March 16, 2015

An intern's experience

ADE an Experience
by: Azikiwe Calhoun
What’s it like to work in a rural setting getting your hands dirty literally? What would it look like to see people within the local community working toward empowerment and improving their livelihoods through participation and cooperation amongst one another? The mission of the Association for Development through Education (ADE) differs from other organizations in that they are on the ground in the communities of the marginalized and working alongside residents, showing that local assets and physical capital can be found in local development. By incorporating biblical principles into the organizations practices this allows for a strong emphasis of placing people above empty development discourse; that has damaged rural communities by stifling creativity of alternative practices and a reliance on development dependency.
At the core of ADE is promoting education and how this is expressed through practical application. For example as a recent intern, I worked in the community of Vara Blanca on the organization's organic farm. Many residents in this community are farmers and their agricultural methods are large scale and utilize agribusiness techniques, which are harmful for the environment resulting in ground contamination and water pollution from chemical runoff. ADE looks at the local knowledge of the community and those who live and worked on the land for centuries, while at the same time supporting local assets readily available toward holistic development. Education is not found only in textbooks or classrooms, but is a continuous process which everyone can contribute toward. From sharing proven methods of agricultural production that break the cycle of debt, to praxis of understanding how societal institutions affect the daily lives of the poor. ADE does not have a set method of doing things, but is adaptable to the unique circumstances and cultures of people. Does ADE always get it right? No. But they learn by doing, just as you or I would.

Throughout my time in Vara Blanca, I have met many people and formed lasting friendships that extend beyond just agricultural work. The community is inviting and people are always to share good conversation over a cup of coffee. ADE can bring about transformation within the local community with those willing to participate in their own development. I believe this organization has the ability to change how development is thought of and implemented in other countries. It will be exciting to see what new development practices emerge in the near future.  

June 21, 2014

ADE's organic Blackberry Farm

ADE sold its organic blackberry jam and shakes at the annual Strawberry Festival, along with the annual strawberry jello-eating contest and strawberry war which aired on national tv. ADE is also selling jams at local stores.

Using asset-based development model, ADE obtained the blackberry seeds from the national university, University of Costa Rica, with the purpose of cultivating organic products in the region and tried to start a co-op with local neighbors. The fruits of the ADE farm hopefully will encourage others to cultivate organic blackberry as an alternative to the heavy pesticide strawberries.

June 16, 2014

An interview with ADE High School's first graduate

Fabian was the first graduate of ADE Bilingual High School. He is currently staying with an ADE board member in Pennsylvania. Fabian gained a full scholarship to do ADE's 12th grade exchange program through a private Christian high school in Pennsylvania (Costa Rica's high school system runs through 11th grade.) He has just graduated and will return to CR shortly. 
1. How did you know ADE and how were you involved with ADE?

I knew about ADE from Tomas and Chelsea. Before ADE I was planning on taking English classes.  When ADE came I heard they were going to give English courses.  After that they had a meeting in the community and I went to the meeting with my mom and that is when they offered the opportunity to go to the high school.  I wasn’t very interested at first because I was working and didn’t want to go to school every day.  Then I talked to my parents about it and they let me make the decision if I wanted to go to school and I decided that I would try even if it would be hard.  I knew if it worked I would continue and if not, then at least I tried.
2.   Have you seen ADE have an impact in your life?
I didn’t believe that I could study.  I learned that I could do it and do it well.  Now I understand that if you work hard and try to do your best you can do almost anything.  I think ADE is a great example of how you can help people local or far away.  I’ve learned that I can help others and change their lives just like someone helped me and my life was changed.
3.  Have you seen ADE have an impact on the community?
Yes. ADE is trying to demonstrate that you don’t need things from the outside.  They are trying to teach us that if we work together and work hard we don’t need outside help.  We can grow as a community.  Some examples are having our own high school and helping in the elementary school with teaching and even maintenance work on the windows.

4.  How can you see yourself do similar things like ADE?
I’m not sure what exactly I want to do with my life yet, but whatever I do, I want to go back to my community and be able to do my work there showing the people around me that you don’t have to leave the community to be successful.  You can do your business right there and therefore benefit the community.  I want to be able to help the people of my community like ADE has helped me. 

Interview by Yvonne Miller
Fabian's incredible host family
Insightly Gmail Gadget

June 13, 2014

Bio-gas as alternative energy

Learning about Biogas in Costa Rica
Nathaniel W. Farris

What’s the Big Deal with “Biogas” and Anaerobic Digestion?

Anaerobic digestion is a method of producing and collecting methane gas produced by methanogenic anaerobes by providing an environment free of oxygen and abundant in organic matter in which they can flourish. This form of gas production-despite its recent popularity-is a form of renewable energy that has been around for a bit longer than many of us might expect. Below is a rather succinct excerpt from an article posted on showing a snapshot of Biogas around the world in history:

- b.c. - Marco Polo mentions the use of covered sewage tanks in ancient Chinese
-In 1776 - Alessandro Volta concluded that there was a direct correlation between
the amount of decaying organic matter and the amount of flammable gas produced.
-In the 1930s - the development of microbiology as a science led to research by
Buswell and others in the 1930s to identify anaerobic bacteria and the conditions that
promote methane production.
-In 1937 – municipal park cars of several German cities (e.g. Muenchen) ran on biogas
from sewage treatment,
-In 1972 – due to the oil-crisis, construction of biogas plants became interesting
-Today (for instance); in Germany in 1992 there were as few as 100 biogas plants,
but in 2005 their number due to favored legislation has increased to 4.000 capable of
cumulative power production of nearly 1.000 MW

           The beauty of a biogas digester is that it is incredibly flexible in its scale and design. There are biogas digesters that power industry as well as the subsistence farmer. Another attractive feature of biogas digestion is that it allows you to harvest a valuable energy source like manure without degrading its effectiveness as a fertilizer. This fertilizer is of course the effluent discharge from the biogas digester. What is notable about this effluent is that it has a greatly diminished population of dangerous pathogens that are found in untreated manure and spoiled food waste that fuel the system. For these reasons and many more, biogas is a great alternative and supplement to conventional natural gas, and can be readily added to existing natural gas infrastructures providing that a refinement of the raw gas is met (which I will not go into here).

My First Experience

           Though I was actually introduced to Biogas in the 1985 Post Apocalyptic Sci-Fi flick Mad Max Beyond Thunder dome, ( in which the city called “Barter Town” is run on the excrement of pigs, my first real hands on experience was at a small farm in Heredia Costa Rica.
           When I attended the TAM (tropical agriculture and missions) course last year we were taken to the farm of Don Rafael. As you can see from the pictures below the reactor used by Don Rafael's family is not very large, yet it is capable of supplying enough biogas to provide cooking fuel for his family. His bioreactor has a concrete base and a flexible bladder. The swell of gas contained in this bladder is primarily methane. It is fueled mainly by fruit and vegetable, many of which can be found beneath the many fruit producing plants on his property. If I remember correctly he used to have some live stock that contributed fuel, but had since sold them and the reactor is still producing effective volumes of gas.
Not too long after seeing the Biogas reactor at Don Rafael's farm we saw another at the dairy farm across the street from CATIE and yet another at Earth university. The latter (seen below at EARTH) provided cooking gas for the cafeteria and is powered by the student body. What you are seeing below is a storage bladder suspended above the actual biogas-reactor.

As you can see in the following pictures, the biogas reactor built on the ADE farm is quite large (yet not as big as EARTH’s). I have heard some estimates that it could produce enough gas to power five households. The bag is made of polyethylene and is around ten meters long and has an internal lumen big enough to park a car in. 

Here in Vara Blanca there are two agricultural products that dominate: strawberries and milk. For the biogas reactor, rotten strawberries and cow pies should work wonderfully as reactor feed, providing the pH is regulated due to the fruits acidity. To that end the supplementation of fruit and vegetable waste to that of cow manure provides a great primary material for a high yield of CH4 (methane). A study in India has shown that such mixtures of primary material can produce a CH4 yield that is in the high 70 - 80% range (Narayani et al. 2012).

In spite of the plentiful cow pies in Vara Blanca, the ADE farm does not yet have many of its own (nor does it have many spare strawberries), so at present we must go and collect five gallons of this green gold everyday from our next door neighbor Don Carlos who so kindly lets us pick as many pies as we please.

April 17th we primed the digester with the first batch of cow manure. We have yet to close the outlet pipe that will carry biogas once the reactor is active, so we are still dealing with an aerobic system. This means that starting the clock as far as the anaerobic process will have to wait until we get all the fittings and valves set. Once we have closed the system we should have to wait around two weeks for the population of bacteria to take off and the processing of organic material into methane water and carbon dioxide.

Jacob's one-year experience with ADE

Making chocolate from scratch

Hi, my name is Jacob and I came down to work with ADE the beginning of July 2013.  I first met the Dozier family when I was about 6 or 7 years old back when we both lived in California.  Since then, my family and I moved to Minnesota and the Doziers ended up here in Costa Rica.  Facing much uncertainty in my academic, spiritual, and emotional plans, I felt the need to leave school and re-examine myself.  During this time, I got back into contact with Tomas (who I hadn’t talked to or heard from since I was a toddler in California), and we began dialogue about what he’s doing through ADE and why he moved down here.  Tomas knew that I was looking for and opportunity to travel and learn about service, so we began discussing possibilities of me coming to Vara Blanca and doing an internship with ADE.  Finally, after several months of talking and planning, I booked a flight and made it down here.

During the beginning of my time here, I was helping out in the ADE high school with a computers/English conversation class.  I was also giving beginner English classes along with two other interns at the local chamber of tourism.  But for the past several months my time has been devoted mainly to work on ADE’s organic farm, cultivating blackberries, fruits and veggies, and biogas from cow and pig manure. Tending the farm is hard at times but also brings me much joy. At times I struggle to find the drive to give it my all, but grow each time I find the motivation within to persevere. I’m astounded every day by people’s strength and work ethic. Teaching English (or at least trying!) gave me a great respect for the hard work and struggle of teachers! Every day I’m seeing how much I take for granted.

Getting to know the Dozier family has been wonderful.  They each have very different personalities that mesh well together, and have made me feel at home.  My housemate and ADE staff, Miguel, has taken great care of me.  I have learned a lot from each of them.  I left Minnesota a non-believer who was unsure whether or not he’d ever return to school. I am very grateful to have come to be surrounded by academic and spiritually/scripturally based company, as they have helped me grow to value education, while growing in my faith. They’ve taught me about farm work, leadership, Costa Rican culture, humility, self-sustainability, education, family, and following God.  

I’ll be heading back to the States very soon, and can’t believe I’ve been here nearly a year.  I’m grateful for the things I’ve learned during my time here and will miss Vara Blanca very much. I’ll miss Miguel, the Doziers, and all my friends that I’ve made here.  I’ll miss the slow pace of life, the quiet sounds of nature, and the fresh air and water here up in the mountains. I’ll especially miss the delicious food I’ve had here. Hopefully I’ll be able to recreate some of it back home. Most of all I thank God for giving me this opportunity to learn and grow, and build positive relationships.

As much as I’ll miss life here, I also miss my family and friends back home and am ready to enter into this new chapter of my life. I’m looking forward to implementing what I’ve learned here in Costa Rica into my life back in Minnesota. I’m also looking forward to staying in contact with everyone from ADE. Si dios quiere we’ll meet again in the future!

July 30, 2013

Stephanie Metzger: ADE Intern

With my 9th grade computer class !

Hi ! My name is Stephanie Metzger and I’m currently interning with ADE teaching computer classes in the high school and English in the elementary schools. I am going to be a sophomore at Penn State, and I’m studying Education and Spanish. I came to work with ADE because I love the model of development, and hope to recreate this model to wherever God calls me once I finish my time at Penn State. The focus on community and the relationships that are built here are incredible, and I've learned so much during my summer here. I came to work with ADE at the end of May and sadly I’ll have to return home at the beginning of August. Although I don’t have as much time as I’d like, I have enjoyed every second of my time here! 
The best part of my time in the school has been getting to know the students. Every student has been so welcoming and friendly, and it makes me sad to think I’ll be leaving in a few weeks. Each grade is filled with students who have been a blessing to me and I have learned so much from them. I always have so much fun with my classes, and been able to work on projects from making websites to having pen pals. All of the students here have so many different interests and are extremely well rounded. It’s been great to see all the projects students are pursuing to complete their community hours from tutoring to teaching classes about computers for older members of their church. They are all amazing students and people! Additionally, I’ve had the chance to spend time with the students tutoring outside of school, and it’s been amazing to see how hard these students are working. I love spending time with them, and I couldn’t be more impressed by their hard work. I’ve seen some incredible students who know and love Christ, which has been one of the most rewarding parts of my time here.

7th grade !

After school I’ve had the opportunity to become involved in the Volcan Poas project, where some of the students have been given the opportunity to become tour guides at the National Park. The UN has provided support for this project, and it’d been a huge blessing to have this opportunity given by such a huge organization. I’ve been able to go to the park and help the students with their English in order to give tours. It has been incredible to see how hard these students work, and how quickly they learn when they see that their knowledge has real world implications. The group of students working at the Volcano are balancing school, exams, and managing this new job. All of them are great students, but also are wonderful people and so much fun. I’m excited to see how the projects begins to open doors for other students to enter into the park as guides, and ask for prayers that on the opening day of the project, July 31st, that all of their hard work pays off with a successful evaluation from the UN.

Guides at Turriabla
Overall my time here has been a huge blessing, and I’m lucky to have the chance to get to know all of the students here. I’m sad to be leaving soon, but I’m so happy to have made new friends and gained valuable experience teaching in such a loving community!
With some of my 7th graders!

December 5, 2012

My Experience in Bilingual High School ADE in Vara Blanca

Francia, teaching the students how to make tamales to raise
money for their upcoming trip to Marino Balleno.

My name is Francia Beron and this was my first year in teaching.

When I started my first year, and I participated in a meeting with other voluntary members, the teaching system attracted my attention as did level of development reached by the students that have committed themselves and have benefited from the project.

I started in the middle of March, and what I found in this group left me surprised.

We are a unified team working with maximized effort to achieve student success. Here, you work hand in hand with other people.

In addition to the academic classes like mathematics (no calculators!),  English and others, the students learn how to be real leaders. It is a fully integrated development. In this moment, the students are working with the Bandera Azul (Blue Flag) for their community supported by their teachers. They work together: analyzing problems, creating plans of possible solutions to those problems and applying a certain plan. In these ways they are learning to love their surroundings, substantially improving it, for their families and their neighbors.

The students learn how to contribute ideas and they have the opportunity to be heard and supported. They are not just limited to memorize different material, they have the opportunity  to see their dreams become reality.

In ADE I found a great family that supports each other, that fights to grow each day, in every situation, no matter how easy it seems. Every teacher is a guide to a student  in support of the parents that believe and trust in this association.

I admire every single one of these students that daily show their will to continue forward. Their wishes to learn and above anything their way to thank us for our help that we give them. It’s incredible to see other students speaking in other languages, and operate with ease and conducting their own projects in their life.

I think that if the ADE High School had not been created, gifted minds would have been wasted for other purposes.

The reason that I like this High School is the form that it instills moral and spiritual valors. This helped me personally grow like a human being. Without imposing religious doctrines but opening spaces for dialogue, good comprehension, debate between the different beliefs of each and every one of us. One specific example was a debate held between two groups of students about the existence of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It was very interesting to hear the students say their opinions, based on the bible. We decided we needed to continue some other time.

I feel very happy and satisfied to belong to this group. I have already made the decision to send my own son to this High School when he graduates from Elementary School.

These past months have been a blessing to me and my family. Not only because I love my fellow workers, but because I love the students that welcome me with their arms open when I come to chilly Vara Blanca.

-Francia Beron