What “Norwalk” Means
To most of us, Norwalk is a small city in Connecticut. But to many in Nagarote, Nicaragua, “Norwalk” means so much more. Say “Norwalk” to a taxi driver in Nagarote – no street name, no address – and he will bring you to the Norwalk/Nagarote Community Center. Ask a group of kids what “Norwalk” has meant to them and they will bring tears to your eyes.
Javier, a fifteen-year-old, says he is learning computers in “Norwalk.” That $300 scholarship eighteen-year-old Evaristo receives from “Norwalk” enables him to attend college for a year; in return, he tutors younger kids at the Center. Velia, a nineteen-year-old, tells us that in “Norwalk,” her teachers are friends. Now a university student in Managua, she says she’s studying law because of “Norwalk.”
“’Norwalk’ is family to me,” says Jeffry.
Juan Gabriel Hernandez Rocha, the ex-Mayor of Nagarote, told us Nagarote and “Norwalk” have been married to each other for 27 years. “Till death do us part,” he half-joked.
“Norwalk” means promise, hope, opportunity.
The Norwalk/Nagarote Sister-City Project means so much in the lives of the people of Nagarote.
Review from #MyGivingStory
I visited the Norwalk/Nagarote Sister-City Project in Nicaragua last February. I returned deeply impressed with the quality and scope of the Project, even more strongly dedicated to helping it continue to succeed.
Now in its 26th year, N/N supports a pre-school program for little ones and an after-school program for teens. Computers, baking, sewing, hairdressing, art, and martial arts are just a few of the programs the staff offers to 185 kids as an alternative to the gangs, drugs, and pregnancies that often go hand-in-hand with poverty. The Project also offers an extensive organic agriculture and home gardening program.
Most importantly, the Norwalk/Nagarote Sister-City Project provides hope. Eighty-two students are offered scholarships from grade school to the university. While most of their parents never finished sixth grade, almost all of our scholars complete high school and continue on to college. (Sixth grade is as far as my own father went; I know first-hand how important education is, how much hope it gives).
Part of the attraction of N/N is how personal it is, how local. Friends and neighbors here in the Norwalk area are working together to help friends and neighbors in Nagarote (and once you have visited, you know these are friends and neighbors!).
Year after year we grow and improve our programs. New programs include theater and English. We're working closely with the public school system to coordinate tutoring. Our college scholarship students are volunteering as tutors for younger students and what wonderful role models they make. We are having a powerful impact on at-risk kids in Nagarote, Nicaragua.
N/NSCP is having a profound impact on the lives of hundreds of disadvantaged children in Nagarote, Nicaragua by sponsoring a preschool and providing training to the staff and learning materials; giving scholarships, including tutoring, to 82 students grades 1 - college; offering afterschool enrichment programs for kids 6-19; and creating a model sustainable farm where the children learn to grow their own nutritious produce.
Now, the gangs that plagued the neighborhood are gone, the kids are growing and planting trees throughout the town, most kids are finishing high school and many are continuing on to college although most of their parents never finished sixth grade, and families are enjoying more nutritious diets with the produce grown on the farm. Plus, we've experienced very little, if any, teen pregnancy in the 11 years we've had this program although Nicaragua has the highest teen pregnancy rate in Latin America.
I volunteered to lick envelopes for the NNSCP after reading about it in the paper and right away had the chance to meet the President and Executive Director bc they are so deeply involved in this organization. They are passionate about the program, working tirelessly to support the cause and even traveling regularly to Nagarote at their own expense. It turned out that most of the board is just as invested. I was hooked. Every penny - except for one staff person in Norwalk - goes to the program in Nagarote and is managed by an unbelievable field manager, with close financial oversight from Norwalk. The accomplishments include a beautiful new community center (I attended its grand opening) chock full of programs and smiling kids of all ages, the eradication of gangs in the Jeronimo Lopez barrio, an organic farm around which a number of programs are being developed and kids attending school and college thanks to grants from the program. There are also regular "delegations" that travel from the US, providing a chance for other people - especially kids - to see first-hand what is being done and how their contributions matter, hopefully creating new generations that will want to give back. Having seen this board in action and having been to Nagarote to see the results of the program, I've become an enthusiastic donor and participant myself.
Seven years ago, I took my first trip to Nagarote, Nicaragua to help establish a photo project and see first-hand what was happening in this project that I had heard about since 1986. I was hooked! I was so impressed with the work being done with the youth that I came back determined to help the project grow (and indeed it has grown tremendously over the past 7 years). But more importantly for me personally, I had made some wonderful friends. The young people that I first met when they were 14 and 15 years old are now college students working with the youth currently in our program. They are thoughtful, energetic, and hopeful - wonderful role models for the young people of course, but also for the older ones who see them determined to make a better life. The family I stay with is like my own family. They have all given me far more than I have given them. For a small organization with a very small budget, NNSCP has made a huge difference in the lives of the people - from preschoolers and their parents, to elementary age students in the reading circle, to young people in our youth project, to all the children, youth, and college students in our scholarship program. It has also had an impact on the whole town, through its reforestation project and model organic farm. Its success in so many areas makes it a model for good development work.
The Norwalk Sister City Project does some incredible sustainable community development work in one of the neediest areas of this part of the world. As an active board member I have made numerous visits to our site in Nagarote, Nicaragua and I can really see the difference that our efforts are making. Because we hire a director to oversea our efforts we maintain a real hands-on sense of what is being done. On our last visit I think what really impressed me the most was to see so many of our young people who had been through the program, now working in various capacities as volunteers and paid workers. You could see the glow in their eyes and feel the sense of self worth that they felt towards the program and how proud they were to be helping to continue the work for the next generation. There is very little overhead in running our project and the money we raise truly goes directly to our programs
This charity pairs Norwalk, CT with the city of Nagarote in Nicaragua. The mayer of Nagarote asked the project to help with youth in one barrio in his city where crime was high. The project has established a preschool set up youth after-school projects organized sports activities, etc. and as a result has eliminated youth gangs, lowered school drop out rates and and given hope to the poorest of chirldren. Many of the project kids are now entering college. In effect the programs have worked to turn poor kids into middle class kids with plans and hope of the future. All of this has been done with a tiny budget! This is truly a project that is a model for changing the world... one child at a time.