School Days


“You’re off to great places. Today is your day! Your volcano is waiting. So get on your way! ~ a variation of Dr. Seuss

Monday was the first day of school for most of the students in Nicaragua. I love the first day of school. I love the smells of sharpened pencils, shampooed hair, and new books. I love the excitement, attention, and motivation of the students preparing for a successful new school year.

This year, thanks to a generous donation to my library, Maxwell and I decided to buy  school uniforms for some of my favorite students who live nearby. Don’t you love this photo? They are always smiling!

One thing that always surprises me is that no one knows the sizes of uniforms for their children. Grandma said that they cannot afford to buy new clothes, so they never know what sizes will fit. We measured, asked their ages, and shopped for new uniforms, then returned with crisp white shirts, belted pants for the boys, and navy blue skirts for the girls.

The stores were wild in Moyogalpa. It appeared that everyone waited until the last moment to buy uniforms and school supplies. We lacked two skirts for the girls because they were all sold, so we will return the next week to see if new skirts were delivered to the stores.

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We Give Back


“Help others without any reason and give without the expectation of receiving anything in return.” ~Roy. T. Bennett

I’ve been in a funk this season of giving. Maybe it is because of the political situation in the U.S. Possibly it is because of the crowdsourcing scams I’ve seen in Nicaragua and my island home of Ometepe. And then again, it could be because lately I’ve been disappointed in people in general.

Whatever the reason for my funk, the only way I know how to get out of it is by stressing the goodness of people, the selfless acts of giving, and promoting people who give without any reason and without the expectation of receiving anything in return.

For this reason, I would like to introduce you to two expats on Ometepe Island who give back selflessly to their communities.

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Christmas and Summer Vacation Rolled into One


Sometimes you’re just the sweetest thing. Like Christmas, summer vacation, and a brand-new puppy rolled into one. ~ Haruki Murakami

School is out! This year flew by so quickly. For children in Nicaragua, Christmas and summer vacation is rolled into one. The Nicaragua school season is from February 1st to December 1st. Like children all over the world, they eagerly look forward to Christmas and summer vacation, and in Nicaragua they celebrate them together.

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Five Business Skills We All Need


“The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.” ― Nolan Bushnell

Luis, our 15-year-old yard worker, wants to go to his cousin’s quinceañera in Costa Rica in November. Although, he only works for us on Saturday, he wanted to work after school to save money for his trip. We are preparing for a new roof in November, and we needed someone to remove the old roof tiles.

“Luis, how would you like to make enough money to travel by removing our old tiles and selling them?” we asked him.

Thus began the lessons in entrepreneurship and starting a business.

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How Reading Helps a Community


“We read to know we’re not alone.”
― William Nicholson, Shadowlands

I had many photos to accompany this post, but I received a call this morning telling me that it is against Nicaraguan law to post pictures of Nicaraguan police in uniform. I had no idea! So, I deleted my Facebook post with the pictures of the police reading to the students and I deleted the photos on my blog post to respect the privacy of the officers and the Nicaraguan law.

Our tiny police force on Ometepe Island consists of 14 police officers in Moyogalpa. They receive a pittance of pay and often work long hours without money for office supplies, gas for their vehicles, etc.

When they helped me recover my phone which was stolen from my house by my 15 yr. old friend, I repaid their kindness with a bag of office supplies for their bare bones office.
The other day my police buddy called me to ask if he could come to my house to talk. He mentioned the word “molestar” and I feared we were in trouble. Instead, when he arrived, he introduced me to the new officer and asked if I could give him a notebook and a pen.

I sighed a big sigh of relief because I realized he simply said on the phone that he didn’t want to bother me. “No quiero a molestar.”

I had him make a list of office supplies the police force needed…a very simple list with notebooks, pens, a scissors, and stapler. Then I purchased the supplies and took them to the office. I also went to the gas station and bought a voucher for gasoline for their vehicles.

The officers were very appreciative and asked in return what they could do for me. I asked if they could come to my elementary school library and read the children a story. I think it is important for the police to be role models for their community and I can think of no better way for them to help me develop a culture of reading than to start at the elementary level.

Yesterday, they picked me up in their police truck, and we went to the La Paloma Elementary School to read to the preschoolers. I had to laugh as I rode in the police truck because the neighbors were all freaking out! I know I created quite a stir!

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First Aid on Ometepe Island


Safety is as simple as ABC – Always Be Careful.

Several years ago, there was a horrible accident on Ometepe Island. A drunk driver on a motorcycle crashed into another motorcycle head-on. Then, two more motorcycles tried to swerve to miss the accident and they both laid their bikes down.

One motorcyclist died on the panga that transported the injured to the mainland. Two suffered traumatic head injuries. The scene was horrific. The first-responders were ill-equipped police. They had no equipment, no understanding of assessing the injured before moving them, no latex gloves, no ambulance, and no training in first aid or CPR.

Nicaragua has come a long way since then, but there is still a long way to go in training first-responders at the scene of an accident. This past December, every community in Nicaragua held an emergency simulation.

Since Ron is a CPR and first aid trainer, he volunteered to head the simulation.
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Is Nature a Person?


“Everyone is a moon, and has a dark side which he never shows to anybody.”
― Mark Twain

Traveling through New Zealand during our US Presidential election has been enlightening…to say the least. The Kiwis are dumbfounded and they, along with the rest of the world, shake their heads in disbelief. The dark side of our human nature has been exposed to the world like the dark side of the moon that never shows itself.

Human nature is very puzzling, yet even more mind bending is the perspective of New Zealanders that nature can be legislated to become a person. What a profound impact on our world if we could legislate our environment and treat it as Mother Nature intended.

Our baby…our only path to survival. New Zealanders take their guardianship of nature seriously.

We are the guardians…

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We are the protectors…

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We do not have dominion over all…

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Let’s Get Real About Transparency and Donations


“Truth never damages a cause that is just.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

There has been a lot of talk about transparency in the political arena lately. However, my post is focused on transparency in giving. How can you be certain that your donation will serve others and not be used for administrative purposes? Can you earmark specific donations to an organization that has a tax-deductible status? What are the best crowdfunding and fundraising websites? And, how can you be certain that your donation to one of the crowdfunding websites will be used appropriately?

I’ve researched the best way for me to solicit donations for my little La Paloma Library in Nicaragua. I’ve debated on whether to apply for a 501(c)3 tax-exempt status or continue as I have been, seeking small donations through fundraisers and crowdfunding websites.

I am preparing for the future because what will happen to my little library if I move off the island, travel more often, or return to the states? Can it survive without me? I’ve invested my money and time in developing a comprehensive program to meet the needs of the teachers and the students. It is my legacy. So, in preparing for the future, I want to leave a program that will last beyond me with solid plans and financial support.

So, Let’s Get Real about Transparency and Your Donations…

I. Everything you need to know about your donations to a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization

This section gives me a headache! First, you have to determine if an organization is a charitable organization with a 501(c)3 tax-deductible status. According to the IRS tax-deductible donation rules:

The 501(c)3 groups receive the major part of their support from the public rather than from a small group of individuals. They also use the bulk of donated money to further their stated exempt-organization goals. The 501(c)3 groups include churches, hospitals, schools and groups that provide disaster aid, such as the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and similar organizations.

If you would like to earmark your donation to be used for a specific purpose, it is important to know that charitable organizations welcome recommended designations, but that all gifts go to the organization and are subject to its control and final discretion. 

When a 501(c)3 organization receives a charitable gift the organization is required to submit a written receipt to the donor stating (1) the donee organization has ultimate discretion over the destination of the contributions; (2) a confirmation that the donor intends for the organization, not the individual, to be the gift recipient; and (3) an acknowledgment of the donor’s preference to support a particular individual.

The last point is ambiguous in this area of giving because qualified organizations must remind donors that improperly earmarking gifts may compromise the deductibility of the donation.

For example, if an individual wanted to make a monetary donation to my library, I could partner with a 501(c)3 charitable organization so the gift could be tax-deductible. However, there is no guarantee, according to the IRS laws, that an earmarked donation will be used for my library.

This is where transparency is needed. All donors to a 501(c)3 organization must receive a written receipt of their donation as well as be informed that the charity has the final say about where the money will be used.

It is too complicated for me, a one-woman operator. I can’t see the advantage of partnering with a 501(c)3 organization because of the excessive requirements by the IRS with no guarantee that my library would receive earmarked donations. And because of the tangle of bureaucracy involved in becoming a 501(c)3 organization, I would rather keep it simple. In addition, many of my donors are foreign donors whose donations are not tax-deductible because it only applies to U.S. citizens.

Tax Deductible Donation Rules

Fuego y Agua donations for my library and the La Paloma Elementary School.

La Paloma Elementary students check out the new book donations.


II. Crowdfunding and fundraising websites

Crowdfunding websites allow individuals and businesses to solicit donations for any kind of project by accessing a large number of potential donors. There are advantages and disadvantages to using crowdfunding websites and the potential for abuse is always a concern.

Best Crowdfunding Sites for 2016

I have used YouCaring to Help Los Ramos Rebuild after a devastating landslide that destroyed their community and for donations to support The Divine Women’s Soccer Team.

Transparency in seeking donations on a crowdfunding website is important. I believe it is imperative to respond to each donor, to be specific in how their donations will be used, and to be open, honest, and accountable for  the money spent.

For these reasons, I always write a blog post with photos about how the donations have been spent and help the recipients of the donations write a letter or make a video thanking the donors. Goodie Bags for Los Ramos    Los Ramos Says Many Thanks

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Let’s Get Real About Consumer Protection Rights in Nicaragua


                                  “Debt is the worst poverty.” -Thomas Fuller                                                                                       

When we were shopping for appliances in Nicaragua, I didn’t understand the prices that were displayed. All I wanted to know was the total cost of a refrigerator, but instead the prices were listed in monthly installments on stickers that must have been glued on the appliances with super glue because they were impossible to remove!

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It didn’t take me long to figure out that the majority of Nicaraguans can’t afford to pay the total cost upfront. Not only is credit “king” in Nicaragua, but the lack of consumer protection, the outrageous interest charged to buy on credit, and the lack of education about consumer rights in Nicaragua combine to make the worst poverty.

So, Let’s Get Real About Consumer Protection Rights in Nicaragua. (or the lack of them)

The first Consumer Protection law for Nicaragua was passed in 2013. Below is the link for the law in Spanish.
Law 842: Law of the Protection of the Rights of the People who are Consumers and Clients

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My Place of Solace


“In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.” ― Mark Twain

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People often ask what we do all day since we are retired. One thing is for certain. We have stopped watching world news. It is too depressing. Besides, there is very little we can do about fixing the big problems in the world. But, there are many little things we can do as expats to help make the world a little better for our local communities.

I started a children’s library in our small La Paloma Elementary school two years ago. It has become my solace and place of refuge from this mad, mad world in which we live.
It is my place of hugs, laughter, and wisdom absorbed through my skin.

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