Thursday, October 1, 2009

Fall Fundraising Campaign Part 2

We need your help to continue our efforts in Gigante!

By now we all know that the economic downturn has caused the loss of jobs, forced families from their homes, and made all of us trim our budgets. However, if you think that we have been hit hard here in the U.S., just imagine what it has done to the already poor villages that Project WOO supports in Nicaragua. Small businesses are closing and jobs in every sector are disappearing at the same time that food and transportation costs are rising.

As such, our transportation and education projects are being directly affected. We are trying to do our part by raising the money we need to keep teachers employed, keep gasoline costs low for our small transportation business, and continue to provide school supplies that parents simply cannot afford.

Below you will find a comprehensive list of what your donation can support.

Transportation and Economic Development:

$50.00 – sponsors one month of education for one high school student, including travel stipend and school supplies

$550.00 – sponsors one year of education for one high school student, including travel stipend, school supplies, uniform and shoes

Elementary school support and teacher training:

$2,500.00builds a safe drinking water well at the elementary school in Gigante #1

pays the monthly salary of first grade teacher Mariel Arcia Guzman

0pays the monthly salary of fourth and fifth grade teacher Belkis Cubillo Perez

pays the monthly salary of sixth grade teacher Marisol Chavarria Amador

$100.00 – pays the monthly stipend of kindergarten teacher Belkis Mora

– pays for monthly school supplies for four teachers

– buys monthly school supplies for one student (kindergarten – third grade)

– buys monthly school supplies for one student (fourth – sixth grade)

WOO Afterschool Club:

– covers the total one-month cost of the Afterschool Club

Any amount of support is greatly appreciated!

Project WOO Director of Operations Norma Prendiz receives a laptop donated by Steve Leinau

Project WOO is a recognized 501(c)(3) non-profit, so all contributions are tax-deductible

Friday, September 25, 2009

Welcome New WOO Team Members!!

Project WOO is proud to announce the arrival of two new team members, Trent Gordon and Bo Fox. Trent and Bo are surfers and humanitarians who have been searching for a way to combine their love of surfing and their passion for grass roots community development. When they became aware of the work that Project WOO has been doing for the past two years in Nicaragua, they approached WOO founders Nick Mucha and Adam Monaghan for some ideas about how they might get into the field of community development. After a few conversations it became clear that Trent, Bo, Nick and Adam all share a common vision, so the crew decided to combine forces.

As Project WOO seeks to weather the economic dry spell that the entire non-profit world is experiencing, as well as adjust to life without Adam on the ground in Nicaragua, Trent and Bo's arrival on the scene could not have happened at a better time. They each bring a unique set of skills to the table. Trent will support WOO by focusing on business development, marketing and fundraising in the US, while Bo will be moving down to Nicaragua in 2010 to support our local staff on the ground and continue to build cultural bridges between the surfing world and the developing world. Please find their biographies and pictures below:

Trent Gordon is Project WOO's new Director of Business Development. He graduated with a B.A. in Global and International Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Trent fell in love with Latin culture and people during a spur of the moment fly fishing trip to Chile. Since then he has spent over a year (on and off) exploring much of Central and South America as a traveler, English teacher, and surfer. After spending 3 years working in financial services in New York City, Trent now works for a boutique investment bank in his home town of Lake Tahoe, N.V. A skier, rock climber, and winemaker, Trent is focused on building financial support for Project WOO's work in Latin America.

Bo Fox is Program Manager for Project Wave of Optimism. He graduated with a B.A. in Global and International Studies, with an emphasis in Social and Political Studies, from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Bo has studied, worked and traveled throughout Europe and Latin America since graduating from college. After four inspiring years implementing cross-cultural "experiential education" curriculum in Latin America, Bo has fine-tuned his focus and is now dedicated to facilitating grassroots community development in Latin American surfing destinations. A passionate traveler, off-beat musician, and avid surfer, Bo is committed to improving surfing's global impact through his work with Project WOO in Nicaragua in 2010.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Fall Fundraising Campaign

Hello Friends of Project WOO!!

We would like to announce the official launch of our 2009 Fall Fundraising Campaign. Starting today, Monday August 24th, we seek to raise $10,000.00 by Friday October 23rd.

Over the course of the next two months we hope you will be inspired to help us reach our goal. Whether you are a long-time supporter or a first-time giver, we want you to know that 100 percent of your donation will be used in Nicaragua to support our two major projects:

  1. Small business development & support for Transportes Ola de Optimismo, S.A.
  2. Elementary school support with teacher training, school supplies, and infrastructure improvements

To learn more about exactly what your donation would support, please see the "Transportation and Economic Development," and the "Support for Local Education in Gigante Village" blogs dated 8/14 and 7/30, respectively.

We hope that once you know more about the truly meaningful work that is sponsored by Project WOO and carried out by our Nicaraguan staff, you will be moved to help us reach our fundraising goal and allow us to continue to inspire people in these small coastal towns to improve their lives, one day at a time. Thank you!!

The new Gigante bus is a locally owned and operated business called Transportes Ola de Optimismo, S.A. (Wave of Optimism Transportation, LLC, in English). Your donation will help make sure it gets the financial and technical support it desperately needs during the crucial start-up phase.

Nicaraguan school teachers are pictured here participating in one of the very important teacher training seminars sponsored by Project WOO in the village of Gigante. Your gift will support the continuation of these workshops, which impart interactive teaching methods and provide much needed school supplies that are used to improve education for the village's children.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Transportation and Economic Development Project

Background - The single reason that we chose to focus on an initiative to bring public transportation to Gigante is exactly what sets us apart from other development organizations: it is the will of the local people. On July 17th 2007, in a town hall meeting the people voted by an overwhelming margin in favor of the public transportation initiative. From that moment on Project WOO marshaled resources, engaged local leaders, and worked tirelessly to bring public transportation to Gigante.

As we moved forward on the transportation proposal it became clear that one key impetus behind the villager’s desire for transportation was easy access to education. According to the 2008 Gigante Census that was carried out by Project WOO staff, the village has a total population of 386 residents, thirty five of which are active high school students. Because Gigante is so small and remote, it does not have a high school and as such the students are forced to travel to the larger nearby towns of Tola or Rivas to attend class. This means a round trip, daily, dirt-road commute of almost twenty miles to Tola or just over thirty miles to Rivas, rain or shine. Because there was no reliable public transportation in and out of Gigante, all of these students were forced to walk up to three miles out to the main road where they would wait for an overcrowded, expensive, and unsafe bus to pass. The Gigante students therefore arrived to school late, tired and dirty (if they even made it). This was hardly the way to start the school day; in fact, it put these students at an educational disadvantage.

One of the regional buses passing through a neighboring village. Before Project WOO organized a locally run transportation business, the Gigante students were forced to walk over three miles on the hot, dusty road in the summer or on the rainy, muddy road in the winter. Only students with enough money could get a ride, but they were forced to sit on top of the overcrowded and unsafe bus. Who would have thought that surfers could play such a critical role in helping locals improve public services?

From the time that the Gigante community members elected the transportation initiative as our priority project, the WOO staff in Nicaragua began working with local citizens to implement a series of empowering group trainings focusing in three areas: 1) Life Skills, 2) Project Design and Management, and 3) Business and Financial Management. These workshops were designed and implemented by the WOO staff with the goal of providing an open forum for interested villagers to learn how to plan and execute a community development project and how to launch and manage a business.

WOO Director of Operations Norma Prendiz (pictured here in 2008 when she was our newly hired project manager) imparting an important business development training to Gigante community members.

Peace Corps Volunteer and WOO business intern Cara Mitchell leading the group through important team building exercises in 2008.

In February 2009, after months of research about what kind of vehicle would be the best fit for Gigante, Project WOO purchased a 1999 Mercedes Benz 8 ton truck in fair condition that had previously been used to transport coffee in the mountainous Matagalpa region of northern Nicaragua. It was in need of some repairs and upgrades, so we decided to put our money to good use and make the vehicle into a fully operational (and comfortable!) community transportation outfit. Over the course of two months, we completely transformed the old coffee truck into an almost new community bus! Overall it was an amazing process, and the fruits of our labor really shows!

The WOO Bus on February 6th, 2009, the day we purchased it in Managua. Here it is pictured in it's original form as a truck that hauled coffee in the northern mountain town of Matagalpa.

The WOO Bus, transformed! Here it is picking up students and villagers on the morning of April 28th, 2009. We officially launched our transportation service on April 20th, 2009.

Here is a picture of what the inside of the truck used to look like before we had it upgraded.

This is the happy picture of the WOO Bus being used by students and villagers alike. Every day people ride the bus into Tola to go to school, get medical attention at the clinic, and purchase goods to stock their small businessnes and restaurants.

Current Situation - This project in its current form is the concrete realization of what can happen when passion combines with action to forge dreams that stretch across cultures in the name of equality, opportunity, and progressive development. Wave of Optimism Transportation, LLC. is the result of over two years of careful preparation that has combined local participation, proper allocation of resources, and pointed technical training.

When Project WOO founders Nick Mucha and Adam Monaghan made their first trip to this remote surfing destination in December 2004 they had no idea that five years later they and their friendly, hardworking Nicaraguan counterparts would be responsible for offering the first daily public transportation service to and from Gigante.

As a result of their hard work (and the invaluable financial support of our compassionate donors) the local residents now have reliable access to education, commerce and health care.

WOO Transportation Coordinator (and bus driver!) Marlon Martinez and WOO Director of Operations Norma Prendiz proudly show off the shiny new ride!

The WOO Bus currently makes three trips a day. Transportation Coordinator and bus driver Marlon Martinez is a responsible, dedicated man who knows that making sure the kids get to and from school every day is our number one priority. Marlon also liases with the parents and community members to field any constructive criticism or handle any problems that might arise.

WOO Director of Operations Norma Prendiz runs the business side of things. She was responsible for the business registration process with the local authorities. She manages the business' finances with complete transparency. In addition to these responsibilities she is the overall project manager for everything that Project WOO does in Nicaragua. Norma is a true all-star and deserves to be applauded for her work!

While we are only in our first year providing transportation to the villagers of Gigante, we are looking to improve and expand this service if we can generate the financial support to do so. We are currently working with the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure to see how we can expand our coverage beyond Gigante.

Now that we know that process, the players, and the end result, we see it as a viable possibility to offer bus service to all of the school children in Tola. In order to do so, we need to work with local leaders on the ground in Nicaragua to develop the project, design a budget, and implement our strategy. We can do it, but we need the support of everyone out there to contribute to help make our dream become a reality!

Project WOO Program Director Adam Monaghan with the students on the first day of school in February. We rented this truck from Don Lorenzo until our bus was ready to launch full service for the entire village.

Gigante 8th grader Rene is all smiles as he boards the bus knowing that he doesn't have to walk 3 miles in the mud to get to school anymore!

Some of our donors are pictured here as they send the students off on their first day of school in February. We are truly grateful for their support and want to say THANK YOU!! on behalf of the Project WOO staff and the people of Gigante.

Some of the Gigante girls proudly pose in front of their school bus. They are happy to arrive in style every day!

Monday, August 3, 2009

WOO in the Press! Drop in and check us out!!

We'd like to take this opportunity to let you all know about some positive press that Project WOO has received since we started our work in Nicaragua in 2007.

By clicking on the following links, you can read for yourself some of the nice things that people have written about the work we are carrying out in Nicaragua. Please enjoy! * * Once you get to this link, look to the lower left and where it says "go to page:," type "61" and press "GO"

If you have any questions or comments please direct them to Adam and Nick at Or check out our website at Thank you for making the time to learn a little more about the important work we are doing in Nicaragua!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Support for Local Education in Gigante Village

Background – In 2001 the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education built the first formal structures to serve as the elementary school and the kindergarten for Gigante village. Due to a lack of financial resources as well as the geographic isolation of the community, the government has only ever had the capability to provide Gigante with one teacher for grades one through four for the school year, which runs February through November. Basic school supplies for teachers and students like books, maps, calculators, chalk, and rulers are hard to come by. While daily snacks of cereal, rice and beans are provided by the government and prepared by the children’s mothers, supplies often run short and the students do not get a proper dose of nutrients. Even prior to Project WOO’s arrival in 2007, members of the community identified this situation as problematic and began asking a few of the foreign surf camp and restaurant owners for handouts of school supplies and money.

The Jose Dolores Rivera school in Gigante

Beginning with the 2007 school year Lynn and Betty Mangum, a couple from New York who spend a few months every year vacationing in a home they own in Gigante, took it upon themselves to support the José Dolores Rivera school by providing the salaries for three extra elementary school teachers. They soon realized, however, that in order to yield the progressive results they desired, the project would require hands-on leadership from an experienced community organizer.

When WOO Program Director Adam Monaghan was coordinating community development efforts early in 2007 he was introduced to the Mangums and became aware of their project to support local education. He, in turn, informed the Mangums that the villagers had identified support of education as a leading priority and explained the importance of coordinating efforts with local leaders, parents, teachers and students. A match was made and the Magnums asked Adam and WOO to take over management of the project starting in January 2008.

Lynn Mangum and WOO Program Director Adam Monaghan seal the deal to support the education of Gigante's children

Current Situation - Since taking the reins of the Jose Dolores Rivera school project, WOO staff and community members have identified and been working to address the following programmatic focal points:

  1. Provide an salary and health care benefits to three elementary school teachers to reduce the student-teacher ratio and avoid overcrowded classrooms.
  2. Provide a monthly stipend to one kindergarten teacher
  3. Supply classroom materials and educational equipment to teachers and students
  4. Train teachers in progressive education techniques to foster critical thinking skills and therefore break the cycle of teaching by rote memorization
  5. Organize and train the local parent-teacher association
  6. Improve the school building infrastructure

Kindergarten teacher Belkis Mora and her students

First grade teacher Mariel Arcia Guzman pictured with her students

Fourth and Fifth grade teacher Belkis Cubillo Perez with her students

Sixth grade teacher Marisol Chavarria pictured with her students

A community celebration where Project WOO facilitated the delivery of school supplies to the José Dolores Rivera school by the Fabretto Children's Foundation, our partner organization in supporting education initiatives in the Gigante village

José Dolores Rivera school teachers as well as teachers from other regional elementary school get together every two months for skills training workshops put on by our education partner organization, the Fabretto Children's Foundation

Members of the Gigante Parent-Teacher association gather for a picture after participating in a workshop put on by our friends at the Fabretto Children's Foundation

Gigante village parents shown here enjoying themselves as they make repairs to the school funded by Project WOO. This is a great example of how we work: organize, provide material support, and allow the local people the pride of doing the work themselves.

A great picture of Gigante mothers painting the kindergarten

Future Endeavors – Because of a lack of resources (both human and financial) Project WOO is currently limited to working only with the José Dolores Rivera elementary school that serves the approximately 80 students living on the coastal and northern access roads. We have just recently begun to develop a relationship with the other elementary school in Gigante, which serves about 30 students that live along the southern access road. The situation there is perhaps more urgent than that of José Dolores Rivera school because they have only one teacher for grades one through four, lack a functioning well to provide safe drinking water to the students, and have an active group of parents seeking to improve the situation of their children’s education. In light of this, Project WOO is seeking additional resources to fund our desired efforts to work with the Gigante #1 elementary school.

Additionally, the parents, teachers and students of both schools have recognized a need to build a small, two-room building on each school property that would serve as both a library and a storage house/kitchen to cook the student’s meals. To prepare for these projects, we will seek to work with the local parent-teacher committees to carry out project design and implementation trainings. Project WOO would therefore need to bring another staff member on board to dedicate his/her full attention to this process. We can do this with your help.

WOO After School Club

WOO After School Club volunteer Megan Kimble poses here with some of her students. She taught English to our students and developed a close relationship with many members of the Gigante community.

At the start of the school year in February 2009, the twenty five Gigante high school students began meeting two days a week in a structured environment for a few hours in the afternoon where they play fun games, do homework and have access to tutoring, and receive classes relating to a number of topics taught by Project WOO staff and volunteers, including (so far) English, organic gardening, and small business development. There are rules for attendance and conduct that have been drawn up with and agreed to by students, parents and Project WOO staff. During the time that they spend at the WOO After School Club, these once isolated students are exposed to new ideas while being prompted to think critically and analyze the world around them by responsible adult role models.

WOO After School Club volunteer Joe Buck and high school student Roberto dig a hole that they are going to fill with a tree at the Gigante elementary school!

WOO Director of Operations Norma Prendiz posing with our After School Club students

Our friend Aubrey from Surfers Without Borders leading a lesson is making art with everyday items that can be found in nature or around the house

Because the Gigante village is so small and isolated it does not have a high school. As such, our high school students are forced to travel as many as twenty miles every day over poorly maintained dirt roads to get to school in the town of Tola. Fortunately Project WOO and Gigante village members have come together to provide affordable transportation to these students. (Read all about it in our next blog entry titled: "Transportation and Economic Development Project"!!)

One of the great aspects of the After School Club is that when our students comply with attendance rules, they win a stipend from Project WOO that pays for 75 percent of their monthly bus fare. This results in a monthly savings of $30.00 per student for Gigante families. This may sound like small potatoes, but to families that only make $100.00 - $200.00 a month it is a big deal. So not only does the After School Club provide access to positive adult role models and access to new information and new ways of thinking, it increases the chances that parents will continue their children's education past primary school because of the reduced costs offered by Project WOO.

WOO After School Club volunteer Amie Riley showing the girls how to make a proper mixture of organic soil

9th grader Selena is enjoying the art session with Aubrey and Loren, our friends from Surfers Without Borders who dropped by to help out with the After School Club in May 2009

We are currently seeking to build upon our early success with this project. Project WOO is looking for creative, dynamic volunteers to work with our students on a daily basis to impart new, exciting classes and expose the children to different role models. Ideas for future curriculum include computer literacy, world events, sports programs, entrepreneurship, and marine biology. The sky is truly the limit as we look to expand the After School Club to include elementary school students as well. Please contact us at to see how you can partner with us to inspire the youth of Gigante village.