What many people don’t know about Sheffield is that 30 years ago, hidden behind the depths of the Contra War, the city gained a sibling.
The partnership between our city and Estelí, Nicaragua, is largely unknown – but a recent visit to Sheffield by the city mayor aimed to raise awareness.
“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 getting loans 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, in 1988.
Society chairman Ros Wollen 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. The Splash festival was the first joint project held between the European twin towns in 1986.
Volunteers came together to increase access to safe drinking water for the population of Estelí, and the week-long event raised more than £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 recruit 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 good example – it was set up by Students for Esteli, at The University of Sheffield, to pay farmers a fair price for their coffee. Twin Cafe coffee is sold at Pachamamas on Abbeydale Road.
Mr Valenzuela visited the project on his trip to Sheffield last month.
Visit sheffieldestelisociety.org.uk to get involved or for more details.