Local efforts bring hope to children families in Nicaragua

Photo courtesy of Rotary Club of Dearborn
Dearborn Rotarian Ray Trudeau receives a lesson about making Beads of Hope from recycled wallpaper during a recent trip to Nicaragua.

DEARBORN – “We never knew that something of so little value to us could be turned into something of value for others thousands of miles away,” said Mary Ray, who is co-owner of Campbell Paint & Wallpaper in Dearborn with husband Mike Ray.

Ray was referring to old wallpaper books given to Dearborn resident Ray Trudeau, a past Dearborn Rotary Club president who travels to Nicaragua up to four times a year on behalf of Rotary International projects.

For several years, Rotarians from Dearborn and other local clubs in Rotary District 6400, have raised money for projects to benefit children and their families in Chinandega, Nicaragua. Known as “Children of the Dump,” children as young a 5 or 6 years old salvage for scraps of food and recyclable items.

Today, approximately 1,700 children from Chinandega and surrounding rural areas have the opportunity to attend a school established by the Rev. Marco Dessy of Italy. Older students learn a variety of trades at the Betania Trade School, including woodcraft, sewing, millinery, computer repair and jewelry making.

“Our goal is to implement projects that will provide sustained eco-nomic development,” said Trudeau, who also serves as a director of the Hope and Relief International Foundation.

Last year, Trudeau spent several months collecting outdated or excess wallpaper from area businesses including the Rays’ store, several Detroit area Sherwin-Williams stores and institutions like Baker College.

A Wal-Mart truck delivers the wallpaper to a warehouse in Houston which provides the shipment of one free 40-foot container a month to Nicaragua.

After the wallpaper arrives in Nicaragua, it is delivered to the Betania Trade School where students learn the art of recycling wallpaper into jewelry beads, which the students call Beads of Hope.

On Trudeau’s most recent trip to visit Chinandega in November, some of the students taught him how to make beads from wallpaper, which is cut into thin strips and wrapped around a metal rod to form a bead. Each bead is glued, coated with a sealant, dried and strung together with other beads to create bracelets, necklaces and rosaries.

“I wasn’t a very good student,” Trudeau said. “I think I made eight beads in three and a half hours, and they can make up to 30 beads an hour.”

Trudeau said the average teacher earns the equivalent of $100 a month, while bead making provides a sustained income of up to $200 a month.

While lacking skill in bead making, Trudeau knows more about sales and marketing. This is the reason he’s back in Michigan with boxes of Beads of Hope. Each box contains 100 handcrafted and individually wrapped bracelets with descriptions personally signed by the makers.

Campbell Paint & Wallpaper keeps a supply of the bracelets on hand for customers to select from and donate. Donations of a minimum of $5 each are requested. All proceeds benefit Children of the Dump and educational projects in Nicaragua.

Local school groups have used the Beads of Hope for fundraising projects. Trudeau said students at the Henry Ford Academy in Dearborn are already at work on distributing and collecting donations for a second box of 100 bracelets.

Dearborn Rotarians Rick Goward, Kerrie Peterson and Sue Surducan, along with other volunteers, also helped to raise $500 by making the beads available during the club’s annual Santa Snaps workshop at the Wayne County Lightfest.

Mary Ray summed up her feelings about participating. “We’ve made a complete circle — from wallpaper of little value to priceless Beads of Hope,” she said.

For more information about Beads of Hope and other Rotary projects in Nicaragua, email Trudeau at sct1235@aol.com.