A twinning link is a way of promoting mutual understanding, friendship, and solidarity between people, towns and communities in different countries.
Although distance separates us we are united in solidarity, compassion, kindness, humanity and a spirit of love thy neighbour.
– Nicaraguan partner organisation of the Bradford Tisma Link
During the 1980s, when the Sandinista government was in power and the Reagan administration waged war against the country, hundreds of thousands of people from around the world visited Nicaragua to show political and practical support for the Sandinista Revolution.
Deeply affected by the experience, many returned home committed to continuing their support for Nicaragua in ways appropriate to their circumstances. Some chose to work locally by setting up twinning links with the towns and communities they had visited.
According to their local context, UK links with Nicaragua take many forms ranging from formal twinnings between local councils, to informal groups raising funds for a particular community or project.
The key to sustaining these links has been core groups of volunteers with the capacity to engage local organisations and people through activities that promote mutual solidarity with Nicaraguan partners.
NSC collaborates with and provides support for these local organisations, but they are autonomous and have their own structures and partner organisations in Nicaragua.
The groups undertake one or more of the following activities:
Raising awareness and funds for health, education and environmental projects
Over the past 30 years, groups have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for projects through sponsored events, raffles, duck races, football tournaments, online auctions, salsa discos, and much more. With Covid-19 restrictions, some groups organise online quizzes to support schools and community centres with Covid-19 related training and equipment.
Facilitating exchanges through delegations to Nicaragua and UK visits by partner organisations
For the last ten years, Bristol Link with Nicaragua have invited Nicaraguan women fair trade coffee producers to Bristol for Fairtrade Fortnight to visit schools, colleges, universities, business and women’s organisations to raise awareness of what difference fair trade makes for women farmers and the impact of climate change.
Supporting initiatives that contribute to a culture of peace
In 2018, during the profound polarisation and violence of the attempted coup, Bristol Link with Nicaragua worked with the local council in their twin town of Puerto Morazan to promote activities to build a culture of reconciliation, peace and dialogue. This includes an annual children’s peace festival, providing funding for the construction of pre-schools, and the painting of a peace mural.
Organising events that celebrate Nicaraguan culture
Since 1988, the Oxford Leon Association and Blackfriars Church have organised a mass that incorporates a performance with a choir and musicians of the Nicaraguan ‘Misa Campesina.’ The mass, first performed clandestinely in Nicaragua in 1975, is based on Nicaraguan folk music and celebrates God as the God of the poor and oppressed involved and supported in political struggle against wealthy elites.
Bristol Link with Nicaragua (BLINC)BLINC was set up in 1985 to develop a link between Bristol and Puerto Morazán. BLINC aims to strengthen ties between the two cities and to enable communities to benefit from cultural, educational and commercial exchanges. BLINC co-ordinates fundraising to support solidarity, development, healthcare and education programmes in Puerto Morazán and enables volunteers from Bristol to carry out projects such as teaching English and coaching sports.
Friends of MorazánFriends of Morazán (FoM) builds on Bristol’s twinning link with Puerto Morazán through providing support for educational and health initiatives to improve the education and living conditions for all. FoM also raises awareness in Bristol of Nicaraguan culture.
Bradford Nicaragua, The Tisma ProjectBradford’s community link with the town of Tisma is open to all. The Tisma Project develops links of friendship and solidarity and learns from the Tisma’s solutions to achieving social change and improving living conditions. Each year, the project allocates small grants to mutually agreed community projects or activities in Tisma. The Tisma Project works within Viva! Bradford to support, raise awareness and learn from progressive movements in Latin America.
Islington Managua Friendship Association (IMFA)IMFA provides financial support and friendship to Los Pollitos school for nursery and primary age children in the barrio Edgard Munguia in Managua. Since 1990, IMFA has raised £150,000 to help the community provide education in a safe environment through building and maintaining classrooms, as well as paying the salaries of teachers.
Nicaragua Education, Culture and Arts Trust (NECAT)The Nicaragua Education Culture and Arts Trust (NECAT) supports educational initiatives in marginalised communities in and around the city of León by raising money through trusts and individual donations. NECAT runs an after-school club for children from the ages of 6 to 14 where they get individual attention and opportunities to participate in cultural events.
Norwich/Norfolk – El Viejo LinkThe link between Norwich/Norfolk and El Viejo was set up in 1986 with the aim of providing friendship and support. The Link encourages contact between individuals and groups in Norwich/Norfolk and El Viejo, and supporting projects in El Viejo with a focus on education and public health. In Norwich/Norfolk, the Link aims to raise awareness of the situation in Nicaragua in general and El Viejo in particular.
Oxford – León Association & Trust (OLAT)Oxford has been twinned with León since 1986 with the aim of promoting and maintaining friendship between the citizens of the two cities. Most of OLAT's work focuses on organising events and exchange visits and raising funds for community projects, including clean water and agroecological food production in the small farming communities around León, as well as educational and health support to impoverished families in León.
Reading – San Francisco Libre Association & Trust (RSFLA)Reading has had links with San Francisco Libre and been an official council twinning since 1994. RSFLA works within the local community to maintain awareness of and solidarity with Nicaragua. The Trust supports educational and environmental projects in San Francisco Libre, including most recently a reforestation project to honour the memory of David Grimes, who helped to establish the RSFLA.
Santa Rosa Fund (SRF)The SRF was set up in 1988, initially as a twinning link between Southway School in Plymouth and the Ernesto Ché Guevara School in the Barrio Santa Rosa in Managua. It subsequently broadened to support a range of educational projects and initiatives in different parts of Nicaragua. After 31 years, the SRF will close in early 2021. Visit their website for testimonies of bonds of solidarity that have existed for more than three decades.