By Mary Fox
“It’s time to party!” On Sept. 26 at the Birdwalk Restaurant in Ellicottville Anneen Barrera and Lucie Olson will be holding their annual Nicaraguan Education Fund Party and everyone is welcome.
Barrera has spent three months for each of the past five years in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. San Juan del Sur is a tourist resort town with sun, sand and surfers from around the world. The plush hotels, beaches and quaint streets of the tourist district make a sharp contrast to the poverty found in the town and surrounding jungle villages.
Barrera and Olson, retired teachers from Allegany-Limestone Central School, help provide through donated funds educational needs, such as school uniforms, books, supplies and tuitions, for children living there in poverty. “All money raised is strictly 100 percent used for kids’ education,” said Barrera.
Every year someone comes down to help out or just to visit and gets very involved. A retired administrator from Allegany-Limestone, Etta Walker, went down to see what these two ladies were doing and got involved. She uses her administrative skills to organize the work and keep data records. Walker also does the power point presentation of their time there.
In San Juan del Sur, Barrera and Olson met Dave Jones, a tourist from Wyoming who showed an interest in what they were doing. Sponsored by his local Rotary in Gillette, Wyo., he along with volunteers bring suitcases full of tools and spend two weeks doing fix-up work on the school buildings. Local students and parents are expected to help with the labor and do so willingly.
“I think we’re doing a lot of good,” said Olson. “Sometimes it’s slower seeing the results because you don’t see the finished product for a few years. Dave comes down and you can see right away what he has accomplished.”
Barrera, Olson and Jones work through Jane Mirandette, who along with the local priest, Fr. Bismark Cruz identifies where the needs are the greatest.
Mirandette, who has a foundation for libraries in Colorado, founded the small library in San Juan de Sur. Books are acquired from any source possible
The small library offers bi-lingual books as well as Spanish and English. Each day the “book mobile” (an old pickup truck with large plastic bins) heads out to one of the 33 jungle schools where the children are able to choose two books to use until the bookmobile comes back in a month. The books are poured over excitedly and the children take a great deal of time picking out their selections while they discuss them amongst each other.
If you want to join Barrera and Olson in providing educational needs to the children of San Juan del Sur, come to the Birdwalk Party on Sept. 26 from 6-8:30 p.m. There will be pizza compliments of the Birdwalk, wings provided by the Clinton Restaurant in Salamanca, appetizers, sandwiches and desserts and a Chinese auction for baskets donated by businesses, and individuals. One basket definitely worth bidding on is full of things from Nicaragua. The band EZ3 will be providing music for the event and there will be an ongoing presentation where you can see what they do in Nicaragua.
If you can’t make it to the party, you can send a check payable to Aneen Barrera with Nicaragua Education Fund memo, to P.O. Box 7, Ellicottville, NY 14731.
This is a place where you can give back for all the blessings you enjoy here, and know it is all being used for its intended purpose.
“We have had a good life. We have so much and they have so little. We are giving a little bit back in a way we know how,” said Olson.