The link which became the Santa Rosa Fund was first established in 1988 during the visit to Nicaragua of Tavistock residents June and Martin Mowforth. The Nicaraguan Ministry of Education of the then beleaguered Sandinista government was desperate for any form of support for its schools which at that time were receiving nothing in terms of material support. Upon discovering that June worked in a school in the UK, Rigoberto Silva Corea, the Ministry’s secretary for external links, immediately suggested a link with the school she taught at in Plymouth and immediately took us to the Santa Rosa School, at that time called the Escuela Ernesto Ché Guevara.
In the first few years of the link, Southway School sent to Nicaragua boxes of educational materials for use by the Santa Rosa School in Managua. A great deal of money was spent on the postage of these boxes, but all the boxes were received, even if at times they took four weeks to get there. In 1994, the Fund gained registered charity status, and whilst Southway School continued to support the Fund, the charity began to operate independently under the direction of eleven trustees all of whom were based in West Devon.
In 1996 in order to receive a new coat of paint and considerable structural and material improvement to the buildings of the school, the parents and teachers at the Escuela Ernesto Ché Guevara finally agreed to change the name of the school to the Colegio Santa Rosa. The parents and teachers had conducted a high profile two year campaign to gain these improvements without a change of name and objected to the Ministry’s bribery. Eventually, however, they agreed, and the school became the Colegio Santa Rosa.
In 2000 Southway School closed down but the Fund continued to grow. It now has fourteen trustees, all of whom are local to the West Devon area, and its means of delivering aid have been adapted to changing circumstances. Instead of buying school materials in this country and posting them out to Nicaragua, the Fund now has a part-time representative in Managua. He is René Alonso Zamora, a Nicaraguan studying psychology in the University of Central America in Managua. Once a month, René contacts the school to ascertain what their immediate requirements are, makes the purchases and delivers them to the school.
Additionally, the Santa Rosa Fund has broadened the scope and targeting of its aid to include many other extremely needy causes within Nicaragua. Its focus is still on delivering aid to those parts of the education sector which lack the resources for teaching and learning which we in the UK take for granted. In the political and economic circumstances experienced by Nicaragua, however, it is inevitable that the alleviation of poverty has become a significant aim of the Fund. In this we work with a Spanish order of nuns based in the town of El Viejo in Nicaragua, the Mercedarias Misioneras de Berriz. A number of the educational projects that the Fund supports in conjunction with the nuns are described in other parts of the website.
To promote its aims, the Fund raises money through a variety of events each year. These include an annual Quiz Night, occasional music events, and a coffee morning, among others. The bulk of its income, however, comes from personal donations from the Fund’s supporters, of whom there are currently around 200 individuals and households. Over 50 per cent of the Fund’s supporters come from the Tavistock, West Devon and Plymouth area. In 1997 the Santa Rosa Fund organised an educational study tour of Nicaragua for its trustees and supporters.
A crucial point about the Santa Rosa Fund, and a major reason that so many of its supporters remain loyal subscribers to it each year, is its ability to deliver aid directly to those who need it rather than relying on government intervention or commercial involvement. The Fund’s supporters know that their donations find their way out to the people for whom they are intended. Only a small proportion of the Fund’s income is used to cover the expenses incurred in its work, and the annual accounts which attest to this are enclosed with the first of two newsletters produced each year and sent to every supporter.