NORWALK, Conn. — Although Nagarote, Nicaragua, is thousands of miles from Norwalk, the two communities share a lasting bond as sister cities.
Tish Gibbs, director of the sister city project, was on hand to celebrate the relationship’s 30-year anniversary Friday here in Connecticut.
Gibbs greeted those walking into City Hall with information on the project and accepted a proclamation declaring Friday as Nagarote Day from Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling.
The project, which focuses on sustainable community development and helping disadvantaged youth, has made a lasting impression on the small rural community of Nagarote.
“It’s just been wonderful to see the change and to see the change in our kids,” Gibbs said.
Nagarote was struggling when it first became a sister city of Norwalk, Rilling said, but the area has since seen improvements, with the help of its urban sister city.
"We've built buildings and schools, and there's even a little center of the area called Norwalk," Rilling said, adding that people there know of Norwalk and are pleased with the help they have received.
The sister city program particularly focuses on youth by awarding scholarships to help them further their educational pursuits.
“The kids need shoes and uniforms and school supplies,” Gibbs said. Without them, they can’t attend school in Nicaragua, she added.
So Gibbs’s project awards scholarships to students in first grade through 11th grade, which is Nagarote’s highest class level.
The project also awards college scholarships. As those students commute to class, the scholarships help fund their transportation, Gibbs said.
The project also offers after school activities to keep youth occupied as school only lasts for a half-day in Nagarote.
In the future, Gibbs hopes to expand the project’s reach. “At this point, we’re looking to forward to possibly having our own preschool,” she said.
While Gibbs said it’s difficult to count the number of students helped by the project, she estimates that her group has served 1,000 people since its inception.
The project also has had a personal impact on Gibbs. “It’s made me very connected to the kids,” she said. “I feel like almost these are my grandchildren or children.”
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