The first official delegation carries suitcases of medical and school supplies and teams up with Arlen Siu familiesto begin construction of the preschool classroom.

Traveling round-about through Mexico City to circumvent the trade embargo and stopping first in Managua to participate in the Sister Cities Conference, the “Delegation of Eight” (in ’88) hauled 16 suitcases of medical and school supplies. They also brought funds to team up with Arlen Siu preschool families to fulfill Maria Elena’s dream – an actual preschool classroom with four walls and a roof.

The Sandinista government hoped to control decisions and funds on Ometepe, as elsewhere in Nicaragua; but BOSIA’s fledgling standing on Bainbridge as a broad-based, non-political organization depended on Islanders’ donations being handled with neutrality: no involvement by a government of any political stripes, here or there. The delegation looked for a trustworthy person to keep and disperse the preschool money. Padre Juan Cuadra was everyone’s unanimous choice.

The Delegation of Eight formed bonds with the families they stayed with that have lasted 20 years. One of the homestays was at the Carlos Diaz Cajina coffee cooperative on Cerro Maderas. The delegates met the socios (members), listened to their stories of hardship during the years when they worked the land for the plantation owner, and shared their hope for a better future as collective owners themselves.

Asha Esterberg and Heaton Waring explain to a Sandinista Junta that funds from Bainbridge must be handled with neutrality: no government involvement since the organization strives to appeal to a broad base of Bainbridge residents.

Lifelong relationships are formed with host families. David Mitchell gets to know Indira. In later years, he and Lisa Giles become godparents to Indira’s son.

This first delegation set a standard that has been repeated on adult and student delegations since:

  • Travel light except for suitcases of material aid to be dispensed for the whole community’s benefit;
  • Stay with families who offer their homes and food as their contribution to the equality of the relationship;
  • Listen and learn;
  • Leave with the intention expressed by Kim when he said goodbye to the Arlen Siu children in 1988: “I’ll be back, and I’m looking forward to one day meeting your children!”

Arlen Siu school under consrtruction. After the Sandinistas lose the 1990 election, the school is renamed Ruben Dario.

Rosa Varela, teacher at the Arlen Siu preschool, celebrates completion of the classroom. The Islas Hermanas sign reads “We build peace.”

Arlen School preschoolers. The 1988 delegates now know some of these students’ children!

Juan Morales, a leader in the Arlen Siu preschool project

Jose Morales explains coffee cultivation during the first visit to the Carlos Diaz Cajina coffee cooperative.

Nancy Quitslund and David Mitchell with Inez Celedon and Padre Juan Cuadra, who insisted on community involvement in projects.