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MAGGIEJO'S FAIR TRADE BLOG

27-03-2007

Birmingham fair-trade campaigner MaggieJo St John is coming to the end of her trip to Nicaragua, where she's been teaching English to local farmers and finding out more about the coffee trade.

This six month visit of mine is running out fast, just a week to go.

Lots of successes and lots more I'd like to do; some of them, like fundraising and compiling a second level English teaching book I can do back in the UK, but I'd really like more time here to raise awareness of the first book.

A book specific to the Nicaraguan context and with recordings has a lot of potential but people have to find out about it! We had a launch on Wednesday and radio announcements for several days before. I printed 800 copies and a couple of hundred will have found homes before I go.

I'm donating copies to the communities in Miraflor and the other ones that the NEST Trust is working with (NEST stands for Nicaragua English and Sustainable Tourism).

I haven't produced it to make money; neither to give away to all and sundry, so copies can be bought for the printing cost plus the burning of copies of the 3 CDs. The donated books will belong to the community but the students can buy their own copy for £2.00 and they can make copies of the CDs for themselves.

Friday afternoon we had a lovely event in El Coyolito: Maxine and Mike have worked really hard with the community there and, using funds they raised in Australia from LotteryWest, they've turned the little English classroom building into a beautiful community centre and installed two solar panels which went up on Tuesday, with four batteries to store the power.

Friday afternoon was a delightful opening ceremony with lovely decorative touches, young people having a go on the computer (there will be 3) powered by the panels, children playing board games (a novelty for them), a few speeches,an enormous bowl of fruit salad for adults and a treat of Coca Cola for the children.

And on Saturday, after secondary school was out, Maxine and Mike opened up the centre and together with the community leader, Leopoldo, they demonstrated how to play ping pong.

I'd been searching for an idea of an activity that would bring young people to this community centre and two others that will soon be finished. Suddenly, last Sunday, I had the idea of table tennis.

To get a proper table made was expensive (£150), so I hit instead on the idea of getting two small tables made. There was nothing at the centre so they will be useful for all sorts of activities and putting a big board on the top means you can play table tennis as well.

My friends helped out by painting it dark green and putting on the white lines. We found a net and a couple of bats at a sports shop in Esteli (we need to get some more equipment) and also the ping pong balls. The local bus driver went round to the carpenter's workshop and then to my family's house to collect everything and it all came out on the midday bus.

So this Saturday afternoon saw the centre become a “youth club” with about fifteen youngsters taking part. Great.

I'll be back in Brum just before the end of March, and will touch base with a young Nicaraguan Miraflor resident.

In my second blog I mentioned the germ of an idea: bringing a project student, Marlon Villareyna, to England to improve his English and get some teacher training. And that brought the amazing response from Rita and Duncan Baker at Lydbury English Centre of a place there.

Since then, life has moved swiftly. Quite separately, through the Miraflor Foundation, some past volunteers were organising, as part of a Northamptonshire Global Education project, for Marlon to spend two months working with school children from FairTrade Fortnight through to the end of April.

And so we've piggy-backed and Marlon will spend May at Lydbury.

At the very end of May Brummie's will get a chance to meet Marlon as I'll organise some events for 31 May and 1 June.

Marlon flies back on June 3rd and will share his learning with others.

The next part of the dream is to raise enough money to bring Deylin (who's teaching Computer Studies and English on the Reserve) and Edwin (who's the tourism coordinator but who wants to teach English) over for a few months each.

All very exciting. I've had the chance to update the website and learn lots more about how and what to publish so do take a look on www.thenesttrust.org.uk

The first project volunteer based outside Miraflor, Jason Garber is a whizz at websites which has been a great bonus. I haven't finished all the changes I'd like. Every time something happens I have yet another idea for what else to include, for instance I'd like to put up a page with lots of photos.

It all takes time, and that's running too fast right now!

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