Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Two new vehicles for the CDCA!

The CDCA is the proud owner of two new-to-us Toyota Landcruiser ambulances! We are very pleased to have been able to purchase these two vehicles -- 4WD powerhouses that can carry up to 13 people just about anywhere -- since our old ambulance (which many of you will remember) appears to finally be on its last wheels. Our old ambulance is a 1988 model that has been through everything -- the rebuilding of Nueva Vida after Hurricane Mitch, planting and harvesting of just about every crop you can think of, and probably most importantly has carted tens of thousands of dollars of medicine and hundreds of volunteers up to the El Porvenir coffee co-op -- all AFTER being swept down the arroyo in a Hurricane in 2000 and rebuilt by our genius mechanic Maestro.

After all that, it's no wonder our poor old ambulance is tired...with it pumping out black smoke and hardly accelerating beyond a crawl, we decided it was high time we replaced it...but we needed a 4WD that could carry a lot of people and had good clearance (not many models do that) new Toyota ambulances cost nearly $30,000, and used ones are hard to come by and tend to be in pretty bad shape if they are for sale. But we got a miracle! The medical organization Christian Medical Action (AMC) had two for sale at a great deal! The ambulances are 1998 and 2001, significantly newer than our old ambulance. They have been work horses for AMC in areas of the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua that barely have roads, so they have been put to use in their lives and are in rough condition (we're working to get them road worthy and ensured), but we are excited to make them work for us! Thanks AMC and to all of you who contributed toward the purchase of these great vehicles. -- Becca (for all of us)

Monday, September 21, 2009

CDCA Fall speaking tour: OH, IL, WI, MN, IA, MO, KY

Pat and Kathy have left for their two month speaking tour of the Midwest, showing slides, selling crafts and talking to folks about the work of the CDCA in Nicaragua. If you're in Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, or Kentucky you might be able to catch them! You can email them at: or call 413-250-9757 or 413-250-9751 to confirm times and details or if you would like to host them in one of these areas. Below is their schedule:

Wed Sept. 30 Crafts and classes - Xavier University

Thu Oct. 1 Crafts and community presentation - Xavier

Fri Oct. 2 Crafts at Xavier

Evening presentation - Shiloh Methodist

Sun Oct. 4 Presentation to Beverly UU Congregation

Mon Oct. 5 Presentation at La Casa, U of Illinois

Wed Oct. 7 Presentation at Matt Sweeney's house

Sun Oct. 11 Presentation at Madison Mennonite Church

Mon Oct. 12 Crafts and classes at U of Wisconsin - Richland Center
Tue Oct. 13 Crafts and community presentation - U of WI
Wed Oct. 14 Community presentation to area peace groups
Sat Oct. 17 morning presentation at Center for the Americas

evening presentation "The Beat" coffeehouse
Tue Oct. 20 Crafts and classes - U of Minnesota - Duluth
Wed Oct. 21 Crafts and classes - U of Minnesota - Duluth

evening presentation Peace Church, Duluth

Thu Oct. 22 Crafts and classes - U of Wisconsin - Superior

evening presentation Duluth Friends Meeting
Sat Oct. 24 Participate in 10th anniversary of Bucknell Brigade
Sun Oct. 25 afternoon presentation - Prospect Hill Friends
Mon Oct. 26 Crafts and classes at Blake School, Minneapolis
Tue Oct. 27 Presentation to Peace Links, Primghar IA

Wed Oct. 28 Presentation to Bear Creek and Des Moines Friends
Sun Nov. 1 Presentation People's Church, Cedar Rapids IA
Mon Nov. 2 Six presentations at Decorah high school & crafts

Evening presentation hosted by Decorah Friends
Tue Nov. 3 Crafts and classes at Luther College, Decorah IA
Wed Nov. 4 Crafts and classes at Luther College

Thu Nov. 5 Classes and community presentation U of Northern Iowa
Fri Nov. 6 Classes at U of Northern Iowa

Evening home presentation

Sun Nov. 8 Presentation at Echo Hill Presbyterian Church, Cedar Rapids
Mon Nov. 9 Presentation in St. Louis MO

Tue Nov. 10 Sisters of Charity, Nazareth KY

Wed Nov. 11 Sisters of Charity, Nazareth KY

Sun Nov. 15 Presentation - Trinity Episcopal, Statesville

Friday, September 18, 2009

Organic cotton chain got Fair Labor Certification!

The fair labor certification (see Sept. 3 blog) is a go! Maggie's Organics just put out a press release about it, which you can read below or on the Maggie's blog at:


Maggie’s Organics will be first to acquire Fair Labor Practices and Community Benefits Certification

Maggie’s Organics will become the first apparel company ever to be certified Fair Labor under a rigorous new auditing process: Fair Labor Practices and Community Benefits certification by Scientific Certification Systems. This certification validates socially responsible practices both in agricultural production and at all stages of the post-harvest production process.

Ypsilanti, MI – September 15th, 2009 – Maggie’s Organics has been making apparel items 0with certified organic fibers and fair labor practices since 1992. The agricultural standard and process of growing fibers organically has been in place since Maggie’s started their business. Maggie’s is proud to announce that its production chain in Central America has been evaluated by an independent third party and all of the workers involved in the process are treated fairly with safe and healthy working conditions based upon a global standard. Maggie’s Organics will be the first company in the world to hold this certification.

Bená Burda, President and Founder of Maggie’s said, “We have always taken the high road when it comes to making sure all who are involved with producing our products are treated fairly and that somehow we have helped sustain their lives in the process. It is validating to have others verify this and put a standard in place that can be measured.”

The Fair Labor Practices and Community Benefits Certification standard, developed by Scientific Certification Systems ( in conjunction with key stake holders, validates socially responsible practices in agricultural production and all stages of processing including: growing, harvesting, ginning, spinning, knitting, finishing, cutting, sewing, screen printing, and distribution. Certification to this standard covers: equitable hiring and employment, safe workplace conditions, worker and family access to health, education, and transportation services, local and regional impacts, community engagement, and demonstrated economic stability.

The Jubilee House Community (, a non-government organization located in Nueva Vida, Nicaragua was instrumental in coordinating the production chain within Nicaragua. JHC has been nurturing local communities in Nicaragua since 1994.

The first products to be offered under this new certification are Maggie’s Solid Scarves made with 100% certified organic cotton and will be available in all stores this holiday season. Whole Foods Market® has been offering Maggie’s Organics products in all of its stores for years. “We are excited to be able to offer these scarves that not only look and feel great but they also have quite a story behind them. Our customers will not have to second guess about what went on behind the scenes of the production of this product”, said Jeremiah McElwee, Senior Whole Body Coordinator for Whole Foods Market.

All of the solid color scarves: Black, Maroon, Plum, and Olive, will be ready to order on September 17th, 2009. Other items including a new t-shirt will be available Spring 2010.

About Maggie’s Organics

Maggie’s Organics is located in Ypsilanti, MI. Bená Burda is the President and Founder of the company. Ms. Burda helped launch worker-owned sewing cooperatives in Nueva Vida, Nicaragua and more recently in Morganton, North Carolina.

For more information about Maggie’s Organics and their products, please visit, or contact Doug Wilson at 800-609-8593, or

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

CDCA Celebrates 15 Years in Nicaragua

Last Friday we celebrated the CDCA’s 15 years in Nicaragua with more than 90 people who have been part of our lives and work since 1994. Photos of the past 15 years were showing on a big screen all night and everyone enjoyed looking at them…and commenting on how skinny we all were back then! Juan and Blanca from Las Parcelas were there… Fidel from Roberto ClementeMaría Cano from Nueva Vida and her grown-up daughter Iliana…Dr. Emilio from FUNDECICésar, who has been with us from the very beginning…Henry who worked as a cobrador when our propane-run gray bus was on the 115 route and has been the medic at the Clinic since it first opened…Peter who was a volunteer with FUNDECI when the CDCA first began…Julia who was a member of the cement block co-op when Nueva Vida first started…many members of the Genesis spinning co-op, all so proud to be included and to see themselves on the big screen…Yolanda from the women’s cashew co-op…Adela from the women’s agricultural co-op…and so many more. They came all that way (in a rain storm!) to celebrate with us!

During the evening we enjoyed music from Guitarra de Madera Azul and wonderful food from the Centro Kairos, where the event was held. We showed for the first time our video about our work! People were thrilled to see themselves in the video and to have all their hard work recognized, it was an inspiring moment (thank you Paul for putting the video together in English and Spanish!).

This celebration wasn’t about us, it was about the people who have made the work we do possible…people from the communities we have worked with, people who bring their delegations to visit our projects, people who speak to our delegations, people who have supported us from the US and have advocated for Nicaragua and its people, people who’ve helped us hold on to our land, people who help us import medicine, people who receive loans from us, people who give loans to us, our amazing, hardworking staff…all these people came together to celebrate 15 years of the CDCA. We were honored to have them there. We are so grateful to them and to all of you for the support you give us in so many ways.

For more on the past 15 years in Nicaragua see our newsletters from 2009 at:

You can see more pictures of the event on Facebook at:

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Genesis floor being poured!

The members of the Genesis spinning cooperative are pouring their floor! This is a huge step for them as they are nearing the completion of their building, they've been working for the past two and a half years with no pay to build their building, working as their buy-in to the cooperative.

The sacrifice involved in these past two and a half years is hard for us to imagine...they get up at four in the morning to make tortillas to sell, then come to the co-op to work and go home with no money...their families go without...Jamileth's daughter will not celebrate her 15th birthday as is the tradition here, there is no money...a neighbor looks after Natalia's elderly mother so she can work at the co-op...Xiomara's son comes to the co-op after first grade every day because there is no one to look after him at home...Chilo's son comes to work for her on the days she is too sick or at the hospital trying to get the surgery she needs...Pablo comes every day even though his foot is still infected and he is in constant danger of having it amputated...many cannot bring lunch to eat, and those who can share their small lunch so that no one has to work on an empty stomach.

And yet, after all this sacrifice, the payoff is nearly in sight: the floor is going in! The members of Genesis are doing HARD work right now...mixing two batches of concrete in the mixer, filling wheelbarrows with it, carting it across the building, pouring concrete hour after hour, filling in 3 sections of floor each day in time for the two masons they have hired to put the fine coat of cement on the floor before finishing up for the day. They have weeks to go, but the floor is going in...and they continue sacrificing and hanging on to their Dios quiere, God willing, as they always say, the members of Genesis will begin production before the year is out. --Becca

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fair Labor Certification Inspections

We’ve spent the past five days accompanying inspectors from Scientific Certification Systems working toward our goal of getting the organic cotton production chain certified in Fair Labor Practices & Community Benefits. SCS does third-party production chain certification, and we are hoping to be the first cotton production chain certified in Fair Labor Practices & Community Benefits which will mean that the garments made with our cotton, gin, yarn etc. will be able to carry a label certifying that the people who’s work went into making that product all the way up the production chain were treated fairly, making it the first garment in the world with that status!

Bená Burda from Maggie’s Organics came to Nicaragua as well as a representative from the International Labor Rights Fund who was present as an observer at the inspections. All in all, the SCS auditors inspected:

1) Nicaraguan co-ops producing organic cotton (including two women’s co-ops)

2) Our cotton gin

3) The Genesis Spinning Plant Cooperative

4) Knitting and dyeing process in Costa Rica

5) Sewers making organic cotton clothing

6) Maggie’s Organics in Michigan

Initial feedback from the auditors was generally positive, and we will know more when they get us their final report in a few weeks. At the sites they inspected in Nicaragua, there are improvements to be made basically in record-keeping and written manuals of different procedures, all of which are relatively easy for us to comply with and relatively uniform across the chain – we can work on basic outline on manuals for the whole chain to use. Achieving this certification (again, we will know more when we receive the auditor’s report) will not only assure quality jobs with good conditions for the folks all along the production chain, but it will also allow a consumer to pick up a piece of clothing, see a tag on it and feel good buying it, knowing they are supporting a fair production chain. -- Becca