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Carizal English Classes

The Community

Fifteen kilometers south of San Juan del Sur exists the small community of El Carizal. Tucked away under canopies rich with Howler Monkeys and Scarlett Macaws, the residents of this tranquil paradise enjoy a lifestyle occupied with leisure and relaxation. This laid-back tempo is appreciated by the children who spend most of their time playing in the river, and the older generations who spend most of their time watching the children.  The community itself consists of approximately 65 families, most of whom have lived their entire life within the fifteen kilometer radius.

The School

In El Carizal there exists one primary school which is known by the locals as La Escuela de Carlos Guzman.  The school consists of three (3) classrooms, one of which was built by local community members after the supplies were purchased from donations.    On any given day attendance ranges from twenty to sixty students between the ages of five and twenty-six.  School books are recycled by every generation in the community.  Blue and white uniforms are required by the government, although many student families cannot afford them and modified versions of are widely accepted.  Supplies are extremely limited and most of the classroom materials have been sourced from past donations over the years.

The History

In 2009 the Casa Llanta Fund established a partnership with Comunidad Connect to provide bi-weekly English Classes for students in the community of El Carizal.  The ages of our students range from 4 to  22 years old. The class size averages 30. The class is multilevel and the older students serve as assistant teachers at times. The goals of the classes are to create enthusiastic life long language learners, prepare students for an international world and form confident ambassadors for the community.

Due to the growing popularity of the classes, we are now receiving students from other neighboring communities including Talangera, Las Delicias, San Rafael de la Bahia, Las Pampas, Las Quintas and Escameca. In addition to the English classes, we also host field trips and sports clinics throughout the year to inspire them to stay in school.  The classes attract regular volunteers and benefit from visiting teams throughout the year – many of which usually buy jam from the women’s co-op which is conveniently located across the street from the school. 

Proceeds from the from Pitaya Fest go toward the Casa Llanta Fund. The Casa Llanta fund is currently working in combination with Comunidad Connect to host English classes at the local school and continuing education in El Carizal.

Carizal Womens Co-op

Condimentos del Carizal

In 2007 with the support and guidance of Rootham Gourmet Preserves out of Canada and the Rotary Club of Guelph South, the Casa Llanta Fund formed a sustainable women’s cooperative called Condimentos del Carizal which produces and sells homemade jams. Financial training and a micro loan were provided to the women in the community. The 10 members of the co-op are now distributing their products into hotels and local shops throughout San Juan del Sur.

With funds from the Rotary Club of Guelph South and proceeds from Pitaya Festival, the Casa Llanta Fund built a community kitchen for the womens cooperative in 2013 on land donated by Tim Kelly. The women have opened their own shared bank account for their savings and are now completely self sustainable. We no longer provide financial aid to the women directly, however we continue to indirectly support them with group sales from the teams that we bring to the community.

Jam from the Condimentos del Carizal can be purchased in Pan de Vida and Gato Negro in San Juan del Sur.  Check out the beautiful mini documentary below to learn more about the Carizal community.


Manos Unidas

In January of 2014 Bastin Vrancken and Brooke Rundle founded a cooperative for children and adults with disabilities in San Juan del Sur called Manos Unidas. Manos Unidas translates to “hands together” which signifies the culture of teamwork and togetherness within the cooperative. The cooperative meets four times a week in the women’s shelter.

The co-op started with the making of handmade silk flowers and has evolved into the production of stylish tote bags utilizing repurposed plastic rice bags. All of the earnings from the sale of products go towards the payment of salaries for the co-op participants every two weeks. The monthly expenses to operate this program are $120 for the teacher salary and $140 for the school bus. Visit the Manos Unidas website to learn more.

The bags can currently be purchased at Auric Surf Shop in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.


Meet Sinia Marielo Busto Sánchez

Sinia Marielo Busto Sánchez is the first graduate of our scholarship program.   After 3 years of dedicated study at Ricardo Morales Aviles school, she completed her degree in Education in December 2014. She is extremely grateful to have participated in the program and hops to become a teacher at the ‘Jerser University’.  Born in August 4th, 1987 – she is the first in her family to go to University.

When asked why she wanted to participate in our scholarship program, she responded, “To learn more and have a better future. “


Grassroots Volleyball Development

Bring It Promotions Volleyball Agency, the parent company of the Casa Llanta Fund,  has hosted over 30 college and club volleyball teams from the United States in Nicaragua.  Every visiting team contributes to the grassroots volleyball development in Nicaragua by bringing uniforms, nets, balls and countless other sports supplies to support the Nicaragua national volleyball federation and the sports program at Comunidad Connect.  We also host youth volleyball clinics and camps at schools in San Juan del Sur and Granada. Check out the action in this video.


Pitaya Fest

The Pitaya Fest originated as a way to raise awareness and funding for the Casa Llanta Fund and the ongoing projects within the community of El Carizal. Entering its 8th year in 2016, the festival continues to be one of the Casa Llanta Fund’s biggest fundraiser of the year and with proceeds from the event support the local projects featured on our website.

Growing in recognition as Nicaragua’s premiere music and sustainability festival, this year’s fest returned to El Carizal, San Juan del Sur on March 7th, 2015 bringing romping and raging, fun-in-the-sun, and full moon festivities for locals and tourists of all ages transforming the community of El Carizal into a rock n’ roll haven complete with a massive main stage, a piñata party for the kids, a Toña tent, and a food court of local cuisine.

For photos and current updates on the next Pitaya Fest, visit our facebook page.


With the hope of increasing environmental awareness, the festival originally took place at the site of a completely off grid and sustainable home called an Earthship and locally known as “Casa Llanta” or House of Tires. ‘Casa Llanta” was constructed out of recycled cans, bottles and tires filled with pounded earth. Solar panels collect the sun’s natural energy which is stored and used to power all electrical within the home. Rain water catchment systems take advantage of Nicaragua’s high quantity of rainfall by keeping it in large cisterns while water reclamation systems process used water and transport it to green houses filled with fruit trees and vegetable gardens. It is from this marvel of a structure that the festival attributes its name and inspiration for celebrating sustainability.

In 2013 the festival outgrew is home turf and we moved the party to Playa Hermosa, however the festival has always and forever will support the educational and micro-finance initiatives based in the community of El Carizal.







Escuela Adalente

Escuela Adelante

Escuela Adelante is a supplement education program that brings international education standards to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.  The program is a two-year English language course taught out of the mobile library.  There are currently over 40 students enrolled aging from 6 to 11 years.  The educational program was founded and is directed by Carrie Valladares and Jamie Hunter.  The Casa Llanta Fund has come along aside Escuela Adelante in partnership to pay for the annual cost of books in the classroom and provide volunteers from visiting volleyball teams.


Melvin surfing

Field Trips for People with Disabilities

We are devoted to supporting people with disabilities in San Juan del Sur. In addition to founding and funding Manos Unidas, the cooperative for adults with disabilities, we also host field trips for the students and families within our program to provide them with opportunities to do activities they would not otherwise have the opportunity to do.

From surf lessons to pool parties, we’re dedicated to putting smiles on their faces by coming along aside them in friendship and support.




Surf is a part of life in San Juan del Sur.  It’s the main attraction for most foreign visitors and a way of life for many locals.

It was a surf trip that originally brought each of the founders of the Casa Llanta Fund to Nicaragua.  Surfing with local kids at Playa Hermosa established and fostered the relationships within the community of El Carizal –  the location of the women’s jam co-op, the ongoing english classes, the scholarships program and ultimately the site of Pitaya Fest.

It was while surfing at at Playa Hermosa that children in the Carizal asked us to teach them english. We started hosting english classes in the Carizal because they asked for them.

At the core of it all is surf.  It’s why we’re here.  It’s what we do.  It’s what keeps us out of trouble.  It’s what makes us thankful. And it’s what we aspire to.

Check out our past Pitaya Fest surf competitions at Playa Hermosa.

Pitaya Fest Surf Comp 2011

Pitaya Fest Surf Comp 2012


Meet our Students

With the proceeds from the Pitaya Festival, the Casa Llanta Fund was also able to establish a program called “Becas del Carizal” in 2012. Becas, or scholarships, are provided to any aspiring child or young adult in El Carizal who wishes to continue education and is unable to afford it. In 2012 the fund supported 6 students in high school and university programs. In 2013 there were 5 students enrolled in the program and in 2014 there were 6.

We now have 7 students on scholarship in 2015. We are currently seeking funding to support the 7 scholarships. We are currently seeking funding for the scholarship program.


Support the Casa Llanta Fund

Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteer to teach english. We are always looking for more volunteers to come along side our school director to assist with teaching classes and tutoring the students.   Teaching at our English classes is a great way to learn Spanish and connect with the local community. Contact us to volunteer in class on Mondays and Wednesdays from 2:30-4:00pm.

Volunteer as a photographer or writer.  We need photographers and writers! Volunteer in Nicaragua as a contributing artist to capture the day to day activities of our ongoing service efforts in programs. We are always looking for more volunteers to come along side us in support.

Become a fundraising partner.  Launch your own crowd-funding campaign to cover a scholarship, school books or a few months of our ongoing expenses.  Contact us for assistance and information on fundraising partnership ideas.


Casa Llanta

The Casa Llanta Fund gets its name from an off-grid house constructed out of recycled cans, bottles and tires filled with rammed earth. It’s lush surroundings and garden, outside of San Juan del Sur, is where Pitaya Fest originated. The amazing structure acts as a pillar of inspiration for continued sustainability in the hilly costal area. Solar panels collect the sun’s natural energy, which is stored and used to power all electrical appliances within the home.

Rainwater catchment systems take advantage of Nicaragua’s high quantity of rainfall by keeping it in large cisterns, while water reclamation systems process the water and transport it to greenhouses filled with fruit trees and vegetable gardens. It was built with the hope to be a model of sustainable community development in Nicaragua.