The Fund Blog

Tea and Buns for a Cook at Barrilete

A fund raising event for a cook at El Barrilete was a great success. It was a lovely sunny day in France and guests brought amazing cakes and gave lots of money, with more pledged. By the time the it all comes in there is enough to pay the cook three months wages, which is just brilliant! On the days there was still no photo of the cook! But just after the last of the guests had left, the photos arrived by email!


And there was a message from Maria who runs El Barrilete.

Saludes  desde  Nicaragua  – Leon  a  todos  los  que  estan  participando  en  esta  fiesta  para  colaborar  con  los  niños  de  Barrilete,  muchas  gracias,  hasta  luego,   atte ,  Maria  del  Barrilete

“Greetings from Leon in Nicaragua to everyone who is participating in this ‘fiesta’ helping the Barrilete children, many thanks…..”

In another part of her mail Maria also says she is sure it is doing the children good.The Mayagna Children’s fund is very pleased to be able to help. Our donors have made an investment in one person’s employment as well as a tremendous investment in the children at El Barrilete.

Guardian Article on Nicaragua Poverty

A recent article in the UK Guardian newspaper reports that child poverty in Nicaragua is linked to educational underachievement. The UN children’s agency, Unicef, estimates that 500,000 Nicaraguan children aged three to 17 are not in the educational system. Currently the country has the largest youth bulge in Latin America, with more than 2 million school-aged children, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, Unesco. Half of all children and adolescents live in poverty. In addition, child labour seems to be rife, in spite of the government’s pledge to eradicate it completely by 2020. Click on this link to read the article.


Full Report from Nicaragua Trip 2016

It is ten years since Kate and I visited Nicaragua for the first time, and while a lot has changed in the country in that time, the organisations that the Mayagna Children’s Fund helps are still doing sterling work with some of the poorest and most disadvantaged people in Central America.

Once again we’ve been out to Nicaragua to see the organisations in their day to day life. Once again we’d like to thank you for your generous support which helps to keep them going and makes some of their projects possible. Some of the money we hand over has no defined end in mind, it goes to help pay for routine necessities such as food and transport. Some of the money is earmarked for staffing, and is part of the help that the fund gives over the course of the year.

The afternoon we arrived in León we went to see Maria at the Barrilete centre because Kate had encountered a problem transferring funds for Maria’s ‘mama sustituta’, the lady who stays the night to take charge of the 15 resident girls and boys. Fabien, the baby we met the last time is now three, his brother five, and both are looking happy. The dormitory is a bit spartan, but it is home. We met the mama sustituta and the educador that we have been funding as well as some of the children who come for day care. It is clear that although Maria receives money from other sources as well as us, it is all a bit piecemeal, and a bit hand to mouth. The regular money from the Mayagna Fund for the staff is a real boon, as is some extra money for daily necessities. Later in our stay we went back with sheets and towels, as well as knickers for the resident children.

Two days later we met Gustavo Herdocia in his clinic at the hospital and had the chance to sit in on a couple of his consultations as well as have a more general tour of the children’s facilities at the hospital. Gustavo works with babies and infants with harelips and cleft palates as well as putting right malformed limbs. No computer records in his clinic, indeed no computer in this simple little consulting room, but everything is detailed in exercise books with a wonderful personal approach and a gift of a transformed life at the end of it all. He regularly packs up his car with the makings of a field operating theatre to take his skills to kids and sometimes adults in remoter parts of the country. The money we give him helps all these families to get to the hospital in León  or medical centres elsewhere and stay for the duration of the treatment. Each operation costs a little over ten dollars.

Our visit to Los Quinchos was a bit subdued compared with last time, which had been a fiesta day. It was also only a few weeks since the sudden death of Carlos Vidal, one of the child psychologists for the organisation. He was a great part of the children’s lives, and a great help to us in all our visits to Los Quinchos over the years. One of the ex Quinchos who now looks after the boys at the finca took us round however, and as ever it was a very affirmative experience – the girls and boys we saw on our first visit are growing up, and able to talk clearly and positively about their lives and futures. Their number doesn’t diminish – child poverty and abandonment remain high in Nicaragua, despite many improvements in the infrastructure of the country – and we saw more new faces. It was school holiday when we were visiting, and the youngsters were doing routine jobs, sweeping and washing clothes, having lunch. It was nice to see them being ordinary kids, happy with their lives and with their great Quinchos family. Kate was travelling with a large bag of donated football kits to which we added basics like knickers and toothbrushes, but also a load of hair gel (boys!) and nail varnish for the girls, so we took a car there and back as it is an awkward journey by bus. We gave money for routine necessities and are currently funding a nurse there, as well as first aid kits in all of the Los Quinchos centres. We have been funding an educador and hope to be able to continue.

Mamalicha was as inspirational as ever! Well into her seventies she still gives antenatal classes, and carried out 1200 Pap smears in 2015. Perhaps the biggest boost of all is that her work on natural childbirth has carried over into hospital practice now and she rarely now delivers babies herself! The money we gave her will help her continue with the Pap smears and classes as well as helping out with layettes for first time mums who don’t have anything for their babies. We took her some donated baby clothes and she showed us the notebooks where every layette and visit is meticulously noted.

Julio Moreno and his Muralistas still do promotional murals in the health centres as well as restoring some of the historical murals in Estelí, and now he runs big art classes for children too, so the money we gave him will help keep up the paint supplies as well as help some poorer kids get to the class. On our first visit to Estelí Kate and I met a young shoeshine boy, who drew a picture of me in my sketch book after I drew him. He drew like an infant, and what was heartwarming this time was to see Julio and some helpers with lots of kids in the Parque Central – all busily painting and having a lovely colourful time in a glorious little art fiesta!

Back in León we met up with the women from Cecamo, who support women who are victims of domestic violence. Nicaraguan society is on the whole very macho and Cecamo does a difficult job in difficult circumstances. They give advice, legal information and support, emotional support and a place to stay which is secure. The Cecamo women are unpaid volunteers, and they train up some of the women they help to go into the community to communicate with other victims. This centre is one of only five in the country, and the money we give will help them to continue their work.

Our big disappointment this visit was that we didn’t manage to make direct contact with anyone from Aspanicasole, which supports the families of kids with cancer. We have now managed to make mail contact, but any financial help will have to be for next time, as we do feel we need to make the contact directly and speak with the people managing the money.

The money that was set aside for them went instead to the Barrilete as a first payment for a cook. This is a new and particular project that Maria asked for help with, and we will tell you more about it in a further mailing.

We gave a total of $6223 in cash on this visit, and we are continuing to make regular staged payments from the fund bank account for various employees – nurse, educadores, mama sustituta. Some of the cash payments have been increased since the last visit, which is all due to your help and generosity.

Thank-you all very very much indeed.

Photos from the Projects

Here is a selection of photos taken during the past two weeks. We have visited El Barrilete in Leon, Mama Licha’s clinic and Las Muralistas in Esteli, Los Quinchos in San Marcos and finally the women’s refuge run by CeCamo in Leon.

El Barrilete

Maria and Kate at El Barrilete

Kids watching a circus show at El Barrilete

Kids watching a circus show at El Barrilete

Mama sustituta at El Barrilete

Mama sustituta at El Barrilete

Gustavo Herdocia, the reconstructive surgeon at Leon Hospital

Gustavo Herdocia, the reconstructive surgeon at Leon Hospital

Buying children's knickers in Leon market

Buying children’s knickers in Leon market

On the way to Esteli to see Mama Licha

On the way to Esteli to see Mama Licha

Handing over the babygros to Mama Licha

Handing over the babygros to Mama Licha

A mural by the Muralists at Mama Licha's clinic

A mural by the Muralists at Mama Licha’s clinic

Julio Moreno who runs Las Muralists project

Julio Moreno who runs Las Muralists project

A group of young women at Yahoska, part of the Los Quinchos project in San Marcos

A group of young women at Yahoska, part of the Los Quinchos project in San Marcos

At the CeCamo women's refuge in Leon

At the CeCamo women’s refuge in Leon

Mural at CeCamo in Leon

Mural at CeCamo in Leon




It seems that the majority of mainstream definitions of “play” identify an activity that is participatory, entertaining but essentially not serious. Play is something children do when they need to be diverted, perhaps so adults can get on with the serious business of life. “Why don’t you go off and play now,” usually signifies that it’s time to break off communication.

But, as any psychologist knows, play is something else too, something with a serious purpose if not a serious performance. At El Barrilete yesterday we saw a show put on by Performers without Borders (PwB), a small charitable NGO which sends out groups of circus performers to Nicaragua to teach children circus skills. The group also goes to Los Quinchos and elsewhere. The group works with the children with a view to developing a show of their own. As the children learn to play and cooperate together, you can watch their confidence growing, developing through play. We saw the same thing two years ago at Los Quinchos after a visit from PwB there.

Play is a healing activity par excellence. When you have looked into the eyes of a damaged six year old child, eyes deadened with anxiety and fear, and then seen the same child two years later, animated, laughing and full of playfulness, the value of “play” is evident. I’ve seen the same effect in asylum seekers, young men traumatised by months long treks across a hostile European countries. A cricket bat, a ball and a bumpy field was all it took to bring out the smiles again.

In the developed world we take “play” for granted. But think of the kids in Nicaragua or the asylum seekers in France before you write off the act of playing as mere diversion. Play is at the heart of our humanity, at the heart of childhood learning and at the heart of healing.


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Muralistas and circus folk

We met up with Julio Moreno again yesterday, he is the leader of the collective de muralistas in Esteli. Several of his young colleagues were exhibiting work in the parque central, and it was especially exciting to see a large group of young children painting in the square, Julio is in charge of weekend courses for them. We were able to give him some money last year to buy materials for this, the results are very encouraging.

back in Leon now! we have been back to el barrilete where the group from Performers without Borders were giving their first show, they’ll then go on to teach the children circus skills. This is the third time they’ve been here, Maggie’s son Rob brought the first group three years ago. The kids really enjoyed the show, lots of miming and juggling. They got going with the diabolos , hula hoops and juggling clubs straight away.

Maria had a proposition for us, a evangelical group is making a new kitchen for the centre, previously cooking was done on open fires. Burns are a real danger here. However they have to employ an adult, qualified, police checked cook and they don’t have the money. So we are going to pay the wages for the first year, can’t promise more, it will be a new focus for our fund raising. Onwards and upwards!! Arriba, Arriba!,,,,


Alicia Huete is just an amazing woman. Known as Mamalicha she has helped thousands of women understand their pregnancy and to have a natural childbirth, she has trained hundreds of women to be midwives, she carried out over a thousand Pap smears in the last year alone. She is well over seventy, she has a winning smile, and we spent this morning with her. A privilege.


Apologies for a long post.
It’s two years since I last came and I had no idea what changes there would be. Following the news from Nicaragua in the preceding two years I’ve seen all sorts of things happening. The main issue has been the canal, the pet project of the government backed by a mysterious Chinese businessman. It has caused huge reaction in the country. Some have been in favour on the basis that it will bring employment and eventual revenue. But others, what has seemed from outside the overwhelming majority, have reacted strongly against the proposal, arguing the canal will be an environmental disaster and that the case for its construction has not been made.
Now it appears to be on hold. The mysterious Chinese businessman is reported to have lost most of his money and at least once major container shipping company has questioned the viability of the canal and the need for super container ships on that route. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the coming year and what effect it will have on the election in January 2017, at which President Ortega is standing for a third time.
Perhaps what concerns people more is how every day life moves forward. The current El Nino event is causing a drought, predicted to last until the end of the first quarter. Driving through the countryside vast patches of brown grass are very evident. I haven’t heard of food shortages yet but various agencies identify “food insecurity” as a real issue for central America, including parts of Nicaragua. The general situation is not helped either by continuing, often illegal, deforestation, particularly in the north east of the country. Although Nicaragua is rich in water – Lake Cocibolca is a massive reserve of fresh water from which the country gets most of its drinking supply – deforestation, the canal (if it’s built) and climate change could all lead to major environmental and humanitarian disaster.
The good news is that prices don’t appear to be rising strongly (Banco Central estimates below 4% inflation) and the country’s infrastructure continues to improve. The roads are better, electricity is stable and medical provision remains mostly adequate.
The pleasure of coming here to Nicaragua remains the encounters with people. Meeting Gustavo again was a great pleasure. The trip round the hospital in Leon was moving. Rigo took us out for the evening at Las Salinas to watch tiny turtles hauling themselves into the ocean. The people in the shops always want to talk (although with my extremely limited Spanish I do more nodding and smiling than actual understanding).
So far, so good.

Los Quinchos again

Yesterday we set off early for los Quinchos, expecting to stay the night and come back today. In the event we managed to make our visit into a round trip, mostly because many of the people we had hoped to see weren’t there, but we did have a lovely time seeing the girls and boys, taken round by Alberto- an ex quincho- now a major helper at the boys farm. It was great to see faces we know from previous visits, all were smiley and happy, the girls did wonderful presentations about their lives at Los Quinchos and what they were hoping to achieve as they finished school. The boys were just about to start their lunch when we got to the farm, rice with chicken and boiled plantain.
After last year’s big fiesta the visit seemed a bit subdued. But Carlos, one of the Los quinchos mainstays died very suddenly just before Christmas, Zelinda is still on her way back from Europe, and Lourdes is ill with the latest mosquito borne virus. But everyone was just pottering away, going about daily things in a very routine sort of way. Which was nice to see in itself, routine was not the usual for these children before they came to Los Quinchos, and it was nice to see them quietly settled with smiles on their faces.

Gustavo again

This morning we met up with Gustavo herdocia again, he is the surgeon who changes lives of children here by operating on their cleft palates and hare lips, by caring for their burns, by helping to cure other deformities which would make their lives so much more difficult. We also met those children and their mothers and saw the results of Gustavo and his team’s work, it is life-transforming.
We also had the opportunity to revisit the municipal hospital in Leon and were especially touched to see the babies’ special care unit. This is equipped with the most up to date facilities, in contrast with the other wards we visited. What is evident is care and respect for the patients. Child patients have to be accompanied by family members and the money we are able to give here helps the families to travel to Leon and to stay with their children, their treatment is free. Many families have to travel a long way, often by bus. It was through meeting elisabeta, a little girl from the Río San Juan area, that we began to raise money, as rigo and his friend Melanie McGrath had done to help children from musawas in the north of the country to come to Leon for reconstructive surgery. It’s 10 years since we came to nicaragua for the first time, many things have changed but there is still a need for support.