Amigos de Si a la Vida Board: John Riess, Bob Royce, Chris Pforr, Mike Bonoff, Nancy Quitslund, Alexis Bonoff, Victor Oldivak and Rick Allstetter.
By Mike and Alexis Bonoff
Many international programs have faced hardships and strained relationships in the last few years. Luckily BOSIA has been successful in sustaining its programs, but other organizations have not fared as well. Amigos de Si a la Vida (Amigos) is one where political regional instability combined with Covid difficulties and travel restrictions have forced closure of the last international financial source for the Si a la Vida (SALV) program.
SALV was founded by Jonathan Roise and Mercedes Guido to address the needs of homeless boys caught up in the economic downturn in the 1990s, many turning to addictive glue sniffing. Jonathan was a compassionate, inspirational man who forged bonds with BOSIA, typified by student delegation visits to the Ometepe finca and program center. Pulseras, colorful cotton bracelets woven by the boys to earn money, were often worn by returning delegations. Some Bainbridge Islanders volunteered at SALV for long periods including Jackie Finkler and Alexis Bonoff.
After Jonathan’s death in 2012, the program evolved into a day program and served both girls and boys at risk, and the Ometepe program moved from the finca to Altagracia. Unfortunately, international support from German, Italian, Spanish and British affinity groups petered out, starting with the 2008 economic crisis. Amigos, with the help of OGIFA (Gulf Islands) managed to support the operation with limited funds through 2020.
Last December, the remaining Amigos US-based members made an emotionally difficult yet rational decision to cease our funding efforts. We did not feel that we were able to continue helping at the rate that was needed for the program, and wanted to use the remaining funds to make sure that the devoted SALV employees would receive generous severance benefits. As of spring 2021, all Amigos appeals have ended and accounts have been closed. We thank anyone who has visited the project in Nicaragua, bought a pulsera or contributed in any way to this amazing program that helped so many young men (and later young women) find stability in their lives.