December 14, 2011

2011. The year God did nothing..


...but bless our socks off! In this busy Christmas season, it is especially challenging to set apart time from the tugs of consumerism and traditions to focus on God and rest in God: to be refreshed in our soul, attuned to what God loves and is doing around us, through us and for us, and connect with our perfect parent, friend and Lord. May we continually be challenged to receive the gifts of His Peace, Joy, Wisdom, Mercy, Life and God Himself in deeper ways that He offers generously all year round. May we ponder this Christmas season how our love and peace can overflow more from God to others.

Please celebrate and glorify God with us as we remember and bask in a list of some of His miracles of 2011. This list helps us to remember that an extraordinary God works through ordinary people and how much God desires growth in our faith, character and understanding of Him. We have learned that hardships keep us humble, growing, and close to Him if we do not cling unto our own ways of avoiding pain and growth. And that gratefulness is a choice to receive the unexpected and undeserved blessings if we do not choose to take them for granted and complain. We have also learned a great deal in respect to grassroots development; our trips have changed from being service oriented to being a mutual learning experience between two communities.

May we all continue to choose contentment in what God has done, is doing and will do, as we enjoy those around us and cherish the Life that we have in Him. Merry Christmas and Blessed New Year!


JANUARY
*Ben and Frances, both with Masters degrees and great experiences, came to join ADE.
*Owner of Economia, local grocery store, offered all ADE staff 15% discount on groceries!
*Van was donated another year from Korean businessman in San Jose.
*ESEPA Seminary did research field study in Vara Blanca and presented to our church.
*First International Board Meeting through SKYPE.

FEBRUARY
*We were completely out of money at the restaurant and God miraculously provided a huge weekend of customers for us that allowed us to pay off all bills and leave the restaurant.
*Made decision to leave the restaurant initiative; then God brought a family who took over.
*Neighboring community board invited our high school to move to the community center for a more central location, serving three communities.
*19 students started at the ADE High School!
*Staff person needed medical assistance and on that day the doctor happened to be visiting the community

MARCH
*Great, smooth, collaborative trip with Eastern and leadership development with our students in the census.
*ADE High School students sent 1000 hand folded Origami Cranes to affected high school in tsunami stricken Japan- Local news channel visited and filmed the high school.
*Found a house for staff-no rent or deposit; rent was in exchange for maintenance and repairs
*Formed partnership with national organization,UNDP, to renovate the community center, set up area’s first library

APRIL
*Frances’ mom visited.
*One 15 year old student, not knowing how to multiply and who was out of school for 3 years, entered Colegio ADE as a 7th grader and after 2 academic years has passed 18 national exams, catapulting forward two grade levels.
*Hired local teachers for high school- Joselyn and Doña Ana.

MAY
*Had only one student registered and were doubtful the Au Sable TAM (Tropical Agriculture and Missions) course was going to happen, but had fantastic 7 students, went well, and provided much needed support for ADE staff. Exciting exchange of teaching from both high school and TAM students.
*Nadia (daughter of Tomas and Chelsea) lacerated her head really badly in a bicycle accident, but God protected her and she wanted to go to school the next day.

JUNE
*Lindsey got to go to language school and a few family friends stepped up unexpectedly and provided most of the money to allow that to happen.
*Started High School Boys and Girls Soccer Teams, getting more involved with community soccer
*Job E. with Technology for the Poor presented to high school.
*English night classes to the community.

JULY
*Students put on an arts night sharing their poetry, drama and artwork.
*Interns helped with creative writing at school and helped us with blogs.
*Awesome games put on by ADE in the area’s first Strawberry Festival (Go Strawberry Wars!).
*In exchange for translation and web design, students were given free canopy trip and art seminar.
*COS’ mature youth group blessed us with their visit.
*Peace Through Culture stayed at ADE Center; ADE high school shared cultural dance and foods.

AUGUST
*Planted Blackberry with donations from University of Costa Rica. 5 community members joined.
*With ADE’s help community board obtained funds to remodel the community center where the high school currently meets.
*Elgin’s (ADE board member) youth group stayed at ADE Center for a retreat.

SEPTEMBER
*Formed ADE board with diverse members and organizations.
*Solidified Vision and strategic planning with ADE staff and board for everyone to be on the same page.
*English Intern Sean became our first intern to do full time homestay with local family!

OCTOBER
*First meetings for a community newspaper.
*Formed School Board who insisted on keeping the area’s first high school where it is and were committed to transitioning ADE to be locally run.
*FundaVida leadership team stayed at ADE Center.
*Local university student (with help of ADE) offered weekend computer classes to the community.
*Plannings underway for first Zero Down Conference set for 2012
*2 years of ADE tentmaking and using Zero Down Model

NOVEMBER
*High school received the highest average in National Exams in Costa Rica!
*Exciting partnerships with Christian organizations.
*Thanksgiving with Miller family and E3.
*Jordan, son of Chelsea and Tomas, rocked at translating for a mission trip.

DECEMBER
*Mayra and Hannia who are on ADE board, treated ADE staff to the beach- great company and great food!
*Students and parents insisted on keeping the school’s name to Colegio ADE, saying the vision of ADE to multiply and see other high schools formed in other areas.
*High School students finished Earthquake Writing Project!
*Support from organizations to start Reforestation Project in the area.
*Many students enrolled for next school year. School now serves 5 communities.
*Students involved with local community boards in completing the Census to advocate for health care.
*Recruiting more national staff.
*Teresa, a mom to one of high school student, as Director of ADE Center


Written by Chelsea Dozier and ADE staff

November 16, 2011

School Update

The next six weeks until Christmas break, ADE High School will be focusing on project-based learning before having break in December and January ("summer" vacation here is from mid-Dec to mid-Feb, even though it's actually winter at that time) and going back to the books next February. This means the students will get to do interesting projects in each of their subject areas along with the book learning. In Spanish class, Mrs.Frances will be having her students do creative writing for National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org). In English class Mr. Ben will be having the students do research projects about different English-speaking countries. Mrs.Chelsea will be finishing up her writing/community development/computer project (check out some of their stories http://adecolegio.blogspot.com/) and Mr. Tomas will be working on a community census project to advocate for local health care. Ms. Joceyln will be working on a project that will involve art and helping bring recycling into the community. We will also continue with tutoring for those that will take exams in April.

Lastly, we will be requiring each of our students to do volunteer hours in the community from now on. (One student quickly responded that obligating volunteerism is inherently contradictory!) This is very important as we seek to replicate what we're doing with ADE and strengthen the student's sense of community involvement and service. We're all very excited to be able to do something beyond memorizing facts and figures and being tied to books and curriculum!

Some highlights so far:
Students are working with the community board to complete the census. This is a comment from a student: "We went way in to places that I have not visited before and I was suprised that some homes did not have running water or electricity." Another comment from a student: "The teacher tried to talk to a neighbor about the census but only got to talk to the door as it was being slammed shut. I went with another student to try and talk to the same neighbor and we were invited in for snacks!" Mrs.Chelsea shares another highlight: "We have been working on how we see ourselves as an individual and as a generation. We played a game in which students had to walk up to a line if their answer was 'yes' to a statement or question. The statement was: when I was young, I thought I would go to college. Only one student walked up to the line. The next statement was: I now want to go to college. Everyone except one student came up to the line. Seeing this made my heart sing." Students have also been working hard on their novels- it has been wonderful to see them try to create characters and write so much. We have some students who have written over 6,500 words! Finally, it has been great to see the students actively serve in their community by picking up trash, going to the elementary school to tutor, and helping the elderly.  

October 3, 2011

ADE Costa Rica Board legalized

9 Costa Ricans, 3 Nicaraguans, 1 Puerto Rican, 1 Korean American and 2 North Americans signed on September 12th the constitutional bylaws of ADE Costa Rica in the presence of a lawyer. Some members include a grandmother of one of ADE's high school students, a strawberry farmer in Vara Blanca, an accountant, business owners, a counselor, a mechanic, an architect, educational directors, pastors, and secretaries for universities. None of the ADE staff are on the administrative board of directors to maintain a healthy separation thus ensuring better accountability. A lawyer went over in great detail the constitution for all the members. Our president, Hannia Ramirez, organized a overnight pajama party in Vara Blanca for the members to get to know each other better.  We're looking forward to it and to what the future holds!
Written by Chelsea Dozier

September 29, 2011

Oy! National Exams


All students in Costa Rica in elementary school (1st-6th grade) and high school (7th-11th) take final exams at the end of the year and must pass all the core subjects in order to advance to the next grade.  ADE high school uses a curriculum approved by the Department of Education that is geared for the independent student from the age of 14 to obtain their degree. ADE had to request permission for the 7th graders who came to ADE High School directly from 6th grade who are under the age of 14. Students do not take exams created by the high school but rather national standardized exams administered by the Ministry of Education. However, within the system there is some flexibility. ADE high school students are able to advance students to the next grade (in the subjects passed) if they pass more than half of their exams. They work during breaks and retake the exams in the subjects not passed. Students are given three hours to complete each of the 6 areas of study: Science, Math, Spanish, English, Social Studies and Civics.

An eighth grader commented that she is nervous about the exams but thinks that exams are good in teaching her to prepare and study well. A ninth grader, who has so far passed with flying colors in every exam in the year and a half that he has been with ADE high school, comments that when he first took exams he was really scared because he did not know what was going to be on the exams and had to study a lot. He says it is very exciting to have a challenge and succeed. He comments that the exams are good because they are not only used as a standard for passing to the next grade but also as an opportunity for learning.  At the conclusions of the exams, he realizes that he misses studying when he sees all the time that he spent studying. His advice: "You have to be very calm and study as much as possible. You have to give up watching TV, playing and visiting in order to dedicate to studying for exams." His math teacher has been encouraging him to be a math tutor to the community where there is a great need for help in math. A seventh grader comments that he is very nervous because he has never taken them before and he does not know what they are like. He says that however it makes him realize what areas he needs to work on and the exams push him to prepare well in those areas. He concludes that if it weren't for the exams, he would not perhaps be so well-rounded. He chuckles.

Good luck to all our great students! Exams are on Oct. 9th, 15th and 16th. Please hold our students in your prayers during the next three weeks as we enter into this current examination period..
Written by Chelsea Dozier

September 2, 2011

New Talent Search - Congrats to our students!


By Chelsea Dozier
In exchange for translation and web site work from ADE, Colinas del Poás gave ADE high school free entrance to a New Talent Art Seminar that included art demonstrations and activites by the beautiful pond, painting materials and space to explore and create, and a delicious hot lunch. In addition to our students, there were two elementary schools, parents, serious artists and lots of artists at heart. Congrats to our three students who won awards in the youth category. Check out their paintings on display at the Poas Chamber of Tourism this month.

ADE's zero down model for development looks to local and international organizations to colaborate in bringing programs to the community. If you have a talent or know of someone to share with our youth please contact us! By giving our future opportunites to explore and express themselves, we might be see one day the next Monet, Salvador Dalí, Picasso, Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo?

Congrats to:
1. Nathan ADE High School
2. Gabriela ADE High School
3. Daniela ADE High School

Learning about watercolors and primary colors under
a light rain from a university art student




Learning about pastels, three dimensional shading,
perspective, and shadows from a university art student
First place winner (both paintings) for the "rotating
dimensional creativity and symmetry pattern" and the
other for the "simplicity and brilliance of color and
painting design." We did not understand fully all the
terminology and analysis from the judges as to why he
won but it seems to us that in kids art is natural and
innately understood. The lovely pink flower -
a close contender!
Creativity of having used tape to create shapes
Unfinished work of ingenuity using fingers and not a
conventional brush
Gallery of art at Colinas del Poás
Gallery - a portrait
Variety of art styles
Thank you for your support!

August 24, 2011

ADE's Zero Down Development and Economic Sustainability Projects

When ADE shares its Zero Down Model for development, the question that people inevitably ask is, "so, what is that exactly?" Zero-down is a practice generally used in banking that allows people to initiate projects without any money down, without any financial deposit. ADE created the term Zero Down Development to emphasize that it can also start from nothing, without being dependent on standard grants, monthly support, or corporatracy, using creative ideas and joint efforts.

Extracting sugar cane
juice manually
This means that ADE simply relies on the resources that are already available within the community to facilitate sustainable projects. ADE sees the people as the richest resource and recognizes what assets are already in place (services, resources) in order to work together from the onset to sustain not only ourselves but also to do sustainable development. Our community actions here serve a globalized community.

One major reason ADE strives for a Zero Down model is to be reproducible. We believe that Jesus’ command in Matthew 28 to go and make disciples should be accessible to anyone who is called to go (Matthew 10), not just those who have the resources and connections to raise salary support or to obtain grant support for projects. Our goal is that, as the members of our staff live within the community, create jobs to support themselves, and carry out educational development, others will be encouraged to respond to the call to go to marginalized or disaster-stricken communities and share the love of Christ. ADE hopes to raise local leaders who will take over the projects and learn to replicate and contextualize the ADE model.

A Local Case Study in rural Costa Rica

ADE is involved in educational initiatives, primarily in the start up of a local high school as volunteers. The high school began in an abandoned house in San Rafael and, a year later, moved to the community center in Vara Blanca, a neighboring town. Both of these buildings were offered free of charge and the students and their parents helped to repair both buildings. Existing, but dormant, resources in two communities were restored by people in those communities and, at the same time, the youth of both towns are receiving education.
ADE charges students a small tuition fee so that the education will be valued and so that students will be more committed. These funds are used to hire local teachers. Students also do projects to benefit their communities and they are becoming involved in helping to educate at the local elementary school. A local school board has been created to oversee the school and set the direction for the future. ADE is also working to collaborate with national universities to bring academic programs to the community.
This is a small example of what can be done with the zero down model - students are receiving an education, participating in the development of their own community, and developing as leaders; local resources are being used; local leaders are taking control of the project; the project did not cost ADE a single dollar.


ADE's sustainable Projects:
ADE is involved in a blackberry co-op. Most of the farms in the region produce strawberry and dairy. (Unfortunately the strawberries are with heavy pesticides.) We as a family have been making blackberry pie and syrup and wanted to plant more blackberries. This is one of the advantages of living in the same community in which we work. We know everyone loves blackberries not only for their great taste but also for their phenomenal nutritional content. What we did not know was that it was also very easy to grow, naturally warding off many pests on its own. We noticed that blackberries grow wild here in the Vara Blanca region but they were not yet cultivated. Tomas invited several community members including two students to a blackberry growing area in Costa Rica located south of Cartago that cultivate wild organic blackberries. They grew them with success, without greenhouses, without chemicals, and in which almost all the proceeds were benefits. Using the zero down model of development, ADE received donations from the experimental blackberry farm of University of Costa Rica and the co-op comprised of 4 members of the community went to excavate the plants. Some in the co-op have already started planting blackberries on their lands and the co-op is looking into making jams- organic goodness with all the nutrition.
Blackberries!

Regional coffee plantation
  • ADE is starting a small community newspaper. Tomas and Chelsea with 2 community members and several students are in the beginning stages of designing layout and involving the local businesses to collaborate together to create a community voice. Chelsea is also working to publish stories with high school students. Contact Chelsea at chelseadozier@glocalade.org for more information or if you can help in editing and publishing works of fiction and nonfiction.
  • ADE offers English classes to local communities. Ben teaches beginning and intermediate levels at the community center for a small fee. He enjoys the small class environment that allows him to get to know the community deeply. ADE is planning to offer computer classes soon at the community center. Contact Ben at benrunyon@glocalade.org for more information about schedules and English classes for your business and organization.
Tropical agricultre presentations by locals and visitors
  • ADE coordinates events and trips for a cultural and academic experience outside the classroom in many subjects - Spanish Immersion, Community Development, Tropical Agriculture, Leadership, Ecology, Biology, etc. We hope to receive more groups from Costa Rica and offer a platform of other interests of the group. For more information please contact any staff member or our international coordinator Lindsey at lindseymiller@glocalade.org
Earthquake damage
 Local ecology
Making fresh corn tortillas-
Local cooking
Local culture

These updates were shared at the first national board meeting.
Written by Chelsea Dozier

August 12, 2011

Thoughts from Dr. Unander, TAM class professor


Au Sable Institute: ‘Tropical Agriculture and Missions’
Costa Rica: May/June 2011

‘Tropical Agriculture & Missions’ (TAM), offered since 2003, was taught in Costa Rica for the first time. Eight students from five schools were enrolled, and a Costa Rican student sat in as well. Typical of the TAM course, they were a fantastic class to teach, most already seriously considering service in poorer regions of the world. They were hard-working, but also a fun group, too, very adventurous, quickly bonding, and patient with delays in the schedule.

About two of the three weeks were based in a town called Vara Blanca. At  6,000 ft, temperatures were in the 50s-70s, and it rained heavily, often daily. Our collaborator, Eastern Univ. alum Tomás Dozier, grew up in Vara Blanca, returning with his family after an earthquake in Jan. 2009 killed dozens and left many homeless. After the initial relief work, a community survey revealed that a high school was a high priority. Tomás and Chelsea Dozier formed ADE (Association for Development through Education), and began a HS. They and a small staff, mostly alumni of Eastern University’s graduate program in Intl. Development use a what they call a zero down development model in which they are not funded and simply work, offering educational services to support themselves and the projects. ADE has long-term access to a cabin in a primary rainforest that is ideal for an Au Sable class, and they facilitated visits with farmers, research centers, national parks, etc.

Besides units on the scientific foundations of sustainable agriculture, basic tropical ecology, and some missiology, we visited farmers, and observed the upland rainforest and regional geology of Vara Blanca. That includes the effects from the very live Poas Volcano, 10,000 ft high, and close enough to us that we could drive to visit the billowing crater in an hour.  The first week, groups of the HS students gave presentations to our class about the types of agriculture in the valley (strawberries, dairy cattle, some dairy goats, trout, and ornamentals, especially potted ferns, for export to the US).  The third week, groups of Au Sable students gave seminars to the HS students, each covering a plant family – its basic botany and agricultural & nutritional value. Two Spanish-speaking students within the TAM class got to try their translation skills, too!


Although this was the trial run of TAM in Costa Rica, response of the students was positive. Besides class units and visits with farmers in greater Vara Blanca, Costa Rica offers world class research and teaching institutions. Ones we visited for orientations included CATIE (Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza), an international research center established in 1940, governed by a board from 14 Latin American countries; EARTH University, an international university founded in 1990 to train students in environmentally sustainable tropical agriculture, with an emphasis on hands-on practice and business training, and a student body of 400 drawn from across the global Tropics; OTS La Selva Station (Organization for Tropical Studies, founded in 1968 by a biology research consortium, located in a lowland rainforest that receives 4 m of rain a year, and abuts one of the largest national parks in Costa Rica, that ascends to peaks ca. 10,000 ft high); national park visits that included Poas Volcano (looming over Vara Blanca), the Arenal Volcano area, Cahuita, a Caribbean tropical maritime forest near the Panama border; and CoopeSarapiqui, a fair-trade coffee-growers cooperative that exports to North America and the European Union.
Educationally, doing the class in CR seemed successful. It was harder to cover certain science units, but other topics were facilitated by living in a rainforest, in walking distance to small farms owned by hardworking, poor families. Spiritually, I was blessed how my students quickly made friends in the community, volunteered to clean and cook, and, in some cases got in significant discussions with neighbors about life in Vara Blanca. Like all small towns, there are many dynamics going on in VB.


 All went so well, and we will see how this course pans out in the lives of the students who took it, too. It will be exciting to learn where they end up in years to come! I am hopeful Costa Rica may be a good long-term home for the TAM course, and perhaps other Au Sable classes, too.

ADE Girls Soccer Team First Game 4-1


We had our first win this week against a team from Los Cartagos, a neighboring village. The team wore their ADE high school uniform polos and were pumped to play! We had 6 high schoolers (Daniela, Gabi, Sandra, Nadia, Katie, Nanka) and were scrambling for substitute players till the last minute. A neighbor mom who used to live in the city who is also a stellar player was invited. And I, Chelsea, a teacher and mom was even asked to play out of desperation. The age limit was from 12-99. So I fit, being under 99.

Shouts and cheers were loud and booming from the benches from the high school and community when our girls scored 4 goals. People were buying hamburgers, enjoying watching the game and greeting their cousins, neighbors, and friends. It reminded me of our spontaneous family soccer games during Thanksgiving back in the States. Having been a soccer family in the States, I remember all the driving, all the gear, the practices, 2 games a week, the strategies, the drills, the intensity, the competitiveness, the Gatorade. Here in the rural area, the games have a different feel. Perhaps because the games are very few and there are not a lot of other activities, these times seem special and incredibly fun. No one is yelling from the stands, just me. I did not shout for a moment and realized that it was pretty quiet. It is definitely clear that it is only a game. Kids in the community do not worry so much about winning- just having a good time with others is enough. When we play soccer here we laugh more than get frustrated. Our ADE girls team even have funny reputations. I have the reputation of always getting hit with the ball. Sandra, always kicking people. Daniela always giving 150% and falling down at least five times at every game. Looking from above, our games against each other after school look more like a pin ball game with the ball hitting the ceiling and all parts of the walls randomly inside the little concrete gym. With ADE's model to use the resources that are already in the community to do development, we are grateful to the community for the use of the gym. We have fun and kids always beg to play more.

The girls and I along with many family members packed into our van arrived a little early so that we can finally meet our 'coach' (right before the game) to talk about positions. He could not make it. No matter. Nobody stressed. My husband Tomas stepped in and offered some positions. I suggested we kick the ball a little and maybe stretch. Another guy comes to offer assistance. He looked at us and was with us 100%. I don't think I ever heard the sound of his voice but you could tell he would be with us no matter what. It was all the girls needed. A whistle and a ref were found and we started. Girls did not want to come out of the game to give everyone a chance to play but did it cheerfully when asked. I played for a good 15 minutes and between breaths begged my husband to take me out. Final score 4-1.

Most of our high school students play after school so the girls have had plenty of practice playing against the bigger boys. Our beloved students are also not shy of physical labor- they are used to helping out with house and farm chores from a very young age. We even clean our high school everyday! I was looking at Gabi, one of our players, one day and noticed that she had guns on her arms. I like to think that I have some guns on my arms- but I like to work out with weights. Gabi no doubt gets hers from helping her dad on the strawberry farm, walking so much on the hilly mountain terrain and just plain hard work around the house. I will have to try her way more since there is no workout gym here :)

Most of our beloved students worked before the high school opened and were not in school. Soccer though a Latin America sport, has not been so accessible for kids in this rural area. There has never been a league in the area for youth nor too many girls who play any sports. ADE hopes to see people from neighboring communities offer more to the youth who do not have extracurricular activities. What a vast contrast it is from the States where there just was not enough time to squeeze in all the after school activities. We hope for a youth group and some sports leagues to start- a time for kids to be kids, just play and have wholesome activities. If you would like to help coach a league even if it is just once a week or do a sports camp or know of anyone who would love to participate with us to love the youth in the community, please contact us!

With the formality of forming actual teams and playing against other teams, we are starting to do more drills and perhaps our practice games will start to look less like pinball..it doesn't really matter. When I think back to meeting the girls when we opened the high school 2 years ago playing badminton outside in the grass next to the river where the high school used to be, I remember all the girls allowing the boys to play and not even thinking about playing. I see them now kicking and going after the ball with everything that they have and loving it. Some fall and have bloody scrapes on a consistent basis. Our girls are very feminine but they accept their scars with pride. I remember asking one of the girls one day why she was not playing with us after school. She said that her mom forbid it because she would get bruises on her leg and she had to wear a dress in the weekend for a special event.

The boys team however got creamed. With Ben and Tomas and several others from the community on their team, Jordan, Jesus, and Samuel gave a valiant effort. The other team seemed pro and have competed together for a long time. One could easily see the stark contrast with official uniforms on one side against our team with random shorts, jeans even, boots, and other nonathletic shoes. It was not a surprise to me. I have seen people play from our teams in socks in the rain but such heart. I at the last minute offered my tennis shoes to a boy who came with cowboy boots. It sort of fit and he just beamed playing. I walked around in his big cowboy boots in my ADE soccer outfit. No one cared. At least I don't think so. I jumped every time the other team kicked because they kicked that hard. Our high school boys-Jordan, Jesus, and Samuel did well to keep up and even score a little. The score was being kept on two round poster boards on the wall with a rotating needle that pointed to numbers from 0 to 9. Our boys team got lapped and the score ended up being 1 them, 2 us. Even if the score really was 11 to 2, we joked with everyone that we indeed won, 2-1.

Congrats to our girls team-undefeated so far. 1-0! Though winning is thrilling, everyone agrees that we more excited for the chance to see more youth and communities come together around soccer.
Written by Chelsea Dozier

July 23, 2011

Vara Blanca's First Strawberry Fair

By Leigh Anne Coble
Vara Blanca hosted it’s first feria de fresa (strawberry fair) this past Saturday and Sunday and everyone in this community and surrounding communities came out to participate, in two days full of music, activities, and – of course – strawberries.  The steady rain over the weekend did nothing but churn up the dirt and, in the greyness of the day, make the strawberries seem even more fresh and red.  The local folks meandered around, a father holding his daughter and a bag of strawberries, a young boy with his face painted like a tiger running through the mud.  If you walked past the mouth of the gym, you could hear shouts of children playing soccer and reggaeton blaring from the stereo.  Both days of the  feria de fresa were full of noise, laughter, ripe strawberries, and the bustle of people coming together as a community.



The feria was set up on the hill outside the gym, a central place in Vara Blanca.  To the left side of the gym under a large white tarp, people were crowded together eating at tables or packed in lines for strawberry chocolate cake, hot soup, chicharrones, steaming fajitas, tamales, and hand-ground tortillas to mention a few.  To the right side of the gym, local artisans set up tables packed with colorful scarves, hand-painted glass earrings, woven baskets, and more.  An older couple had set up a stand in the middle of it all, their faces as smooth as the hand-carved wooden bowls around them. Another table held wallets, purses, vases, and baskets made with recycled wrappers and the woman who made them offered to teach us her method.  We watched as her fingers expertly folded a silvery wrapper several times.  As my own fingers clumsily repeated her steps to complete a tiny section of a purse, I gained a great appreciation for the time-consuming, hand-made art around me.



The ADE high school also had its own booth, by the fajitas and the leather purses, where they hosted a dessert-making contest and an eating competition.  For the contest, a man made a dish resembling strawberry cobbler, with Jell-O in the center and took home $60 prize money.  In the eating competition, contestants had to slurp from a bowl of strawberry Jell-o on the table with their hands behind their backs.  In the championship round,  Tomás Dozier battled a stocky man and two other women, but ended up winning nothing more than a sticky face.  (The other man walked away with his prize of $40.) 


Following the eating contest, was one of Sunday’s most popular events, the guerra de fresa (strawberry war) put on by the ADE high school.   Nearly half of the crowd came down to the field to watch the two teams chucking strawberries, just soft enough to be considered rotten, at one another while hiding behind wooden barriers.  Almost all ages were represented in the guerra, from young boys wrapped in plastic bags and wearing goggles, to several high school students, to older adults.  It lasted for nearly half an hour, and no one seemed to mind that in the middle of it, the sky opened and soaked everyone.  A man from Channel 7 News came out on the field when it ended to interview two women from the guerra, both of whom still had clumps of strawberry in their hair.  Just as he began asking questions, a misaimed strawberry came flying and squished onto the side of his expensive camera.  He yelled at the boys responsible, but it seemed no one could get enough of the war; within five minutes, another guerra began.




Although many people left the feria with fewer colones in their pockets, rain in their shoes, and strawberry stains on their clothes, a good time was had by all.  The town’s first feria de fresa gave local businesses a chance to showcase their products and gave the people an event to remember. 

July 13, 2011

Organic Garden and Fruit Co-op


By LeighAnne and Chelsea Dozier

Summer intern Lauren Nickell has been working with Tomás Dozier on an organic garden and a fruit co-op, projects that are healthy and sustainable, and also have the potential to provide income for future teachers at the ADE bilingual high school and community members. Noone on ADE's staff is financially supported but work to support themselves by living in the community, offering services and working together with the community. Since the nearest grocery store is a 20 minute drive and most families are without cars, vegetables are not easily accessible.  

The potential fruit co-op has met twice with about 5 community members and are experimenting with organic blackberries after having seen successful farms in other similar regions. Strawberries and milk farms are more common in San Rafael and Vara Blanca with heavy pesticides on the strawberries so blackberries that grow naturally and organically because they ward off bugs on their own, can be an excellent alternative. Already the sample blackberries from different lands have proven to be delicious and organic and Tomas shared his  killer blackberry jam to whet the appetite for future co-op members.

The idea of the organic garden first took root when an nutrition major who interned with ADE last summer, suggested adding variety of food in the local people’s diets.  Tomás believed this would be beneficial and would serve as an example to the community of the type of food that could grow in the area.  In a previous effort, ADE tried to make the garden more of a community garden so that people who did not own land would have a place to grow their own vegetables, but the majority already own land.  Now, several weeks into planting and with the barbed wire for the fence recently delivered, ADE has the beginnings of its own garden on a piece of the Dozier’s property. High school students at ADE have done some soil testing previously for a science class.
It is ADE’s hope that the organic garden and balckberry co-op will serve not only as income but also as a healthy, productive, and, economical (because of its large size) example for the communities of San Rafael and Vara Blanca.

Lauren explained that the ground plot was already dug out and that she makes rows in the dirt, plants the vegetables, “and the rain does the rest.”  The garden aims to grow beans, one of Costa Rica’s staple crops, as well as a specialty of plants (such as carrots, radishes, and lettuce) in high concentrations and offer more variety of food, including cilantro, artichokes, corn, basil, squash, and zucchini.  With San Rafael’s temperate climate, some vegetables thrive year round, which hotter or cooler regions could not support.  Lauren described the meticulous planting process of knowing where to plant certain vegetables in the plot and in what concentration and putting some in trays to be transplanted later.  She also has to be very intentional about the garden trenches (as to avoid flooding) and the spacing between plants.

About two weeks into planting, the plot has 17 rows of the 30-40 rows it plans to have once the garden is finished.  Once half of the rows have been planted, they will wait another two weeks to plant the second half in order to have a rotation of crops for continual growth.  When half of the garden is ready for the table, the growing half will provide food several weeks later.  By providing an abundant amount and more rare vegetables throughout the year, hopefully ADE along with the community will be able to sell or give away food to the community.  With shoots from last week already sprouting up in the garden and with backberries growing well, the organic garden and fruit co-op are well on its way.  

July 8, 2011

The Role of the Church During a Disaster

By Leigh Anne Coble
Mayra Zúñiga, a public accountant, came to Shalom Church here in Vara Blanca on June 19th to present a case study on the role of the church in the situation of a disaster like the Cinchona earthquake of 2009.  She and six others drew up a detailed 75-page proposal with research, opinions, sections from El Nación newspaper, and a proposal plan for how the church ought to play an important role in the situation of a disaster.  The document focuses on the regions of Vara Blanca and San Rafael de Vara Blanca, touching on the monetary, economic, and personal losses and the lack of support from the government.  The question in the community for those who are only too familiar with the still-destroyed road or for those still living in temporary housing is: “What has the government been doing for the last two years?”  But the case study asks, “What has the church been doing for the last two years?”  Looking to the example of Jesus, the case study explains how the church has the responsibility of serving actively, particularly to those in great need. 

She discussed how the church not only has the responsibility to reach out and offer relief, but to prepare an official plan of response.  Part of this response, she believes, should be a joint effort from all churches in surrounding areas, no matter the denomination.  The case study talks about the need for resources to be able to effectively assist a community’s needs when a disaster strikes.  It also details four specific needs for the community of Vara Blanca and San Rafael: health, infrastructure (development of houses), road, and employment.  One of the questions that is raised later in response to these needs is this: “What impedes the people from knowing the details of the resources, spending control, and the rendition of bills and should the church take a more active stand on this topic?”  One person claims that Christians ought to “serve God as much in the public sphere as in the community of faith.”  The case study raises another question, whether the “core” of the church should be responsible in taking a stand in a political topic because they are a part of the community.  But according to their poll in the area affected by the earthquake, the pastors responded that 81.25% of members from their church are not active in social organizations in the community and 93.75% are not aware of community problems.  However, 62.5% are connected with public organizations with recuperation plans in the case of a disaster and 68.75% believe that they should be involved in the control and the rendition of bills from recuperation plans before a disaster. 

The bill mentions Tomás Dozier and the active efforts of ADE as its staff works with the community and a local church on developing education and the community.  Now, the church must decide if it is their duty to become more directly involved in the community.

June 29, 2011

Potential Board Members and Short History of ADE

Written by Leigh Anne Coble
This Saturday, the ADE staff invited potential board members to visit Vara Blanca and come together for fellowship, discussion, and a hot lunch at the restaurant Arco Iris.  Not including the five permanent staff members of ADE, the three summer interns and five students from the high school, there were eleven people, some who drove up to the small town all the way from San José, about an hour away in car.  Potential members included a woman who recently presented at the local church about the church’s role before a natural disaster, a man who lent a van to ADE for the past 2 years, and many others. 


After everyone was pleasantly full and sipping coffee, Tomás Dozier opened the discussion by introducing himself, describing his position with ADE, and his favorite animal and why.  Each person followed suit, favorite animals ranging from an eagle to a jaguar to Kiku, Ben and Frances’ small dog.  Chelsea explained how we can use our favorite animal as inspiration, as a way to see the qualities we admire in an animal, whether majesty or intelligence or grace and challenge ourselves to develop this in our lives.  When everyone had spoken, Tomás invited Eric, the restaurant manager and host of the lunch, to introduce himself.  The kind man stood and expressed his pleasure to provide a meeting place, and moved everyone with a story about his favorite animal, the anteater.  He described how these funny, long-nosed creatures come together in a band to miraculously fight off snakes.  “It’s incredible friends, what we can do together,” he told us, his face revealing his sincerity and his desire for the group to succeed.  Then, alluding to the Bible, he assured us that together we can move mountains, and the informational meeting began.


Tomás presented the vision of ADE, telling about his own personal story connecting him to this community where he grew up.  After the Cinchona earthquake of January 2009 struck Vara Blanca and the surrounding areas, Tomás felt that God was calling him and his family to leave their plans in Pennsylvania and come to work with the neighbors he had as a boy.  Chelsea shared that in January 2009, two weeks prior to a Natural Disaster and Mitigation class that Tomas was taking at Eastern University, the earthquake struck, leaving him and his family to ponder on this coincidence to return to the community; Tomas's professor and class in fact came down in April 2009 to do a practical investigation which they gave to the government. Tomás then explained how ADE started to form summer of 2009 (Their son created the name ADE.) They wanted it to focus on education and created a term of zero down model, emphasizing that development can be started with the creative and joint efforts in the community without outside funding. Although some of the sustainable projects may serve a globalized community, the effort and work are in the community. Tomas and his family came down to Costa Rica September of 2009 and worked with locals trying to find sustainble ways to support themselves while opening a high school. ADE staff slowly started to form. A neighbor allowed Tomas and Chelsea the use of an abandoned house to start school and a kind Korean businessman donated a van for them to use. ADE finds its strength working and creating sustainable projects within the community using the resources that are already here. (The most important resource being people.) He stressed the importance of trying to have a model in which others may do the same to respond to other areas using the zero down model.  He  further emphasized that ADE is striving to work with the community and the great hope it has, in particular for the students that are at the point of graduating who will be future leaders. 


In the past two years that the organization has been in existence, they have hosted several internships and academic groups, the most recent being the Tropical Agriculture and Mission class that came for two weeks at the end of June.  ADE has also founded an international board, a bilingual school, has reached out to local businesses, and is now forming a board in order to be recognized as a legal organization.  The staff plans to continue to work with the local community to also serve a glocal (global, local) community.  The guests seemed interested in the vision of ADE and asked several questions about the nature of the board and the future of the school.  Tomás, Frances and Chelsea then took them to visit el salón, the community center, that has been offered to ADE as a classroom for grades seven through nine, as well as a senior class.  Two students shared about what the high school has meant for them, saying that they would not be studying if the school did not exist. Gabi, an eighth grader, shared that she continues to work on only on weekends and commented how the math that she has been learning at school has helped her at work.  Ninth grader Fabian shared that he still does not know what he wants to study in college.  For all of the students, they are the first in their families to go to high school and hopefully onto college.  Tomás ended the time sharing about the plans that ADE has with the community's Board of Development to seek grants in Costa Rica to remodel the community center.  Everyone walked out together with Tomás' last words lingering in the air, asking everyone to spend time to consider being a part of the organization.

June 17, 2011

Let the extracurriculars begin!


Written by LeighAnne Coble
This week, was a whirlwind of reading stories, studying together, and creating poems.  Here is the ADE high school schedule for extracurricular classes:

Monday: Creative Writing (led by intern Leigh Anne)
Wednesday: Tutoring
Thursday: Spoken-word poetry (led by intern Angeley)
Friday: Soccer

D presents her poem

To kick off the week, creative writing class opened with a five-minute free write, which brought out several interesting ideas.  In such a short amount of time, Jeanca wrote a story with eggs and dragons and other fascinating things out of his imagination (and maybe with a little inspiration from Harry Potter as well.)  Even the free writes that began with "I don't know what to write," opened up into something more creative towards the end of the exercise.  Then the class broke into small groups to read ethnic short stories aloud (Japanese, Celtic, Scandinavian, etc.), and gave a presentation about the summary, their favorite part, and what made the story creative.

On Wednesday, tutoring began with a quiz (you can imagine the groans that this elicited,) for each student to understand their learning type: visual, auditory, kinesthetic.  Frances gave suggestions for each learning type to play to his/her strength, offering study techniques like walking around reading the text for kinesthetic learners or reading the text aloud for auditory learners.  Then they broke into groups to study different subjects for the remainder of the hour.

The students write positive words on each other's posters.

In spoken-word poetry on Thursday, Angeley began by taping up posters with the outline of a face and labeled with everyone's name.  As we all ran around writing positive words like "especial," "amable," and "inteligente" on each poster, we began to better understand the power of language.  After five minutes, Angeley called us back to the center of the room, asking us to find our own poster and write kind words about ourselves to self-reflect and build self-esteem.  All of us stood, our face looking into  our poster face, beginning to realize not only the good others see in us but also the good we see in ourselves.  Then, we used the words on our posters to form a poem, and several brave souls read theirs aloud to the class.  At the request of the students, Angeley agreed to recite her fast-beat rhythmic poem, blending cultures and mixing Spanish and English (check it out on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/ADE/240241896862?ref=ts).  The students left class with posters in hand and phrases from Angeley's poem, like "Arroz con todo," and "multi-cultured, multi-faceted diva" echoing pleasantly in their ears.

And today is a favorite extracurricular among the students... fútbol!  Looking back on the time we spent on extracurricular classes, week one feels very much like a success.

  Showing their "faces" of kind words.

June 9, 2011

Tropical Agriculture and Mission Class

Written by Leigh Anne Coble
For three weeks, the TAM (Tropical Agriculture and Mission) class was led by Dr. Unander into the strawberry fields of local farmers, up to the top of volcanoes, and into the ADE classroom to share and learn. Not only did these U.S. students learn first-hand about local agriculture, but they also had the opportunity to travel for three days to the beach, the selva, and all around. After living together at the ADE center and riding in the green van for hours on end, they experienced Costa Rica together and became close friends. The class also had a discussion on going into the Slums, reading stories of families who gave up their comfortable life to actively serve. 

The TAM Class at Poás Volcano
I had a chance to visit two of the local farms with the TAM class. Gabi’s mother, Maritza, led us up a hill to a greenhouse full of plump strawberries and beautiful bell peppers. The students stood between the rows of strawberries, taking notes, and asking questions, which Tomás translated. Maritza explained the growing process, the materials she uses such as the large plastic covering over the crops, and then graciously offered us a taste of her strawberries. We also visited Carlos and Lidianett (also members of the local church,) who showed us how, according to Lidianett, their farm is thriving “gracias a Dios.” They had strawberries, peppers, granadía, mora, and more. Lydianette dreams of having her own cow and building a little house on a hill that would look out over her land.

The TAM students used the information they learned in the field and in the classroom to put together presentations for the ADE students (the ADE students also had the chance to present to the TAM students several weeks earlier.) The TAM class came to the high school for two days to teach about different plants, specifically on the Legume, Bromeliad, Rose, and Poeaceae families. Here are some snippets of what we learned from them:
·     Bri and Liz: Costa Rica’s national tree (the Guanacaste Tree), and everyone’s favorite dish, gallo pinto, are legumes
·     Lauren and Beth: discussed how Christopher Columbus brought the pineapple to Europe (What didn’t Columbus do?)
·     Courtney and Lucille: how to determine what flowers are in the rose family by certain characteristics (Fabian was the brave sole who came up and, from five different flowers in a vase, identified the ones in the Rose family)
·     Dave and Cade: showed us how delicious sugar cane is (they brought fresh samples and presented their slides while the students chewed happily)

Lucille and Courtney show Fabian how to identify
flowers in the Rose Family
Outside of presenting, studying, writing papers, and tromping through farms in rain boots, the students also found time to read. The ADE staff had the opportunity to sit in on their discussion of what the kinds of poverty in the world, and how we are called to serve. Dr. Unander opened the discussion with a powerful, controversial question: “Do we believe we are called to help save others?” We talked a little about who these “others” are and the kinds of poverty that the Bible commands us to serve, such as the oppressed, widows, orphans, those in debt, the poor in spirit, etc.  “How we see the poor, how we perceive and define them will determine how we treat them.” Several people mentioned that with mission, it is crucial to maintain a humble and learning attitude, particularly when serving within the context of an unfamiliar culture or language. 

**
TAM student, Lauren Nickell, will be staying in Vara Blanca until August as an intern with ADE and will use what she learned from the class to work on agriculture projects in the local community. She wrote about her experience with the class:

“By taking Tropical Agriculture through the Au Sable Institute, I began to get to know rural Costa Rica. Together with students from 5 universities, I came to appreciate the beauty and diversity of Costa Rican agriculture and its role in Vara Blanca. ADE played an important role in the Missions part of the class, integrating development strategies into our learning that we may appreciate the importance of agriculture in the livelihoods of the local people. I particularly enjoyed looking at all the agricultural products of Costa Rica, not limiting it to the highlands. We traveled a total of 5 days, visiting the economically important crops of the tropics. Some of the most informative visits were small, self-sustaining farms such as that of Don Raphael (figure 1) where we viewed over 15 different food crops growing around his house. He also boasts a practical biodigestor (figure 2) next to his livestock where organic matter is converted into methane gas that powers his gas stove and deposits decomposed fertilizer for his crops. This was a genuine perspective of agriculture in Costa Rica and the possibility it holds for many people. We were constantly challenged to analyze the agricultural methods with long term sustainability in mind and The TAM class helped develop my own perspective on Costa Rican agriculture and ways that it can be used for development.”
Lauren takes notes in Carlos and Lidianett's greenhouse.

June 8, 2011

Thoughts from Dr. Unander, TAM class professor

Au Sable Institute: ‘Tropical Agriculture & Missions’                          
Costa Rica: May/June 2011


‘Tropical Agriculture & Missions’ (TAM), offered since 2003, was taught in Costa Rica for the first time. Eight students from five schools were enrolled, and a Costa Rican student sat in as well. Typical of the TAM course, they were a fantastic class to teach, most already seriously considering service as Christians in poorer regions of the world. They were hard-working, but also a fun group, too, very adventurous, quickly bonding, and patient with delays in the schedule.
 
About two of the three weeks were based in a town called Vara Blanca. At  6,000 ft, temperatures were in the 50s-70s, and it rained heavily, often daily. Our collaborator, Eastern Univ. alum Tomás Dozier, grew up in Vara Blanca, returning with his family after an earthquake in Jan. 2009 killed dozens and left many homeless. After the initial relief work, a community survey revealed that a high school was a high priority. Tomás and Chelsea Dozier formed ADE (Association for Development through Education), and began a HS. They and a small staff, mostly alumni of Eastern University’s graduate program in Intl. Development, are also involved in the one evangelical church in the area, and sharing their faith in the community. ADE has long-term access to a cabin in a primary rainforest that is ideal for an Au Sable class, and they facilitated visits with farmers, research centers, national parks, etc.
Besides units on the scientific foundations of sustainable agriculture, basic tropical ecology, and some missiology, we visited farmers, and observed the upland rainforest and regional geology of Vara Blanca. That includes the effects from the very live Poas Volcano, 10,000 ft high, and close enough to us that we could drive to visit the billowing crater in an hour.  The first week, groups of the HS students gave presentations to our class about the types of agriculture in the valley (strawberries, dairy cattle, some dairy goats, trout, and ornamentals, especially potted ferns, for export to the US).  The third week, groups of Au Sable students gave seminars to the HS students, each covering a plant family – its basic botany and agricultural & nutritional value. Two Spanish-speaking students within the TAM class got to try their translation skills, too!


Although this was the trial run of TAM in Costa Rica, response of the students was positive. Besides class units and visits with farmers in greater Vara Blanca, Costa Rica offers world class research and teaching institutions.  Ones we visited for orientations included CATIE (Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza), an international research center established in 1940, governed by a board from 14 Latin American countries; EARTH University, an international university founded in 1990 to train students in environmentally sustainable tropical agriculture, with an emphasis on hands-on practice and business training, and a student body of 400 drawn from across the global Tropics; OTS La Selva Station (Organization for Tropical Studies, founded in 1968 by a biology research consortium, located in a lowland rainforest that receives 4 m of rain a year, and abuts one of the largest national parks in Costa Rica, that ascends to peaks ca. 10,000 ft high); national park visits that included Poas Volcano (looming over Vara Blanca), the Arenal Volcano area, Cahuita, a Caribbean tropical maritime forest near the Panama border; and CoopeSarapiqui, a fair-trade coffee-growers cooperative that exports to North America and the European Union.

Educationally, doing the class in CR seemed successful. It was harder to cover certain science units, but other topics were facilitated by living in a rainforest, in walking distance to small farms owned by hardworking, poor families. Spiritually, I was blessed how my students quickly made friends in the community, volunteered to clean and cook, and, in some cases got in significant discussions with neighbors about Christ and about life in Vara Blanca. Like all small towns, there are many dynamics going on in VB. Attending a tiny church with limited resources was also a good education about Christian ministry: I trust many will remember to pray for that little church. They invited me to preach one Sunday, and I did, in Spanish and English!  And then there are those unplanned conversations and prayer times that God seems to arrange when we’re not looking: ask me about some of our stories.


Thank you also to those who prayed for this course.  All went so well, and we pray that God will use this course in the lives of the students who took it, too. It will be exciting to learn where they end up in years to come! God willing, I am hopeful Costa Rica may be a good long-term home for the TAM course, and perhaps other Au Sable classes, too.


Please pray for Dave Unander, in Torino, 2 Jul – 6 Aug 2011

Well the Old Guy is no sooner back from Costa Rica in the Tropics, than he’s on the road again to the Mediterranean. I can’t believe it, either! Eastern University is sending me to Torino (also known as Turin sometimes in English), for work on several tasks related to our new study abroad option there.  My next door neighbor wants to know how to get this job…


Torino is a big city of more than a million, but thus still much smaller than Philadelphia. As you can see, the Alps form a circular arc, drained by the Po, Italy’s largest river. This fruitful valley, fed by whitewater rivers coming down from the mountains, has been a prize in numerous wars, and for millennia, the source of great wealth in Italy. It’s a fascinating city to wander around is, as I did back in my November trip here. This time, I have more tasks to complete, but as part of the deal, I have also been offered intensive Italian lessons.

What do I desire prayer for?  Well, first, I do ask for your prayers for my protection and good health, and that I’d do good work on the tasks I have. It’s a big responsibility they’ve handed me. There also is a certain amount of drug-fed crime in Torino, as in most of the world today. Safety anytime I’m around an Italian highway sounds funny, but it’s got a serious side. One of the students at a study abroad program from a Christian college I am acquainted with was recently killed on foot by one of those crazy Vespa drivers, for example. 


Most importantly, pray that I’m a good testimony for Christ. In November, I had several conversations about Jesus with colleagues at the university. I pray God gives me wisdom how to continue these conversations, and others that may develop.  I’m on my own for five weeks, and desire to find Christian fellowship, too, (perhaps in Italian Italian rather than English, since I’m trying to learn Italian, but we’ll see what happens). Italy is an incredible country, but there’s also a lot of spiritual darkness, and, really a huge spiritual vacuum right now. Please pray for Italy! It seems like they are at a sort of crossroads, centuries of enforced tradition have rapidly eroded in decades, for both good and ill. And pray I discern what I’m supposed to do with any fluency in Italian I may achieve through that language course. Thanks!

In Christ,   


Dave Unander