Joel lives in Sewickly, Pennsylvania with his wife, Dr. Susan E. Nagel and their seven children. Joel and his family are dedicated to their community both at home and abroad, through his work for Rotary International. He served as President of the Rotary Club of Pittsburgh, where he raised funds for three Roberto Clemente Health Clinics in LaReforma, Nicaragua. He has also served as District Governor for the Rotary Clubs of Western Pennsylvania and as Rotary International’s ‘President’s Representative’.
Beauty for Ashes
Beauty for Ashes is a locally-managed nonprofit that is transforming the lives of Nicaraguans whose homes were built on a former landfill. ECI is helping them move out of a life of physical, spiritual and emotional poverty, so they can envision a brighter future. Beauty for Ashes was launched by a former ECI intern, Kara Westermann, who joined forces with Audra Omer to address the needs of this community. Building a partnership with ECI and the Nicaraguan government, the project has succeeded in turning the former landfill into a large recycling facility. In this way they are rewriting the narrative for the residents. Among the projects of the initiative are an art therapy program for children and vocational education facilities.
Community Pedestrian Bridge at Villa El Carmen
The Villa El Carmen Pedestrian Bridge project is literally changing lives for the residents of San Bartolo, Nicaragua. In 2011, a team of engineering students at Notre Dame, along with professional guidance by engineer Mike Paddock, combined their intellectual powers to design and construct a suspension bridge over the San Diego River. Prior to construction of the suspension bridge, the residents were cut off from neighboring communities, severely impairing their ability to earn a living or connect with family and friends on the other side. During the rainy season, the river was impassable. The dry season was a bit better, but it required a harrowing trek down 300 feet of a very slippery slope. Gran Pacifica was very excited to be a part of the support team for these students, as well as taking responsibility for much-needed renovations and maintenance in the years since construction. For the people of San Bartolo, the bridge provided them with a chance for normalcy and empowerment.
Hope and Development Foundation
The Hope and Development Foundation schools are preparing the next generation of leaders in the communities of Villa el Carmen, Nicaragua. Developing proficiency in English is the primary focus. After analyzing the learning challenges facing students entering high school, it was found that many youths were struggling with the English language. Evaluators felt that earlier immersion in English would make the transition to high school easier. Special Hope and Development Foundation schools were created to bring English language classes to younger grades. Program assessments revealed significant differences in the performance of children from the Hope and Development Foundation schools. The Foundation is working to increase the number of schools so that this opportunity is available to a greater number of Villa El Carmen’s children.
Villa El Carmen Technology Training and Facilities Improvements
Enhancing technology education and training is a paramount educational objective around the world, especially in today’s digitally connected marketplace. The Technology Training project is a partnership with local community advocates to increase access to technology preparation. Ten desktop computers and 2 laptops were donated to the Technical Ago Ecotourism High School located in Villa El Carmen. The computer training is being provided to elementary and high school students, creating channels for young people to be fully connected to economic and social opportunities. Facilities improvement has also been a priority, such as improving exterior infrastructures, security, and donation of school supplies, shoes, and clothing to underprivileged students and their families.
Children, Health, Education, and Supporting Services (CHESS)
CHESS is working to empower the communities of Villa El Carmen through education and healthcare. Rotary International, Gran Pacifica Nicaragua and local NGOs have teamed together to enhance continuation education classes for teachers, peer and mentoring programs in the elementary schools, and youth leadership programs. To strengthen bridges between parents and school administrators, the project has helped create parent-teacher associations. The second component of the project is on improving basic health education. Health education programs are addressing issues such as washing hands, how to filter and store safe drinking water, keeping bathrooms cleans and improving exterior facilities.
Children, Health, Education, and Supporting Services (CHESS) Teacher Training
Another project of the CHESS initiative is improving the performance of teachers and providing them with the skills to succeed in the classroom. A number of workshops and continuing education classes have been developed, including classroom management, how to teach multi-grade classes, how to set learning objectives and evaluate their outcomes, and methods to improve English teaching delivery. A corollary program of CHESS is focused on libraries, and the important role they play in improving literacy. The project is building library facilities and resources and teaching students and teachers how to make the maximum use of library assets.
Community Health Education Workshops
In coordination with local constituencies, a series of workshops have been developed for parents and families of students to focus on hygiene, safe drinking water, health and nutrition and first aid. The workshops are attended by elementary school parents and families from across the Villa El Carmen communities. Improving daily hygiene habits is critically important to maintaining healthy students who are able to learn. The issue of clean drinking water is also of paramount importance. The workshops focus on how to filter water. As an added incentive, parents and families receive a free ceramic water filtration system upon completion of the workshop.
The Construction Training initiative of the Development Rural Institute and Gran Pacifica is focused on bringing the opportunity for economic parity to the residents of the communities of Villa El Carmen. The Initiative trains locals in the field of construction, thereby equipping them with means to move from low-skill and low-pay jobs to a high-skilled profession with opportunities for increased income and professional advancement. The Construction Training initiative is a wonderful partnership between the public and private sector, with the latter contributing 10% of the cost of the training. The training is only the first step. Gran Pacifica works with the private sector to hire the trainees and build a workforce of highly skilled local workers.
Gran Pacifica Roberto Clemente Clinic III
The Gran Pacifica Roberto Clemente Clinic III opened its doors in November, 2017, in the San Diego, Nicaragua region. For the first time, residents living in the rural communities of Villa El Carmen have accessible medical care. A strategic partnership was formed between Gran Pacifica Resort, community stakeholders and officials of Villa El Carmen to bring about the construction of this life-saving clinic. The land was donated by Gran Pacifica Resort. The Clinic resolves an enormous deficit in the community, providing cutting-edge, free medical care for approximately 2000 rural residents who previously lived out of reach of healthcare services. The completion of this clinic brings the total of Gran Pacifica Roberto Clemente clinics to three, considerably expanding access to quality healthcare for Nicaragua’s at-risk populations.
National Hotel School
The hospitality industry is thriving and growing around the world, especially in Central and South America. This initiative provides another pathway for economic empowerment. Gran Pacifica has partnered with local leaders to develop a tourism training program for the local residents of Nicaragua. Teaming with the Luxemburg international agency and local municipalities, the National Hotel School was launched. Students learn from top chefs about food preparation, hospitality management from top resort managers, as well as bar management and the elements of building a successful tourism industry. As Nicaragua’s tourism industry continues to grow and flourish, it will have a highly trained local workforce to participate in the economic revival.