Why do we talk about migration?

The migratory flow of Nicaraguans has increased dramatically in recent years; and it is estimated that almost 10.5% of the population lives abroad. Since 2018 some 108,000 Nicaraguans have left the country, of which 85,000 have sought refuge in Costa Rica, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Some key reasons Nicaraguans choose to migrate are the country’s poverty, unemployment, and low wages, accompanied by various social problems, violence, and climate change.

Some communities where CANTERA intervenes intensively, such as Mateare and Ciudad Sandino, are locations which are prone to immigration and human trafficking because they are located on the Pan-American Highway. The Pan-American highway is a network of roads that connects all of the Americas, from the southern tip of Argentina up to the northernmost part of Canada and Alaska. The location of this road makes it a commonly-traveled route for people who are migrating. In Mateare, at least five of our beneficiaries live their own migration experience, and the majority of the community knows friends or family who have decided to migrate.

To curb the increasing migration, CANTERA is implementing measures to minimize the migratory flow. CANTERA aims to mitigate the effects, before, during and after migration, by micro-financing projects to promote business ventures and student scholarships for primary through university-level students, thus increasing people’s prosperity and safety in Nicaragua. Furthermore, the beneficiaries are trained on immigration to help ensure a safe, legal, and orderly migration process. They also receive emotional and psychological support after returning home.

At CANTERA, we recognize migration as a universal right, which should be carried out safely and justly. However, we are working to change the reality for Nicaraguans who are most at-risk to protect them from the instability that leads people to migrate. Our goal is to keep people safe and to mitigate the impact of migration, while ensuring that people have accurate, unbiased information on this important topic.

Strengthening Community Bonds

Nicaragua has been suffering an economic and social crisis for the last few years. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect not only elderly and high-risk people, but the population as a whole. 

Elderly people began receiving the vaccine in March. However, the vast majority of Nicaraguans are 20 to 35 years old, so most of the population was not eligible for the vaccine until mid-September. Due to this discrepancy, the virus continued to spread vigorously for many months.

In September, all CANTERA activities were postponed due to the Delta variant. It was, by far, the worst month we have had since the beginning of the pandemic. We postponed our youth community centers and suspended all in-person activities for a month to ensure the safety of our community. Unfortunately during this difficult stretch, five of our youth promoters got sick. However, others stepped up to the plate and took over, finding innovative ways to safely lead youth initiatives, to build resilience, and to support one another. It was an incredibly difficult time, not only for the people we accompany, but also for the staff. Projects had to be postponed or adapted to maintain safety. One example of this is the annual camp, which will be replaced with a small gathering in Ciudad Sandino as an end of the year farewell festival. 

Thankfully, in October, we were able to resume our regular courses and rural workshops. In order to stay safe, all meetings had a maximum of ten people, and coordinators capped the number of people visiting the centers at ten as well. In rural communities, CANTERA provided comprehensive COVID-19 education. We taught people how to prevent infection, what to do to keep oneself and others safe if a person tests positive, and, importantly, we highlighted the life-saving capabilities of the vaccine.

Despite all the difficulties we have experienced this year, we are fortunate that most of the people that CANTERA serves are now vaccinated, and our youth promoters who were sick all made full recoveries. Through all the adversity that we have endured, we have gained a deeper appreciation for the sustaining power of our community bonds, especially among our youth. As we take small steps toward normalcy, we are noticing how our social fabric, once broken, is now being pieced back together. We are reenergized by our ability to more fully, yet safely, resume our work of community engagement through not only dancing, theater and painting classes, but also by providing medicine, food, and woven within all projects, emotional support and social justice.

Thanks to all our donors, we had the resilience and the support to make it through this year. We are proud to have accompanied over 1300 people from ten rural communities, four vulnerable urban neighborhoods and also from a large region of Nicaragua which we serve through our spirituality and gender equity workshops. This essential humanitarian work of promoting and protecting the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of marginalized Nicaraguans would not have been possible without the help of our friends like you.  

The Ciudad Sandino Play Center


The sky is the limit. These inspirational words grace the front door of CANTERA’s recently opened Play Center in Ciudad Sandino. Weekly, 70 preschoolers and kindergarteners come here to continue learning after school—while having fun.

In the 1908s, CANTERA founded a Community Preschool which educated thousands of Ciudad Sandino’s children over the course of 30 years. The preschool closed in 2018 to follow the current Nicaraguan educational model and CANTERA’s financial reality. In its place, the Play Center opened to continue imparting holistic education for the community’s youngest members.

Through games, books, dance, theatre, art, and sports, the Play Center is full of endless, educational fun for the community’s little ones. Because these children are falling in love with learning at a young age, they are so much more likely to love learning for the rest of their lives. As have hundreds who have walked through CANTERA’s doors before them, these children will become the community’s architects, computer technicians, leaders, business owners, university professors, social workers, and Play Center Teachers.

Two teachers volunteer their time and love at the Play Center. Committed community members keep the Play Center thriving with their volunteer work and enormous hearts.

The teachers get parents involved in their children’s’ education—a key element for kid’s overall success and well-being. The parents have formed committees to support the Play Center’s in everything from building maintenance to organizing activities for the children.

Of course, the final element that helps make the Play Center a reality is you. With your solidarity and kindness, extracurricular education for Ciudad Sandino’s children is possible.

Thanks to you, the sky really is the limit at CANTERA’s Play Center.

CANTERA Continues Amidst Uncertainty

Dear Friends,

We are deeply grateful for the support you are sharing during this difficult time in Nicaragua. Throughout the country, political and civil unrest continues to affect almost every part of society.


CANTERA is constantly adapting to the national crisis. Staff goes into work daily, but most activities and workshops have been put on hold for the time being.

In all communities where CANTERA accompanies, the people are using the leadership and empowerment they have developed to adapt and support each other. In urban areas, for example, the safest times and places are chosen for youth to receive psychological and emotional support, which is currently a priority.

Additionally, CANTERA is working to maintain stability throughout this crisis so that we can fully engage with Nicaraguan communities when the opportunities arise. Violence continues to deeply affect the communities CANTERA accompanies, especially urban youth and their families; the need for trauma, healing, and psychological support is and will continue to be great.

Finally, we want to share with you that two employees of the CANTERA Development Office have just moved back to the States. Andy and Rose are deeply grateful for the lives they have led thus far in Nicaragua and are going to be returning to their respective home states. This challenging decision was made for a number of reasons, including safety.

The Development Coordinator, Bill, will continue working in full capacity as CANTERA Liaison to Friends of Cantera. Please contact him at development@friendsofcantera.org with further questions or information.

Please continue to keep CANTERA and Nicaragua in your thoughts and prayers.

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Seeking Solidarity

Dear Friends,

As you may have seen or heard, Nicaragua has been experiencing civil and political unrest over the last several weeks. We want to thank you for your continued friendship and support for Nicaraguans and their communities at this time.


What does this mean for CANTERA?

Over the past month, we have seen the effects that the sociopolitical unrest has quickly had on CANTERA and all of the Nicaraguan people and communities. We continue to accompany our children, youth, men and women, supporting them in the best way possible given the country’s current situation.

CANTERA Youth Leaders in the urban programs have been most affected by the unrest. Support is offered constantly for youth and their families to help heal trauma and work towards peaceful alternatives to violence. Last week was the first week that the urban community centers could open every day for safety reasons.

Many of CANTERA’s programs in rural areas have been put on hold, as travel to and from communities is not always possible.

Unfortunately, all five immersion trips scheduled for June and July have been cancelled or postponed. This will have a tremendous economic impact on CANTERA’s Conference Center.

If you would like more details or up-to-date information about what is going in CANTERA and Nicaragua, please e-mail us at immersion@friendsofcantera.org

As we continue moving forward, we hope that you keep CANTERA and Nicaragua in your thoughts and prayers.
Thank you for your continued kindness and solidarity.

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A Cornerstone for Community Empowerment

This letter has been printed in the Friends of Cantera Spring 2018 Newsletter and was written in honor of CANTERA’s 30th anniversary.

Sister Donna Innes, Friend of Cantera Executive Board Secretary, with Sr. Anabel Torres

A letter from CANTERA’s Founder and Director, Anabel Torres

Dearest Friends,

Like you, we know it is so important to listen to the people’s voices and experiences.

Even in choosing a non-profit name, we turned to the communities, “What should we be called?” CANTERA was suggested, meaning cornerstone.

“Why cornerstone?” we asked.

You work alongside us, supporting our leadership and ideas as we develop our communities, laying a strong foundation of sustainability, health, and prosperity for our families and neighbors,” the communities responded.

Today, you are a cornerstone in this accompaniment, leadership, and empowerment–working for a world in which we see our shared humanity,a world in which we work for equality for all people, a world in which we seek justice for all cultures, across boarders, and despite language or race.

You dream with us and carry the spirit of CANTERA to other parts of the world; you visit us to learn and teach; you support us as volunteers and dedicated donors; you work

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Thank you for your friendship and support!

alongside us and listen to the people’s voices and experiences.

Your friendship is a cornerstone for Nicaraguan community empowerment.


Anabel Torres


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A Letter from Anabel Torres: CANTERA Update


Dearest Friends of CANTERA, friends of Nicaragua,

As we write today, we request you keep Nicaragua and its people in your thoughts and prayers.

As you may have heard in the news, Nicaragua has been experiencing social and political unrest since last week. In this situation, CANTERA seeks to foster peace as we continue supporting the communities where we work.

CANTERA strives to promote the well-being and sustainable development of the vulnerable communities we serve and in light of the country’s current situation, we continue to support Nicaraguans as the country seeks peace and social stability; we support the healing of individuals, families, and communities that have been most strongly affected by recent violence.

In conjunction with many other non-profits in Nicaragua, CANTERA is acting in solidarity to support countless communities. We are still actively supporting the leadership, development, and empowerment which you so generously support.

With much love, we send hugs from Nicaragua to you. Please hope for compassion, peace, and love for Nicaragua. We have no doubt that this intention will multiply throughout the world.

In solidarity,




CANTERA – Center of Communication and Popular Education
Founder and Director

Basta to Violence against Women

Amidst a machista, patriarchical society, young leaders–women and men–raise their voices to say Basta! Enough! to violence against women. Below is a CANTERA Youth Leader’s reflection on violence prevention:

“Basta to Violence Against Women” by Victor Mercado

All women experience the violence of street harassment. As men, we should respect all women. For this reason, I say “basta” to violence. Basta to repeating what our grandfathers, fathers, uncles, and brothers do to women. Let’s make a change. Let’s prevent the street harassment from which women in our society suffer.

Let’s construct a more equitable society by first making changes in our own families, then with our friends. We are youth working for violence prevention. We are agents of change.

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Photograph and reflection by Victor Mercado, CANTERA Youth Leader. Victor’s photograph and reflection were among the 15 finalists in CANTERA’s 8th Photo Contest for Social Change.

CANTERA: School of Dreams

What does CANTERA do? How does CANTERA change the lives of youth, children, or small farmers in Nicaragua?

In the video below, Roxana shares her story–an experience with which 30 years of CANTERA Communtiy Leaders relate. Today, Roxana is  a social worker.

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CANTERA: School of Dreams

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Video elaborated by the CANTERA Communication Team.

“I want to speak out…”

On the streets of Managua, women are cat called on every block and groped on crowded buses. In their homes, physical and sexual abuse is commonplace; however, it is silenced, a taboo topic in the family and surrounding community.

Below, a teenager from CANTERA’s Youth Program finds refuge in her peers and CANTERA Staff. As leaders and advocates for human rights in their community, they constantly support each other. The CANTERA Community Center where they meet is a safe space for emotional support, friendship, and leadership training. As youth tell their story and learn about social problems, they begin healing. This healing process allows them to blossom as leaders who face inequity and work for women’s rights together. As youth leaders, they make a commitment to work for change in their community; they refuse to stay silent.

In commemoration of International Women’s Day last week, Adilia’s piece is shared below.

Adilia Noemi VG
“I have not asked you to cat call me, so why do you do it?
I am tired of street harassment.”

“It’s been very hard for me to talk about these kinds of things. I have been taught to feel embarrassed, to be silent about what should really be reported, to look at abuse and harassment as something normal. Every time men have abused me in the streets, I have cried out of anger. I have felt so powerless after these incidents, knowing that these men feel as though they have not done anything wrong.

“With this photograph I want to illustrate how machista men harass women on the street every day. These men believe they own women’s bodies. It angers me that we are seen as objects, not as human beings who deserve respect.

“Today I feel supported by the women in my CANTERA Youth Center. This has inspired me to move forward. I do not want to continue complaining and feeling fear. On behalf of all women, I want to speak out and say: We have had enough of abuse and violence!”

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Photograph and reflection by Adilia Vallecillo, CANTERA Youth Leader. This photograph and reflection won second place in CANTERA’s VII Annual Photo Contest for Social Change which took place in 2017.