Thursday, January 12, 2012

Fair Play in a Free Trade Zone: Zona Franca Masili

International Women's Factory New Life, originally named is a women's clothing cooperative was formed 11 years ago, as women in a community came together to face an traumatic experience. Opportunities were scarce, and people needed to find an way to obtain a living for themselves along with their families.

The women were assisted by a foundation to help them buy the land, to create a new business their new business was created on. It took two years of construction to build Nueva Vida, which later was renamed to Zona Franca Masili in 2005. In the duration of that time period, their were only 14 women completing the future clothing store along with no salary being distributed. As time continued, the women were able to learn and obtain training skills with the use of knowledge of the equipment.

Now, the mission of the women's cooperative is to create awareness of discrimination and strictness in the work environment. Products produced from Zona Franca Masili sell in Nicaragua but the majority in the United States, Canada and Germany. In a significant good year, the company is able to sale 15,000 to 20,000 pieces of material. On the other hand, in a year they may not have as much potential only sales 3,000 to 4,000 pieces. Due to the Free Trade Zone, this fair trade company is located in, the limited capacity of goods to sale is 40,000.

It was an unique experience to see several women coming together to create an substantial work environment in a time period, where sexism is still present. Unfortunately, the women were taught that they were meant to be care-takers of the home instead of obtaining a job in the work force. These women showed an great source of strength with the creation of a new business for their community and families.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mi Casa fuera de Mi Casa

By: Leah McClish 

The experience of staying with families within their community was an opportunity of a lifetime. The community was welcoming and friendly to every single one of us. My home-stay experience was difficult to handle at first, what with outdoor bathrooms, no contact with the outside world (no phone service or internet), no television, minimal lights, and my minimal Spanish... but what made it easier for me was when my host mother gave me and another delegate her two sons' room to sleep in. Despite that her house has two bedrooms for five people, it was just heart-wrenching for me to see her give up the small amount of things she had for two individuals she barely knew. Throughout the experience, my host-mother sincerely wanted to spend time with us, to get to know us, and to share her personal experience with us. She even shared that we were the most wonderful part of her day. For a woman I barely knew to share her home and feelings was remarkable. 
As the weekend continued, I was able to see how the community grew to have so much love, respect, and warmth toward one another and amongst their families was beautiful to see. The community shared their love through exchanging their cultural dances and with religious ceremonies. The faith and hope that sparkled through their eyes despite the community's struggles was a vision that will always be in my mind. 
In the end, my host family will always remain in my heart. I feel that they not only added to my experience in Nicaragua but also showed me how to be a better human being. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Hasta Miercoles!

Today we will be leaving to go to our homestays in a mountain village.  We will be staying in Matagalpa for two nights and three days with families that are part of the Witness for Peace program. Then we will be going to Los Quinchos to spend time with the kids in the program.  Unfortunately we will not have Internet access during this time and will not be able to update our blog.  We will post as soon as we return on Wednesday.  Until then, hasta luego!

Friday, January 6, 2012

"Si el dolor puede cambiar la vida de la persona, merece la pena todo el sufrimiento"

By: Stephanie D

Hola! Soon we'll be off to the mountains to complete our home stays! I'm so excited to see what life will be like once I begin to live with my new family! If its anything like the rest of the delegation has been, it will be amazing. It has been a very emotional couple of days, but some one in particular made me realize something I have been missing.
We visited a little village in Matagalpe, where we met Mrs Maria Cruz. Mrs Maria is a mochilla worker in a  "Free Trade" Zone. She explained to us her hard working conditions, which included beginning work at 6:45am, and ended, on the busiest of days, as late as midnight. She made about five American dollars a day, and would only receive a 20-minute lunch break, which may be her only meal of the day, depending on the work day's duties.
As Mrs Maria spoke, she continually made eye contact with me, and even though my Spanish is far from the best, I felt as if I understood every word. We asked Mrs Maria if she was content with her job, and she answered with a smile, "No, but I do it for my children". I felt like I have seen that smile before, and after a few teary moments of thought, it hit me. That was the same smile on my mother and father's face when they talk about what they do for me and my sister.
When Mrs Maria had finished, I raised my hand to tell speak. I told her, "Mrs Maria, you remind me of my own mother, and I need to tell you that your children appreciate everything you do, everyday. And we appreciate everything you do." And I promised myself the first thing I will do when I get home is thank my parents. Dry eyes started tearing all around the room as we said our goodbyes to Mrs Maria and I gave her a hug.
She helped me realize what I was missing was my appreciation. So a quick blog shout out, Mom and Dad (and Maureen and Dennis :) ) if you are reading this, THANK YOU. I know at times it gets very hard to keep going to support our families, but not a day goes by that I don't appreciate everything you do for me and my sister. What we have now is more than what we'll ever need, and that's our love for one another. Thanks to the beautiful, inspiring women I have met on thus far on this delegation, I look at the world in a whole new way.
Off to the mountains! Bye Bye for now :)

Thursday, January 5, 2012


By Lisa Monetti 

     Today we visited a public hospital and it was so completely different from any hospital in the US. When we travelled through the halls for our short tour, we were able to look right into the rooms and see all the patients. Each room held around seven patients and we learned that the hospital turns away no one, so sometimes they are forced to share beds. Walking through the hospital I felt more like I was intruding into someone’s home rather than taking a tour of a hospital. Our hospitals at home are a bright white, overly clean, and all the patients get privacy. Here, the building was dark and you could tell they just weren’t able to keep up with all the patients and also keep the hospital completely sanitized. 

     This was an experience completely different than anything I had experienced and I felt bad for the patients for not getting the care and amenities that patients in America receive. However, I also knew that they were really lucky to be there because there are few hospitals and it isn’t always easy to get to them. But this one did the best it could to help the people of Nicaragua. They offer a guesthouse for visitors to stay as long as they like and that, as well as all the medical services, are completely free to the patients. 

     This was an emotional day for all of us, as you’ll read in the other blog posts, but we’re all having a terrific time. We’re gaining so much from this trip and I think these first hand experiences triumph over any lecture in a class when it comes to getting across the information and we’re really able to understand the way the people here feel and live. 

Podcasts Para La Paz

By: Leah McClish

Today our delegation visited Podcasts For Peace, which is an innovative program established to promote youth empowerment by encouraging positive values within their community in Acahualinca, Managua, Nicaragua. In addition, the mission of Podcasts For Peace promotes social justice through collaborative community engagement. The activities that were included in the program were English, Artensenia and digital art classes along with designated time for homework and reading.

As students it was very heart-felt to see how volunteers along with community members and educators came together to work toward this project for the youth of Acahualinca. The volunteers have been able to receive grants and donations, but are still continuing to build up this project one step at a time. It was admirable to see how these volunteers choose to assist and take action in a community after their previous visit in Nicaragua. Despite the fact that the program is relatively new –only started within in the past eight months -- it has still made an impact on the youth of the community. In conclusion, it was inspiring to see how important and essential it was for these volunteers to give back to this community of youth.

To see more information or ask questions about Podcasts For Peace, please check out the following websites:
-       Email:

Morning person

By: Ally Blumenfeld

I’m someone who can fall asleep practically anywhere and sleep through just about anything.  Last night I fell asleep on a top bunk in a room of four, to the sounds of a city, with what I imagined to be moonlight pouring in through the window.  When I closed my eyes I could have been anywhere.  But then I heard a rooster crowing.

Right… I’m in Nicaragua.

It’s only about a quarter to 9 AM right now, but it already feels like a long morning.  With no watches or alarm clocks, my roommates and played guessing games with the time: one of us waking up at almost 4 ready to shower and two of us popping up at 6 thinking it’s almost time for breakfast.  And I’m not much of a morning person.  As a writer, I used to say I did all my best thinking at night.  During my weeks of winter break before leaving for Nicaragua, I’d sleep in almost every day.  That is, of course, not to say that I don’t appreciate mornings.  When I get the chance, I love watching the sunrise… and I love the stillness of the early morning – feeling like you’re the only person awake on the planet.

So I think it’s time to become a morning person.  It’s a much better time for reflection.  Our first day was a whirlwind of new sights and smells and ideas… by nighttime we were almost too delirious to debrief.  But when I woke up this morning I felt ready to make sense of it all.  I wrote in my journal what I was seeing, thinking and feeling… and as I later stepped out onto the patio, greeted by cool air and a pale blue sky, I felt ready for whatever today brings.

morning view
me and blanca, the resident puppy dog
Jhon, Christine, Lisa and Julie