Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Nicaragua Sister Partnership Semester in Review

Here is a brief update from the Nicaragua Sister Partnership, to let you know this group hasn't fallen on the face of the Earth. The majority of these blog posts were written during the January 2010 delegation trip to Nicaragua. This trip happens every other year, giving students a chance to experience what life is like for our partners in Nicaragua's National Union of Farmers and Ranchers, and to forge strong personal connections that are essential to this work, and hear firsthand about the ideas and priorities of those participating in the loan fund.

This January there is no delegation to Nicaragua. However, the Nicaragua Sister Partnership Committee continues to be active in both semesters. Our objectives on non-trip years are to educate Oberlin Student Cooperative Association members and the Oberlin community at large about the partnership, and issues relevant to Nicaragua and Latin America in general. We also work to raise funds in order to make these educational activities and the delegation trips possible.

Now for a brief listing of our activities this semester:
We cooked the traditional Nicaraguan rice and bean dish gallo pinto for Oberlin's Culture Festival. We put on a movie screening and discussion event on the topic of international trade and immigration for International Trade Action Day. We showed the Witness for Peace mini-documentary Roots of Migration , and talked about how free trade agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA destroy livelihoods of farming communities in Latin America and force migration. We facilitated the annual all-OSCA vote to donate to the loan fund. OSCA members approved a donation of $5,000, which is the $3,000 allocated as a donation in OSCA's annual budget, plus $2,000 made up of donations from each member's end-of-year refund check. We put up an installation in Mudd Library on the weekend of November 21st, the same weekend as the protest at the site of the School of the Americas in Georgia. Our installation included information about this U.S. taxpayer-funded training school for Latin American military officials and the human rights abuses the graduates have committed, as well as petitions and information on how to call representatives. A couple of members of the committee worked on posters describing fair trade bananas, to post in the Oberlin dining halls. As of this fall, Oberlin Dining Services has switched to buying only fair trade bananas, thanks to discussions the Nicaragua Sister Partnership had with dining managers last year. The Nicaragua Sister Partnership has also been involved in planning meetings for Food Week, an event bringing together many campus and community groups working on food issues to present events. The Nicaragua Sister Partnership hopes to collaborate with the Immigrant Workers' Project to put together an event about issues of farm worker rights, food justice and the many facets of local food production. Toward the end of fall semester, the committee also organized a fundraiser dance night featuring live music from Oberlin's salsa band Son de Oberlin, as well as a fundraiser selling photos from past delegations at a table of Oberlin's annual Alternative Gift Fair.

By far our most exciting plan is still slightly up in the air. We have invited Francis and Noel to come from Nicaragua to visit Oberlin in the spring. We are waiting to hear whether they can get visas, but we sincerely hope they are able to make the trip. They are both amazing people who work with the UNAG, and their visit would be a great opportunity to teach Oberlin more about Nicaragua and the partnership between OSCA and the UNAG. Also, a trip like this would be important in making the Nicaragua Sister Partnership a truly reciprocal exchange of ideas and experiences.

I feel privileged to be able to be part of this unique and important partnership. If schoolwork ever begins to feel overwhelming or pointless, I can think of this partnership as a way that I can affect real people and connect with others, even though they are far away. My experience last January affected me deeply and continues to motivate me in this work. Best wishes for a great new year.

Nicaragua Sister Partnership Coordinator 2010-2011