Brookline Sister City Week kicks off October 16, celebrating 29 years of making people-to-people connections with the community in Quezalguaque, Nicaragua. The highlight of the week will be an October 20 fundraiser with Gov. Michael Dukakis and New York Times reporter Stephen Kinzer honoring longtime Sister City supporters Jean & Peter Stringham.
Jean Stringham was the Sister City Project’s first treasurer and served on the Board for 10 years. Later, Dr. Peter Stringham joined the Board and after more than 15 years of service continues to be very active having most recently served for 6 years as Chair of the Medical Committee dealing with issues such as the epidemic of chronic kidney disease and the Zika outbreak in the Central American community.
The Brookline Sister City relationship began over 30 years ago when Brookline teacher Maxine Shaw traveled to Quezalguaque to teach in a one-room school house. She wrote home to friends about the limited resources in the community. Because of a growing interest in supporting the needs of the Nicaraguan community, the Board of Selectmen and Town Meeting voted to establish the sister city relationship.
“The Sister City relationship is a partnership in which we learn from each other,” said Richard Segan, president of the Brookline Quezalguaque Sister City Project Board of Directors (BQSCP). “More than 250 people from our community have visited Quezalguaque over the years. It is a cultural and educational exchange. We’ve also partnered with the Quezalguaque community in a wide range of areas largely in response to their suggestions. We hope we’ve contributed in some small ways to address unmet needs. Our primary areas of partnership have been in education, health care, and housing.”
Many initiatives currently supported by the organization includes creating a mobile library, supporting special needs education, creating an arts program, providing better health care access, and building the first computer classroom in the region. Despite being created by a vote by the Board of Selectmen and Town Meeting, BQSCP receives no government funding. All of these initiatives are funded by Brookline residents and with contributions from many community groups like Brookline Rotary, All Saints Parish and the Friends of Brookline Libraries.
Recent discussions about immigration from Latin America has created division in many communities across America. However, Segan said BQSCP has actually done a good job of bringing together Americans and Nicaraguans.
“Those of us who have had the good fortune to be able to spend time in Quezalguaque quickly learn that the population aspires to many of the same things that people want in our community, e.g., quality education for their children, access to health care, safe drinking water, etc,” Segan said. “Perhaps if more people had opportunities like we have had to share people-to-people experiences, there would be less fear and more understanding of those fleeing from unstable societies.”
Dr. Milagro Baldelomar, director of health services in Quezalguaque, and four teachers from the Nicaraguan community have been invited to attend Brookline Sister City Week. Dr. Baldelomar will work with BQSCP on many initiatives to improve health care delivery, including care for chronic kidney disease (CKD), a leading cause of death in Quezalguaque.
Also part of Brookline Sister Cities Week, there will be a Science on Screen program at the Coolidge Corner Theatre on October 17 which will focus on water security issues worldwide and a program on Brookline and Latin American poetry on October 16 at Center Communities of Brookline.
The organization plans to continue building these people-to-people relationships in the near future with more focus on education, health care, student/teacher exchanges and other priorities between the two communities.
“Most importantly, we hope to continue to contribute in a small way to global understanding,” Segan said. “The direct face-to-face contact afforded via the Sister City Project is incredibly educational and also rewarding for the participants.”
Mayflower Medical Outreach, the University of Nebraska at Lincoln School of Audiology and Brookline-Quezalguaque Sister City Project in coordination with Nicaragua’s National Reconciliation and Unification Government, through the Ministry of Health in the municipality of Quezalguaque offered audiology services to several hearing impaired patients.
“It seems like such a great idea to make a connection between the University of Nebraska and Brookline-Quezalguaque Sister City Project bringing audiology support to the families of Quezalguaque,” said Judith Chasin, Brookline-Quezalguaque Member.
Chasin, said that Mayflower Medical Outreach, has about 16 years of working in northern Nicaragua, providing audiology services to the families of Jinotega, Matagalpa and Esteli. A clinic will be established in the Leon community within the next year.
Patients were examined by specialists in order to assess whether or not they warrant the use of hearing devices therefore making it available to them.
Matriarch Petrona Martinez, said it is great that the government and other agencies assist families this way, since purchasing these devices themselves is a financial struggle.
“I feel good that the government and other agencies, are lending us a hand, because with what little money we earn is never enough to afford these devices and I want my son to benefit from all this.”
This event is primarily intended for people diagnosed as critical case, but will also be assisting those not integrated into this program.
Milagro Baldelomar, County Delegate to the Ministry of Health, said Todos Con Voz (Everyone With a Voice) program is designed to assist people who have hearing problems but also would be assisting those who are not part of this government program.
“In coordination with the Ministry of Health, the Mayflower agency, the University of Nebraska and the strong relationship that the county has with Brookline-Quezalguaque Sister City Project, we are making this two-day audiology journey Todos Con Voz (Everyone With a Voice) possible for everyone, regardless whether they are part of the program or not.”
This great health project is thanks to partnerships created by the government for the welfare and tranquility of Nicaraguan families.
The story was originally published by Multi Noticias, Nicaragua.
Carol Piñeiro and Kea van der Ziel arrived in Quezalguaque with the students on Saturday, May 14th. The student under Carol Piñeiro’s oversight will be working in the library, English language classes and possibly in the computer classes. Dr. van der Zeil’s public health students will be looking at the issue of underweight children and administering a survey to approx. 80-100 families identified by the health system as being at-risk.
Kea and Carol were in Quezalguaque for the week. The students will be there until the end of June.
At the March 31st Brookline Rotary Dancing with the Stars celebration the Rotary, presented a check for $19,893 to Brookline-Quezalguaque Sister City Project. The check reflected the money that Sister City and its “star” dancer John Dempsey raised. John and the committee chaired by Jean Stringham did a great job recruiting sponsors for John and Sister City.