Our Story

Our Story
In 2008, documentary filmmaker Jason Glaser was shooting a film about banana workers in Central America, Banana Land, when he came across the community of La Isla. La Isla La Isla de Viudas, "The Island of Widows." What Jason encountered in La Isla was so disturbing that he set aside his work on the documentary to establish La Isla Foundation. He began working with former sugarcane worker Juan Salgado, and La Isla Foundation was born.

Vision & Goals

La Isla Foundation seeks to improve the lives of sugarcane workers affected by CKD and to reverse the rising prevalence of the disease through prevention efforts.Our goals are to:
  • Facilitate research to identify the causes of the CKD epidemic among sugarcane workers.
  • Raise public awareness of this epidemic and create a broad base of international support for intervention that includes consumers, workers, and producers.
  • Organize a public health intervention to support affected workers and prevent future generations from becoming ill.
We will ensure adequate industry regulations to protect the health of workers, corporate compliance with such regulations, and consistent government enforcement of applicable laws at all levels so that another disaster like this does not happen.

Our work is conducted under four operational pillars:

Public Health: Facilitating medical research and intervention.

La Isla Foundation is working with medical researchers throughout the Americas to find the cause of the CKD epidemic among sugarcane workers, and to improve treatment options for those who are already ill. As our understanding of this CKD epidemic improves, we are working to create an effective intervention, focused primarily on prevention. 

Legal and Human Rights: Strengthening protective policies and ensuring compliance.

The Legal Team is working to ensure appropriate government agencies and corporate sugar producers alike implement and enforce sufficient strategic protections to address this epidemic and prevent similar disasters from occurring in the future. 

Community Development: Empowering communities through infrastructure projects and alternative education.

Successful change must come from the voices of the affected. Our community development team facilitates local infrastructure development projects, hosts alternative employment skills trainings, teaches English language classes, and coordinates education initiatives on workers’ rights to ensure that community members are empowered to identify and achieve their own goals. 

Media and Communications: Creating bridges between those affected and the broader global public.

Communicating the impact, scope, and spread of this epidemic is critical to garnering the support needed to end it. The Media and Communications Team focuses on fostering an ongoing dialogue with the public about what needs to be done and how others can help.


Jason Glaser

President, Co-Founder

Jason was confronted by the CKDu epidemic while filming a documentary on agricultural workers in Central America. He has built a local and international network to address the epidemic.

Juan Salgado

Community Organizer, Co-Founder

Juan is a past sugarcane cutter with CKDu. He works in the communities coordinating and communicating as needed. He is probably the sweetest grandfather we know.

Ilana Weiss

Director of Policy & Public Health

Ilana began working with La Isla Foundation when she was awarded a grant from the Earth Institute at Columbia University in 2008. She’s been focused on finding the solution ever since.

Y-vonne Hutchinson

Director of Law and Human Rights

The newest member of the team, Y-Vonne, comes to us after working on human rights issues in Europe and Asia. She’s in charge of all things legal, from the contracts we sign to improving the lives of the people in the communities where we work.

Yheizzi Otero

Director of Tourism

Yheizzi first joined the Foundation as a Tourism Intern through UNAN-Leon. We’re excited she’s now part the team full time. She’s friendly and fun, makes trips-of-a-lifetime, and offers the best housing services in Leon.

Katie Stark

Director of Community Development

Katie works in the La Isla community, she knows the people and public health. Even the Nicaraguans in the office are jealous of her proficiency in Spanish.

Dorien Faber

GIS/Database Manager

Dorien makes lists, codes, and more codes. We could not handle all our research data without her wonderful color coding organization.

Cristhian Velasquez

Community Coordinator

Cristhian is awesome. He works with Juan as a liaison in the communities. He also runs a welding workshop teaching young men skills that will give them employment opportunities away from the cane fields.




Centro de Investigación en Salud, Trabajo y Ambiente de Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Nicaragua-León

Recent recipients of an NIH grant, The Research Center for Health, Labor and Environment of the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua-Leon is poised to contribute to positive changes in the worksplace environments of the country and the region.


Programa Salud y Trabajo en America Central SALTRA logo


Programa Salud y Trabajo en América Central

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University of Colorado

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Mount Sinai School of Medicine

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Council of Protestant Churches of Nicaragua

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Temple University

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