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Past Accomplishments

1. National Recognitions -

1992: Readers Digest Special Achievement Award for "Puppet Project" in Somoto, awarded at annual Sister Cities International Conference in Houston.

1994: One of ten Sister City groups to be given a "seed grant" for Sister Cities International "Community Service Learning Youth Exchange." Five Merced High School students spent three weeks in Somoto working on service projects with five Somoto youth. The Somoto students then spent three weeks in Merced, working at a recreation center, a pre-school, the Merced County Fair petting zoo, and an elementary school.

2001: Betty Stewart, president of the Merced/Somoto Sister City Committee, received the "Volunteer of the Year" award for the U. S. at the Sister Cities International conference in Atlanta.

2. Building Projects - We helped finance a recreation center, a baseball stadium, a soccer field, and finishing touches to the "Los Pipitos" building.

3. Hurricane Mitch Relief - We sent $14,000 donated by our committee and Merced citizens to APRODES. They built 10 homes and provided 80 folding cots. We also helped coordinate sending two large truck loads of clothes and other supplies.

4. Aid for "Los Pipitos" (Parents of Handicapped Children) - We have given monetary support for various self-help projects and in 1997, a ten member delegation worked with "Los Pipitos."

5. Water Project - In 1999, we helped APRODES apply for a grant in which they received $10,000 from the Presbyterian Church USA Hunger Fund and a $13,064 gift from a Presbyterian Women's group in Osceda, Indiana. This brought clean water to 210 families in Santa Isabel and made possible additional hurricane relief.

6. Friendship Bus - In 2002, at the request of the Somoto professional soccer team, Real Madriz, we purchased a used school bus for their transportation.

We filled it with 330 boxes of school and medical supplies and sports equipment for the people of Somoto.

7. SCI Young Artist Competition - We had an entry from Merced, a stitchery piece by Patag Xiong, age 14, and a colored pencil work by Frederick Ramon Arauz, also 14, from Somoto, illustrating this year's theme "Coming Together to Build a Better World".

8. Displays at Merced Civic Center, (Dis)ability Awareness Day at Merced Mall, Martin Luther King Day celebration, Nor/Cal SCI conferences, Nicaragua network meetings, and summer concerts.

9. "La Purisima" Celebrations with Nicaraguan residents of Merced.

10. Slide Presentations to community groups and school classes.

11. Sponsor of "Mi Pequena Nicaragua" dance troupe.

12. Letter and Project Exchanges between school classes.

13. 10th Anniversary (1998) - In a ceremony at a City Council meeting, Merced Mayor Mary Jo Knudsen and Somoto Vice-Mayor Wilson Pablo Montoya Rodriquez signed a document reaffirming the covenant between Merced and Somoto. A celebration dinner concluded a week of activities. In 2004 we celebrated our 15th anniversary with a dinner and program.

14. Sponsorship of Speakers and Forums on Nicaragua.

15. Dr. Dennis Cesar, his wife Theresa, two sons  and three friends spent seven weeks in Somoto in March and April, 2004 working at the hospital, teaching English, planning future projects, and making friends.

And thanks to their foundation Hearts Afire, a whole new Centro De Rehabilitacion for the handicapped children of Los Pepitos was completed in November, 2005.