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Helping Our Friends Overseas, Part 1: Featuring San Juan del Sur City Project

By Kristen Bosse

Since 1988, the citizens of Newton, Massachusetts have joined in a partnership with fellow activists in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua in the hopes of improving education and healthcare, and employing appropriate technology. Since then, they have done just that, building and renovating over twenty schools and preschools, constructing model homes for teachers, rebuilding playgrounds, sponsoring literacy workshops, and supplying donations for schools, medical facilities, and a domestic violence shelter. Not only that, but the level of technology in most villages has increased, including BioSand filters in each home and smoke-free stoves. The organization's two main efforts are perhaps the improvement of family health in the rural households, and providing free education to those who can't attend the public school system in place.

Appropriate Technology
Since its founding in 2006, the Newton Workshop on Appropriate Technology has searched for ways to improve the Nicaraguan way of life. They have introduced various products to the area including the BioSand Filter, the EcoStove, the Composting Toilet, Solar-Powered Water Pumps, and much more. More recently, the workshop has been focusing on introducing the BioSand Filter and EcoStove to the community.

Pictured below, the filter is a large box made entirely of PVC, filled with layers of sand and gravel. The water is poured into the top and works its way down to the bottom. During this process, 100% of the viruses and parasites and 96% of the diarrhea-causing E. Coli bacteria, are trapped and killed. This has obviously significantly decreased the amount of illnesses in the area.

Similarly to the filter, the EcoStove was introduced to decrease the amount of illnesses in the area, more specifically asthma and emphysema that are no doubt caused by the high level of smoke that surrounds the family while cooking on an open fire. The EcoStove is a brick and cement cooking box up on legs. You put the wood in one end, and cook on the top where there are two holes for your favorite pots. At the far end there is a chimney made of cement tubes that carries the smoke right up through the roof and away from the house.

Free High School for Adults
For over ten years now, the Free High School for Adults has been providing high-quality secondary and technical education to low-income adult populations. The school tries to help those who could not have received an education otherwise, i.e. those who have babies, are married, or have had to work during their teenage years. With Nicaragua rivaling Haiti as the poorest country in the hemisphere, their programs genuinely make a difference, reducing inequality, drug-use and prostitution, and help alleviate poverty, violence against women and children, poor nutrition, environmental degradation, unwanted pregnancy, and ill-health. Now serving over 700 students, the demand for education is at an all-time high for the program. They are now the largest high school in the area and extremely loved by the community.

David Gullette, SCP Vice President, elaborated on why Newton has been a great sister city of Nicaragua.
"This organization mainly started when a group of Newton citizens wanted to reach out to the second-poorest country in the hemisphere at a time in the 1980s when it was being targeted by our own government. Newton is well known for its progressive and philanthropic instincts. Both Newton High Schools, plus Boston College and Lasell College have sent delegations to work with our neighbors in San Juan del Sur. Thinking and acting globally is a part of who we are in Newton."

The organization itself relies entirely on the wonderful volunteers of Newton. Students of Newton North and Newton South High School participate in school-related work projects that contribute to the organization's mission. Individuals from college, church groups, and the town of Newton have been known to travel to San Juan to help teach English or work on public health projects and live with local families.

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Kristen has written impressive content including press releases and feature stories...

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