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.

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 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 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
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 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