Niousha Roshani, Nukanti Foundation's Founders recent trip to Bogota and Cali meeting with the peacebuilders and youth we work with. From plastic bottle houses to Capoeira and insights and reflections from the impact the programmes deliver.
By: Philipp Zwehl
Having recently started as Nukanti's new Program Coordinator in Colombia, the last three weeks have been intensive, challenging, but first and foremost rewarding...
I came to Colombia's capital city of Bogotá around two weeks ago and since then have spent most of my time in the Cazucá neighborhood, working together with our local coordinator Nohora Guerrero in order to strengthen Nukanti's "Weaving Cazucá" project.
The community has shown great interest in the project, eager to see it finally being finished, since the construction process had been delayed for some time, as it will deal with obstacles like missing water supply, a characteristic problem in these neighborhoods.
In the meantime, the unique architecture of the Community Center, or "Casa de Botellas" ("House of Bottles") as the locals call it, has gained fame throughout the whole neighborhood, inspiring both curiosity and pride.
According to our principles of local ownership and participation, the community members have taken an active part in the construction process, now regarding the center as "theirs" - worth of maintaining and caring for.
It was a pleasure to see how the children and youths received their new center, being excited about the all the possibilities that its greater space offers.
Now, that the Community Center finally opened its doors, different activities have been implemented from an After-school Tutoring program, of Breakdance and Capoeira Workshops, to different musical activities.
In the first week of March we are expecting the visit of our US partner for this project, the Starkey Hearing Foundation, who will cover the development of the project up until now. This will be part of the “Operation Change” international media campaign, a groundbreaking documentary series about inspiring development cooperation projects worldwide.
I also visited Nukanti's award winning “Playing for Freedom” capoeira project in the Ciudad Bolivar neighborhood where a group of youngsters was training in the Brazilian art form in a school yard up in the slum's hills under the eyes of our local project coordinator Cristian.
The kids did not accept no as an answer, so I was lucky enough to receive my first capoeira class under the blistering sun of Bogota, which lies at 2,625 metres (8,612 ft) above sea level. The next morning both my sore muscles and burnt face were a painful reminder of my first capoeira steps.
The class ended with a so called "Roda" (Portugese for "Circle") in which all the students showed their extraordinary skills at "fighting" or rather playing one-on-one to the sounds of ancestral songs that African slaves once brought to Brazil which now ring out across the hills of Ciudad Bolivar...
By: Orsolya Kékkő
It was a good life I miss! Starting the day with breakfast while listening to salsa is something everyone would miss’. Teddy – the other volunteer back then and now Nukanti’s director of Operations – would sit on the couch opposite me, eating fresh papaya we bought at the market the day before with the rice pudding and rightly famous Colombian coffee. The sun would be strong already by 9:30am and the locals were gathering in Quinchia’s main square, getting some well-earned rest after working in the fields. Their workday began at 4am while I was still turning in my sleep!
Our supervisor, Leonardo (director of Nukanti Colombia) met with us in the mornings, usually at cafes near Nukanti’s offices, to discuss our plans for our English classes. His relaxed attitude helped reduce any stress we had about planning and teaching classes for children, adolescents, and for adults.
On our first day, we were very surprised to see how much the students were interested in learning English! Our office was full of children and adults who wanted to sign up for our classes. It was exciting and Teddy and I worked well together in organizing the students into groups. She focused on the children and I taught the classes for adults. I had not before then taught a class and I was surprised how easily it went because of their excitement.
The classes were both fun and interesting. My students had infinite patience with my instructions in non-native Spanish. By working together, my students and I made much progress over the weeks we spent together. They were curious and learned quickly about to speak in correct English in complete sentences. It was such a rewarding feeling to realize that I helped them gain the training and tools they needed to speak English. It was marvelous to see the pride and feeling of accomplishment in their eyes.
What I loved was that through the course of my class, my students also became my good friends. I got to know about their private lives and we would sometimes socialise. In the classroom, I taught them English; in their town of Quinchia, a place where everyone knows each other and they all know everything about each other, they taught me some of the most valuable lessons I have learned about life: Make time to appreciate the little things, take a few moments on the street to talk to a friend, and pause at the end of the day to watch the breathtaking sunsets before these disappear over the hills.
My students have made a difference in my life that I will always remember. And because they did, a part of me will always be with them, and in their lovely community of Quinchia!
Orsolya Kékkő served 5 months as an English teacher and Education Specialist for Nukanti’s programs in Colombia. Today, she is trainer and change management consultant for the United Nations in New York.
That's what the team – software engineers, hackers, ui/ux designers, product developers, social thinkers, civic-minded organizations – said when talking about using technology to solve global challenges problems.
It began with a Twitter conversation. A contact at Alliants – Simon Kaye – started with 'How's the new year going?' A few exchanges later, he was asking if I had any charity digital projects to submit for Nukanti. 'How many and where do I submit?' I couldn’t turn down that kind of offer.
GeekList’s global hackathon – #Hack4Good – challenges IT pros worldwide to solve local problems with innovative thinking and quick-launch solutions. Over the 48 hours, teams form and tackle problems using their unique strengths in technology;
Based in Southampton (UK), Alliants - a technology solutions company driving better customer experiences for the brands they serve. On the weekend of 7-9 February 2014, it hosted the local meeting for #Hack4Good. Over 48 sleepless hours, the team from Alliants collaborated with two nonprofits, Nukanti and a local charity known as Learning through Landscapes, for whom the team designed apps geared towards motivating kids to go outdoors and get away from their screens.
After Nukanti was shortlisted (five in total were selected), my team and I presented the idea of re-designing; our website. Our existing site – built on Joomla – did not provide the capabilities we needed to publish a blog and distribute newsletters. With our site redesign, we also pitched two other projects: an assessment of our current ecommerce site, for the Nukanti Shop (which ran on a separate site) and an online community for children that would function to build relationship and enable correspondence as a penpal program run by UNICEF in the late-1970s/early-1980s;
The projects received great feedback and we were invited to setup a global live broadcast to promote the projects to the #hack4good community, the video went viral among the community and got more than 1600 views, we were excited about who would choose our project over the weekend.
What happened next still seems like a blur! It all flashed before my eyes and from the kick off in Alliants offices Friday night to the 3am or so stop, till then Sunday morning and waking up to a new site built in 24 hours and our first order. Exceeding my expectations and demonstrates what can be achieved with a small team with a common goal. It blew me away. The energy, passion and drive to meet Nukanti Foundation's requirements was phenomenal. The support via the Geeklist community was also a great atmosphere, with regular live broadcasts from all global locations and presentations along the way.
The IT challenges which Nukanti has previously faced were not just getting access to technical experts but at the most basic level, updating our website easily and efficiently. Built in 2011, using Joomla for the site and OpenCart for the online shop, the site was unnecessarily complicated to update and difficult to manage. Given that we are a grass-roots organization, we must rely on free tools and pro-bono experts who can build such solutions, we are susceptible to the capabilities and expertise available to us;
Being a fairly small (5 people), globally located team working/living across multiple timezones, we needed a site that we could to easily update without waiting for others to respond to urgent emails for assistance. This prevented us from publishing reports from our on-the-ground project teams. We also need to ensure all content is available in multiple languages. And we need to deliver a great ecommerce experience that can help us increase sales, track buyers, and engage visitors in the future.
The Southampton Hack4Good participants quickly broke off into teams and went to work on an initial review to a 'just do it' approach. They kicked off creating a whole new site, beginning with bringing the main site and ecommerce shop together. We reviewed the old site in Joomla, brainstormed ideas, planned the setup, completed domain mapping, setup squarespace, thought about user experience, analysed all the requirements and documented everything using squarespace page creation, user experience, analyzed the requirements and documented everything using a project management tool Trello.
When I returned on Saturday (I didn't brave staying awake all night like some of the team) I was delighted to discover they had an example site to review, content being re-worded and products imported. All we needed now was a green light to go and transfer to the new site. A few skypes with my Nukanti team and a few discussions later, the team rolled out the transfer. In only 24 hours, the Hack4Good team and I built Nukanti's new site and ecommerce solution!
At 9pm (UK local time), we went live. At 3am, our first order came in from Philadelphia (and no, it was not from our Director of Communications, who lives in the City of Brotherly Love). I was thrilled: The team’s solution made a difference soon after we launched the new site;
- Both our fair-trade shop and the main site are in one place, making it easier to maintain, manage, and integrate messaging.
- The new platform is easier for the Nukanti team to maintain via Squarespace. We no longer first need to acquire technical Joomla knowledge; now we can get started straight away, without training.
- Fresh, crisp, simple design, rich in features - send photos via mobile from the field, view on a smartphone, easy connects to Nukanti's social media channels.
- Multi-currency payment system Stripe, built-in with marketing tool MailChimp, so we can easily develop and send targeted offers and campaigns.
- A blog that enables us to give our followers in-depth insights into Nukanti’s programmes, volunteers, and interns, and show the difference that people can make when they work together to help others.
And it’s amazing to think that after six years of operation, all the IT capabilities we long lacked to help us get to the next level, in terms of building an online presence and reaching our key targets, was solved in one night! And it all happened thanks to a great team that formed quickly on one recent Friday evening;
- Tristan Gadsby - Alliants CEO who got back to code basics designing the 'Heart' donation button.
- Antonia Murphy - PR Marketing Alliants added all our shop products to the pages, organised the whole event and makes a mean chili.
- Sam Finding - Alliants consultant who kept asking 'how are you getting along with?...' he kept our team focused and determined.
- Lee-Jon Ball - Alliants client director who hacked away getting things transferred.
- Josh de Kock - 14 year old coder and geek in the making.
- Elbrie de Kock his Mum - 'Growing Coders' initiative lead, who only came along to support Josh and then roped into creating some of the great new pages.
- James Burrows - Southampton university student who quickly got into creating web pages for the first time
- And me, Charlotte Joyce - Nukanti Foundation, submitted the pitch, gave inputs to how to develop the content and the inventory check for the store.
A huge thank you goes out for all the cups of tea, pizza, chili, organisation, effort and smiles that went into making the new Nukanti Foundation website;
And of course, many thanks go out to Reuben Katz, Dan Cunningham, and Jedi Weller at Geeklist #hack4good who made the event a huge success. We're thrilled and motivated by the gift we have received and what the team achieved for us. We are now focusing on leveraging our new site to drive the programming, communications, and fundraising initiatives improve crucial areas, including rolling out a new communications strategy.
I finish by saying: Welcome to our new site! Please click through and subscribe to receive our newsletters and updates.
CBS Atlanta interviews our founder and Director Niousha Roshani about Nukanti Shop, the fairtrade, social entrepreneurship initiative from Nukanti Foundation.
NukantiShop is a bridge between artisans from all over the globe and the world market, creating opportunities for fair trade, using recycled and eco-friendly materials, and investing back into social programs for children. Through your purchase, you can impact the lives of many artisans and children we work with!
It’s time for me to go. It’s time for me to say good bye. It’s a sad time!
It doesn’t feel like it’s been almost five months since I first saw the mountains of Colombia and the peaks of Cerro Batero and Gobia guarding the lives of all Quinchienos from above. These five months have been busy with learning, exploring and, in the same time, teaching and sharing experiences. It’s a mutual process. Together with the locals we influenced the life of each other in some ways.
After a few months living and working in Colombia finally we took some time off and travelled to the North first and then to the South a bit. And as a result we are even more in love with this country. Colombia is amazing! Okay, so here are the details:
Holiday and festive season in Colombia!
Colombians are religious. I knew this before but Semana Santa still surprised me. This life stopped in Quinchia for a week and religious people spent the days celebrating, praying, and perhaps deepening their beliefs. Also, this week the local secondary school celebrated its 50th anniversary. For these two reasons there were lots of things happening in town and Quinchia was energizing.
‘The only risk is that you stay’ – says the slogan of the official travel guide of Colombia. And after two months in this country I’m realising how true it is. I arrived here with knowing not much else but the general stereotypes of this country – the sea, dancing and the FARC. Since then, my view has taken a 180 degree turn. Colombia is so much more! Amazing nature, rich culture and the kindest people in the world – and also so much to be done socially, economically as well as politically.
Quinchia, my home and workplace in the middle of the coffee region of Colombia, offers great coffee, sunshine most of the days and beautiful tracks to climb on the surrounding mountains. But it also has a large displaced population, high unemployment and declining health rates. Just a few years ago Quinchia was a conflict zone. Now it’s calm and safe but still dealing with the aftermath of the conflict. The conflict is still in the people’s minds and is in their memories although it is not spoken about every day.
The project, initiated by the Nukanti Foundation, an international non-governmental organization advocating for children’s rights in conflict zones, and funded by the Colombian government, involved teaching English at a school in Colombia’s coffee triangle.
“Tell us about New York.”
“What do you want to know?”
This conversation during one of Guatica’s evening community classes prompted a one-hour viewing session of my archived photos a few weeks later. With my hard drive in tow, I presented them with over fifty folders of photos from my experiences over the past five years. To reduce the time, they chose two: “California: L.A.” (a week-long trip to visit a best friend on my way home from teaching in China for a year) and “NYC: Aug-Dec 2011” (during my master’s program in New York City).
“Aw, how amazing! I want to go there.”
A student in ninth grade recently reacted this way after researching France for English Day.
The classes at Colegio Maria Reina are preparing for English Day on November 14th. On this day, each class in grades six through eleven – thirteen classes of over 300 students in total – will present a country in the form of a travel agency in the morning and an artistic cultural presentation in the afternoon. The countries represented will be Canada, England, France, Ireland, USA, Japan, Brazil, and five cities of Colombia (for the younger classes).
NukanTrip provides you with a distinct way of traveling with cultural immersions through direct constant interaction with locals in their communities who will teach you about their lifestyle, their food, music, dance and other artistic manisfestations. On this trip we stayed in an eco-friendly environment in the heart of the Amazon sharing with Indigenous populations of the region. We participated in various projects and educational workshops in the coffee region while enjoying the joy and happiness that only children can transmit to us!
W got to know the beautiful coffee region and spent some time in Quinchía with the children, dancing to the various rythms of Colombia such as salsa, cumbia, curulao and reggae, discovered wild animals of the Amazon such as pink dolphins and baby jaguars, cruise on the Amazon river and crossover to Peru and Brazil! And much more!
A few days before moving into Guatica—a small municipality of 16,000 inhabitants nestled in the mountains of Risaralda—the mayor, teachers, students, parents and government directors set up a meeting with Pereira’s Department of Education representatives (available via Skype) and me. About thirty people attended, happy and curious about my arrival. I felt welcomed and supported. It was impressively reassuring, especially since my biggest fear for the program had been lack of support by the local officials and the schools; the meeting was evidence to the contrary.
Nukanti recently welcomed our first group of English language instructors to the departments of Risaralda and Caldas. Three volunteers arrived from the United States and Czech Republic to take part in our two month pilot project to teach English in various communities within the beautiful coffee region of Colombia. The program entails building leadership and empowerment and raising the educational level of the children with whom we work.
We saw the best of Morocco while working for women and children’s rights and wellbeing. In the Moroccan Sahara, with beautiful landscapes over the dunes of the Valley of Dades, we packed a truly wonderful experience into 10-days from June 9th to June 19th, 2012. We trecked and immersed ourself in their culture while giving our time to a worthy cause!
NukanTrip saw the best of Brazil while working for children’s rights in the beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro. Over 12 days we mixed the attractions of the big city with the natural wonders of Ilha Grande (Big Island). It gave us all the opportunity to immerse ourselves in another culture while giving our time to a worthy cause!