May 24, 2017
Dear Friends and Supporters of Project Wave of Optimism (WOO),
In 2006 we founded Project WOO to facilitate community-driven development in Latin American surf tourism destinations. Rooted in the notion that local people should be empowered to guide development in their community, we began working with citizens and community leaders in the village of Gigante, Nicaragua to help them shape their vision for the future. At that time, we established a goal to eventually work ourselves out of a job by equipping our local partners with the tools to drive our work forward. After evaluating our work in Gigante from 2006-2016, we concluded that we had indeed worked ourselves out of a job. As of May 2017 Project WOO closed down all programs and operations.
In 2006, we created a grassroots community development model that we were not entirely sure would work. It required local buy-in, local support, and, eventually, local ownership. We built this model as an experimental alternative to the top-down, big-budget programs with broad goals across vast geographies. In contrast, Project WOO emphasized bottom-up consensus building and targeted, locally-managed initiatives to positively impact the lives of our friends and neighbors in Gigante.
With both the generous support of our donor community and the sweat equity of Gigante community members, we implemented a number of successful initiatives including an English Language program, Surf Mentorship program, and a Health Education Outreach program, among others. Of these projects, there are two signature initiatives that stand out: the first public bus route in Gigante and the town’s first community health center. These two programs were identified through a series of townhall meetings and selected by local community members to address their most pressing needs. The bus project, launched in 2009, provided the first ever affordable public transportation option to the people of Gigante. One striking result was an 80% increase in high school attendance after the bus launched operations. Gigante now has over a dozen high school graduates attending university that rode this bus at one time. Today there are over 50 students attending high school daily where there were only five when we first started the transportation program! This initiative eventually paved the way for other private sector bus operators to provide reliable public transportation options to serve the community, allowing Project WOO to shift our focus to other community needs.
The second cornerstone project, the Community Health Center, opened in 2014. Building on the success of the transportation project, the people of Gigante joined together in a collaborative effort to design, build and manage the town’s first primary care facility. The Project WOO team connected the health center to the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health system in order to train local staff, initiate regular doctor visits, and secure medical supplies. The plan was always to transfer ownership and management of the health center to local leadership, and throughout 2016, the Gigante Community Association (GCA) made it clear that they had the ambition to own and operate the health center as a community resource. As of April 5th, 2017, the GCA satisfied Project WOO’s requirement for the transfer by becoming a legally-registered entity. As such, Project WOO transferred the deed of trust for the building and management responsibilities of the health center to the Gigante’s elected leadership council. We wish the GCA and community of Gigante the very best of luck in the Health Center’s exciting new chapter.
We always knew that true success would be measured by our ability to close the Project WOO program in Gigante and leave our work in the hands of local leaders. While we did not have a prescription to tell us when the appropriate time for that transfer would be, we made a commitment from the outset to listen to our local partners, and we understand from them that the time has come for them to assume the foremost leadership role in Gigante. While we will miss working in Gigante, we are proud of everything we achieved and forever grateful to our donor and local partners for providing the resources and support system to make it possible. We hope you share our pride in making a positive impact on the people of Gigante that will continue for years to come.
Project WOO Board of Directors
Nick Mucha, President
Trent Gordon, Treasurer
Adam Monaghan, Secretary
Bo Fox, Board Member