Our vision is to create an Educational centre that is open to all, education is a right and we believe everybody should have access; providing them with the tools to improve their lives. To enable us to achieve this vision we are wanting to create a sustainable, ecologically friendly lodge that caters to budget travellers as well as to those looking for some luxury in the jungle. Alongside the lodge we plan to have a restaurant and these two businesses will enable us to fund the education centre, offering free courses to the local community and free or extremely low cost courses to tourists and travellers. Why our project?
We believe our project is exciting and has the potential to change many lives for the better. We have gone into partnership with a local family, who have the same vision as us; to create a community that works alongside nature, is ecologically sound and benefits the community as a whole. The family we are working with are extremely humble and have
welcomed us with open arms. The land we are working on is paradise with amazing views of the volcanoes that make up the island of Ometepe, alongside views of the lake, extremely fertile, volcanic soil and an abundance of wildlife on the land and as yet this area of the island is uninhabited by humans.
Our world is at a critical phase, we face an ecological crisis inextricably caused by and effecting all the world’s people. As a society we need to make a change that enables us, our future generations and our fellow beings to thrive. We have uprooted our lives to work towards leaving our mark (however small) on this world as a positive one, we can no longer sit back and continue with our everyday actions that are detrimental to our well being and that of our planet.
Take a step back and think about this quote:
“Man surprised me most about humanity. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money
to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never
really lived.” – Dalai Lama
Ometepe has been a UNESCO biosphere reserve since 2010, the island has great potential to become a successful ecotourism destination and the agricultural sector is the most important factor as it employs most of the population. It also poses the most substantial threats to the preservation of the land as it is. The current system is characterised by monoculture crops highly dependent on chemical fertilizers and a lack of access to final markets. At a time when we are being told to shut others out, fight over resources, and consume as much as we can, agriculture instead is calling for us to support diversity, create more mutually beneficial systems, support pollinators and wildlife, and take solace within beauty and simplicity. A handful of farmers have been working on permaculture intiatives in the last few years and if expanded the practice could make a big difference for the island's ecosystem and community resilience.
Organic, sustainably grown foods are often directly traded, more fairly priced, and healthier. We cannot forget that what farmers grow is what their families eat. By promoting more sustainable organic agriculture we would be directly granting access to healthier food for island families. However, the path won’t be easy. There is a need to respond to the growing demand for organic food by connecting the farmers to organic farmer’s markets and organic restaurants both in the country
and overseas. Education in organic farming, restaurant, and hotel management will be needed. Financial gain for smallholder producers will be crucial if we want to see the change happening.
We know that to ensure this is possible, above all else, we need to ensure that the change comes from inside the community and is led by its people, who are the only ones that can continue to preserve the culture and traditions of the island. We want to help local people create and run successful tourism businesses, leading the change towards greater sustainability, permanent agriculture, and preserving the unique beauty of this island paradise for generations to come. Nicaragua has exploded as a tourism destination over the past year and we want to encourages this growth without harming the longevity
of its fragile ecosystem.
The learning centre will be used to teach a wide variety of skills, such as natural building techniques, growing produce using permaculture techniques, preparing and using different produce, natural medicines, teaching English (and Spanish), caring for the environment, reducing waste and much, much more. We want the learning centre to be an open space where both locals and travellers can learn, but also learn to teach, in a mutually beneficial exchange. We all have abilities that we
can offer and we want this space to be available for all.
During the time we have spent in Nicaragua and on the Island of Ometepe we have met some amazing people and the feedback on what we plan to create has been extremely positive and many people have offered us their services and knowledge to help us achieve this dream. Individuals who have studied natural plant medicine offering to come teach as a volunteer, people
with education in natural energy and building techniques offering to come volunteer their services towards the project. Alongside many people who want to come and volunteer their time and energy to help the project.
The island is an amazing place with a special energy and we believe that many people can benefit from visiting the island and absorbing that energy.Who are we?
Well, we are a young family from the UK, myself Alex, my partner Danny and our two young sons aged 4 and 6. We realised we needed to radically change our lives so we researched for a few years on where we wanted to settle in the world, we sold up in the UK and decided to visit Nicaragua. We have spent a long time living as healthily as we can but realised to truely live with nature we need to grow our own food, live cleanly and help others to do the same. To enable us to do this we needed somewhere close to the equator for optimum growing options. I am no expert, but I love growing produce, cooking, using plants and tinctures and want to learn more in these areas as well as learning more about the techniques used within the natural building industry.
Danny has experience within the construction industry and this has enabled him to work with a team of local skilled and unskilled workers to construct our house. With thorough research and determination, alongside learning Spanish he has been working to build the house from a timber frame, adobe (mud) walls and bamboo for the upper floors. Alongside this, Danny has researched many different ideas in regards to the buildings, the energy technology as well as designing the buildings and layout of the land. This project is as much about us improving our skills, giving our children the true basic skills of life as well as to enable us to support others in doing the same. We truely believe we can help improve many lives. As for our boys, well, they are typical young boys who love playing in the water and mud, making camps and playing with their friends, as well as helping us out.
The relationship that has been built with the family, with whom we are working with, allows us to gain a great wealth of knowledge in regards to growing conditions, local plants and trees, medicinal plants and more but also gives us another opportunity to intergrate with the local community and help to create support for the project, feedback to date has been overwhelmingly positive.How did this project come about?
When we first visited Ometepe back in March of 2017 Danny went on an adventure with our eldest son and found this amazing piece of land. We were told who owned the land and to go speak with him, so Danny did. The land is not for sale ... but what would you like to do on the land? he was asked. When our vision was explained the family said how they would like to create a project on the land that is in harmony with nature. They don´t use pesticides and fertilisers and have a wealth of knowledge on local plants, trees, healing ailments and illnesses naturally and this information is important and needs to continue with the generations. There is a wealth of knowledge within the local community on the island in relation to the flora and fauna found here and encouraging the community to share this knowledge for the benefit of the island and its community is of paramount importance and so a main focus for the educational centre is to encourage the local community to be involved. All to often here tourist businesses exclude locals due to finances and we really want to avoid this exclusion. The local community here is warm and friendly and we have moved here to be part of this community not create a seperate one.
We decided to leave Ometepe and travel more of Nicaragua prior to making a decision, on our return to Ometepe we spoke with the family again and decided to go ahead with stage one: building a house for our family. During this time and having spoken to many people both locals and travellers we have realised that there is a great opportunity to create an exciting, educational environment alongside giving tourists a haven of tranquilty and nature, an environment where they can get
'stuck in' and help us work the land, harvest produce, help out on building/energy projects or just relax in a hammock, admiring the views, spotting the aray of wildlife, having a horseback ride, taking a kayak trip, hiking the volcanoes or taking a dip in the lake or the natural spring swimming pool on the island.
The island is beautiful and magical with a humid, sub-tropical climate with fertile soil to give bountiful produce alongside the growth of rare and endemic species, but Nicaragua and its people have been through a lot and many families struggle on a daily basis, not only to afford food but also to acquire an adequate variety of food. Local families staple food is rice, beans and plantain and what we want to do is raise awareness of the endless opportunities there are to grow a very wide variety of food produce on the island. We want to focus on growing natural, healthy foods without fertilisers, pesticides or GMO´s. How the money will be spent:
To continue this project firstly we need to build a hostel that sleeps 10, along with the infrastructure to cater for those guests such as 2 toilets, and 2 showers, water supply and solar and wind energy, this will enable us to start producing an income as well as house volunteers to help push the project forward. We need to build the restaurant facilities to cater to both guests and visitors to the project and build the learning centre which will be used throughout the project to start making a difference from as early as possible. We then need to build 4 casitas, these will have amazing views of the lake and be private havens for guests to stay in also with toilet and shower facilities. We have a
trusted team of builders and want to continue working with them on this project.
Since starting our house build we have been informed that the Alcadia (local government) have agreed to get the track into a useable road, which is fantastic news not only for us (our land is at the end of the penninsula) but for all the families who work the land on this penninsula, this improvement will make their lives easier when harvesting their crops. This has been a very positive move forward for the families and for the project and now is not something we need to
include in the budget for the project.
The profits from the tourism businesses will be continually re-invested in the learning centre and businesses, we left the UK for a simple, self-sustainable lifestyle and although this project is not small or simple, it is sustainable, less destructive, closer to nature, and grants others the opportunity to improve their lives. We want this business to be
successful and to provide a good standard of living for all those involved. This project will create much needed employment for local people, from construction, to farming, to those who will work with us in the lodge and restaurant. We want to help locals improve their living conditions but to see that this can be done in harmony with nature, not in competition with it.
So we want a community-based project that is for all to enjoy, and we need your support to do just that. Key activities:
*Solar and wind energy - we have a great deal of sun and wind to harvest energy on the penninsula and plan to build wind turbines as well as install solar energy
*Water supply - there are a few options here to ensure we have a constant water supply to the project. They include pumping water from the lake, rain water harvesting and building an atmospheric water harvester. https://www.wired.com/2015/01/architecture-and-vision-warkawater/
Large tanks to hold the water are required.
*Hostel build - Basic wood/bamboo and adobe walls structure to house hammocks initially, to enable us to have accomodation
for volunteers to help us push the project forward, in the future making this in to a hostel with beds to house
*Toilets and showers - Initial set up for 2 toilets and 2 showers
*Restaurant build - Basic wood/bamboo and adobe walls structure with facilities to offer breakfast, lucnh and dinner to both guests and visitors. We want this restaurant to utilise the produce that is and will be grown on the land. Hotels already on the island have asked permission to end the horse back riding tours on the land and this will bring a regular stream of visitors to the project
*Learning centre build - Basic wood/bamboo and adobe structure, basic equipment to offer short courses on a variety of skillsets including but not limited to natural building techniques, permaculture techniques, natural plant medicines, tinctures, English/Spanish classes, nutrition/healthy eating classes alongside education on reducing waste and looking after the environment and much more, this would be an ongoing, ever changing project to suit the needs of the community
*Casitas build - Basic wood/bamboo structures, these will be designed to give views of the lake, privacy and luxury for
guests to enjoy the surroundings.
Thank you for taking the time to read our dream!