Dick Wiltamuth who moved in June, means that nothing can be posted on our web site until Fran has seen it, edited it, and approved it. Fran would then send info along to Tip Rugile for posting. Thank you, Dick and Tip.
7. New chapters: Pete mentioned that the two new chapters, Imagination Federation (Miami FL) and Friends NE (Boston) will be required to provide Friends, the parent organization, with a statement of their activities and financial information for the past quarter since they have become chapters. This will cover Oct. 1 – Dec. 31, 2011. This is to be provided every quarter in accordance with our agreement with them and IRS guidelines.
8. Imagination Federation Walk2Nicaragua: We are awaiting final word on the date/s of their event. We plan on participating and hope Students for 60000, which has a much larger membership, will do so as well.