Bilwi-Puerto Cabezas Sister City Program
15 Beech Street, Burlington, VT 05404
The Burlington/ Puerto Cabezas Sister City Program continues to promote interaction between the residents of Vermont and the residents of Puerto Cabezas, a municipality on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua. 2009 will mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the program. While our strategies have changed over the years, our focus continues to be the creation of partnerships between like-minded groups and individuals in Vermont and Nicaragua. The year 2009 saw the continuation of projects and the start of some new ones. Annual funding from the City of Burlington provides both financial and moral support in maintaining and growing the relationship.
2009 is the 25th anniversary of the relationship between Burlington and Puerto Cabezas. We are in contact with people in both communities, discussing ways we might acknowledge and celebrate that history. Guillermo Espinoza, recently re-elected mayor in Puerto Cabezas, has communicated to Mayor Kiss that he would like to renew the relationship between the mayor’s offices of our two cities. We hope that, as part of an official celebration, there might be a meeting of mayors in the upcoming year, either in Bilwi or in Burlington.
ROOFS FOR CHRISTMAS
In the aftermath of Hurricane Felix, the sister City Board, in conjunction with Burlington Mayor Kiss, created a “Roofs for Christmas” campaign to help residents in Puerto Cabezas repair their homes. Almost $11,000, raised by the city and residents of Burlington, was distributed to homeowners there. Board member Charles Delaney spent the month of January working with local assistants repairing roofs and constructing a cement storage area for the school in Barrio Cocal.
MUSIC & VIDEO
The Sister City Program continued support for local video production in Bilwi, purchasing two new field video cameras for the URACCAN BilwiVision project and arranging for the purchase of a new computer for editing.
Board member Dan Higgins has been producing a 25th anniversary video, “An Enduring Union”, looking back at the evolution of the Burlington/ Puerto Cabezas relationship. The film includes interviews and archival footage. Dan has also produced a sister city virtual duet featuring “Port” musician Remigio Hodgson backed up by Vermont musician Gordon Stone. That collaboration can be viewed on-line at http://blip.tv/file/2588321.
Board member Tina Escaja has written poems and wants to establish poetry collaboration with poets in Puerto Cabezas. She hopes to visit Bilwi in 2010 and interview women there as part of an ongoing project.
The Sister City Board seeks ways of expanding interest and participation in the program. We communicate with local organizations that might wish to collaborate, such as the University of Vermont Latin Studies Program, or student groups such as Latina Alianza. We partnered with a Cuban support organization sending wheelchairs to Nicaragua, and last spring we hosted Debby Hodgson who directs a youth leadership-training program in Puerto Cabezas.
The March edition of Mannie Lionni’s magazine 05401 was devoted to Burlington’s sister cities and included an article by Dan Higgins describing the history of the Burlington/ Puerto Cabezas relationship. The most far-reaching conduit for connecting with people has been our web site, www.uvm.edu/sistercity that gets many inquiries for information about Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast as well as requests about the various DVDs available through our web site.
In February 2010 board member David Hutchinson plans to travel to Bilwi with a dozen Johnson College counseling graduate students. They will meet with health providers and school and municipal leaders in the community and compare techniques for working with mental health. They hope also to establish a collaborative project with a Debby Hodgson’s youth leadership training program. Board member Charlie Delaney plans to do further construction projects at the Barrio Cocal School, and Dan Higgins plans to make more videos documenting music in the region. The Sister City board invites other Vermonters, especially any that may have visited “Port” in the past, to join us on this 25th anniversary delegation in February.
In summary, the Burlington/ Bilwi-Puerto Cabezas Sister City Program acts as an umbrella organization ready to support a wide range of people-to-people contacts. We invite collaboration with existing organizations and seek to expand our board to include diverse interests in the community. Vermonters are welcome to attend our irregularly scheduled but food-provided meetings, which take place at board member Jane Kramer’s house, 15 Beech Street. We can be contacted through our web site and people can be included in our mailings by sending us their email address.
We appreciate the official support of the city of Burlington and look forward to continuing to provide Burlington residents with this unique opportunity: to explore issues of importance to them by viewing those issues through the perspectives of their sister city counterparts.
Dan Higgins, Sister City Program Coordinator