Family Gardens…in Schools?

Your support of family gardens is helping women produce healthy food for their families. Some women have also used their knowledge to create gardens in schools! Carmen Brizuela is a teacher at a school in Aguas Calientes and she decided to help the students start a garden at school so they can be guaranteed better nutrition.

Carmen is a participant in CEPAD’s Family Garden program. With your gifts she received training in how to create a small garden next to her home to improve the nutrition of her family and also increase their income through the sale of her produce.

 She shares that as a family they were able to sell squash and cucumber which helped them to buy things like sugar, rice and oil, to compliment what they are able to grow themselves. This income also helped them to purchase medicine, something they may not have been able to do otherwise.

Carmen is also a pre-school teacher at a school in her community where 24 children  attend. She decided that with her new knowledge she would help the students establish a garden at the school so they would be guaranteed better nutrition. The Nicaraguan government provides food for the children, but they only give rice and beans, Carmen knew this wasn’t enough.

“In the school we are growing squash, onion, beets, green pepper and watermelon to improve the nutrition of the children…. I want to continue to guarantee fresh fruits and vegetables in the school garden to provide healthy food for the children because the government only provides rice and beans.”

Thanks to your support of CEPAD’s family garden program, the knowledge Carmen has gained is not only helping her family, but also helping the children of the village of Aguas Calientes.



Family Gardens provide healthy food for families

Eusebia is a mother of 3 children. She lives in the town of La Joya, Nicaragua, which is located approximately 16 miles from the nearest town of Teustepe.

Eusebia has participated in CEPAD’s family gardens program where she has learned to grow a small garden next to her home.

How and why did you get involved with CEPAD?

“In June 2014 I heard about CEPAD on the radio and that they were coming to work with poor families in the communities of Teustepe. I met with members of my church and community leaders and we sent a letter to the CEPAD representative in the municipality. I was chosen to be part of the group of women in the family gardens project.”

What is the biggest impact this project has had on your family?

“The biggest impact in my family has been to grow our understanding of food security, learn and prepare the soil to produce food and eat healthier for my children.

I have shared what I have learned with my family and with neighbors in my community. The teachers at the primary school have also allowed us to put gardens in at the school to take advantage of the interest of the students.

In the school gardens we are sharing our knowledge about growing a garden with 24 children who are growing cucumbers, onions, beets, green peppers and watermelon and helping them to improve their diets.

We are harvesting papaya and both selling it and eating it in our family. We sold 100 papayas at $1.65 each for a total of $165 of profit. We also sold 100 carrots for $.65 each, for a total of $65. With the $230 of profit we earned we have purchased medicine for my family and we have purchased other foods to complement our family diet.

I have learned to eat vegetables that before I had never even seen before. I have also learned to make pineapple jelly and plantain cakes which have helped my children to eat better.”

What plans do you have for the future?

“My plan for the future is for my family to continue working together, receiving my trainings to develop and continue producing more. I also want to have a model family farm where and provide healthy food for my family and sell products to help us purchase what we cannot grow.”

How is CEPAD different from other organizations that work in this zone?

“CEPAD is a blessing because they support families in different ways without expecting anything in exchange. They have the love of God in their heart and we are going to support them during the time they are in our community and our municipality. It is an organization that reaches the hearts of people with projects destined for the community.

People should continue supporting CEPAD because it is a solid organization that provides what is necessary to those who need it in the right time. Training with reality, bringing goods to those who need it.”


U2’s Bono Endorses CEPAD

Bono and his wife, Ali, (to his left), at the Greenbelt Arts Festival in 1987 listening to Gustavo Parajón speak.

We are so pleased and honored to share some news of amazing support that we have recently received from the band U2.

CEPAD’s founder, Gustavo Parajón, was a very humble man who quietly developed friendships with many influential  people around the world. He almost never shared about these relationships outside of his own family.

Dr. Parajón became connected with the band U2 in the late 1980’s after meeting lead singer Bono at a concert by Bruce Cockburn at the Greenbelt Arts Festival in England. Bono and his wife Ali had visited Nicaragua and Central America in the mid-1980’s and some of the songs on their album, The Joshua Tree, were inspired by that visit.

During  2017, U2 has been on a 30th anniversary tour of the Joshua Tree album and chose CEPAD to be listed in the tour program as an organization the band supports. This is truly a great honor for CEPAD and we are so grateful to be recognized in this way.

A Story of Before and After (Made Possible by You!)

Santos Gladys Rizo is a mother of 6 children and a farmer in the village of El Bramadero 2. Before she started working with CEPAD she had almost no trees on her land. Now, thanks to training and a water capture system she has begun to reforest her land and has diversified her crops so her family no longer has to purchase vegetables; they can eat from what she has planted.

I began working in my plot and using techniques I learned in the trainings [with CEPAD]. I also planted corn with cucumbers, papaya, citrus trees and spinach. I saw that this technique gave us good results. I began making organic compost, insecticide for pests and fertilizers and repellants and I saw that they gave me results. Now I don’t have use chemicals and I don’t burn my plot and I don’t have to go crazy looking for seeds and the chemicals because I make them myself. I also have my water capture system.

Before I didn’t have trees on my plot and I didn’t participate in reforestation projects.

You can see that when I made my water capture system I had almost no trees on my land, that was six months ago.

You can see the changes I have made in just these few months, I now have planted many trees because this is knowledge that I have gained with CEPAD and applied on my land.

You can also see that now I have diversified my plot by using the water from different water capture systems that I made on my property.

They have helped me save a lot of money because I have been able to use them to produce food for my family. My husband is now also making water capture systems in his plot, he didn’t know about these types of opportunities before. He used to not like to go to the trainings and now he can see the achievements and the benefits that we have because now we don’t have to buy vegetables, I have them in my plot.”

To change more lives like Santos’ please donate now!

Impact of Leadership Training

The 40 villages currently receiving leadership training from CEPAD, (and made possible by you), are in their third year of accompaniment and have already received two trainings in 2017. In addition to identifying their biggest problems they have looked for funding for different projects to improve the quality of life for members of their rural villages. Below you can see the types of projects that received funding thanks to your gifts! 

Projects Funded in 2016



The Difference You Make in Family Nutrition

The Nicaraguan diet is as delicious as it is simple. The typical breakfast is the gallo pinto, refried rice and beans.

For many rural families, the gallo pinto is not only a breakfast dish, but more of a main diet that they have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And more often than not, it is accompanied by other carb-laden foods, such as the tortilla, made of corn flour, or bread.

Such heavy carbohydrate consumption, combined with few fruits and vegetables, leads to many health problems which can start early. Obesity-related conditions like diabetes and hypertension are the biggest killers in Nicaragua.

Nicaragua actually has a rich cuisine, which makes use of ample combinations of local vegetables to produce flavorful dishes that are as delicious as they are nutritional. However, farmers don’t traditionally cultivate fruits and vegetables and buying them is often too expensive.

With your help this reality is being transformed, table by table and family by family.

Families learn how to grow healthy vegetables, such as bell peppers, onions, cucumbers, and more in their own backyards. Depending on their immediate need, they can both eat them or sell them. Many families have improved their family diet and their finances through this program.

Agricultural programs made possible by your generosity teach families to grow many fruits and vegetables for both family consumption and better income.

With the produce that they can now grow on their own, families now have a constant source of healthy vitamins to sustain their health. The added benefit is that families are learning tools that will support them in the long-term. Your impact through support of CEPAD’s training will continue in these communities long after we have moved on to helping others.

From Violence to Safety: Your help for Refugees

Gang violence in countries like El Salvador and Honduras has created a refugee problem for families in Central America. Many go to Nicaragua where your support of CEPAD means they can start over without fear. Karla is one of those affected by this violence.

Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere while also being one of the safest countries in Central America. The most common cause for fear and insecurity in Nicaragua is petty theft caused by poverty and lack of adequate jobs.

Things are different in neighboring countries such as Honduras and El Salvador. Unlike in Nicaragua, large parts–or all parts, some argue–of Honduras and El Salvador are controlled by gangs. Each gang has control over a particular area, and when other gang members intrude into their sector, firefights and violence occurs.

For some, staying in their country is not an option–for them, the only way to be safe and have peace of mind is to leave the country altogether. Nicaragua is often their destination, due to the safety and lack of gangs in the country.

Once they arrive in Nicaragua with no belongings, no family and no contacts they are desperate for help to establish a new life.

With your aid, CEPAD works with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to provide food, shelter, and legal aid to refugees from around the world, some coming from as far as Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Most refugees in Nicaragua are from El Salvador and Honduras.

Karla* is one of the refugees, running away from the gang violence in El Salvador.

Karla started dating a boy when they were 15. Shortly after they began dating he joined a gang and she wanted to end the relationship. However, when she found out she was pregnant she decided to give him some time, hoping that he might change after their daughter was born. A few years passed with no change.

One day her boyfriend was involved in a violent incident against a young girl belonging to a rival gang and he was sentenced to 14 years in prison. Karla was forced to visit him in prison with her daughter by members of his gang.

After many more years, and with her daughter having grown older and more aware of the situation, Karla decided she had had enough, and moved to Nicaragua. She had no acquaintances, no belongings, and no knowledge of how things work in Nicaragua. But she was told that CEPAD works to help refugees, and she sought out CEPAD offices to ask for help.

Your generous donations have enabled CEPAD to find her a home to stay in, and continue working with immigration to help her obtain legal status.

Her daughter, who is now 15, is enrolled in a school and is hoping to study English in college after she graduates. They still worry that they might be recognized, and asked for anonymity in this interview. But in Nicaragua, they don’t have to look over their shoulders, afraid that an enemy gang member might be stalking them. They have been reborn, in a sense, thanks to the joint efforts of CEPAD, the UN, and generous donors like you.

* Names have been changed for reasons of personal safety.

Your amazing support means better nutrition for Tomasa and her family!

Thanks to your generosity Tomasa’s family is eating healthier food they are planting themselves. She used to plant only beans and corn, but now they are planting and eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables including peppers, papaya, squash and spinach.

“My name is Tomasa del Socorro Loasisiga Diaz, I am 46 years old. In my house I live with my dad, my mom, my grandmother and four brothers, one of whom is disabled.

We have always dedicated ourselves to agriculture, we planted corn and beans but to cover our needs we also worked for other people so we could purchase sugar, oil, rice, peppers, tomatoes and other products we didn’t produce.

Our community has very little water, everything is very dry. My brothers have to walk 1 hour uphill to get to the place where we plant our corn and beans, for this reason our planting conditions have been very difficult and with the drought we have had for the last three years it has become even more difficult.

In our families our staples are beans, or gallo pinto (mixed rice and beans) with tortilla, cheese and a cup of coffee. If we had extra money we used to purchase a few tomatoes, at least once a week.

I have received 6 trainings thanks to CEPAD which have helped me to improve our plot, produce more and eat healthier food. We have seen a big difference in the way that we eat, our family is eating better products we are planting in our plot without chemicals.

This has allowed me to vary the food we eat because now I produce peppers, papaya, squash and spinach. It has also helped me to improve the diet of my brother who has challenges, who was malnourished. I have also learned how to prepare dishes using everything I produce….I feel very content and my family is excited about it.

Today with these trainings I feel very content and strengthened because now I can identify problems and diseases with our crops and I can produce nutritional food.”


Interview with Joan Parajon

Joan Parajon is the widow of CEPAD’s late founder, Gustavo Parajon. We recently caught up with her so we could share with you what she is up to and why she continues to support CEPAD.

-Where are you living today? What are you doing and how is your family?

Well, I retired in 2012 from being the director of the choir at First Baptist Church. “Coro Parajón-Dominguez,” that’s what it’s called. I had turned it over to a young man who was very enthusiastic about continuing.

And then, this April, surprise! The director said that he would no longer be the director. Since there were not a lot of directors waiting around to step in, the next morning I came back to my old post, playing the piano for the service and directing the choir. And I felt at home! After spending 38 years as the director, I certainly hadn’t planned this. The Lord has plans that we don’t know anything about. That was a big surprise.

I was eighty years old in April, and I hope that my energy keeps up for a while, but you never know!

Music is the core that ties my whole life together. I spend time with my family, with my grandchildren, and I get to drive them to school some days, when David and Laura (son and daughter-in-law) are very busy, or out somewhere in the countryside. I don’t see them enough because they’re very busy. A lot busier than I am. But I see them leaving, in time, to go to study in universities in the States. One girl came back to study here, after she had left. She liked it here, so she’s studying in a university here that is a US university, so I get to see her again. But they’re scattered all over.

I have a great-grandson now, who is in New Jersey. I haven’t seen him for a year, so looking forward to that. Family has always been my love, and I love all my grandchildren, and my children too.

I didn’t leave Nicaragua this year. This is the first year that I haven’t left. For twelve years, we went to Green Lake, Wisconsin, to the Music Conference every July. I took part of my family with me, and the children grew up singing in the choirs there until they were in High School and they graduated. So it was a very special experience for them that they won’t forget. It was worth every penny for the experience they had in the Music Conference. I recommend it to anybody. I hope to go back next year.

One week, but intense singing and listening. Great experience.

We also have a lot of contact with our church in Cleveland, where Gustavo and I became members when he went to Case Western Reserve Medical School, and we lived in Cleveland for eight years and we became members of the First Baptist Church, and then they became interested in Nicaragua, and they have projects that they do here, and we still have a lot of ties with the people in the First Baptist in Cleveland. So that would be our home church.

So there’s a group that comes from the church every summer, and they’re here for about ten days.

-In your opinion how has Nicaragua changed over the last 10 years or so? Do they seem better or worse than they used to be?

I don’t want to get into politics… (Laughs)

I’m happy here in Nicaragua. I feel that we have the freedom to worship in any way we choose. It’s a Christian nation, and I feel that there are some things that haven’t worked out exactly right, but I feel that it’s a wonderful place to be. I feel safe, and so there’s a nice atmosphere here, people working and trying to do something together. That’s my opinion.

There are so many things that happened in the US now. Violence is all over. When I go up there to visit, I am afraid something might happen, but I don’t feel that way here. So I am in the right place right now.

-What are your thoughts on the last presidential election?

(On the Nicaraguan elections) I didn’t vote, of course. I’m still a US citizen.

I feel like the Ortegas have done a lot for Nicaragua, especially for the poor people. That is their concentration. The upper class people are unhappy, and maybe the middle class also. The poor people love them because they receive a lot from them. I know that the election was not fair, because there weren’t any other candidates. But I don’t get involved politics here.

The Ortegas are nice people. They liked Gustavo very much, and were very supportive of what he did. The first Christmas in 2011, the year he died, they called me on Christmas Eve to tell me that they were thinking about me that night, the first Christmas without him. I thought that was a very kind thing, thoughtful, that they took time to do that.

-Why do you continue to support CEPAD as a donor?

Because I believe in CEPAD! I also support Amos. My son and daughter-in-law are the directors and founders of Amos. Laura and David.

-What do you think of CEPAD’s continued work?

I’m always very supportive of CEPAD. They do wonderful work all over Nicaragua, and I’m very proud of the organization that it has become. Wish I had more time to know more, and to go out and visit some of the projects. But I’m very glued to music right now, especially now.

-Can you talk about when Dr. Parajon founded CEPAD? What did you think at that time? Did you think he was crazy for taking on such a big project?

It was chaotic. It was such a terrible time here in Managua. I couldn’t believe that such a thing had happened—the earthquake. This is in 1972. It was a terrible shock, and our lives changed dramatically that night.

Right away, within a couple of days, he was on his way down to the Baptist school to have a meeting and receive representatives from different churches, and there were donations coming in from around the world, and some churches were getting more than others, so he and others thought and talked about it and decided there should be a way to distribute the money and have a group called CEPAD for this work. Originally the “D” in CEPAD was for damnificados. As the years went on, they changed the meaning to development. But at the beginning, they were sharing food everywhere, having kitchens to feed people that had nothing, it was a time of chaos, really, to try to help as many people as they could.

I had just learned how to operate a ham radio, and I was on the radio like 7 hours a day, talking to people out there that were calling in to ask if I could go look for their mom, that she lived in this and this address, and we would go and find these people. Some of the houses didn’t exist any longer. It was a time I’ll never forget. It was terrible. But CEPAD came and the organization got everything lined up and organized. The churches were cooperating together, and it was nice—churches cooperating together.

As the years went by, there were fewer churches in the group, but in the beginning they were all cooperating together, and that was wonderful that we could all work together for the Lord.

-Is there anything you would say to people who donate to CEPAD?

Don’t forget about us down here. There are so many things going on around the world and in your own country, but CEPAD has been working hard all these years, and needs your continued support to continue.