What do tires, pitayas and education have in common? The answer is the Casa Llanta Fund, a non-profit which exclusively serves San Juan del Sur.
Casa Llanta translates to “house of tires” in English. The non-profit attributes its name and inspiration from a house in the community of El Carizal constructed out of recycled bottles and tires.
Solar panels collect the sun’s natural energy which is stored and used to power all electrical within the home. Rain water catchment systems take advantage of Nicaragua’s high quantity of rainfall by keeping it in large cisterns, while water reclamation systems process used water and transport it to green houses filled with fruit trees and vegetable gardens. The house exemplifies sustainable construction.
Pitaya Fest is the name of the annual music festival and fundraiser for the Casa Llanta Fund. Pitaya is a dragon fruit native to Nicaragua that is rumored to only bloom on a full moon. The music festival is held annually on a full moon in celebration of this natural wonder.
Though Pitayas are not in season during the festival, the name has grown to receive international recognition as one of the country’s premiere festivals modeling sustainability, art, music and surf. The festival is hosted by volunteers and locals within El Carizal, the community that it supports.
All proceeds from merchandise sales, entry gate and parking tickets to beer and rum sales go directly toward the Casa Lllanta Fund as the founding partner and primary beneficiary of the festival. March 15, 2014 will mark the 6th festival.
So what exactly does the Casa Llanta Fund do and where does the money go? The answer to both questions is education. Here are the key initiatives:
In 2007 the Casa Llanta Fund initiated Condimentos Carizal, a women’s co-op which produces and sells homemade jams. Financial training and a micro loan was provided to the women in the community of El Carizal. The 10 members of the co-op are now distributing their products into hotels and pulperias (markets) throughout San Juan del Sur. With their savings and financial assistance from the Casa Llanta Fund, the co-op has been able to build a community kitchen to make and grow their product lines.
Volunteers can visit the community kitchen to buy jars of jam and witness how the jam is made. If you want to get a taste of the local flavor (literally), we highly recommend a visit to the Carizal to buy a jar of homemade jam.
Photo Credit : Lauren Stocker
English Classes at the Carlos Guzman school
Pass through the Carizal on a Monday or Wednesday afternoon and you will see between 10-30 students of all ages taking outdoor English classes at the Carlos Guzman school. In partnership with Comunidad Connect, the Casa Llanta Fund provides bi-weekly English Classes for students in the community. A donation to the English school pays the teacher salary, transportation, school supplies for the local students and field trips for those students who have high school attendance and test scores.
With advanced notice, volunteers are always welcome to attend the afternoon English classes on Mondays & Wednesdays between 2-3:30pm.
Becas del Carizal
With the proceeds from the Pitaya Festival, the Casa Llanta Fund was also able to establish a program called “Becas del Carizal” in 2012. Becas, or scholarships, are provided to any aspiring child or young adult in El Carizal who wishes to continue education and is unable to afford it. In 2012 the fund supported 6 students in high school and university programs. In 2013 there are currently 5 students enrolled in the program. Each student scholarship costs between $400 to $600 per year. Most students require the scholarship for between 2-4 years depending on their degree and the institution they attend.
And finally, the fund financially supports Los Pipitos, the school for students with disabilities in San Juan del Sur. The fund pays $250 per month for the school bus to pick students up from their homes and take them to school daily, without which most students would not be able to attend school. The teacher salary of $200 per month is also paid for by the Casa Llanta Fund.
Additionally, the fund provides field trips, pool parties, surf lessons and other cultural events throughout the year to improve the quality of daily life for students with disabilities and their loved ones.
Be sure to check out the video below to see the smiles of those benefiting from Casa Llanta Fund donations.