Bienvenidos to my Blog!

Hello Family, Friends, and Curious Readers,

Thanks for stopping in to see what I am up to. This is my first blog, and I hope not to bore you too much with the details of my life. But rather hope to offer you some insights into development work, the highs, the lows, and well the boring.

But before I move away for 27 months, let me give you a little information about myself before I lose a steady internet connection.

So after graduating from Boston College in 2005, I decided I wanted to learn Spanish and "save the world" so I moved to Cusco, Peru. I began by volunteering for The Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco by researching and writing a small business plan for the organization. I continued to work with the organization until February of 2008, when I returned to the US to prepare for my move to Madrid, Spain for 15 months to study an International MBA at IE Business School. And now, after a year of searching for the perfect development job, and taking odd jobs in the meantime, I have joined the Peace Corps and am volunteering again. So wish me luck, and PLEASE someone stop me from volunteering again!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tech Exchange with Sarah R.

In October, I went to the community of Wale in Jinotega (about 4.5 hours on several buses from Matagalpa) and helped a fellow volunteer, Sarah who is an agriculture volunteer, with a small workshop for some women in her community that are the proud owners of some improved ovens. They are called improved ovens because they are built especially to use less wood to heat them, and have chimneas as to not cause health problems in the user's lungs.

We talked about and practiced how to calculate costs of recipes to help the ladies decide what recipes they could sell in their community at a profit. We watched a video about savings and investing those savings in their business. And of course we ate corn bread and cookies that Sarah had baked in her oven the day before. What a different life she has from mine, but since we both extended for a third year, it appears we are both very happy in each. Here are some picts from that adventure!!!!

Sarah and I waiting out the rain on the porch of one of her neighbors

Typical housing of the area

A man walking home from work, looks like he was applying a pesticide to his crops

Imagine that out your back door, kinda looks like Virgina no?

A pig taking a nap

Self pic!

Thats what I imagine what it looks like after a night of heavy coca-cola drinking

Watching the savings video

Sarah talking about a factibility study

What was left of the corn bread... but not for long

We had attendees of all ages!

It's Competition Season Again!!!

Just like at the end of every Nicaraguan school year, Peace Corps sponsors a series of competitions at the local, municipal, regional, and national levels to determine the top three business ideas created by high school seniors around the country. Last year, we took it a step further and added a new component to the national competition - the national congress (two days full of workshops so the students could be more motivated to convert their academic exercise into a reality). This year we have joined forced with Red Emprende (a network of entrepreneurial organizations) to create the most ambitious congress yet, with approximately 300 participants from around the country. It has been a long year, and lots of work leading up to this ( I think I wrote about 4 grant applications to raise all the funds, not to mention a fundraising activity we coordinated for Red Emprende known as our Fundraising Gala) but it is finally almost here. I'll post pictures from the national event after next week, but for now, here are some pictures from the local and regional competitions.

A local competition at one of the high schools...
A beverage mix made with rice, cinnamon, cocoa, and others. It was really good!

The group of the beverage mix

A liquid soap, but my only complaint was each one cost almost $8 US!!!!

A natural shampoo for dogs

An alcohol gel for disinfecting hands

One group presenting
Below are pictures from the regional competition I hosted in Matagalpa:

All the groups together!

This group had a natural mouth-wash!

This group made some really comfortable chairs out of  recycled tires

These girls made some cattle feed
The disinfecting hand gel won first place, and will be heading to nationals

Last minute changes

My home stay brother who recently opened his own business served as a judge

The tire chairs (I think they should have changed the fabrics but it was quite comfortable
Stay tuned for more pictures from the National Congress and Competition!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I wonder...

I wonder if you took a poll of all the third year Peace Corps Volunteer blogs, how many of them have fewer and fewer posts the longer they are in service. I imagine most decrease pretty rapidly due to the amount of projects we are all working on! It's been a while so let me update you... August 31st was the Small Business Development Sector's annual fundraiser with Red Emprende. It was a fancy and fun night at the Holiday Inn in Managua, with dinner, dancing, raffle, and silent auction. We had peace corps staff and volunteers in attendence, embassy staff as well as Ambassador Powers, and many individuals that work for NGOs in Managua. We raised $3400 total, which is twice as much as they raised 2 years ago!! All the proceeds will go to the 11th Annual Business Plan Competition and the 2nd Annual Congress.

I have also spent the bulk of my time working on grant applications to raise even more money for the congress, as well as working on the agenda for the event that will be held in November.

But more excitedly, I have four teacher trainings scheduled over the next 4 weeks, I plan on reaching almost 75 teachers total. Let's hope it all goes according to plan! Ok this was just a quick post to try to keep up. As soon as I have some pictures from the gala uploaded I will share them. Wish me luck with the trainings and keep on making good choices... I know I am trying to do just that!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

My life as a 3rd year extension volunteer!

Well, I did it! I made it through my official service (which ended on July 26th) I completed my 27 month commitment with the Peace Corps in Nicaragua... but wait!!! in trying to keep with the theme of my blog of NOT volunteering again... I decided to continue to volunteer on this last brave stint to save the world, or really just to keep doing the things that I enjoy doing! (I mean really, how many of you -who make obscene amounts of money or not - can say they love their job?)

So to make this LAST year of volunteer service the best it can be, I plan on carpe dieming all over Nicaragua, visiting places and trying things I either never had time to do during regular service or always thought, well I have TWO YEARS, that's more than enough time.

Right now, I am carpe dieming in my NGOs office, learning how to use SPSS (its a statisical processing software). Not exactly crazy, but it's cool to keep learning new things. This year I will be focusing on more teacher trainings, creating a National Entreprenurship congress, re-writing the emprendedurismo workbook, National Business plan competition for high school students, and developing a teacher evaluation system. (Not sure when I am going to find the time to carpe diem, but hey it will happen)

I also thought I would add a few pictures from some of my recent adventures and my new place(yes I moved)... so enjoy!

Small Business Development 56 Dinner at Georgia's

PCVs working hard in the office

It's tough work being a PCV sometimes, we need to relax in the library

Agriculture 56 giving their final presentation to staff and the Ambassador

Small Business and Agriculture 56, I will miss you guys!

My new living room

My bedroom and bathroom

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Two years have passed…

As the majority of my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers from my group (SBD 56 I will miss you) gets ready to leave the country, I am forcing myself to take the time to reflect upon the past two years. I have extended for another complete year so I am not going to be saying goodbye to Nicaragua yet, but it’s not a bad moment to reflect upon all the lessons I have learned since arriving.

It sounds corny to say how much I have changed since arriving to the country of lakes and volcanoes, but what most people say about Peace Corps changing you is true. I think every volunteer changes in different ways, and I have been privileged to get to work with 21 amazing volunteers for the past two years, and hope to continue to make them proud in my last year of service.

So what are the things I have learned over the past two years?

1.)    Turning 30 is not that big a deal (at least not when you are doing what you love)
2.)    Don’t let a blessing turn into stressing (we, as Americans get far too stressed out about things that are truly blessings in our lives)
3.)    Don’t compare myself to others and their success (we are all different people and as long as I am doing the best/most that I can, I am doing just fine)
4.)    Sometimes it’s easier to just do it all myself, but working in teams (with the right team) is more fun.
5.)    Beans are a super food, and you can make them 100 different ways.
6.)    Taking personal time is not showing weakness, it’s just plain smart.
7.)    Be happy for this moment, this moment is your life
8.)    Family and Friends are important
9.)    Doing what you love keeps you young

10.)  Slow down, amazing things can happen when you are not rushing through life

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Sundays in Susuma

So I as wrote many many moons ago, I am working on Sundays to give financial management workshops in a community near the Matagalpa dump. We have done several that have been quite well attended and have even moved on to other topics such as nutricion, sexual and reproductive health, women's rights, and now we are going to do a special workshop for mothers to learn how to incorporate soy into their families diets... despite the flack that bean has been getting, it is still a cheap source of protein and milk. We have been able to hold the workshops in the evangelical church, which is run by one of my previous student's grandmothers. I have been really enjoying this project because even though it is business related, I have been able to get other volunteers involved and we have all felt very rewarded and welcomed in this community. Here are some pictures!!!!

Anna starting the Nutrition Charla with a Dinamica

The very attentive class

Eating my super healthy bean soup... shhhh don't tell them there are veggie in there!!!
My former student and the person who started this project... Sarahi

A board game to help participants understand their financial choices

We played in pairs with those who can read could help those that couldn't!

Team building while we waited for our snack to be ready!!

Back to the Isla de Ometepe for the Business Incubator 2013!!!

I recently headed back to the Island of Ometepe as part of Team Emprende, the small group of Small Business Volunteers that are responsible for the National Business Plan Competition, Congress, Fundraiser, and now the Business Incubator...

We spent three nights at Charco Verde, a resort on the Island that has hiking trails, a lake, kayaks, and obviously enough space to hold a conference for 32 people, 22 of which were small business owners from around Nicaragua. In a way, this year's incubator was a follow up to the National competition as we had both the second and third place teams in attendance, and were able to see what had been done in their business since finishing high school and starting out in the big scary world. It was nice to see that one of the groups, a young man from a rural community in Boaco, had continued his business, improved packaging, and was looking for distributors. The other group from Esteli had not done much as they had moved on to the university and were not sure of the direction they wanted to take their business.

As a whole, the workshop focused more in building brand image, low-cost marketing, managing employees especially as family businesses, accounting, and production. We had great participation by all and will continue to work with the small business owners back in their home towns via the volunteers that nominated them. (I bet a lot of small business owners in the US would be jealous of the experience these lucky and hard working folks had!)

Enjoy the pictures, and of course, make good choices!!!!

Traffic on the Island is BRUTAL

My happy little cabin

Not a bad place to work right

Yes that's a volcano back there

Even on the Island Natali didn't stop working

Production Workshop

Mapping their production process
Team Building at night

My little friend

We didn't know that they charged for the use of the kayaks until afterwards... oops!