Amparo International - School Project Update

Amparo International - School Project Update

Mango School Project Update

April 2020

Finding water for our School Project was one of the first priorities...

Adin Gonzales is a specialist in building wells and has built over 80% of the wells in the Mango area. In January, he started work on our first well. Each of the school's 2 wells will be dug by hand, and the soil removed a bucket at a time.

At just over 1m in diameter, the first well ended up being 52-ft deep!

All of the cement, sand, and concrete blocks were shipped 4-hrs downriver by boat from the nearest town, Tortuguero, then carried by horse 2.5km to the project site.
Adin and his team are now working on the second well. So far, it's over 60-ft deep... and no water yet!

"On a scale of 1-10 for difficulty... what would the Mango project be?"

I (Brent) have been a builder/developer for over 20 years and had numerous challenging projects. Someone recently asked me...." on a scale of 1-10 for difficulty, what would the Mango project be?" "Pretty close to a ten," I responded.
Due to Mango's extremely remote location, with access only by boat for 11-months of the year, getting materials to the project site is one of our biggest challenges. There's a dirt road to Mango that is only accessible for 4-6 weeks at the end of the dry season.
This dirt road is 32km from the closest main road in the area and is not maintained by the local government due to a lack of resources. During this wetter than normal dry season, there were 3 sections of the road, totaling 3 km, that were still impassable without some serious remedial work.

We approached the mayor of Tortuguero and other community leaders to devise a plan to improve the road. The mayor committed to donating the use of the municipalities dump trunk while a local businessman, and owner of a rock/gravel pit, offered to donate the necessary rock and gravel. We, Amparo, agreed to hire a second dump truck and a local backhoe operator to haul material and repair the road.

After 12 long days of working hard to repair and upgrade the dirt road, the first vehicles began to pass. Access to Mango was now open. Although repairing the road was very costly, approximately US $12,000, it opened the way for us to deliver the building materials we would need for the project and benefit the community at the same time.

We believe in involving the local community in this school project.

Our building committee is made up of local men that are very passionate about their community and the school.
Together, we tackle the decision-making process, management, and supervision of the project. These men, and dozens of others, have donated 100's of man-hours of their time as well as some of the materials. They cleared the land, and over 400 fence posts were donated and installed by one of the men and his family. The entire 7-acre property is now fenced.

We are buying building materials locally whenever possible.
All of the wood for the project is being purchased from local landowners. We give them a list of the specific dimensions of wood we need, then they cut down trees from their land (in the jungle) and mill the lumber to the sizes we need. This is all done freehand by chainsaw! This lumber is then hauled by horses to the project site. Sometimes this is for more than 5 km!
Working together with the Regional Department of Natural Resources, and a local NGO, we will be planting 10-trees for every 1-tree harvested for the project. We're committed to teaching the importance of sustainable harvesting and reforestation.

Our priority is providing employment to the locals of Mango first.
We are acting as the general contractor for the project and hiring locals that have some experience in construction. We're only hiring contractors from Managua that have skillsets not found locally. For example, concrete blockwork is not common in Mango.
We're also buying construction equipment and carpentry tools, and teaching locals concrete, carpentry, plumbing, electrical skills. After the project is finished, these tools and equipment will be used in our school's workshop to continue teaching these skills.

In March... we officially broke ground!

We're super grateful for the help of Andrew (our son), Connor, and Aaron, who came down for a visit in March to work on the project! For 8-days, they worked side by side local men from Mango, established friendships, learned some Spanish, and about the local Nicaraguan culture.

They managed to get all the concrete footings in for the first two buildings, Amparo house, and the Guard house. Gregorio, a local civil engineer, worked with us on the site preparation for the ranchon building.

The big push during April has been to get all the building materials delivered to the project site. As already mentioned, the rainy season could start anytime in May, making it difficult or even impossible to deliver materials to the site again. Once the road becomes impassable, we will have to wait a year until we are able to pass again.

  • Materials for the timber structure of the ranchon are on site.
  • We're currently in the process of delivering 40 truckloads of cement, sand, gravel, rebar, and concrete blocks to the site.

COVID-19 in Nicaragua and our Next Steps...

At the time of writing this, there are "officially" 13 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nicaragua and 3 deaths. There are rumors of more cases, but nothing has been substantiated. We'll continue to share more about the impact of the coronavirus in Nicaragua as things change. For now, the government has not ordered any official social distancing measures or closures.

That said, we are taking precautions and have established strict rules with our volunteers and workers. For the project, most of these rules we've adapted from the construction industry in BC. As construction continues to be an essential service there, we also believe it is here.

In the first week of May, we will begin construction of the multi-use ranchon, the kitchen, and bathrooms, as well as the storage building. We'll also begin framing Amparo house and the Guard house. We will continue with construction as far as we possibly can with the funds that we have available.

Thanks to the incredible generosity of our Donors last December, $106,000

(US $75,000) was raised for the first phase of the project. These funds have been used to repair the road, build our well's, and purchase the materials for phase 1. The rest of the funds will be used to build the concrete block buildings and the timber structure of the ranchon.

Currently, we need to raise at least another $55,000 to complete phase 1. If more funds become available... we will immediately move forward with the next phase of the project... the primary classrooms.

Why build the multi-purpose ranchon first?

In collaboration with Mango's leaders and teachers, it was decided that this multi-use building should be built first. Currently, there is no secondary school in Mango or in 7 other villages in the area. This building will be used to start fulltime secondary classes.

It will also be used to run Amparo's programs and will also serve as a community center for the region.

In the second phase of our project, we will advance with the school's traditional classroom buildings.

In anticipation of Amparo's school coming to Mango, Zenelia Solano, the principal of Mango's primary school, and one of the schools other teachers, recently returned to university to complete their teaching degrees.

Zenelia and the other teachers are excited to be part of of Amparo's school project and passionate about educating the kids of Mango, and the surrounding villages.

Together, we'll work to enrol the 20% of primary aged kids that aren't in school. Together, we'll work to see every child have the right to a complete education.

Help us make this school a reality!

2020 May 7th Bryan Steeksma

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