Dr Espinoza and her friends up north...Teresa Espinoza was a teenager during the 1970 revolution against Somoza. The daughter of a farmer, she had
Dr. Espinoza has friends in the Hudson Valley. They bring her village medicines because many families cannot afford to buy it for their children. She has even come north once to visit these friends, staying in their houses and visiting their hospitals. Dr. Espinoza is part of a special relationship which uses friendship and mutual respect to erase the barriers of language and cultural differences. She is part of the Bard/Mid-Hudson Larreynaga Sister City Project.
Larreynaga, frontier town...
Set six miles back from a paved road, Larreynaga looks much like the set from an old western movie, with horses and oxen pulling wooden wheeled carts. There are no cars on the dusty streets and only two telephones that link this community of 2,000 people to the outside world. There are cattle on the flat plains that surround the town, and a perfectly shaped volcano in the distance.
North Americans a familiar sight...
Since June, 1988, many delegations have traveled from the Hudson Valley to Larreynaga, including college students, teachers, school administrators, engineers, business people and senior citizens. Each trip has resulted in new friendships and insights into the complexities of our relationship. We have delivered thousands of dollars worth of medicines, school supplies, sports equipment, and even a pickup truck that served for a time as the town's only ambulance.
Common hopes for the future...
Larreynaga desperately needs jobs, decent housing, an affordable health care system, and better schools. Abject poverty and an inequitable distribution of wealth have led to continued social unrest. In many ways, Larreynaga's problems are a reflection of our own, of our inner cities and of our permanent underclass. Working for change in Nicaragua helps us define the changes we need in our own society. Our common needs and hopes are the foundation for our solidarity.
Our Original Group
The sister city has weathered a number of storms, both physical and metaphorical over the last ten years. Through it all, there remains a village of people in Nicaragua who care about us, and in some ways depend on us. We like to think that we have improved their lives a little, and we know that the relationship has improved ours. We now have a common history of over ten years to share. In a sense, we are old friends with valuable memories to keep for one another. It is not something that we could give up lightly.
Putting on the sister city dance and organizing the clothing drives that make money for the various projects are a small price to pay for our mutual friendship and solidarity.
Current Projects Bicycle Project: In March the committee handed out 5 more bikes to the teachers, a big increase from the one that we started with 3 years ago! The bike project is still going strong and there is still a waiting list. Currently we have 100% completion of the loans, meaning everyone has paid for his or her bike.
The Mini-book Store: This project for students and teachers, which was started two years ago, is still going strong without any additional funding.
Celebrating Ten Years
The Health Center: FISE is finally constructing the new health center and it is huge. They started construction about three weeks ago and it should be finished by October!! Also there is a new doctor working at the health center.
Church of Messiah Scholarship Fund: Selection of children will be made in the first week of January and school starts on the 20th of February. At the end of the first semester, of the forty children selected, thirty six are still in class. Four left for various reasons, but not due to poor grades. Two weeks ago, we held a meeting with all the parents and the teachers and tried to find out how every child was doing, and it seems of the thirty six, there are only three that might have failed one class. Many or most of these students would not even be in school had it not been for the scholarship program.
Why We Are Still Here
Stove Project for the Mothers: A project will be presented to the committee to help mothers of the scholarship students in making their own stoves. The stoves, called estufas lorenas would greatly decrease wood consumption in Larreynaga. The stoves can be made of bricks and cement, or a mixture of manure and dirt. The better ones are made out of cement and clay bricks, and have an upper base reinforced with steel. Each mother would work on her own stove and there is even interest from other women in the community who want to learn how to make them.
Larreynaga sits five miles back from a rural road some two hours in distance from Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. The town of 1000 people is made up of small, one story wooden and cement houses, many of which have dirt floors and no plumbing. There is also a school and a local church.
Over 35 people from the Hudson Valley have visited Larreynaga since the sister city was first established in 1989. Thousands of dollars in medical and school supplies have been sent down as well, including a $1,000 a year scholarship fund supported by the Church of Messiah in Rhinebeck. One of the missions of the current trip is to deliver the scholarship money that will enable 35 students to attend school elementary school next year. Also included will be a small scholarship for a graduate of Larreynaga who plans on attending college in Leon, Nicaragua.
Vicki and children from
the Church of Messiah with
a banner made for the
school children of Larreynaga.
Jamie with some of his
new friends in Larreynaga.
Hedy and one of the
Visitors on the road to Larreynaga.