BootsnAll Travel Network

The Friends Photo Project … new photos!

February 20th, 2012

The Friends Photo Project gallery … El Sauce teens document their own lives using donated cameras.
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The Friends Project English class in Las Minitas, Nicaragua

February 20th, 2012

The Friends Project is proud to sponsor an English class in Las Minitas, the mountain community in which we work with the pine-needle basket and eco-tourism cooperatives. This is also where the new elementary school is. In fact, the classes are held there.

Residents had been asking for an opportunity to learn English, to advance their skills to obtain jobs, general interest and to better communicate with tourists. We are supporting a three-month beginner class, with Manuel Munguia, center front, teaching.

Manuel received a scholarship to attend college in 2011, and is a great English teacher. In 2009, he was a beginner himself and has skyrocketed.

He walks up the three hours every Sunday for an afternoon class, stays overnight with a family so he can teach a second class Monday morning, before walking back down to El Sauce.

great job everyone!


The school is open!

February 14th, 2012

It’s open! On Saturday the community celebrated the new school, giving thanks to everyone who worked hand in hand. Today I was fortunate enough to attend the first day of classes in the new school. Enjoy…

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School opens Feb. 11!

February 6th, 2012

I will be in El Sauce Feb. 11 for the official opening of the Las Minitas school, joined by volunteers, dignitaries and other community leaders for the celebration.
Can’t wait!

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The school is nearly done!

January 27th, 2012

Someone recently saw a photo of masons working on the school The Friends Project helped raise funds for in Las Minitas, Nicaragua. They said, “Wow, you’re really moving. You’re no joke.”

That’s right, The Friends Project doesn’t mess around!

We started fundraising in late August with other volunteers, including an elementary school principal and SUNY Geneseo students, and started the first foundation hole digging Dec. 1.

Masons just laid the tile floor this week.

By Feb. 10, we will have a community celebration and the kids in Las Minitas will be the first ever of their community to go to their own dedicated school, ensuring they have all the opportunity to complete an elementary education.

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A second look

January 14th, 2012

I always encourage my beginning photojournalism students to never delete or otherwise throw away their images because often the images you are positive are amazing images when you take them don’t turn out to be so. And sometimes,  the photos you dismiss on first glance are the ones you like or speak the loudest.

This gentleman came up on me fast while I was walking in El Sauce, and I took two photos before he had passed. It was quick, and I dismissed the image. Many times. In the end, it is one of my most popular photographs.

On my second, fourth or seventh look, I noticed how it conveys the pace, the environment and occupations in a very specific, exotic place. The teenage girls giggling and being teens in the doorway could be anywhere — they are like every teenage girl, everywhere.

Now, I love this photo.

Second looks. Always worth it, in photos and life.

Daily commute, El Sauce, Nicaragua. Photo by Kris Dreessen

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Friends Project funds English classes in Las Minitas

January 13th, 2012

English class launched

The Friends Project has launched a three-month English class in Las Minitas, the mountain community in El Sauce, Nicaragua, where we helped raise money for and will open a school Feb. 10.

Members of the eco-tourism cooperative and teens had been seeking such an opportunity for several months. I always choose projects to invest in that are initiated or identified as important by the community and this is worthwhile.

Members of the eco-tourism and basket-making cooperatives as well as younger children and teens attend, paying a small fee per month that signifies their personal investment in the project. English will help eco-tourism host families and guides communicate better with tourists, and help all cooperative members grow their businesses with English-speaking customers. Speaking English also greatly improves students’ marketability for jobs after graduation, especially in areas where few speak English.

Our own Manuel (to the right, in red with glasses) is the teacher! Friends Project secondary school scholarship recipients Alonso and Sergio are also enrolled.

Manuel was one of our first Friends Project grant recipients, in 2009. We provided him about $250 to purchase a used bike taxi, so he could take home more than 50 cents per day after he paid to rent one. He could rent it out or use it, and therefore work less time so he could attend school.

We also bought him glasses. Two and a half years later, at 20, Manuel has graduated from secondary school, crammed about four years of math tutoring into a few months, worked like crazy and was accepted into college… The Friends Project provides a scholarship of $360 for his studies.

He is also the most accelerated student in the El Sauce English classes, and has been teaching English for several months.

Congratulations to Manuel and for all of our supporters.

This is just one of many projects we have been able to accomplish with a small amount of money — English class will cost $210 for 3 months.

It’s a testament to collaboration and proof we choose meaningful projects that has longlasting and a lot of impact … Using our funds wisely!

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Best party ever!

January 2nd, 2012
It may not look like it, but this was one of the best parties I’ve been to in ages. Gustavo’s daughter is celebrating her graduation in elementary school. Gustavo’s the community leader in Las Minitas and responsible for lobbying for the full-time teacher there
First ever.
We had the ceremony in the old “school” – the last thing ever held there, as its knocked down and replaced with a brick schoo…l we all helped them create…. everyone was at the party. We were welcomed in as them, not as bystanders. with little, they created so much, mostly by hand. After a while, they hoisted the table here on their heads and walked it outside so it was an empty room and we all danced …. I hardly sat down.
In between “cumbia” rounds, I gazed up into the night sky, with no lights anywhere, watched Orion, and relished the amazing moments and connections life gives us when we are willing to put ourselves out there and look.

My host family

December 29th, 2011

The best part of Ocotal is being able to live with a family and experience traditional Nicaraguan life on a subsistence/coffee farm, where life has not changed much in 80 or so years. When you want meat, you go catch a chicken. They grow most of what they eat, and grow, dry, roast, grind and make their own coffee. Living off the land is literal here.
Every night, we sat around their table and played a game or talked by light of my head lamp.

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The view from on high

December 29th, 2011

Sunset at the Ranchon on the mountain top in El Sauce, Nicaragua, where the Los Altos de Ocotal eco-tourism cooperative members welcome visitors to their farms and way of life, which is a step back into “old world” ways… cooking over fires, mashing corn and hand-patting tortillas at meals, oil lamp and growing and harvesting simple crops with a mind to eco-friendly practices.

You can see San Cristobal, the volcano, here too. So beautiful.

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