City society strives to keep golden gift of ‘twinning’ alive

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What many don’t know about Sheffield is that 30 years ago, hidden behind the depths of the Contra War, the city gained a golden gift.

The partnership between our city and Estelí Nicaragua has been left unknown by many. It’s time to seek out Sheffield’s long lost twin.

City twinnings have been around for years now, promoting cultural ties between countries and providing a way for cities to celebrate one another. The Sheffield-Estelí society has been working hard since 1988 to keep the partnership alive.

“When the Mayor of Estelí, Francisco Valenzuela, visited Sheffield, he told me the people in both places are affectionate and warm, and I think that’s true,” said society secretary Tricia Sheerer.

“He was struck by the people here, who made him feel at home.”

Mr Valenzuela continues to strive to relieve poverty within the city, against the efforts of the United States ‘Nica Act,’ which demands a stop to Nicaragua loaning from the World Bank. This act would take away every effort that has been built up by the population of Nicaragua.

After the Sandinista Revolution, Estelí was left picking up the pieces to try to rebuild their city. A lack of resources proved it wasn’t achievable alone. Peaceful protests in Nicaragua had turned the city into a warzone, and the people have been left in sheer poverty ever since.

This is when the people of Sheffield stepped in.

Society chair Ros Wolllen said: “It’s not just that we provide support for the project, but it’s also a project that supports and encourages international friendship.”

From 1984, Sheffield was helping to rebuild the lives of those living in Estelí by sending help - in the form of volunteers, material aid, security and friendship. ‘Splash’ festival was the first joint project held between the European twin towns in 1986. Volunteers came together to increase access safe drinking water for the population of Estelí, and the week-long event raised over £10,000.

Sheffield-Esteli meetings were originally held in the town hall, charity shows were performed in The Crucible, and even The Leadmill got involved. Today, the society relies heavily on its own fundraising, to support projects such as Los Angelitos, which provides young people with a community environment to explore musical education. A Women’s Empowerment project is also supported, which works with young women affected by domestic violence.

As well as raising funds, the society continuously strives to keep the twinning going through the recruitment of new volunteers.

Tricia added: “We want to work with young people who are leading and involved with trying to make a change for the town that they live in.”

Coffee importing business Twin Cafe is a prime example of this, set up by Students for Esteli, at University of Sheffield, to pay farmers a fair price for their coffee.

Visit sheffieldestelisociety.org.uk for details on the group, and on getting involved as a volunteer.