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!

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.

You Changed Lives in 2016

We want to celebrate the successes that were made possible thanks to YOU in 2016! There are many families that are healthier, happier and living better lives thanks to your generosity. Here are a few of the important highlights that were made possible by you.

You’re Supporting Leaders: Building Infrastructure and Improving Lives

33 projects were funded and carried out by village leaders in 42 villages. You made 3 trainings possible in 2016 and now leaders have made strides in improving the conditions in their villages. These projects are making significant changes for village residents as they included

  • digging wells
  • installing latrines
  • improving roads
  • installing electricity

More projects are being solicited and carried out thanks to your support every single day!

You’re Giving a Voice: Youth Learning about Healthy Relationships

Nicaragua has one of the highest teen birth rates in Latin America. Thanks to your amazing support  hundreds of youth have participated in trainings and forums to learn about healthy relationships and the importance of education and stable relationships   prior to starting a family. These are topics that are often taboo, thank you for making this happen!

You’re Feeding Families: You Helped Teach Women Good Nutrition

Women in Matagalpa learned about creating products with high quality for their businesses and about financial education. 6 women received loans to invest in their businesses.

Women in all 41 villages where CEPAD works produced fruits and vegetables for their families and learning about the importance of good nutrition. They have harvested peppers, lettuce, squash, carrots onions and tomatoes. These family garden participants receive constant support and follow-up from CEPAD’s field staff.

To make more amazing things possible in 2017 please consider a donation right now! Click here to make a gift. 

From Farming to Tech Jobs: Computer Training with Your Help

Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the Western hemisphere. Minimum wage is barely $170 per month—with 48-hour workweeks. Thanks to your help, youth in Matagalpa have hope for their future. Your funding has supported computer training which has allowed youth to access college majors and job prospects they may not have otherwise. Thank you!


Forty-nine students graduated on Thursday, October 6, from the Computer Training Program run by CEPAD in Matagalpa. The training program consisted of over 120 hours of hands-on coursework. The courses were taught by professors from local universities, and were made available to everyone with an interest in learning more about computers. The program has graduated over 270 students over the past five years.


Matagalpa is a municipality with many young people, nearly 50% are under 16. Unfortunately, there are few opportunities for so many youth if they don’t have proper training. Matagalpa is mostly made up of virgin forests, agricultural areas, and fields for livestock. While past generations have been content with their living and working conditions, greater access to information and the rapid changes of the modern world have caused the younger generations to seek better and more modern opportunities for work and life.



Milton has high hopes for his future thanks generous support of CEPAD’s computer programs.

Milton is one of the students who graduated this October. A native of Ocotal, a small village located 30 minutes of unpaved roads away from Matagalpa, Milton is a 17-year-old who is studying to become an industrial engineer. He comes from a family of seven, including his parents, two older brothers and two younger sisters.


His experience so far in life has been mostly working in the field, growing beans, corn, and other vegetables. Only a decade ago, he would most likely have been destined to the same work for the rest of his life.


However, with the modernization of Matagalpa, Milton wants to set his sights higher, and become the first one in his family to become both a college graduate and an industrial engineer.


One of the biggest hurdles for engineering students in Nicaragua is knowledge in using spreadsheet programs, such as Microsoft Excel, in order to perform complex mathematical calculations. This is also true in Milton’s case. Milton has no access to a computer at home, and CEPAD’s training program is the only way he can become more experienced in computer use. The 6-month long program has provided Milton with the tools necessary to excel in his coursework, and by extension, his future career.


By becoming an industrial engineer, Milton will be earning more than 3 times the Nicaraguan minimum wage. This will make sure he earns more than the basic living expense for a family of three, which the government estimates at around $400 monthly. He will be able to provide for his family, and if his spouse works as well, they will be able to buy a house, transportation, and perhaps even give back to their community.


However, the road to success is not easy. Milton is working hard to pay for his college tuition, which at $50 a month, is a meager sum by US standards, but a difficult burden to Milton and his family. Having access to CEPAD’s computer training has allowed Milton, and many others like him, to continue his dreams by acquiring computer skills without having to buy a computer or pay for expensive classes.


The 49 students who graduated this year, and the 270 who graduated from the past 5 years, all have similar stories of their own. All of these stories have been made possible through your thoughtful and caring contributions. Often what these young men and women need is a glimmer of hope that they can actually achieve what they set out to do, and they will find the strength to keep going.


You provide hope for a better future to these young adults. Our training program helps them apply to higher-earning jobs that give them access to more advanced career paths. Professional jobs in architecture, engineering, and banking all require computer proficiency, and therefore remain out of the reach of the majority of the rural poor. CEPAD’s computer program is accredited by all regional universities, giving them a much needed advantage for getting a job.


With your continued help, we can keep empowering many Nicaraguan youth and young adults into a more promising future, and together make a better Nicaragua, and a better world. If you would like to continue to support this and other programs please visit our donate page

Thank You for Your Support in 2015!

Thank you for your prayers, donations and accompaniment of rural villages in 2015. You have truly made a difference for so many. Our staff have a special message to thank YOU for your support.


A Message from Our Director

Thank you for your tremendous support.

As the end of the year approaches and we patiently await the joyous celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, we in Nicaragua are giving thanks for your continued friendship, love and prayer.

2015 has been an exciting year as we have begun our first year of work in 42 new villages. Through my visits I have felt the hope and excitement of people who are being empowered to see pathways out of poverty that they had never thought were possible.It has also been a year of challenges. El Niño has greatly affected the villages we work with, making hunger an even bigger problem as farmers are no longer able to feed their families. Children are especially vulnerable as the most basic diseases combined with malnutrition can be life-threatening.

I would like to personally invite you to make a contribution today.  It will help us begin 2016 with a solid financial base and allow us to carry out our work with great energy, expertise and love.

Please make your gift a generous one. Thank you again.  For you!  Without your support, our work is not possible. Feliz Navidad to you and your family.

In Christ’s love,

Damaris Albuquerque

Executive Director, CEPAD