Bainbridge Ometepe Sister Islands Association Programs
BOSIA is a ~170-person volunteer organization (<1 paid FTE) that has connected sister-island residents in long-term, cross-cultural relationships, while facilitating locally envisioned projects on Ometepe that benefit the local community. Major programs target a spectrum of services including:
- EDUCATION & CULTURAL EXCHANGE -- internet access and computer support at local schools; college, nursing, and special needs scholarships; elementary and secondary school library materials; sign-language classes for the deaf; specialized computer access for the blind; community meeting houses & road construction; International Women’s Day celebrations; annual Bainbridge High School student delegations to Ometepe for 2-week home-stays and community service projects; regular delegations of Ometepinos (farmers, teachers, health care providers, etc.) to Bainbridge Island for education and relationship-building;
- HEALTH -- potable water system/latrine construction; support for preschool nutrition and hygiene program; education and infrastructure support (e.g., running water, construction of patient care areas in rural health posts) to Ometepe providers of medical, dental, physical therapy, and psychology care;
- AGRICULTURE -- provision of agronomist and volunteer labor to support growth, harvest, and sale of local fair trade, shade-grown coffee (volunteer-roasted & sold on Bainbridge Island), proceeds of which generate project funds while emphasizing sustainable, green farming practices.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
The BOSIA Health Committee partners physicians, nurses, and others on both Bainbridge Island and Ometepe in a long-term, relationship-based effort to improve health in this isolated, low-resource community where basic medical resources (e.g., medical oxygen, x-ray, inpatient care) are unavailable. Following a comprehensive health assessment of Ometepe in 2008-09, BOSIA requested proposals from all government-supported Ometepe health clinics, soliciting self-prioritized, basic infrastructure improvements to enhance patient care. Proposals could request ~$600 in material costs, but also required local community participation/support (‘contraparte’).
Of 7 proposals submitted, 6 met standardized criteria and were funded by BOSIA ($4218 total). Improvements included: construction of patient care facilities (enclosed rooms, toilets, sinks, floors/roofs), basic utilities (water storage tanks/towers), and facility repairs. Contraparte consisted of manual labor, recycled building materials, and transportation/food for laborers.
This program demonstrated that basic healthcare infrastructure improvements can be achieved using a collaborative process between committed healthcare partners in the USA and rural Nicaragua using a combination of simple, locally initiated written proposals, ongoing relationship-based evaluation/follow-up, and project investment by all partners. Subsequent funding from the Seattle International Foundation has extended this program for ~14 more projects in 2012-2013.