It took just six weeks for the Ometepe community of Moyogalpa to build a beautiful auditorium for graduations and other community events. The Parents Association of Juan Roberto Smith High School in Moyogalpa raised half of the money needed by selling food and plantains grown on school property and by collecting donations from parents. The Sister Islands Association also helped.
This group was strong willed and determined to complete this project within six weeks to accommodate the Dec. 13 graduation for the Class of 2012. Prior graduations and cultural performances had been performed under a large tree at the entrance to the school.
The parent association began setting aside money for the project in 2011, eventually collecting $2000. But for the first phase, they needed $4,983, including the cost of labor. The Sister Islands Association’s Projects Committee awarded another $2,000, and the Parents Association and the Moyogalpa community were able to complete the project before the graduation.
The Moyogalpa community is now working on the second phase, a tile floor. The Sister Islands Association is contributing $1,154.
— Diane Jennings
By Dale Spoor
Watching a game of “Goal Ball”— a sport that uses a ball with bells inside — was one of the highlights of the recent Special Needs Delegation from Bainbridge to Ometepe.
The four-person delegation from the Special Needs Committee visited Ometepe from Nov. 6 to Nov. 16.
We met with the local chapter of Los Pipitos, an organization that works with people with special needs. With assistance from the national organization they have purchased land in Altagracia, and are planning to construct a center there that would better serve the needs of people in the special needs community.
We met with the Ometepe Special Needs Committee. We were told that there is a continuing need for the Nicaraguan Sign Language (NSL) workshops for the deaf children that we have sponsored, so these will continue next year. We also learned that there is a new law in Nicaragua that guarantees that the public schools will provide services for blind students so that they can participate fully in the various fields of study. Little appears to have been done to implement the law.
We attended an NSL workshop where about 25 children and family members attended. The workshop was conducted by two young men who began their sign language studies in workshops sponsored by the Sister Islands Association and another young man who, with our support, is currently studying to become an NSL interpreter. Several of the more advanced deaf students are planning to attend the Escuela Isaías in Managua where they will continue their sign language studies as well as a study a broader curriculum aimed at a high school diploma.
Recently, a school for the deaf has opened on Ometepe, in San Jose del Sur, and we are now investigating how we might support its programs or enable more students from Ometepe to attend. Currently families on Bainbridge Island provide scholarships for a number of special needs children: three blind students study at the university level, five deaf students study at special schools for the deaf, and three adults are studying to be interpreters for Nicaraguan Sign Language. In addition, the sign language workshops on the island sponsored by BOSIA continue on a regular basis for children and family members.
While on Ometepe, the delegation also met with members of the Committee for the Blind on Ometepe, where they shared their experiences and concerns. We delivered a chess set with pieces and a board specially designed for the blind. They demonstrated how they play “Goal Ball”, a competitive game using a ball with bells inside. They continue their interest in learning to use the JAWS computer program that allows them access to the internet and e-mail with software that provides spoken language. Two of the young people there are currently studying at the university level with scholarships provided by BOSIA members.
We also attend the vela (wake) for our good friend Jonathan Roise, and also a mass and the internment of the ashes that David Mitchell and Lisa Giles brought down with them.
The 24 students in the 2012 Student Delegation went to Ometepe with suitcases full of school supplies. They came back loaded with stories from the four towns where they stayed: San Pedro, El Corozal, Sintiope, and La Paloma. Read delegate Clara Hayes’ reflections on what she learned. Read more…
For the past several years, the Ometepe student delegation has taken on a community service project on Bainbridge—in addition to work they do while on Ometepe. The 2012 student delegation volunteered pulling ivy at the Housing Resource Board’s Ferncliff Village on Sunday, March 19. Read more…
If you want to be treated like royalty, just travel to Ometepe for an anniversary celebration! Read more…
Alexis Bonoff, who first visited Ometepe as a student delegate and now works at Si a la Vida, the home there for former street kids from Managua, writes about what it was like to be part of the 25th anniversary celebration on Ometepe.
By Alexis Bonoff
The day of the 25th celebration started off grey. It was perfect weather to work on decorating Ruben Dario elementary school and there were many hands helping, both Nicaraguan and American. We blew up balloons, hung streamers and displayed photos. Estela twisted palm fronds to make an arch in the entrances, and the band set up in front.
When we went back to change and eat lunch, disaster struck. The grey skies turned black and a downpour bled the streamers and sent the band running for tarps. With heavy hearts we returned—only to find the school just as colorful, if a little wet.
The delegation, proud in our beautiful new Anniversary tee shirts, sat in the front row. The seats filled up as people came in droves. My host mother from Balgue sat under the next tent with Jenny Diaz—still elated from her trip to Bainbridge for the first part of the Sister Islands’ anniversary celebration. I saw scholarship students, host families, librarians, English teachers, coffee farmers, and so many more who have participated in or benefited from the Islas Hermanas Association.
After the presentation and dances, we lined up for more food than we could eat. The tables were full of laughter and sharing, and delegation members mixed in with old and new friends. It didn’t matter if there was rain or sun, the mood was ecstatic and loving.
In 25 years, the Sister Islands Association has blossomed from a dream into a gift for two islands, two very different peoples whose joy to be together is palpable. This day, as with each day I live on Ometepe, I am honored and humble to be a part of such a wonderful organization. With a glass of rojita in my hand, I salute Kim and Ela, Dora and Estela, my Balgue family and everyone who has been a part of the BOSIA journey: Here’s to 25 more!
Just a couple of years after some communities on Ometepe got electricity for the first time, all primary schools on the island will have laptops for students next year, thanks to a grant from Fundación Zamora Terán, a Nicaraguan NGO.
Whereas other computers come with an owner’s manual, the XO laptop comes with a curriculum. This will be integrated into the Nicaraguan curriculum in all primary grades. Each student will have a laptop to take home at night. In some cases, the laptop will be connected to the Internet at home, in most cases it will be connected at school (it will be in Balgüe).
David Mitchell, a Bosia trusteee, and his wife, Lisa, were at the preschool graduation in Balgüe on Dec. 1 when Everisto Montiél, the director of the Maderas primary school system, announced that each graduates will start next year with a computer through the program. “Because of our connection to the Sister Islands Association, we’re always guaranteed a good seat (on the stage) and the opportunity to shake every new first-grader’s hand,” David wrote in an email. “And so it was today. We’ve been to lots of these graduations and they’re always amazing and full of hope, but there was something extra today that made it even more amazing.”
Fundación Zamora Terá is contributing $1 million for the laptops, and there will also be a series of fund-raising events on Ometepe, such as fishing tournamets and festivals. At a news conference announcing the program, there was also mention of asking entrepreneurs and professionals on Ometepe to contribute.
Teacher training sessions begin in December. In February, just after the new school year begins, 4,700 laptops are supposed to be delivered to Ometepe.
One Laptop Per Child is a non-profit focused on providing children in poor, rural areas around the world with a rugged, low-cost, low-power, connected laptop.
The organization hasn’t fulfilled its early, lofty goals. “But it has persisted,” Mitchell notes. “And while the hardware and software has gotten better bit by bit, the understanding of how to integrate computers into rural schools has grown a lot.”
One thing’s for sure: Distributing laptops to all students on Ometepe is a huge thing and will fundamentally change education on Ometepe.
David & Lisa
Selection of the 22nd student delegation from Bainbridge to Ometepe is underway. Interviews are being held the week of Nov. 14. Applicants will be informed a week later. Final payment for delegates is due May 2011.
This is the orientation schedule for delegates. All meetings are mandatory.
- Nov. 14-18, 2011 (TBA): Interviews. Notification by Nov 20.
- Nov. 21, 3-4 p.m.: Delegates meet for one hour right after school.
- January 2012 (TBA): Overnight retreat with role plays, cultural sensitivity workshop, cooking, games, team building. Town groups decided after overnight.
- February (TBA): Medical orientation with delegates, parents and guardians
- March (TBA): History of Nicoraga and the Sister Islands Association
- April (TBA), Community service project
- April/May (TBA): Community dinner
- May (TBA), Cultural Sensitivity Orientation
- June (TBA): Packing suitcases with material aid and packing demo for personal items.
- June 18: Leave for Ometepe (approx. date subject to airline)
- July 2: Return to Bainbridge (approx. date subject to airline)
- July TBA: Community report
To help celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Sister Islands Association, 13 delegates from Ometepe will visit Bainbridge Island Sept. 24-Oct. 4. They will stay with families on Bainbridge, including some who were guests in the delegates’ own homes.
The delegates were selected to represent a broad cross-section of the many Ometepinos who have been involved in Sister Islands projects over the years. All have worked hard to improve their communities and support the work of the Sister Islands Association. Here’s a little about each delegate, including personal comments they wanted to share with people on Bainbridge Island.
Orfiria is member of the scholarship committee in Urbaite. She lives in the Tilgue community with her husband and her son Jorge, who is currently studying geography at the University of Managua with a scholarship from the Sister Island Association.
I began getting to know representatives of this organization in 1995 when a student delegation visited our town and worked on furniture for our school. They also helped purchase land for the school in Urbaite so we didn’t have to rent.
Personally, I feel thankful for the help that you have offered us for many projects for our island. Each day the light shines better because of repair of the streets, construction of classrooms, purchase of library books, and other projects all over Ometepe.
For the future I would like to see projects for abused children whose parents make them work in the house instead of going to school. I would also like to see a program for the children that are physically punished by their parents and are not interested in their studies. I am thinking of a program where the students receive school materials from an NGO organization with the promise from the student and their parents that they will go to school.
This would help the teachers to help these students as well because it would break the barriers that these kids have with education. In some cases we would need psychological help for some of the kids and their parents. It is worrisome because these students are growing up in a disordered way with bad behaviors and later become involved in drugs and stealing. We need to stop this form of life so that the children have a dignified education and good treatment from their parents.
Ana is 42 years old and is a maternal and child nurse. She is married and has three children. She works for the hospital in Moyogalpa. Since 2010, she has also been coordinator of the parent-teacher organization at the Juan Roberto Smith high school.
I have known about Islas Hermanas for 10 years, but I became deeply involved only last year. Personally, I believe the importance of the organization is in education. Through your economic help, students who received scholarships have graduated and today are professionals working in the community. Also with your help we have executed three projects that benefit the community.
My aspiration is to continue interacting with you to develop projects that are of great use for the society—as much with education as in health. I enjoy community work very much.
In the future, I would like to interact more with the organization to help the community. I would also like to become part of one of the co-ops that produces organic coffee in the next year. In the future I would like to see a small coffee co-op in Moyogalpa.
Walquiria is from the community Esquipulas. She became involved with the organization through her daughter, Alina, who is deaf. Alina attended the first sign-language workshops that Islas Hermanas offered on Ometepe, and they both traveled with the Special Needs Delegation in 2009. When a school for the deaf opened in San Jose del Sur, Walquiria began to attend with her daughter. Her goal now is to become fluent in Nicaraguan Sign Language and become interpreter. She currently receives a small Sister Islands’ scholarship to finish high school so that she can continue her studies in Managua.
Hipolito is a farmer in San Marcos. He is a member of the La Flor scholarship committee, and his family was a host for two student delegates from Bainbridge. He also lead a student delegation project.
I am a person who always has liked to watch the development of my community. It is for this reason that I have participated in the Sister Islands Association for 11 years, beginning in 1999 until now.
In 1999 I began as coordinator of the parent-teacher organization in the primary school in San Marcos under the direction of Professor Oscar Vela.We applied for a Sister Islands project for a fence for the school. In 2000 we applied to build a preschool classroom at the school in San Marcos. Both projects were approved and with the help of the community we successfully completed both projects. We offered housing for the student groups that came to help with both projects.
I have had the opportunity to have two students in my house during the above mentioned projects. We had the opportunity for cultural exchange between these two students and my family.
In 2003, I became part of the parent-teacher organization in the high school in La Flor. We applied for help to construct a classroom at the high school. In 2004 I became part of the scholarship committee in La Flor. I have spent seven years as part of this committee and I continue to be the coordinator for this program in La Flor.
I feel joy with these 11 years of service that I have participated in different projects completed by the association where I have developed my abilities, attaining my mission with honesty and social humanism. My vision is to continue executing my function for the development and progress of the community, helping and keeping the friendship between the two islands.
Carlos Hernandez Centeno
Carlos is a coffee farmer and community leader from La Palma. He is a member of one of the two cooperatives that sell coffee to the Sister Islands Association. His family has opened their home to two two student delegates from Bainbridge and to Charlie Kubin, a former office volunteer, while he was conducting a survey of coffee farmers.
I belong to the Organization of Producers of Organic Coffee, through which I export my coffee to Bainbridge Island. I have contributed by taking care of the students that have come to help develop projects in my community. Katherin Mary Margaret and Maggie Pettit were students in my house. This began my relationship with Islas Hermanas. Charlie Kubin visited our house in October of 2010.
I am very appreciative of all that Islas Hermanas has done, and I would like to continue to be a part of this organization.
Arles, from Balgue, has been involved in the Sister Islands Association since he was a kid. His father, who passed away, was a tour guide and friend for some of the first groups to come to Ometepe. When Ometepe was named as a biosphere reserve as part of the Man and Biosphere (MAB) world network program from UNESCO, Arles worked as a park ranger. Currently, he is a farmer growing rice and beans. He has a young daughter.
Jenny is a nurse at the Balgue clinic and has been involved with the Sister Islands Association for many years. Over the years she has hosted many Bainbridge Islanders in her house.
Jenny works in preventative health. She worked on a study about adolescents.
She is currently finishing her nursing studies. She is one of seven nurses who have received scholarships from the Sister Islands Association to complete their degrees.
Esther teaches at the primary school in La Concha. She has been the contact person for the budding sister school relationship between La Concha primary school and Ordway elementary school on Bainbridge. She and her family have also been host to several students during delegations in La Concha. She is very honored to have been chosen to celebrate 25 years with the organization.
Juan was the coordinator for the potable water project in Merida in the early 1990s. Since then he has hosted many Bainbridge friends and students in his house. He is also a member of the scholarship committee in Merida.
In 2002-2003, Juan was the president of the project committee to build the Merida Robert Drew High School. And that committee invited Robert Drew´s wife to the inauguration of five classrooms in 2004-2005. Margaret Peggy and Nancy Quistlund were there for that important inauguration. When it came time to award a Sister Islands scholarship to a gradate of the first class, Juan was a member of the scholarship committee. As amember of the scholarship committee, he has supported the communal projects that the scholarship students have developed in the high school.
Santiago is a coffee farmer in El Corozal. he is very active in one of the two cooperaatives that sell green coffee beans to the Sister Islands Assocation. The 2010 Coffee Delegation got to know Santiago when delegates stayed with families in the community.
I am a farmer and cultivate organic coffee. I am member of the co-operative Organic Producers. We sell our coffee to our brothers and sisters on Bainbridge Island. I am very content to know that there are very outstanding people that provide help to make projects happen that benefit the poor people of Ometepe Island. It is nice to know that this tie of friendship has existed between Ometepe and our sister island, Bainbridge. Already we have 25 years of receiving help for social, cultural and community projects and for scholarship. It is also nice to know that the profits from the production of coffee are sent back to do social work on our island, Ometepe. I am very grateful and do not have the words to express the feelings of love and friendship that our friends on Bainbridge offer us. I only want to say that on our lovely Ometepe Island we have an immense heart for accommodating the many brothers and sisters that come to visit us.
Dorita manages our office on Ometepe and is our key ambassador and cultural translator, ever ready to help people from both of our islands understand the traditions and needs of each other. She is also a full-time high school English teacher on Ometepe and the mother of two.
I work in the Ladislao Cwalbinsky Secondary School in the morning. I have been working at this high school for 16 years. In the afternoon, I am coordinator of the community projects for the Sister Islands Association. I have worked with the Sister Islands for 12 years and have been manager of the office since 1999.
The office volunteer from Bainbridge Island and I have attended projects in the almost all of the communities of Ometepe Island. We have visited projects in all of the schools on Ometepe, and we visited the health posts to see projects of the Health committee. We have also developed better communication with the coffee producers.
My family house has been a home to each volunteer as they arrive to replace a volunteer who is leaving or finishing the period. And we have hosted some parents of the volunteers and friends from Bainbridge island in our home sweet home.
I am from Ometepe Island and I live in Altagracia. I live with my mother, my older sister, my nephews and nieces, and my daughter. I am single mother and I have two children; Hendrickson is 21 years old and he is studying medicine in the Leon University and he is in the fifth year of his career. Kendra is 11 years old and she is in the sixth grade of the primary school.
I have visited Bainbridge island five times. This trip will be my sixth time and I feel as if it is the first time. I am excited with this amazing trip of the 25th Anniversary delegation. And my arms and heart are open to receive the friends from Bainbridge when you wish to come. I am always very serious.
Estela is a former Sister Islands scholarship student who now coordinates our scholarship program on Ometepe and helps with many of our other projects. She also works as a substitute teacher on Ometepe. She has visited Bainbridge several times, once for an extended period as guests of Lee and Ilsa Stollar so that she could become more fluent in English.
All my friends from Bainbridge Island know me but I want to say that I have 21 years of relationship with friends from Bainbridge. I have always helped with community activities in my town, for example: water system in Taguizpa and Angul, electric system in Angul, and a student delegation, too.
In 1992-1996, I was a scholarship student. My sponsors were Dana and Nancy Quitslund. I studied English in the university. In 2000, I started as coordinator of the scholarship committee in Altagracia. I did that for six years. Now I have 10 years of working with BOSIA as scholarship program coordinator. Thank you so much for letting me work with BOSIA and visit Bainbridge Island again.
Fernando is the youngest of the group. He is from Altagracia and works with the marimba group on Ometepe that teamed up with Bainbridge kids during the Marimba Delegation in 2008. The Ometepe groupis group provides an alternative activity so kids can learn music instead of being bored at home or getting involved in other not-so-good activities. He currently is studying construction at the university in Rivas on Saturdays and helping his dad work on other construction projects around the island. He is excited for this opportunity to come visit Bainbridge Island.
If you live on Bainbridge, please remember the Sister Islands Association when you respond to One Call for All. We use our share to support delegate travel to and from Ometepe.