Bainbridge Ometepe Sister Islands

Building Friendships since 1986

Ometepe office

Dora on BainbridgeAlthough the Sister Islands Association is an all-volunteer organization on Bainbridge, we do have a small paid staff on Ometepe, including several part-time specialists.

Manager: Dora (“Dorita”) Gutierrez Traña

Dorita, an English teacher at the high school in Altagracia, has been our office manager since 1999. She works with community members on Ometepe to develop project proposals and to carry out the projects funded by our organization. Dora is a superb cultural ambassador who helps people on both of our islands understand one another. She has visited Bainbridge Island seven times.

Office Volunteer: Amanda Witt

My name is Amanda Witt and I am very excited to be the new office volunteer for BOSIA! I arrived on Ometepe about two months ago and have loved getting to know the compassionate people and beautiful places here, as well as seeing the amazing impacts that different BOSIA committees have made.

My interest in Bainbridge’s sister island began back in third grade, when I was in Alice Mendoza’s class at Wilkes Elementary School. Taking part in the Kids Can Make a Difference calendar project sparked my enthusiasm for Ometepe, its rich culture, and its kinship with Bainbridge (shout out to the June 2003 calendar page!). I was lucky to be able to come down to Ometepe twice as a student delegate during high school and stay with wonderful families in the communities of San Pedro and Sintiope. Their kindness and warmth inspired me to apply for the office volunteer position after I graduated from the University of Washington with degrees in Biology and Spanish.

In my free time here, you can find me biking, walking, or hiking around the volcanos of Ometepe, teaching some of the neighborhood kids English classes, painting with watercolors, visiting and exploring with my old host families, playing “Guess the Occasion” for the never-ending bounty of noise-filled parades that pass the office, embarking on journeys around the rest of Nicaragua (who knew that in the mountains up north you’re not sweating 24/7?!), and hanging out and cooking with Ometepinos. It’s hard to be bored here; living and working on Ometepe forces a new adventure upon you each day!

I love working with people from both Ometepe and Bainbridge, and seeing the passion that both islands have for making positive changes and building lasting friendships. It’s not uncommon for an Ometepino to approach me and tell me about a Bainbridge student that stayed with them 10 years ago and ask if I know how they’re doing, or point out a project that BOSIA sponsored in a school or community here. There’s something really remarkable and heartwarming about living in a location where the most widely-known and admired place in the United States is not New York City nor Los Angeles, but a small island in the Pacific Northwest that has a great capacity for change.

Scholarship Coordinator: Santiago Triguero 

         My name is Santiago, I was born in Sintiope, but I live in Urbaite. The first time that I heard about BOSIA was a project that the organization supported in the primary school in Sintiope, later when I started working as a teacher in la Paloma, the parents were working in the school with a project supported by the Organization. One year later, in 2003, I began teaching in Merida, where I worked in some projects supported by the organization, such a sports court that was being built. The principal of the Robert Drew high school told me the history of my school, that the name is an honor one member of Bainbridge for all the support to the school. One year later, I was invited by the teacher, Jose Efrain Gonzalez, the head of the high school in that moment, to belong to the local scholarship committee. In 2003 Robert Drew high school had the first graduation and I had the opportunity to meet Maggie Drew, a wife of Robert Drew, who was at this event.

                                  From that time, I belonged to Robert Drew high School Scholarship committee, and in 2006 I was selected to be the treasurer of the committee and I still working in the same position, In 2008 I was selected to visit your beautiful Bainbridge Island as an English teacher delegation. It was one of my best experiences in my life.

                                  Now, I am working as a coordinator of the scholarship program, it is a big challenge, but I completely sure that with help of God and the staffs members we will go forward.

Sign Language Interpreter:  Claribel Gutierrez 

                               My name is Claribel Gutierrez Ruiz, and I am a 24-year-old single mother of a two-year-old boy. I because a sign language interpreter for BOSIA after they invited me to apply for the position.

While I was studying in high school, I always loved to go to BOSIA’s sign language workshops with students from all over Ometepe.

In my final year of high school, I applied for a scholarship through BOSIA to continue my studies to become an interpreter. Thanks to the Special Needs Committee, headed by Dale Spoor, I received a scholarship that helped me pay for my university fees. When I finished my studies, I always told myself that I would help people who have the same disabilities that I have. I started working in 2016 as a sign language interpreter for five deaf high school students in Altagracia, all of which will enter into their third year of high school.

My favorite part of my job is when I joke around and chat with the students during their recess. I also enjoy when the students get to make handicrafts or make some sketches in their natural sciences classes. I like how well the students behave in class; they always respect their teachers and classmates. In their physical education class, I have a lot of fun because I get to participate in the exercises and games alongside the students, both hearing and deaf.

I have never visited Bainbridge but hope to one day be able to!

Special Needs Coordinator: Francisco Hernandez 

                    My name is Francisco Antonio Hernandez, I have a degree in Diplomacy and Political Science, and I am completely blind. I first became involved in BOSIA when Jonathan Roise, who was the Coordinator for the organization Si a la Vida at the time, introduced me to Kim Esterberg during the 20th anniversary celebration of BOSIA. We shared a conversation, which resulted in the first time that I was introduced to a Braille typewriter.

Presently, my job is to work in the sector of special needs on Ometepe, with objectives such as: teaching Braille and informatics classes, giving organizational tools to people with disabilities, and carrying out projects on behalf of BOSIA. My goal is to break down the barriers that impede our development and dignity, so that we can execute our rolls as accomplished people.

I visited Bainbridge in 2016 during the 30th anniversary to commemorate the sisterhood between the two islands. My favorite part of my job is proposing new ideas, and in my free time I enjoy reading.

Sexual Abuse Psychologist:  Karla Varela

                  My name is Karla Varela and I am a psychologist in the municipality of Altagracia. I am 45 years old and am married with three children – two daughters and one son.

I received a scholarship from BOSIA, finishing my degree in 2007. In 2014, I earned a specialization in helping survivors and victims of sexual abuse and child abuse.

I travelled to Bainbridge with a delegation of Ometepinos in 2001.

I work in a program with BOSIA to prevent child abuse, which is a taboo topic for the people that live in this region. It’s a very interesting and important program for the people of Ometepe, and has reached the entire island. I work in two areas: health and education. I work to raise awareness among doctors, nurses, and medical brigade members throughout all of Ometepe.

I hold group therapy sessions with survivors of sexual and child abuse, attending to a variety of abuse cases.

In terms of education, I work to raise awareness and prevention of sexual abuse. One way of involving high school students in this topic is through art projects that relate to sexual abuse, and having the students share them with students from other schools.

From the bottom of my heart, and on behalf of myself and everyone affected by sexual abuse, I would like to thank those who make this program possible. Lots of people have been able to join their voices together to be able to talk about their sexual abuse, many of which have had these voices buried since their childhood. Thanks to this program, these people are able to break their silence.

On behalf of all of us, I send you all a big hug.

Contacting our office

The office is on the main street in Altagracia. In keeping with the Nicaraguan custom of citing addresses as distances from key locations, the office is del juzgado, una cuadra al norte (from the judge’s office, one block north).  The phone number from the United States is 011-505-2569-4428. On Ometepe, it’s 2569-4428.

Postal mail can be sent to Islas Hermanas, Apartado #20, Isla de Ometepe, Moyogalpa, Nicaragua. Bainbridge Islanders who are writing to a friend in care of our office should write the name and town of the recipient on an inner package. You can include several of these letters in one large outer envelope.

Ometepe residents who want to write to friends on Bainbridge can leave letters at the office.