In 2011 ESWB started a partnership with Bridges To Community (BTC) to develop a series of projects that address the needs of developing communities in Nicaragua.


Summer 2014


This year, ESWB will be supporting UVA’s fourth summer traveling to Nicaragua. We will be returning to the community of Rosa Grade in Siuna for the third year in a row to continue our work with the community chocolate factory in the region. We will be partnering with Bridges to Community, an NGO that works extensively in Nicaragua, furthering our already strong connection with them. Our time will be shared between our projects and BTC’s goals. Throughout the school year we will refine our projects and apply for grants to fund our travels.

2013-2014 Project Team

  • Angela Liu
  • Brittany Major
  • Wilson Ruotolo
  • Ben Matthews
  • Kit Guncheon
  • Brendan Kelley

Summer 2013


In 2013 we continued our partnership with Bridges to Community, an NGO based in Siuna. Our group assisted the residents of Rosa Grande in their endeavor to expand their local chocolate factory into an international business. Using our engineering background, we helped the factory reach international health code standards and regulations. Furthermore, we analyzed successful business techniques employed by small entrepreneurial businesses in the U.S. and helped the community implement them with their chocolate business. When we were not working at the factory, we built latrines, small bridges, and other minor projects.


Summer 2012

Five ESWB students utilized sustainable methods to alleviate problems in the rural community of Rosa Grande, in the first year of a five year project. Building on the work of the 2011 team this research group worked to identify the expressed needs of the community using innovative information gathering techniques. These included Photovoice, water testing, and GIS mapping to identify and address significant issues in the community.

In the Photovoice Project, the team distributed cameras to a diverse group of community members with directions to capture images of problems in their community. The Photovoice method allows a window into the community without creating an invasive and paternalistic environment, and will guide BTC’s future projects in the area.

The research team conducted Water Testing at several water sources in and around the local community. Results acquired measuring pH, turbidity, E. Coli., and general coliform will shape future water projects in Rosa Grande, by analyzing the quality of potential water sources.

The team also used GIS Mapping to plot hundreds significant pints of interest around the community. An interactive map was developed with complete water testing data, photos, and site plans that were collected during their stay.

Outcomes

Photovoice: Involved a creative process of gathering diverse ideas and perspectives on community-based development. Community voices were amplified, allowing community leadership, BTC staff, and student researchers to gain a better understanding of the community’s needs and priorities. The participatory research process allowed participants to gain directly from data that was collected.

Water Testing: Quality of water sources was tested and integrated into plans for the future water system. Results were translated and shared with community members and leadership to foster a better understanding of water quality in the community.

GIS Data: Research was compiled and disseminated to the community in the form of an interactive electronic GIS map.

We were published in the Vol. 8, No. 1 issue of the International Journal for Service Learning in Engineering!


Summer 2011

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The main goal of the ESWB students traveling to Nicaragua in 2011 was to establish a relationship with Bridges to Community and to test out a unique needs identification methodology called Photovoice.

Seven ESWB students planned to identify sustainable methods of defining and addressing needs in a previously unknown community. Recognizing the most common failure of development projects—a breakdown in communication between the local community and the development agency—the research team pursued innovative information-gathering techniques, such as Photovoice, water testing, and GIS mapping, to determine significant issues in the community of Fonseca (a small suburb of Siuna).

The team distributed digital cameras to households in the community, with directions to capture images of common problems in their lives and in the community. This Photovoice method allowed a window into the lives of the Fonseca community, without creating an invasive or paternalistic environment, and will guide BTC’s future projects in the area.

Additionally, the research team implemented water-quality testing at several water sources in and around the local community. The team also used GPS tracking units to plot water testing points, and other significant points of interest around the community. With this the team developed an interactive GIS map, complete with water testing data, photos, and site plans collected during their stay in Fonseca. BTC is using this tool to guide their construction of a water piping system for households in Fonseca.


Update from Nicaragua

August
10
2013

Hola everyone!

Since arriving in Rosa Grande last week, we have accomplished a lot. Our team of 5 has had several productive discussions and expeditions about the chocolate factory, the chocolate making process, and the cacao growing industry in Rosa Grande. In addition to those things, we have explored the current state of the community’s water system and even began some discussion about potential projects for next year.
Everyone has remained in good health and excellent spirits over the past 2 weeks, and we are looking forward to our final days in Rosa Grande this week (although it will be bittersweet!). We can’t wait to put together our findings from the trip and hopefully create sustainable improvements at ChocoTrim that help them work toward their future goals.
For now, some of our anticipated outcomes are:
- A relationship grown not only between UVA and BTC, but also between UVA and ChocoTrim going into the future
- New chocolate molds for the factory, featuring their custom logo, which will enable them to reach their production goals
- Assistance with one of their final steps – getting Nutrition facts for their chocolate bars and bite-sized peices
- An improved chocolate recipe to reach a wider variety of customers
- Better and cheaper chocolate packing materials – including information stickers and foil wrapper materials
- Advice on improving machine production efficiency
Thanks to everyone for all of your support, and we look forward to seeing you back in the States.
Holly, Brittany, Angela, Wilson, and Brendan

Please Donate!

June
13
2013

The Nicaragua Team is set to fly to Managua, Nicaragua on July 29th! However, they still need a little help with the funding. Please support our team by donating here. They will appreciate it greatly!

 

Donate Here!

 


Update on the Siuna Project in 2013

December
30
2012

ESWB has continued its partnership with the NGO Bridges to Community, and another team will be traveling to Siuna, Nicaragua to work with the Rosa Grande community. We have already been working hard in preparation for the trip: applying for research and travel grants, investigating community needs, and planning the trip. We plan to work with a locally founded chocolate factory to create value in the community of Rosa Grande, in terms of entrepreneurship skills and community empowerment, increased economic well-being and income, and reforestation and sustainable agricultural practices.


Repeal of UVa Travel Restriction

September
27
2012

Last year (Dec. 2011) UVa banned undergraduate travel to Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.  We were frustrated and upset that Nicaragua was grouped into this ban for no apparent reason.  We successfully got an exemption after a lot of hard work and submission of a 17 page report, and were allowed to travel to Nicaragua this past summer (2012).  We wanted other undergraduates to be able to travel to Nicaragua as well considering we had such an incredible experience, and so we sent a letter to the International Studies Office (ISO) Coordinator, Dr. Doane, this past week for consideration of uplifting the ban.  Just today, we received unofficial word that the ban will be lifted!!!! An official statement will be made within the next week.


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