This year, we welcomed Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV), Kate Crowley, to our Board of Directors. As an organization founded by RPCVs and led by yours truly, another RPCV, Kate is like a duck in water at SCSRN. We invited her to write about why she decided to get involved with our work.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nicaragua, I was placed in a site, a Nicaraguan municipality. Nuestros sitios, o municipios, were occasionally how Peace Corps Volunteers referred to the places we lived. But more often, we spoke about our communities, nuestras comunidades.
What made us feel as if we were part of those communities, despite the fact we were citizens of another country? I felt a part of the community I lived in because I lived in a home, with a Nicaraguan family. Lidia, my host mom, was fun-loving and always quick to tease. She would send my four-year-old host brother, Freddy, into my room with slices of dessert or a cup of Coca-Cola at night, just because. My teenage host sister, Thelma, wanted to be a vet and babied the bunnies, parrot, and dogs we shared our home with. Another way I felt a part of the community I lived in was through my work in Nicaraguan public schools. Professor Luisa and I co-planned and co-taught science classes every week and wrangled sixth-graders into creating a respectable school garden.
When I finished my Peace Corps service and moved to North Carolina, I was searching for a way to maintain that sense of community I had felt in Nicaragua. That’s when I found Sister Communities of San Ramón Nicaragua.
Sister Communities of San Ramón Nicaragua is a name that holds a lot of meaning. It assumes there are two communities—one in North Carolina, and another in San Ramón, Nicaragua. And then, it is rested on the premise that there is a community that exists between these two places in the United States and Nicaragua. It’s a tricky thing, “building community,” and something we at SCSRN think and talk about a lot. What makes a community? How do you build one between two places that are separated physically, and often have language and cultural differences?
We think community involves person-to-person interactions, cultural exchange, and mutual growth. Our projects are born out of exchange and collaboration between members of our team, which is comprised of the Board of Directors, the San Ramón Committee, and our staff.
I think one of the best examples of this cultural exchange is the Rural School Partnership. If you or a group you are a part of is interested in joining our community, the RSP program is designed to connect rural Nicaraguan elementary schools to schools, churches, clubs, or individuals in the United States. Participants pledge a donation of $500 per year to their sister school in San Ramón, usually for three years. The teachers and parents of the school decide how best to use those funds to benefit their school, and SCSRN facilitates communication between schools and sponsors throughout the year with photos, videos, drawings, and letters. SCSRN also facilitates visits by U.S. participants to their sister school in San Ramón.
Of course, SCSRN facilitates a lot of other projects as well! Latrines, water filters, literacy projects, improved wood stoves- the list goes on and on. If you’re interested in finding out more about the community we’re building, we would love for you to join our email list to find out about upcoming events and projects.