Juntos: Connecting Pittsburgh and Nicaragua
Juntos is an organization that creates sustainable, effective initiatives that positively impact Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Nicaragua. Throughout the year, Juntos works on the CMU campus, in the greater Pittsburgh community, and in rural Nicaraguan communities to foster cultural dialogue through service-learning experiences.
Since 2007, Juntos has partnered with Bridges to Community, a U.S.-based nonprofit that works with rural communities in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic for a five-year timespan. Last year, we completed our fifth year in the community of Rosa Grande where we built stoves and latrines, led art and technology workshops, painted a mural for a local chocolate factory, and engaged in cultural exchange with the families who live there.
(Community Leader Don Agusto and Juntos Member Hyunho raise a plaque commemorating Juntos’ fifth and final year in Rosa Grande).
Though we will miss our friends in Rosa Grande, we are incredibly excited to begin working in the community of Pijibaye this summer. With six new members joining the trip this year, we are ready to embark on this new chapter of our relationship with Nicaraguan communities. Through construction initiatives led by members of the community, as well as educational projects designed by Juntos students, we will will continue to create ties between Pittsburgh and Nicaragua.
While much of our focus revolves around our trip to Nicaragua, Juntos engages in year-round service as well. Inspired by the chocolate cooperative in Rosa Grande (ChocoTrim), we’ve hosted a Choco-Late Night in past years , educating attendees about fair trade chocolate. This April, we are launching our new Equal Eats event in order to educate the campus community about fair trade Nicaraguan exports like coffee, chocolate, and bananas. We have also offered under-served Pittsburgh and Rosa Grande students the opportunity to connect with each other through photography exchanges and other art projects. Last February, we installed a photo exhibit at CMU’s Ellis Gallery showcasing work by students from both communities. In addition, we have partnered with a local non-profit called Earthen Vessels Outreach to bring local kids to Carnegie Mellon in order to teach them how to use photo-editing software on CMU computers.
We are excited to continue our work this year and to form new relationships! You can read the details of our work below. Please join us in our mission to make a lasting impact on Pijibaye through meaningful service projects and cross-cultural engagement.
After five fruitful years of working in Rosa Grande, we are ready to contribute to sustainable development in the new community of Pijibaye. In the past, we have worked on community-led health and construction projects, and visited the local school to lead art and technology workshops. Each Juntos member returns bearing new knowledge and inspiration to share with our own community at CMU, and the group grows and evolves each year, shaped by our experiences in Nicaragua.
As we prepare to cultivate new friendships in Pijibaye, we will draw from our past experience in Rosa Grande, while generating new and exciting projects for this year!
Every summer, Juntos hosts art workshops with local schools. Drawing and photo workshops inspire elementary school students to think creatively and critically about their dreams and their future. Themes such as storytelling, community, and family are expressed through visual work and conversations between the children and Juntos members.
Last year, Juntos supported a local chocolate factory called ChocoTrim by painting a mural for the building and sharing knowledge about Microsoft Office programs to help the cooperative keep track of finances. We will continue to support local enterprise by sharing our computer or creative skills.
Sustainable Family Gardens
Juntos participates in clearing land, mixing compost, and planting seeds for family homes. The fruits of these gardens give families an extra source of both food and income for long periods of the year.
Few platforms offer a greater means of sharing cultures than a kitchen table. Working in the kitchen, community members teach us how to make traditional Nicaraguan dishes while Juntos members share recipes from our own countries.
We will be constructing latrines that are healthier for both people and the environment. The eco-friendly latrines are a more sustainable solution and also offer families more privacy. Lasting approximately eight years, the latrines are built by Juntos members and family members who will be able to build more as needed in the future.
Traditional stoves in Rosa Grande are poorly ventilated and result in respiratory and ocular health issues for women and small children who spent many hours a day enclosed in the kitchen. Juntos members collaborate with community members to construct new stoves that pipe smoke out of the cooking area, burn wood more efficiently and reduce exposure to smoke.
Traveling to Nicaragua is a culminating moment for Juntos. Our experience in the community allows us to connect the community to Pittsburgh through our art workshops, kitchen exchanges, and educational events. However, meeting the high cost of the trip is our greatest challenge. This year we have eight traveling members and our approximate total cost is $16,000, which includes construction materials, project supplies, and our homestay as well as travel expenses.
We continue to fundraise throughout the entire year, from cooking and selling homemade curry fried rice to participating in psychology studies on campus. However, we need to meet our goal in order to make the trip possible for all our members. Carnegie Mellon has taught us that anything is possible when you have a supportive community behind you. We call on all those who believe in our mission and values to help make this trip a reality for Juntos.