Board Spotlight: "Casa - Pueblito Values Participation"

The best thing about being involved with Casa Pueblito is being part of a group of sincere and committed people who see development as a partnership with local leaders and communities in Nicaragua. Casa - Pueblito values participation - the participation of communities in their own development, and the participation of donors and volunteers, board members and student groups, in a project of solidarity with the Nicaraguan people. It has both the benefits and challenges of a small organisation that relies heavily on its community of supporters to drive and resource the work.

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Board Spotlight: Learning about Solidarity, Intersectionality and Social Justice

Name: Dylani Shea
Role: Board Member
# years involved with Casa – Pueblito:  1 year

Why and how did you get involved with Casa – Pueblito?  

Ashley Rerrie , our Country Director in Nicaragua, is a former colleague of mine. Ashley introduced me to Casa – Pueblito in 2016. At the time, I was completing an MA in Development Studies with a focus on communication and higher education for development in Latin America. I was intrigued and inspired by CP’s solidarity based approach to international cooperation and education in Nicaragua and beyond. I was captivated and inspired to become a part of this dynamic community.

What is the best thing about being a part of the Casa – Pueblito community?

Having the opportunity to be a part of something so unique. My engagement with CP is a continuous process of reflection and learning about solidarity, international cooperation, intersectionality, privilege, and social justice.

If there’s one thing people should know about Casa – Pueblito, what would it be?

CP may be a small organization, but our focus on solidarity and community engagement means that our projects are high impact and locally relevant. I have the utmost respect for Ashley. I am confident in her capabilities and judgement, and am extremely proud to support her team’s important work.  

Alumni Spotlight: 3 Lessons From My Time in Nicaragua

By: Camilla Kusec

Year travelled to Nicaragua: 2004
High school: St Augustine C.S.S (Brampton, ON)

My most memorable moment from my trip to Nicaragua actually came a few years after the trip. One my teachers, Mrs. Gomes had gone back to the same community we had been to on our first trip and my host family sent back a letter for me. It was such a surprise - I couldn’t believe that they remembered me, and it meant so much to hear from them. I still have that letter.  

The lessons I’ve learned from my time in Nicaragua weren’t instantaneous. In fact, the impact of that trip has revealed itself in different ways over the years.

Those ten days have shaped my politics, my travels, and who I’ve become personally.

I remember Mr. Heffernan handing out a sheet on Nicaraguan politics and history during one of our preparation sessions. I was overwhelmed by the information because it touched on something I was only starting to realise was important to me: inequities that exist in our society at home or on a global scale. I was 15 and had a vague sense of injustice, but Nicaragua is what made it real.

I learned about corruption and poverty, but also community building, solidarity, and resistance. I wound up majoring in Political Science and I’m happy to be part of the Latinx community in Toronto.

I’ve had many more experiences since then that have deepened my interest in politics and my commitment to equity, but it did all grow from that initial spark of interest in a handout and Mr. Heffernan’s stories. 

Another way Nicaragua has impacted me is in my pursuit of seeing and travelling around the world as much as I can. I haven’t really stopped moving since Nicaragua, and while I have never gone on another social justice project, it’s interesting to reflect on how I usually seek out work while I’m traveling so I can spend more time in each city or country I visit. I think that comes from what I learned in Nicaragua, which is that getting to genuinely know the community and region you’re travelling to is so important. Meet locals and stray from the typical tourist spots as often as you can.

I think what is important in our world today is to support opportunities for us to grow as more compassionate beings with an openness and understanding that extends to people in different communities across the globe.
 

Finally, I know that going to Nicaragua has shaped how I’ve grown as a person. I have a dear friend who coordinated social justice projects for post-secondary students, and I challenged him on the value of these trips. My friend agreed that many of the students who take these will return to Canada and live the same lives as they’ve always had. But he challenged back: does that matter? Even if you’re not suddenly woke, even if you go back and never involve yourself again in social justice projects again, you can’t erase the experience of working with others, meeting new people and challenging yourself in every way possible to see things in a way so different from your daily life. That stays with you.

These trips are important because they dismantle fears and stereotypes. It encourages us to listen, to be patient, to observe and to be unafraid. It creates friendships across borders, across cultures, across faiths.
 

Given the chance, I would absolutely participate in the experience again. Also, as a secondary teacher with the Dufferin-Peel Catholic School Board, I know I may have the opportunity to visit Nicaragua in a different role.  I would love to go back to Nicaragua as an educator and be able share this experience with a new set of students, colleagues and local community members. While I admit, I’m still working on listening more and putting fear aside, our trip to Nicaragua has made me a more open person and that is the greatest impact the trip has had on me. These trips make a difference. To the communities you visit. To the people you work with. To you.

Board Spotlight: Carl Melvin on his 21 years with Casa - Pueblito

Name: Carl Melvin
Role: Board President
# years involved with Casa – Pueblito:   21

Why and how did you get involved with Casa – Pueblito? 

Having been transformed in my general outlook on life during 3 years of brigades in Nicaragua in the 1980', I felt a void in that life with the collapse of the solidarity movement in Canada following the electoral defeat of the Sandinistas in 1990.  The creation of Casa Canadiense in 1992 opened the door to re-connect with the people of Nicaragua and with like-minded folks in Canada. 

My first visit to the Casa in Managua in 1996 was inspiring and my subsequent travels to areas of Nicaragua I had worked and lived in years earlier showed the ravaging effects of the return of right-wing government focused only on the rich.  Whereas in the 80's shelves were bare due to the devastating economic embargo inflicted upon the people by the U.S. government, now stores popped up selling anything and everything.  The catch, you needed money or credit.  The expats returning from Miami had that.  But, looking behind the facade of progress, the have-nots had nothing. 

This reinforced my belief in maintaining solidarity with those who had cast out a ruthless dictatorship, staved off the most powerful country on the planet – all the while expanding literacy, access to healthcare and land reform on a Gross Domestic Product equivalent to the annual budget of the Metropolitan Toronto Police force. 

I continue to be inspired and uplifted by the amazing people of Nicaragua.  While sitting next to a Nicaraguan businessman on a flight from Atlanta to Managua recently, he commented on how he regularly sees foreigners on this flight coming to Nicaragua to help his people.  I replied, "Well, I'm not one of them."  He was perplexed.  I explained that I come to learn from his people.  What I do is but a paltry tuition for the life's lessons I have gleaned over the past 30 years.

What is the best thing about being a part of the Casa – Pueblito community?

Being in the company of inspiring individuals and communities both in Canada and Nicaragua.

If there’s one thing people should know about Casa – Pueblito, what would it be?

Solidarity not charity

Teacher Spotlight: "The whole school benefits from the Global Education Program"

The Global Education program run by Casa - Pueblito is amazing! I have looked at other programs that other schools go on and I don’t see anything better out there. These kids change when they go on this trip. Some of it sticks and some of it will come back to them as they mature and grow. The whole school benefits from the experiences the few go on, because they come back and share. Our community and our world benefit because ultimately these students find their niche and take up a cause and make the world a better place!

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Board Spotlight: "Casa - Pueblito's got courage to fight the good fight"

My family has long roots with Casa - Pueblito – back in the day, my aunt was part of Trucks to Nicaragua, a precursor to Casa. My understanding is my dad even wrote the song that plays in the movie. Anywho, when I was in second year university I was looking for an internship/adventure for the summer and my family connected me to Casa. Casa was awesome enough to help me organize a couple internships in Leon for two months, so off I went in the summer on my first truly solo trip at 19 and with little Spanish.

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Teacher Spotlight: "My experiences in Nicaragua have made me a stronger teacher."

I have chosen to work with Casa – Pueblito due to their rich history of working in Nicaragua and close ties to the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board (DPCDSB).  Casa – Pueblito facilitates excursions to Nicaragua for many different high school groups in the DPCDSB, as well as other school, college, and university groups.  They hire exceptional leaders with a great passion for education and for social justice.  I have been pleased with my previous 7 experiences with them and look forward to working with them again in the future.

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Alumni Spotlight: Ann looks back on her trip to Nicaragua

I still remember most of my experience in Nicaragua. From staying at Casa and working on the school, it is amazing what I still remember after 5 years. A particular memory that I am extremely fond of is of our first night staying with our families. I remember sitting down with them and talking with them. Since we were unsure of what to expect of our families, we had some questions prepared to ask them as conversation starters. To my surprise, we did not have to use them at all. We shared stories about our lives in Canada and they shared their stories about their life in Nicaragua. It was a chance for me to see how much we had in common even when we lived so far away.

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8 ways Casa Managua supports community development in Nicaragua

By: Ashley Rerrie, Country Director

Casa Managua, the Casa – Pueblito Casa in Managua, is crucial to the functioning of Casa – Pueblito in a number of ways. From having a home base to facilitate and monitor our community development projects to providing a space where community members, young Canadians, and travelers interested in social justice can meet, collaborate and learn from each other. Here are eight ways our Casa is making a difference in Managua...

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On International Women's Day...

March 8th was International Women's Day. As a woman and a proud feminist, the day was important to me. Nevertheless, I had a hard time figuring out what I wanted to say about it. Lately I've been feeling angry and helpless about the state of the world, particularly being bombarded by negative news from the US and the attacks on women’s rights happening worldwide. However, I also think it’s important to say something, as a black woman in a leadership position of a solidarity organization here in Nicaragua.

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From the Field: Six Months in Managua

By: Ashley Rerrie, Country Director

I moved to Nicaragua as Casa – Pueblito’s Global Education Coordinator a month after I finished my Master’s degree; my graduation actually happened in October while I was here. These past six months have been a huge learning curve and really taught me what a lot of the theories I learned in grad school look like in practice. One of the people who has taught me a lot about what development, community organizing, and empowerment look like in practice is Yamileth Perez. Yamileth always stresses in her talks with our Global Education delegations about how her neighbourhood isn’t poor, but rather impoverished; impoverished by global systems of capitalism, consumerism, imperialism, and oppression. She reminds me that poverty is created and maintained by those in power. But she also reminds me of the resilience of Nicaraguans, and how sometimes, even the act of surviving and thriving in spite of systems that oppress you is an act of resistance.

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What I Learned as a Latinx Youth Leadership Camp Facilitator

By: Tania Cruz-Sanchez, Casa - Pueblito Education Assistant, Summer 2016

It has been an awesome experience being one of Casa-Pueblito’s Education Assistants this summer. The role consisted of designing, planning, promoting, implementing and monitoring a Leadership day camp for Latinx youth. The Leadership Camp had a variety of interactive and engaging activities; from trust-building ice-breakers to exploring themes of power and oppression through mini skits and discussions, all provided by our dynamic interns and education assistants. The best part of being part of this camp, was perceiving a sense of growth from the youth participants and the meaningful connections that were made between participant members, facilitators and guest speakers. 

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Intern Sinead's Final Blog Post

         The rainy season in Nicaragua falls between May and November.  This year, the first few months of the rainy season delivered a disappointing amount of rain. Its dry start has served to ominously remind many Nicaraguans of last year’s 4-month drought, one of the worst Central American droughts in decades. Last years drought heightened food insecurity, increased the economic disparity of hundreds of thousands of Central Americans, and negatively affected the agricultural sector by reducing crop yields. My community was not severely affected by last year’s drought but the drought did decrease the community’s agricultural productivity and caused food prices to increase in city markets in the months following the drought. For example, in the markets of Masaya and Granada, the price of a litre of red beans by the end of 2014 had reached more than double what it had been at the beginning of the year.

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Intern Sinead's Second Blog Post

Two weekends ago, I had the privilege of going to Casa Canadiense headquarters in Managua to attend a presentation given by Michael O'Sullivan, a professor of education at Brock University, and his two research assistants (one of whom is Ashely Rerrie, the other Casa Canadiense intern in Nicaragua this summer). His presentation was about the research he and Harry Smaller are conducting, research governed by the primary research question, "In what ways, both positive and negative, are host communities in the Global South impacted by International Service Learning initiatives?" 

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Intern Ashley's Second Blog Post

I sat on the floor, camera in hand, waiting. Most of the crowd behind me had already cleared out, as it was getting late and rainy. The kids walked onto the stage, dressed in their uniforms and costumes – girls with woven baskets and long white skirts, boys with wooden machetes and woven hats. They all took their places: guitar in hand, standing behind the marimba, or on opposite sides of the stage, waiting to start. My heart was in my throat – I was nervous for them. 

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Meet Sinead: Our Intern at the UCA Tierra Y Agua Cooperative

My name is Sinead Dunphy. I’m a 19 year old student who recently completed her second year of undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto. I have always been passionate about learning other countries, peoples and cultures, about the Global “North” “South” relationship and about grassroots development work. This internship has given me the opportunity of immersing myself in Nicaraguan culture and community, has given me the privilege of living with and learning from the people of the community of La Granadilla, and has given me the chance to see and participate in a relatively new agro-ecological project that the community of La Granadilla, and UCA Tierra y Agua, has started to promote food and environmental security and sustainability. I am grateful and excited!