2018 – Challenging Year for Brookline-Quezalguaque Sister City

Dear Friends & Supporters of the Brookline Sister City Project,

We are not sending our usual snail mail appeal this year but hope you’ll still consider an end-of-year contribution.

2018 was a challenging year for the Sister City Project.  We started the year on a high with a successful trip in February for work on a clean water initiative. The following month, thanks to support from the Brookline Rotary, we received notice from Rotary International of a $35,000 award for the clean water effort.  The next month was the first ever Brookline High School trip to Nicaragua (NI).

Nicaraguan Visitors, Rotary President & Sister City Board Members

Nicaraguan Visitors, Rotary President & Sister City Board Members

After the students left Quezalguaque but while they were still in NI, demonstrations broke out in many parts of the country following notice of plans to cut social security benefits and increase taxes. Reports about the number of deaths since April vary but there appears to be agreement that it’s at least 300 with more than 2,000 injured.

BHS & Las Mercedes High School Students

BHS & Las Mercedes High School Students

Because of the instability and the temporary closing of a collaborating medical school in Leon, NI, we cancelled a summer public health project in which Boston U. graduate students were going to be working side-by-side with Nicaraguan medical school students.

Despite the continuing unrest and a deteriorating economic situation, our collaboration with the Quezalguaque community continues.  We have an ambitious agenda to assure safe drinking water and support rural water systems maintained by community residents.  We recently renewed contracts with a Nicaraguan based NGO for water systems engineering studies and training and with a university-based laboratory for water quality testing.

Stephen Kinzer Journalist & Academic

Stephen Kinzer
Journalist & Academic

Educational Forum
Stephen Kinzer was the featured speaker at our Educational Forum in October. Kinzer is an authority on Nicaragua and has interviewed Danial Ortega, President of Nicaragua, and wrote Blood of Brothers: Life and War in Nicaragua.  He is not optimistic for a quick solution to the troubles in NI.  He saluted Brookline Sister City for its continuing work with the people of Quezalguaque.

Dengue Outbreak
In the last two weeks, we responded to an urgent request for assistance to address threats of dengue.  In the small community of Quezalguaque, there are 273 suspected and 34 confirmed cases. The threat of mosquito borne illnesses is greatest in the rainy season. This is usually from May to October in Quezalguaque. This year the threat has continued into December.

$30,099 Needed for Clean Water Initiative
Clean, accessible water is vital for the residents of Quezalguaque and we will be considering an award of $30,099 for improvements to the storage, pumping and distribution systems in 6 rural communities in Quezalguaque at our next Board meeting in January.  The $30,099 will be in addition to $51,541 already awarded for the clean water initiative.

We also continue to provide on-going support for the library in Quezalguaque, a mobile library, for arts programming and health care services.

The Sister City Project has no office or paid staff and whenever Board members or others travel to Quezalguaque, they do so at their own expense.  Your donations go to support our partnership with the Quezalguaque community.

Tax-deductible contributions may be made on-line (see Donate button above)  or checks payable to the Brookline-Quezalguaque Sister City Project (BQSCP) may be mailed to PO Box 114, Brookline, MA 02446.

Thank you for your support.  Without it, the collaboration between our two communities would not be what it is today.  If you’d like to get involved or want more information about the Sister City Project, please write us at brooklinesistercity@gmail.com.

We look forward to a more peaceful year ahead.

Happy Holidays! Saludos,

Richard Segan
President

“The BQSCP represents the very best of people in two communities of the world, learning about each other & believing that with generosity & resolve, good things are possible.”

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BQSIP Campaign Launched

Willa Vish

Willa Vish

Brookline High School (BHS) sophomore Willa Vish announced the launch of a campaign to sell reusable water bottles to help fund the Brookline Sister City Project clean water initiative in Quezalguaque.  Vish made the announcement at the Sister City Educational Forum & Fundraiser at the Brookline VFW Post.

At the time the announcement was made, the environmental friendly reusable bottles had not yet been received; Vish and her fellow BHS students took orders for bottles rather than selling them at the Sister City fundraiser as originally planned.

Vish along with fellow sophomore Sophie Jelden were among the BHS students that traveled to Quezalguaque in April 2018 and this fall they led efforts to organize a BHS student club to support Quezalguaque and the Sister City Project. Social studies teacher Joanne Burke-Hunter traveled to Quezalguaque with the students in April and she is the faculty advisor for the newly authorized club.

Speaking to the attendees at the event that featured former Governor Michael Dukakis and award winning correspondent Stephen Kinzer, Vish explained that the BHS club’s first project is selling reusable water bottles.  Funds raised by the sale will be donated to the Brookline Sister City Project for the clean water initiative funded by the Sister City Project for the Quezalguaque community.

Vish and the members of the new club not only hope to raise money for and build awareness of the Sister City Project but they are promoting the reusable water bottles as an alternative to single use plastic commercially sold water bottles.

The typical American reportedly uses an average of 167 plastic water bottles per year. With promotion of reusable water bottles, the goal will be to dramatically reduce and eventually eliminate single use plastic bottles.

Vish, Jelden and the other students in attendance at the Sister City Ed Forum received orders for more than 40 bottles at the event. The bottles are branded BQSIP for Brookline-Quezalguaque SIP.

Sister City Board member and liaison to the Brookline schools, Stacey Downey introduced Vish at the event and commended the students for establishing the club and taking on the new initiative.

For more information about the Sister City Project or to order a BQSIP $12 reusable water bottle, contact BrooklineSisterCity@gmail.com

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Nicaragua Update

Dear Friends & Supporters of the Brookline Sister City Project,

In case you missed it, here’s a link to Stephen Kinzer’s op-ed in  the 6/4 Boston Globe about the present crisis in Nicaragua.
https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2018/06/04/nicaragua-brink-calamity/pXOf7gOpjerrYR6ucLExbP/story.html

Some of us have been in regular contact with friends and colleagues in Nicaragua since the beginning of demonstrations in April.   Although Quezalguaque has remained calm,  the situation overall is very troublesome and it is a stressful and uncertain time throughout the country because of continuing demonstrations, counter demonstrations, roadblocks impacting local travel, some violence particularly directed toward demonstrators and concerns about possible food or other shortages ahead.    Because of the situation, the trip planned for this coming summer with graduate students in public health and four of our Board members was cancelled.

Despite the unstable political situation, our collaborative work in education, health care, water and other areas continues. Attached is an update about the clean water initiative and our investment of $47,000+ to help improve the water system in Quezalguaque.  There have been some delays in the initiative but it is proceeding and there is on-going collaboration with the University in Leon (UNAN/Leon) and ECODES, a Leon based NGO.

Our Sister City collaborative approach supports ongoing work on-the-ground regardless of our ability to travel on the ground.

If you’d like more information about our work or want to get involved or discuss it further, please feel free to contact us at BrooklineSisterCity@gmail.com

Thanks for your concern and continuing support in this difficult time.

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Sister City Project Invests $47K+ in Clean Water Initiative

Clean, accessible drinking water is vital to any community in the world and since 2017, a coalition of groups and organizations has been actively working together to improve water quality and water system infrastructure in Quezalguaque, a poor, rural community of approximately 12,000 residents.

Working in collaboration with community water committees, the municipal government of Quezalguaque, the Universidad Nacional Autónoma of Nicaragua (UNAN) in Leon, and ECODES, a Spanish NGO, a baseline study of the rural water system was conducted in 2017 to identity the main problems in the water system. Following the study, training for lay community water committee leaders and municipal authorities was conducted.

In 2018, improvements in the system are scheduled along with a second round of training aimed at strengthening the capacity of community water committees to better maintain their water systems and ensure clean drinking water.

Pictured below are Brookline Sister City Board members and consultants working in Quezalguaque earlier this year on the clean water initiative. The Sister City Project has awarded $47,700 to date to support this initiative.

Water

Contaminated Wells & Distribution Systems
The focus of the initiative is on 7 rural water systems in Quezalguaque serving approximately 80% of the population. Sister City Project funded water quality studies in 2017 found that 4 of 12 wells had microbial contamination and all of the distribution systems for the wells were contaminated. None of the 7 communities had working chlorination systems.

Inadequate Supply
The largest of the seven rural systems serving almost 2,000 people was supplying less than 2 hours per day of water because the well was inadequate to meet demand. Some households had water service from, e.g., 8 to 10 am and others from 10 am to noon or noon to 2 pm.

Rotary Funding
Nicaraguan engineers funded by the Sister City Project are currently developing specifications for equipment needed to address infrastructure issues in wells, water storage tanks and the distribution system. Thanks to financial support from the Brookline Rotary and Rotary International, it is expected that equipment will be purchased later this year enabling chlorination of the entire rural water system. Funds will also be used to make repairs in the 7 systems and to operationalize a new well for the community with inadequate supply where households are receiving only two hours per day of water. The municipality of Quezalguaque and Brookline’s Sister City Project will be contributing more funds to this overall effort.
Plans are also underway to address the lack of on-going water quality testing. With further funding, it is hoped that concerns about water quality and contaminants and additional infrastructure needs can be addressed.

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February Meeting in Quezalguaque

SC-FebLargeFour team members were in Quezalguaque in February to work on the clean water initiative project. The photo was taken at the “wrap-up” meeting held in the Quezalguaque Mayor’s office at the end of the week-long visit.   Our team included consultants Betsy Reilley (Director of Environmental Quality, Mass. Water Resources Authority), Craig Miller (chemical engineer and Rotarian from Des Moines, Iowa) along with Sister City Board members Sarah Johnson & Richard Segan.  All traveled at their own expense.

Among the attendees at the meeting and active participants in the discussions related to the clean water initiative were the new Mayor, Henry Sandoval Pereira and Vice-Mayor, Lucy Ruiz Borda.   Both were elected in November of last year and assumed office in January.

Many thanks to the Brookline Rotary Club for their support and partnership on the clean water initiative. The Brookline Rotary in collaboration with a Rotary Club in Leon, Nicaragua, helped secure a $35,000 grant from Rotary International for the initiative and during the visit to Nicaragua we had the opportunity to meet with Board and members of the Club in Leon.

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