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    Boys and girls of Si A La Vida

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    Si A La Vida founder Jonathan Roise and boys

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    Si A La Vida girls studying

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    Chavalos: the boys of Si A La Vida

united casino

Alexis Bonoff

September 7, 2012

Saludos Friends of Si la a Vida

This is the last weekly for a while, my three months are up and I am headed back to the states. I also want to apologize for the tardiness of the weekly, lots of things to do at the end of the trip.

This week the boys participated in the monthly cleanup of the center. This is a requirement from the Ministry of Health as well as an important way to take pride in our surroundings. The weeds were cut back from around the building and the driveway was cleared and repaired. The shared spaces were given a through washing and we got rid of all the plant debris on the roofs. There was a great deal of complaining that accompanies any hard work but the boys participated along with all of the educators. The center looks clean and formal.

There was no school on Friday and I drove the boys to the beach, right in time to hit the storm! Nicaragua caught the tail end of Hurricane Isaac and we got a solid dumping of water. The lake water was still and calm, though and much warmer than the air around it. The boys discovered a treasure of coconuts and Melqui shimmed up the tree to gather them. He managed to knock down 23 before the bees started to get agitated.

Sunday was spent at Ojo de Agua, a fresh water spring that has been made into a protected swimming hole. The water is clear and cold and not too deep. There is a rope swing on one end and plenty of places to sit and dry off. The boys got into a human pyramid making contest with the help of some young men from Altagracia and tried over and over again to reach four layers. Hamilton and William also made friends with two English women and tried out some of their English words.

We had a short goodbye party for me combined with a celebration for August and September birthdays. There was a carrot shaped piñata and fancy ice cream! I'm sorry to be leaving and hope I can return soon!

Thanks for reading the missive every week. I hope you enjoyed them. I'm available here on Bainbridge Island,, looking for work and eating apples if you'd like to get a hold of me, 206 697-2868. Hasta Pronto!

Con mucho cariño,
Casa Jose Maria, Si a la Vida, Altagracia, Ometepe Island


August 28, 2012

Saludos Friends of Si a la Vida,

This week the boys continued their fishing extravaganza. One of the educators, Norlan, is teaching them the secrets of local fishing, such as using short lines, how to break open the tiny crabs to use their meat for bait and which rocks are best to stand on. The activity has been really good for teaching patience and keeping them focused.

One of the rooms in Casa Mariano has been dedicated as an official "games" room with all the board games, cards and DVDs stored. The Promoter Ariel is in charge of the room and is keeping track of all the pieces, die and tiles. I played Jenga on the floor but was unable to remember the rules to Mouse Trap.

Our JICA volunteer Misaki gave a great charla (educational workshop) this week on nutrition. The boys were able to identify proteins and sugars and create a chart displaying the important balance of eating right. The chart is posted in the main room and the boys are able to check it when ever they want. We went over it renaming all the foods in English and in Japanese.

The soccer team bragged another success with a 5-0 win. The boys are hoping to win a trophy to sit alongside the baseball one from last year.

It was a quiet week with amazingly good behavior on the part of the boys. Friday's evaluation saw nearly all the boys scoring rewards with their good marks. And as an additional gift, the educators and staff cancelled work the next morning. The boys were jumping around and hollering with the idea of an hour or two more sleep the next day.

I have included pictures of some of our everyday activities. Misaki teaching the boys to make Origami, Eliezer Pulido reading outloud and Dona Dolores working on homework with Kenneth, Hamilton and Jason.

Con Cariño,
Casa Jose Maria, Si a la Vida, Altagracia, Ometepe Island


August 19, 2012

Saludos Amigos de Si a la Vida,

We had one last class of Capoeira on Monday and then had to say goodbye to our amazing teachers, Omi, Justin, Gata Brava and Monica. Elvin was still practicing the next day. We hope the boys do a little practice on their own this year.

This week was extremely fishy. I'm not sure what got into the boys but they developed a new obsession with fishing. Everyday they completed their chores early to get permission to go down to the beach. They created their own poles and lines and stood patiently out on the rocks dipping thier lines in the waves. With two days off school this week it was a great distraction. We are thinking in investing in a net as well. Dona Chilo has been working twice as hard frying the mojarra. The fish might be small but they sure are delicious. On Friday we also went and hunted crabs, filling a bucket half-way to make a crab soup with coconut milk!

On Friday we had to say goodbye to our volunteer Carey. He will head back to Canada after his time with us. Time to start working on finding new volunteers! Carey helped with English classes and translated endless rap lyrics for the boys, teaching a couple of them to beat-box.

Band practice for the Independence Day (the 15th of September) has started and the boys are trying to decided whether or not they will participate this year. It's a lot of hard work (and those drums can be really heavy!) but the band gets to march in the parade through the town with baton twirlers and dancers. It's similar to our Fourth of July parades, but much hotter! There are two bands, one for the high school and one for the elementary school.

Con cariño,

Casa Jose Maria, Si a la Vida, Altagracia, Ometepe Island.


August 13, 2012

Hello Friends of Si a la Vida,

We had quite an international week, with visitors from Japan, Brazil, Belgium and the States!

The week started with two family planning charla (workshop) giving by our JICA volunteer Misaki and another Japanese woman who works in Managua, Juna. The boys were introduced to the various kinds of birth control and disease prevention. Then the two women created a huge pot of curry, just spicy enough! The boys have had Japanese curry before and enjoy it. I maybe enjoyed it the most, tasting it as it was cooking, eating it for lunch and then taking some home for dinner!

Later in the week we welcomed the Ale Ale Foundation Capoeira group to Si a la Vida on Ometepe. The Ale Ale Foundation is group from New York who had made it their mission to spread the word about Capoeira through Nicaragua. Capoeira is a martial arts/dance activity that was started in Brazil. It combines kicks and sweeping moves to create a back and forth duet between two participants. The founder of Ale Ale is a Nicaraguan-American and speaks fluent Spanish while the others taught class in an odd mixture of Portugese and English. They taught class on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The boys were enthralled and worked really hard to learn the steps and moves. They also taught the boys to play the birimbao and the tambourine to keep time in the dance. This is the second year that they have come to visit us and next year they hope to create a competition with other schools in Nicaragua and hold and "encounter" so everyone can show off their skills. The boys really enjoyed learning something new, although there's more than one limping around on a stubbed toe!

On Saturday we also had a visit from our co-founder, Dona Mercedes, who was leading a group of college students from Belgium. They are in Nicaragua for five weeks visiting different projects like ours and we hope inspire them to continue to remain connected. We gave them a tour and a history of Si a la Vida, then Dona Mercedes took them swimming at Ojo de Agua. A couple of the boys were quite to sorry to see them go so soon, it only takes a few seconds to fall in love!

The soccer team surged forward (even if the game started two hours late) and we won the first round in the semi-finals. We have a real chance of winning it all!

Con Cariño!

Casa Jose Maria, Si a la Vida, Altagracia, Ometepe Island


August 6, 2012

Saludos Friends of Si a la Vida,

Another hot and muggy week here at the project!

This week started the new semester of school so all the boys received new uniforms. The uniforms are the national colors of blue and white and the shoes are shinned until you can almost see your reflection! The uniforms only stay clean white for a short time, due to the dust and the youthful exuberance of our boys.Therefor,e one of the daily chores at Si a la Vida is to wash one's own uniform.

This last weekend we were invited to participate in a huge tourist festival in Altagracia. The purpose of the event was to promote local businesses and to display locally made goods. We thought it would be a good opportunity to raise awareness of the project and to sell some of our pulseras. For two days we sat under a (steaming) tent and talked to tourists, other vendors and visitors from all over Nicaragua. The national TV stations were also there and we were interviewed by three different channels. We sold quite a few pulseras and made a 500 cordobas and change (around $23). We created new connections as well as renewed important contacts in the community. The boys took turns in pairs sitting with us, showing off their abilities and watching the festivities. There was live music, dance competitions, a gay pride parade and many other wonderful things to see!

Our new Peace Corps Volunteer joined us this week. Her name is Kelly O'Hanlon and she is a Health Volunteer. On Friday she presented a "charla", or educational workshop, on AIDS transmission. The charla involved passing coca cola around in cups and lots of goofing off. They also got to fill up condoms with water until they burst! The boys had fun but also learned something important. She will be with Si a la Vida for two years and plans to do a charla every Friday.

Con mucho cariño
Casa Jose Maria, Si a la Vida, Altagracia, Ometepe Island.


July 29, 2012

Saludos Friends of Si a la Vida,

It was hard to get back into the normal routine after the delightful fiestas of the Pulsera Project but the week passed quickly. The boys enjoyed the prizes won in the competition, playing with the new soccer balls and wearing the uniforms. Elvin is still unsure how to spend all the $50, taking bit by bit out to buy a new tee-shirt and DVDs.

The soccer team continues to do well winning Saturday's game 5-1 and qualifying for the final round. Nelson, although small in stature, is actually older than the team's age (15 and under) but we're not saying anything! He scored all 5 goals. Ariel is a tough coach. If you don't come to practice there's no way you get to play. The soccer team is not only Si a la Vida kids, one third of the team is from town, another way to interact with the community.

This week we had to say goodbye to our beloved volunteer Neville who heads back to Northern Ireland on Monday. Neville worked with us for six months and was instrumental in putting in the garden and providing the project with fresh vegetables. He also headed a effort to spruce up the center, sanding, repairing and staining the carved wooden doors at the project. They look brand new!

We celebrated his contribution twice, once with a staff dinner at Santo Domingo and the next day with the birthdays of June and July at the project. The staff dinner was very laid back and a great way for the team to interact without thinking purely of the boys. The party the next day was also fun! Dona Chilo barbecued chicken and Alexi attempted foccacia bread. We had a pinata and lots of games involving balloons.

We will miss Neville very much and are on the lookout for new volunteers, although no one can replace him!

Con mucho cariño,
Casa Jose Maria, Si a la Vida, Altagracia, Ometepe


July 23, 2012

Hello Friends of Si a la Vida,

Well what a week! We waited and worked and waited and everything exploded with a wonderful party!

The boys were on vacation until Friday which left the cleaning of the center up to the educators and a few reintergrados who live in town. Thanks William and Jorge! We scrubbed the new dormitories from top to bottom, cleared out the encroaching weeds along the driveway and trimmed the plantain trees. The basketball court was repainted and the crooked hoop straightened. We painted welcome signs and created information boards. Many reintergrados from all over Nicaragua came back to participate as well as staff and residents from Casa Amanecer in Managua.

The group from the Pulsera Project arrived on Friday to organize the event. This group included a delegation from the states (about 15 people) and a group from Los Quinchos, a street kids organization based in Granada. The festivities kicked off with a pulsera competition where the boys turned in the three best pulsera they could make. The pulseristas (Bracelet makers) were divided up into two groups, under 16 and older. Then the games began!

Si a la Vida held its own by winning the swimming race, the sack race and "steal the bacon", where a handkerchief is placed on the sand between two groups and the more agile player steals the prize. We may not be very big, but we're quick!! We returned t an incredible meal of barbecued chicken with a sauce so secret Dona Chilo was chased away when she tried to peek!

Then off to play soccer. Los Quinchos is made up of young adults and tower over our little guys. Last year we lost badly in a very mismatched game, but this year we proved that practice works (and used the taller reintergrados!). The game was hard fought and ended in a 3-3 tie, even after the extra time. Unfortunately we lost in the penalty shoot out.

Back to the project to announce the winners! Many of our boys received honorable mentions and won soccer uniforms from Spanish teams and balls. In the younger group, Elvin received $50 for third place and Rafeal won a camera for 1st! The pinatas follows, with traditional (and non-traditional) dancing lasting all night.

It will be hard to go back to a normal routine on Monday but all the hard work was worth it. If you'd like to learn more about the Pulsera project they are at www.pulseraproject.org.

Con mucho cariño,

Casa Jose Maria, Si a la Vida, Altagracia, Ometepe Island


July 8, 2012

Hello Friends of Si a la Vida,

Well two weeks ago was so exciting this last week seems to pale in comparison. This week was much more serious; school, working in the plantains, chores and even a haircut or two!

Jonathan visited Managua for a couple days and had individual and group meeting with the kids to get to know some of them better and to check in on the progress of others. He was able to fulfill the grandfather role he desired and the kids were thrilled to spend time with him. Sunday night we had a very small and simple despedida (goodbye party) for him, just a meal with the boys. He's on his way back to the states tomorrow morning.

The garden is starting to produce tomatoes but the heavy rains and insects are trying their hardest to undo Neville and the boys' good work. One idea we had was to build a sun-dehydrator to preserve some of the tomatoes when they ripen. We are still dreaming of building a cob style outdoor oven for pizza and bread. Dona Chilo, the cook, likes to remind me about this idea every so often. She's like to be a pizza chef herself!

The new soccer team encountered much more success this weekend, winning three of out their four games. The boys have been behaving a little better than usual, some with the hopes of earning rewards such as a pair of cleats from the Bodega. Thanks again to everyone who worked to put the suitcases together, new clothes and more choices are great motivators for good behavior!

The staff also received direct attention from Don Jonathan with two meetings focusing on communication and team work. We had a treat in the form of Karla Varela, our former psychologist, who led us in exercises and personal work reflections. It was nice to have her working with us again if only for a short time!

School vacation start on Monday so I will skip the weekly next week. All the boys except for one will be in their houses in Managua visiting with their families. They leave with Don Jonathan in the truck on Monday morning. I will go to visit my own family in Balgue and the project will be super quiet for a week.

Hope everyone is enjoying their summer!

Casa Jose Maria, Si a la Vida, Altagracia, Ometepe


June 30, 2012

Saludos Friends of Si a la Vida

Sorry to be a little late, it's been a crazy week!

The most exciting thing that happen last week was Jonathan's arrival on Sunday. The boys cleaned and prepared the house and were waiting excitedly for hours. Then the power went out! Jonathan arrived in the truck driven by reintergrado Giovani and the boys swarmed the truck. They would hardly let Jonathan step a foot with out another hug! He made it up to the project where we had prepared a dinner (eaten by flashlight) and presents for father's day. We also had a pinata. The boys were so wound up to see Jonathan they were bouncing off the walls! Jonathan was very pleased.

We had a very pleasant surprise by the way of donation. In the community of Los Angeles, there is a Naturopath Clinic run by a Doctor from Oregon called Tabitha Parker. Her organization is Natural Doctors International (http://www.ndimed.org/) and she run medical brigades and bring students from the states to study on Ometepe. She recieved a donation of athletic shoes and shirts and asked if we would like them. This week we picked up 30 tee-shirts, 20 pairs of shoes and a uniform for our soccer team! The boys were thrilled about all the new stuff.

Friday was Teacher's Day, so there was no school. After much planning I took the boys hiking up Maderas, the smaller of the two volcanoes. We had a guide who lives in Balgue, another reintergrado called Victor. I climbed up to the midway point, the mirador or viewpoint and then turned around with our smallest boy and the Japanese volunteer Misaki. The rest of the boys made it all the way to the lagoon at the top! It is not an easy hike and I was proud of all the boys. They were nice and worn out for the evaluation at night and went to bed super early.

The next day the soccer league started. The boys played two games (and lost :() before the owner of the land showed up to kick off the teams. The boys claimed their losses were due to the soreness from the hike the day before and are determined to play better next week. Although it looks like we're going to have to find a new field.....

Con mucho cariño

Casa Jose Maria, Si a la Vida, Altagracia, Ometepe


June 23, 2012

Greeting from Sunny Ometepe.

The week started off with a fierce rival soccer game between the men's teams in Altagracia. The boys went to support Ariel and reintergrado Christofer who were playing on one side and i was left on my own to support the other team, where reintergrado Franklin was playing wing. The boys walked down to the field not far from the project and shouted encouragement (and insults) from the sidelines. I brought water. The game ended in a tie, so we will all repeat the process next week. The losing team will be eliminated and I suspect I might be on the wrong side.

Playing with string one morning one of the boys, Elvin, told me that his father had taught him how to make hammocks. I immediately challenged him and we dug out hammock string tucked in the back of the storage room. He spent an entire morning building a loom from the foot board of a bed and using a pen as a shuttle. Unfortunately he wasn't successful but it was great to see the creativity and devotion he was putting into the craft.

This week two delegations from Bainbridge arrived which meant we received suitcases full of clothes and shoes to fill our bodega and had lots of visitors at the project. When groups of visitors come to the project the boys get all worked up because it is a chance to sell their pulseras, meet new people and generally show off. Some of the boys create other art by bending thin strands of palm fronds into braided hearts, flowers and grasshoppers. Many pulseras were sold, although I had to keep correctly the boys' math! They were trying to undervalue themselves!

On Thursday there was no school due to the monthly teacher's meeting. We took the boys down to the lake on outstretches of rocks to try out luck fishing. First, we had to find bait and the small spider crabs that live under the rocks proved to be more wily than we expected. We spent nearly an hour lifting up rocks and finally discovered two. The boys waded out in the lake and although there were sardines jumping all around we were unable to catch a single one. Next week we'll try a different spot.

After a short hiatus, the dance teacher is back bringing his stereo with him to teach the boys traditional as well as modern style dance. Abraham comes four times a week and has incredible patience, repeating the steps over and over again. The boys have the chance to preform the dances at despedidas and other parties, maybe for the welcoming dinner of a certain long lost founder?

Con mucho cariño
Casa Jose Maria, Si a la Vida, Altagracia, Ometepe Island.


June 17, 2012

On Sunday the boys went on a Field Trip to the Port of Altagracia, only 3 kilometers from the project. The port is a great place to practice diving and swimming far. Last November with a group from the States we rented kayaks and let the boys paddle around the nooks and crannies of the overhanging vegetation. Soon we will return to try out our fishing skills.

The student group that is here has put in a small order for pulseras and the boys have been honing their skills creating bracelets with names and designs to each student's liking. The ability to make letters on the pulseras is more advanced and the older kids have been helping the younger ones to figure out how to do it. Everyone is also practicing for the Pulsera Project's (www.pulseraproject.org) competition which will happen in late July. The Pulsera Project is a US NGO that works with us and another street kid organization to buy pulseras and promote the good works we are doing. Every year they sponsor an event that includes a pulsera making contest, games, great food and a very serious soccer game. Last year we didn't do so well and the boys are inspired to win this year!

Everyone is preparing for the arrival of Don Jonathan and becoming more and more excited as the days tick down. His visit happens to coincide with Father's Day and since he is the father (or grandfather) of all the boys it couldn't be more perfect!

Send mucho cariño on wet days and muggy ones!

Si a la Vida from Casa Jose Maria, Altagracia, Isla de Ometepe


June 13, 2012

Before I left the states, I proposed to Jonathan to write a weekly update on what is happening on the island and at the center. I thought it would be a nice idea to keep everyone connected. So this is the first one! Please let me know if you would like more or different information or even if you hate it! Any suggestions are welcome.

We are at the beginning of the rainy season here which means there is rain, but it is very inconsistent. The volunteer from Northern Ireland, Neville, has created a huge garden with the boys and we have fresh pepian squash, and eggplant. (Unfortunately the eggplant is not as big of a hit with the boys as it is with the volunteers!). One of the educators, Diego, brought nearly 70 baby tomato plants which are in the process of flowering. The garden also has cucumber, pumpkin, bell peppers, chile and papaya.The inconsistent rain means that Neville and the boys are still watering by hand (and hose). I think the boys are ready for more rain!

We had a visit from a college aged American group who are here in Altagracia for a month. They were enchanted by the center and our boys (who isn't?) and have returned every day to spend time with them. Yesterday we had (very wet) soccer scrimmage with them. The boys were hydroplaning on the wet court to chase after the ball. The group would like to do some charlas (workshops) with us and I have been working with them.

We currently have four volunteers at the project, Misaki is JICA (Japanese peace corps) and has been teaching the boys Origami which decorates the windows of the administrator's office. Neville's focus has been the beautiful garden but unfortunately he is leaving at the end of the month. Carey is from Canada and he has been leading (and losing to) the boys in soccer and other sports.He will be here until August. And yours truly!

Our bookkeeper Karina Rosales has accepted the position of Island Coordinator as Juanita Guiterrez has been transitioning her role to General Coordinator. Karina has worked for Si a la Vida for many years and knows the ins and outs of the organization and is a great match for the job.

Last week some of the boys participated in a Tae Kwon Do tournament and helped Altagracia secure a win! A local instructor comes 4 times a week to teach the boys how to kick and punch (and not each other!) He does this on his own time and practices along with the boys.

This week we will have a celebration for Children's Day at the project and we are supposed to cook a big vat of chili. Favorite recipes anyone?

Hope all is well up north,

Mucho Saludos from Casa Jose Maria, Si a la Vida, Altagracia, Isla de Ometepe