Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the Americas. It is also poor in natural resources and the target of frequent hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.  Nicaragua became a democracy in 1984.  In 1987, during the Contra war, a small group of citizens of Richland Center, Wisconsin,  contacted the Nicaraguan Embassy in Washington, DC with a view to establishing a constructive and positive relationship with the people of Nicaragua through a sister city arrangement. 

The resulting relationship with Santa Teresa, named the Richland Center-Santa Teresa Sister City Project, SCP for short, focused on friendship, information about Central America, and aid.

In 1997, SCP received a letter from the Santa Teresa mayor requesting SCP’s help in protecting sea turtles and aiding the people of the remote, “poorest-of-the-poor” villages of the Chacocente Wildlife Refuge on the Pacific coast. Chacocente’s olive ridley sea turtle arribada (mass-nesting) beach is of global importance, one of eight remaining in the world.

The SCP responded and has since focused its efforts in and around Chacocente. 

The project took a major leap forward in 2000 when Peter Smith, a Hillsboro,WI, Amish farmer volunteered to live in Chacocente for 2 1/2 years and initiate our projects. This gave SCP a clear, grassroots view of both the environmental and human needs. There are five villages within the refuge and a further 17 in the surrounding “buffer zone”. Peter found a subsistence situation where most cash income was derived from turtle eggs and cattle. The cattle, along with “slash and burn” corn and bean production, were severely damaging the Refuge's 10,000-acre remnant of tropical dry forest.  The remoteness of these communities, no electricity and only seasonal and difficult vehicular access, had caused them to be neglected by the regional government. 

The combination of Peter's time there, subsequent experience and a substantial increase in the SCP fund-raising effort has resulted in the development of a model for reducing the inequality of opportunity for these people and, at the same time, lessening their negative impact on a rare ecosystem. 

 As of 2018 we continue  to focus on the 5 villages, but have extended to other villages in the buffer zone.  Conditions have improved with the arrival of electricity in most villages, improvements in gardening and agriculture practices, more attention to sanitation, and more children attending secondary schools, but extreme poverty persists.    

 Guiding Principles        

 •  Establishment of a democratic, representative structure for each village.      

 •  Development of a “menu” of projects from which each village may choose priorities for SCP funding and technical support.    

 •  Fund technical help and materials only    

 •  Labor must be by local people    

 •  Projects must be environmentally sustainable. 

Organizational Structure

 • We have no paid staff in the U.S.  Local operations rely on the volunteer efforts of our board and other supporters.    

•  Our Nicaraguan coordinator, Alma Susana Chávez (pictured on right) is a Santa Teresa native with a college degree.  She supervises project activities, oversees all financial transactions, provides technical help to the recipients, and reports regularly to the U.S. board.     

•  Many of our board members and other supporters have travelled to Nicaragua over the years, paying their own expenses.  We try to arrange at least one delegation to visit Santa Teresa each year to monitor projects and meet directly with the people there.  

• The board meets monthly to conduct our business.     
 
• Our annual meeting (held in February or March) is open to donors and the general public.
  

 Financial Management

•  All outlays are approved by the board as part of our annual budget.  Approval is contingent on funding levels and consistency with our long-term organizational goals.  The coordinator monitors all projects and provides monthly reports verifying expenditures.

 •  SCP is financed by private donations from individuals throughout the USA. Annual receipts have grown from around $5,000 in 2000 to over $40,000 in 2017.  

•  Major targeted donations have helped fund our Village Partners programs (providing $5,000 a year for three years of projects focused in specific villages) and our scholarship grants (including $500 post-secondary awards given annually to the top 2 graduates).

•  Other bequests and donations have been used to establish an endowment fund which generates interest to help cover administrative expenses.    

SCP is a 501c3 organization and donations are tax deductible to the full extent allowable by current law. 

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