By Denise Briggs Potter
About 31 Years Ago, Bainbridge resident Kim Esterberg visited Ometepe island in Nicaragua while traveling with a Seattle Sister Cities delegation. At the time Seattle was a sister city with capital Managua and Esterberg thought to develop a corollary sister island relationship. What resulted is an alliance between two islands similar in size and population, but vastly different in culture and resources. The Bainbridge Ometepe Sister Islands Association (BOSIA) was then established to support the affiliation through delegations, scholarships, community projects and programs for students with special needs.
An example of BOSIA’s work is its delegation of Bainbridge high school students who travel over the summer to work and live with local families. They assist with projects like building libraries, painting schools and developing clean water sources. Dana Willerford, BOSIA board president, said the experience helps students engage in issues of global poverty. “The people of Ometepe have great ideas and skills, they just don’t have the resources,” she said. “Students learn what poverty is, and that you can be generous and have a rich life, even without money, indoor plumbing and electricity.”
BOSIA also runs a coffee company that supports Ometepe’s organic farming. Beans are imported and roasted on Bainbridge, and the resulting Ometepe Fair Trade Coffee is sold at T&C and Central Market. Willerford said that BOSIA’s scholarship program helps Ometpe students afford college. “We have graduated doctors, lawyers, engineers, physical therapists and teachers. This creates a ripple effect that benefits the Ometepe community.”