July 2020 COVID-19 Update - New Feeding Program

To all the amazing supporters of Mas Mariposas,
 

Your response to our call to action for giving through Mas Mariposas to keep the work of La Mariposa and Asociación Tierra from being completely shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic has been overwhelming! In the past two months since that last update when we asked for your help, over $20,000 in donations has helped ensure that 40 (out of 70) essential staff members at La Mariposa could still earn a living, tankers of water could still be sent to desperate families in the dry season, all of our rescued animals, including dogs, horses and monkeys, could still be fed – all without any of the typical income from students staying at the school. Not to mention the number who responded by signing up for Skype classes and spreading the word – anywhere from 30-50 skype lessons a day were being given by La Mariposa teachers over the weeks when most people in the world were in quarantine! (Most of the teachers have now been set up with internet access in their homes so they can continue to teach while limiting the number of people in La Mariposa). The outpouring of love has been clearly felt!

As the effects of the pandemic continue, and government aid to the people of Nicaragua remains nonexistent, new obstacles have emerged. With trade routes and imports/exports with countries like the US and Costa Rica being cut off, Paulette got word that the costs of basic food necessities such as rice, beans, and vegetables were beginning to soar. She made the move to buy a large store of rice and beans straight away before prices went higher to store in La Mariposa, and proposed a plan to distribute ongoing food relief to the most disadvantaged communities in Panama and Palo Solo, as well as to all the families of children who participate in Chispa de Vida.

To better understand some of the background and logistics of the food relief project, below is a summary provided by Paulette of the first trial run distributing food to families in the community of Panama:

ASOCIACION TIERRA FOOD RELIEF PROJECT

27th May 2020

Some background on the barrio of Panama – This barrio stretches out along a ridge, part of which is severely affected by sulfurous gases passing overhead from the Masaya Volcano. This causes a range of health problems as well as making it difficult to grow any crops except pineapple and dragon fruit, which have, in the past few years, become popular “exotic” export fruit (especially dried). This in turn has led to larger landowners buying up land here for farming, resulting in a great deal of deforestation which only adds to the problems of poor air quality and rising heat.

Before the pandemic, many local people earned their living working in the “zona francas” (mostly producing textiles for export) or abroad in Costa Rica, for example. With the coronavirus closing those opportunities for work, unemployment has increased dramatically and there is no government provision to assist families in this situation.

Before the pandemic, many local people earned their living working in the “zona francas” (mostly producing textiles for export) or abroad in Costa Rica, for example. With the coronavirus closing those opportunities for work, unemployment has increased dramatically and there is no government provision to assist families in this situation.

 

History of the work of La Mariposa and Asociación Tierra in Panama – We have been involved with this barrio since 2007 (La Mariposa opened in 2006) working on the following projects:

  1. A reading and literacy project in the local school which closed in 2016.
  2. An English language teaching project for both children and adults since 2016 (it is currently closed due to coronavirus).
  3. Working with the local community to get water delivered to those households that do not receive municipal water – at present this involves sending 4 or 5 tankers of water per week into the poorest part of the community during the dry season.
  4. Together with the Health Center we have done several dog sterilization days, combined with vitamins and anti-parasite medicine.
  5. Participation in reforesting brigades by people in this community has been very high. Local people are very interested in planting trees – partly for shade but also because of an understanding that water shortages have in part been aggravated by lack of tree cover.

Test run for the Food Project in the barrio of Panama on May 27 –Ismael worked with Panama’s community leader, Freddy Mercado, to organize the food delivery. Staff from La Mariposa who helped to measure and hand out the food included Gonzalo, Leida, Ismael, Eli, and Guillermina. Social distancing was well ordered, face masks were required, and everyone even followed instructions to bring their own bowls and containers to carry their food home so that no plastic bags were necessary! The only issue (and we should really have anticipated it!) was that 20 more families turned up than we expected, so we had to go back to pick up extra food! 

 

Some figures:

  1. Freddy had 98 families on his list, and we ended up serving 118 families!
  2. Each family received 10lbs rice, 5lbs beans, 1 liter of oil, 4 tomatoes and 4 onions.
  3. This added up to 12 sacks of rice, 6 sacks of beans, 6 large containers of oil, 2 boxes of tomatoes and 40lbs of onions!
  4. The total cost was $1,500 (not including transport). The cost of beans here has risen from 18 córdobasper pound to 28 in under two weeks.

A story from one of the families aided by the food project: Jose

Jose is 31 years old, and lives with his wife and 5-year-old twin daughters. He worked for many years in a zona franca outside Jinotepe where he was the supervisor of the finished product, T-shirts for export. He earned a basic wage of 2,500 córdobas per 15 days (about $70), but often doing a 12-hour day and earning a little more. With the political crisis of 2018 he was fired, got his job back in 2020 – only to be fired again when the factory closed due to coronavirus.

He now does the odd day’s work as he can get it; driving motor taxis, painting houses or gardening (clearly a great gardener despite the poor soil and conditions—we have sent him some tomato plants and a sack of organic compost). He has a small piece of land inherited from his father where he grows some dragon fruit – but since 2018 this has been increasingly difficult to sell. When sharing his story at the food distribution, Jose’s final comment, said with a smile, is that he still has hope!

Bario of Panama
Buying in Bulk
We are able to buy food in bulk, and load up our truck to distribute.
Food Distribution
The response has been overwelming. Families come to pickup food.
Food for the week
We are pleased to say all food is distributed using reusable containers. No single use containers!

So now we want to ask again for your help as friends of La Mariposa, to join together in support of this new food relief initiative in whatever ways we can—not only to donate on your own, as you are already doing so generously, but also to spread the word of an important humanitarian project to others who might buy into the cause even if they have not been to La Mariposa themselves. That you might talk to family and friends, share the stories and ask for support on Facebook, involve your children in a fundraising project, broaden the circle of support.

You can send people to MasMariposas.org to donate online, or work at collecting funds from people you know directly and then make one larger donation when you know the total collected. You can send a check made out to “Mas Mariposas” to 12955 Old Lincoln Way, Orrville, OH 44667, USA this also avoids paypal charges. In the UK you can donate via http://sustainability-partners.org.uk/tierra.html

If you come up with a creative way to fundraise for Mas Mariposas, we’d love to hear about it and share with others! (For reference, it costs about $13 per family for what was given at the first distribution—10lbs rice, 5lbs beans, 1 liter of oil, 4 tomatoes, 4 onions—so you could challenge others to help sponsor food for one family, or set a goal to sponsor a certain number of families and ask for help reaching it). It will cost about $5,000 per month to continue feeding the number of familes requesting assistance in these communities, including about 30 familes from Chispa de Vida who come to La Mariposa to pick up their monthly food.    

We know there is a lot going on in the world, and it can be overwhelming.   Keeping daily “gallo pinto” on the dinner table of families in one small corner of the world that is dear to our hearts is one simple and tangible way we can address some of the injustices in our world. Muchas gracias por su apoyo! 

Con cariño,

Tara Steiner, on behalf of the Mas Mariposas Board

April 2020 COVID-19 Update

Hello Mas Mariposas supporters,

As the COVID-19 crisis escalates around the world, we as the board of Mas Mariposas want to make sure to keep you updated on how the epidemic is affecting the community around La Mariposa and how your money is being used. As you can imagine, government leadership and guidance is lacking in Nicaragua, so organizations, businesses, and schools have been on their own in making decisions on how to proceed, leaving efforts to control virus spread inconsistent and chaotic.

Paulette made the decision to close La Mariposa to students two weeks ago, and workers have been allowed to choose to stay at home if they wish, besides some essential staff who can do their jobs independently (night guards, animal caretakers). Paulette is trying not to fire any of the workers for now, keeping them on salary and offering alternative work for Asociación Tierra such as tree planting, which can be done spread apart from others. They are also offering free fresh produce to people in need as there is an abundance from the garden with no students to feed. Skype teachers continue to teach online classes either from their homes or spread apart around the La Mariposa grounds, and for now they are the only source of income for the school besides donations and Paulette’s personal pension.

We know that with our realities changing daily, jobs being put on hold, children home from schools, and health concerns for family and friends, there is a lot of uncertainty for all of us wherever we are in the world.  While it may be harder for some to continue to give when the future of your own income may be in doubt,  many of us do still have our normally expected income, with options to work from home, and have support systems around us to meet our daily needs.

But for the people in the already struggling communities aided by La Mariposa, whose day-to-day livelihood depends on things like selling in markets and taking crowded public transportation to get to work, actually taking the steps needed to slow the virus spread in their country would be devastating. As Paulette described in her last Facebook update: “Please be aware that following all the rules here is very difficult, sometimes impossible for people who manage on 2 barrels of water a week (the barrios of Panama and Palo Solo), live maybe 6 people to a room (my neighbours), and do not have disposable income to stock up (let alone panic buy!!).”

How can you help?  The doors of La Mariposa Spanish School may be closed to students, but there is still plenty of work to be done!  Let’s each do what we can to make sure these projects can be sustained through this crisis:

Skype Spanish Classes: As mentioned earlier, Skype classes are the the only means of income for the school currently with no students physically attending in the near future. Sign up for Skype classes (and sign up your children, grandchildren, tell your friends…) to brush up on your Spanish, and help provide ongoing employment for the great teachers at La Mariposa! Spread the word about this great resource!

Chispa de Vida: Although the therapy and educational aspects of the program are currently unable to meet, there are still families of children with special needs who are supported with food, material needs such as diapers, and critical medications the family could otherwise not afford for their child. Consider becoming a monthly sponsor of Chispa de Vida, and help make sure these especially vulnerable children are cared for through this crisis.

Water Project for the poorest high-altitude communities:  As Nicaragua comes into the driest months of the year, La Mariposa helps to buy extra barrels of water for the families in the mountain communities of Panama and Palo Solo who normally would live on only 2 barrels of water a week supplied by the town. Through a generous donation, water to the community of Panama has been covered for the next few months!!  We would LOVE to see the same happen for Palo Solo (the community up the hill from Canada Honda)!  La Mariposa currently sends 3 tankers of water up to the community each week at a cost of $40 per tanker and will continue sending that amount into the month of May until the rainy season begins. Think about the extra amount of handwashing you’ve been advised to do daily…could you sponsor one $40 tanker to be sent to these families, so they have enough water to meet their basic daily needs including adequate handwashing?  Could you cover the whole community for a week ($120)? A month or more?  Make your one-time donation and designate your gift toward the Palo Solo Water Project.

Animal Rescue ongoing care:  No matter the crisis going on around them, the animals in our care still depend on us to provide their daily food and health needs. Consider a monthly horse or dog sponsorship to help keep the rescued animals of La Mariposa fed during this time, and to continue to provide a salary for the workers who provide their daily care.

Tree Planting Projects:  Already thousands of trees have been planted through the environmental efforts of Asociación Tierra. During this time with no students, many staff members of La Mariposa are continuing to help plant tree seeds in recycled cartons to be started and given out as seedlings to be planted throughout the community. Seeds for the most desirable trees need to be purchased, and some of the more rare trees which are being requested by high-altitude communities like Panama and Palo Solo as windbreaks are important because they are the ONLY tree species (Coppell and Laurel) that can grow under the volcanic gases in very dry conditions. These trees need to be purchased as saplings, and the total cost for the trees requested by the communities who need them will be $1600 for the Coppell trees, and $500 for the Laurels. Any gift toward the cost of these trees to promote reforestation in communities already devastated by the effects of climate change would be greatly appreciated!

Remember, ANY gift, either one-time or recurring, toward ANY of these projects, helps keep the La Mariposa Spanish School and Paulette’s mission through it–which we’ve all come to know and love first-hand–from going under during this time of crisis. We don’t know how long it will be before the world returns to “business as usual,” including international travel and tourism. Can we help La Mariposa continue its work to communities in need in Nicaragua even without income from students staying in the hotel? Can we help the wonderfully skilled employees of La Mariposa continue working and earning a basic salary to take care of their own families? We appreciate how all of you have stood with Paulette and La Mariposa through the hard times of the past couple years, and together may we continue that support and encouragement through this newest challenge!

Be well! (And use some of that extra free time in quarantine to take more Skype Spanish classes!)

Tara Steiner

For the Mas Mariposas board

Water trucks provide water for local communities.

Water tanker sent by La Mariposa arrives weekly.

Water trucks provide water for local communities.

Families refilling barrels of water.

Tree Seedlings

Guillermina helps plant tree seeds to grow hundreds of new seedlings for future planting.

Skype classes keep teachers working while keeping a safe social distance. 

Puppies who were rescued this summer recently participated in a free sterilization clinic at La Mariposa with their new families.

Paulette Goudge Lending Hand

Francesca is one of the children in Chispa de Vida who receives medications necessary for her medical condition through help from La Mariposa.