Superemos Foundation – Some history
The Superemos Foundation was founded in November 1999 as an initiative to decentralize community programs originally started by the Nicaraguan Foundation for Integral Community Development (FUNDECI), inspired by FUNDECI’s president Padre Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann. The main objectives of the Superemos Foundation are to improve the living standards of low income families in Nicaragua by means of education and training. The foundation’s main initial focus was the Estelí Women’s School, an education program begun in January 1999, for over 80 women from low income families. The program started with funding from the Barr Foundation of Oklahoma. From January 2000 onwards, Superemos developed and consolidated the Estelí Women's School with an adult baccalaureate course supervised by the Ministry of Education.
Superemos purchased the site for its education and training programs with donations from Bob Barr, Karen King and Stephen Sefton. Subsequently, the foundation purchased another area of land between its school site and the River Estelí to create a total site covering about 0.5 hectares. Between 2002 and the present, the foundation has developed classroom, workshop and office infrastructure amounting to a total of over 600 square metres or about 12% of the total site. The foundation has completely reforested about half the area of the site which is an environmental conservation area, adjacent to the river.
Since its founding in 1999, the Estelí Women’s school has always been one of the most successful women’s education programs in Nicaragua because its integral approach to education includes health care and social work components from the foundation's other community programs. Between 2000 and 2006, the foundation developed a program combining social work with skills training, including accompanying the male and female prisoners in the local penitentiary. From that work, Superemos developed a legal advice program between 2006 and 2011 which subsequently combined with the social work program to focus on addressing domestic violence. This is now one of the foundation’s core programs.
In 2002, Superemos supported the founding of the “Christine King” Multi Service Cooperative as a partner organization to facilitate the development and implementation of the foundation’s community projects. The foundation helped the cooperative develop an environmental workshop and a community preschool on the foundation’s site. Around the same time, between 2002 and 2005, the cooperative developed a ceramic workshop with help from Fiona Graham and a computer laboratory with help from Phil Hughes. The foundation supported the development of these activities as part of its skills training programs.
As part of the Estelí Women’s School, Superemos has helped the development of the school’s cafeteria. This has become an important resource for the “Christine King” Multi Service Cooperative, providing catering services for workshops and other community events held on the Superemos site. With help from the Casa Canadiense, the cooperative kitchen has also been able to provide periodic skills training for local people interested in learning baking.
From 1999 onwards, Superemos worked with Dr. Peter Loewinthan, of what is now the Dot House Health Multi Service Center in Boston, USA, to develop community health care programs. Superemos now hosts a large medical brigade every year involving health professionals from various parts of the US and has also facilitated public health research and dental health programs supported by Boston University. Thanks to these programs, the foundation has been able to develop a close working relationship with the local campus of Nicaragua’s National Autonomus University, with the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health and also with the country’s Ministry of the Family.
From 2005 onwards, the Estelí Women’s School has collaborated with the Global Education Fund run by Judy Richardson to develop teacher training workshops for rural primary school teachers in northern Nicaragua. These programs have trained hundreds of Nicaraguan primary school teachers in the participatory “Learning by Doing” methodology so as to greatly improve their teaching skills. Superemos has worked with Judy and her colleagues, Morgan Smith and Alan Olds, to develop these annual training workshops in close coordination with Nicaragua’s Ministry of Education.
In 2009, at the initiative of Hannah Curteis, Superemos began supporting music education classes in local schools, a program which subsequently developed into the Sones Segovianos music school. Like all the programs supported by Superemos, Sones Segovianos serves children from low income families providing high quality teaching they could not otherwise afford. The program has grown to offer dance and art classes as well as supporting a smaller music education initiative in the town of Palacagüina, 60km north of Estelí.
From the beginning, parallel with its education and training programs, Superemos has developed community health care projects and facilitated support for rural and urban development including, among others :
a water system for the nearby rural community of San Pedro
three preschool classrooms and kitchen areas in urban barrios on the western outskirts of Estelí
a pedestrian bridge over a creek for communities to the south-west of Estelí
a solar panel system to supply water to the nearby rural community of El Limón
Superemos has also installed over 80 cycle pumps for water wells in rural communities between Esteli, Somoto and Ocotal and over 50 ecological toilets for rural communities near Estelí. The foundation continues to maintain a focus on environmental concerns, for example via its solar panel program, supported by the Asociación Ayuda para Nicaragua of Japan.
At its founding, Superemos was lucky to be able to count on support both from grass roots organizations and larger institutions focused on community development programs. The foundation has developed its work inspired by many outstanding people like Padre Miguel d’Escoto, Bob Barr, Axel and Cele Meyer and Fintan Kilbride and with exemplary guidance from a great many other selfless individuals who have helped us get the best out of our resources over the years. Thanks to all this support, Superemos, now in its eighteenth year, has enabled tens of thousands of people in Nicaragua to improve the lives of themselves and their families.