EXCLUSIVE:Executive Director of the Sister City Project talks to Charity Spring

sister city project Tish Gibbs helped launch the Norwalk/Nagarote Sister City Project in 1986 and has watched it grow over the past 27 years. The organization’s goal is to build a partnership for sustainable community development, as well as a relationship between citizens of the U.S. and Nicaragua, she said.

Its Youth Project is one mission that has achieved that goal. The year-round after-school program in the Jeronimo Lopez barrio in Nicaragua educates teens on a number of topics, from the dangers of substance abuse to reading and writing.

Students are also encouraged to participate in healthy-living activities. Since 2006, they have planted 20,000 trees in their city for the organization’s Urban Reforestation Project.

In addition, its Preschool Project allows young children in poverty to get a head start on their education. At the beginning, Gibbs said, only four children were signed up. That number has since climbed to 53, which Gibbs said shows the impact the Sister City Project has made on Nagarote.

Upon graduation, the preschoolers are often given scholarships to attend elementary school by the Norwalk/Nagarote Sister City Project.Gibbs said there are several new projects on the organization’s agenda. Her team is hoping to bring a musical theater program to Nicaragua and build a farm.

Charity Spring got an opportunity to speak to her.

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Why your cause?
For me personally, my interest stems from my concern that US foreign policy in Nicaragua over the years has had such a negative impact on the country—more than any other country I am aware of.  Once I became involved and saw the extent of the poverty, I realized the enormous difference a small organization can make in the lives of the people there.

Share one of your finest moments in serving your cause.
As I was organizing the scholarship information, I suddenly realized that we now have 17 college students, five of whom are in their final year.  This is so amazing considering that few, if any, of their parents ever finished sixth grade and most of them were at-risk for joining gangs or becoming pregnant when we started the program.  Many of them have “friended” me on Facebook which they access from our computer lab.

What might surprise our readers about you and/or your cause?
We actually wiped out teen gangs and greatly reduced teen pregnancy in one extremely poor barrio in Nagarote.

What do our readers need to know about your cause?
We are the sister city for the Greater Norwalk Area and well beyond.  A visit to Nagarote is a life changing experience.

tutoring Who are your heroes?
My heroes are the kids in our program who started as young teens, are now in college and who work for us to earn their scholarships.  My heroes are also our Field Directors who keep the Project running smoothly.

Any events or volunteer opportunities coming up?
We have a delegation visiting Nagarote from March 1 to March 5 and we will have our 27thAnnual Fiesta in early May.

To contribute to the Norwalk/Nagarote Sister City Project, click here for more information.

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