Update from the Field: Board Member Gretchen Lands in Tipitapa


In April, after visiting Tipitapa twice as a board member of Dos Pueblos, I made the somewhat spontaneous decision to live here for six months.

Both of my previous trips had given me a fascinating insight into how our local volunteers run our projects on the ground, and as a former student of international development I really wanted to take a closer look and support the communities in making them happen. Having new friends here made the idea of gaining further field experience more appealing, while the low cost of living and some frequent flyer miles made an extended stint as a volunteer possible. All that was left was to get down here and get to work.

After arriving on June 14, my first order of business was to deliver some of the school supplies donated by families at Brooklyn’s Poly Prep Country Day School. Luke Asente, a 13-year-old student who had traveled with Dos Pueblos to Tipitapa, had collected a whopping 300 pounds of donations from fellow students.

I brought down the first installment of supplies, to be shared between the libraries in Oronte Centeno and Ciudadela. While some materials such as air-drying clay were tucked away to be used for group projects, other smaller pieces were handed out as part of a raffle for the children who came to the libraries to borrow books.

Being able to attend the raffle in my Tipitapa neighborhood was a great experience, as it gave me a chance not only to see the fruits of Luke’s labor, but also to meet some of my younger neighbors. There was Moises, a 4-year-old boy who loves to sing, Marcia, a little girl who wants to be both a pastor and a ballet dancer, and several children who wanted to hear all about flying in an airplane. I’m hoping that in the coming months, just like my little neighbors, I’ll be able to visit my local library on Fridays to borrow books (there are plenty for adults) and chat for a while.

My next priority is helping Rosa, our local coordinator and community leader, to prepare for the arrival of Dr. Andrew Suseno, a physical therapist who recently contacted Dos Pueblos to volunteer his skills and time. Andrew will be providing a series of workshops in Tipitapa to train and assist caregivers of children with various mobility disabilities, sharing basic skills in rehabilitation and cardboard construction techniques to address the children’s adaptive equipment needs. Everyone will have the chance to participate, and we are excited to be working with Andrew on such a sustainable model, one which can be shared among the communities and which uses equipment which is locally available. Stay tuned for updates and photos from the workshops!

Young Volunteer Combines Theater and Community Service at Poly Prep


The price of admission to Poly Prep’s Middle School musical Grease, which was performed May 11 and 12, was backpacks, school supplies, and books in Spanish, which will be sent to children in Tipitapa, Nicaragua.

It was seventh-grader Luke Asente, who played Eugene in the musical, who suggested the nonprofit Sister City organization Dos Pueblos as the beneficiary of the musical.

Asente shared with the school that his mother, Monique Luchetti, is good friends with the Executive Director of Dos Pueblos, Lupe Ramsey,  and that his whole family had joined Lupe and Dos Pueblos on a delegation to Nicaragua in January 2011.

When Asente visited Tipitapa with his family in 2011, he was the first and only youngster to travel with the 15-person delegation, and he said he was “astounded” at what he saw. His mom had the same reaction. “We were blown away by the poverty we witnessed in these small villages,” Luchetti said. “And also by the incredible Nicaraguan people and the strong, generous, community leaders we met. People are hungry, social services are non-existent, there is no infrastructure, no stores or businesses, dogs are starving and children are growing up in the worst of circumstances.” But it is certainly not a place with hope, she says, “Despite all this, the community leaders working there with the help of Dos Pueblos are able to change lives and make a difference to the people living in Tipitapa every day.”

Read the full article here

Little New Yorkers Make a Big Difference


In Tipitapa, where clean drinking water and electricity are in short supply, one might think that books and learning materials are secondary, but when you see the impact of Rosa’s children’s lending library you realize this is not the case. The library is the only place where children can borrow a book, and for some it is the only opportunity to read at all. More than one parent told us that children who take out books each week and participate in group activities such as reading classes, repairing books and teaching others to read, are going to be the future leaders of the country – we know they’re right! What makes the library so important is that it is not just a place for education, it is also a safe haven where children can spend time with friends, learn about hygiene for better health, and a place where they can get moral support that they may not get at home. Our delegation brought five 50 lbs bags of school supplies and Spanish children's books, kindly donated by PS87, a public grade school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for the children of Ciudadela San Martin. Given the success and demand for Rosa’s existing library, Rosa has started a small library here that serves handicapped children and the children who labor at the local dump.

The big day for the delivery arrived and we were told, “some children will be waiting for you”. As we approached the red gates of the school, a group of policemen stood in the street. Were they waiting for us? Our thoughts were soon confirmed as we turned into the school to see around 200 cheering children sitting in the sun with their teachers and parents. We were suddenly confronted with five times the children than we were expecting. Everyone was excited about the gifts from the students at PS87, but the idea of handing out the materials was now impossible – Rosa’s meticulous inventory of all supplies down to the last pencil for 30 children had to be rethought. She was also surprised, and remarked that as funds and resources have become scarcer, word travels fast around the communities, and parents (mostly mothers) do their best to provide educational goods for their children.

We thank our little New Yorkers at PS87 for contributing to Rosa’s dream of making education a reality for so many children, especially for handicapped children who are often forgotten, and are a source of shame for families in places like Nicaragua. Through school supplies and books, Rosa is able to show parents their children’s talent!