About the Society
Sheffield is twinned with the city of Estelí in Nicaragua, one of the poorest countries in Latin America. Thanks to this association, the University of Sheffield is twinned with University of Estelí. Students for Estelí are the student branch of this twinning – a student run society which fundraisers for projects and scholarships at the University of Estelí, and runs a yearly cultural exchange trip for University of Sheffield students.
Students for Estelí run various fundraising events throughout the year in order to raise money to help poorer members of the Nicaraguan population gain access to university education. Students for Estelí also work hard for mutual cultural exchange. We not only facilitate students from University of Sheffield to visit Estelí to teach English and pass on our culture, but we also organise for Nicaraguan students to visit us here in Sheffield. The hope is that these Nicaraguan students can then continue the cultural exchange on their return to Nicaragua, so that the twinning runs deep.
In order to raise awareness of both Sheffield’s and the University’s twinning with Estelí, we as a society are organising what we are calling ‘Estelí Week’. Estelí Week will run in the last week of May, and will involve collaboration from societies, university departments and external agencies – all coming together to celebrate our twinning with Estelí. Plans are moving forward at a rate, and Estelí week is shaping up to be amazing, with events such as Salsa workshops, Samba performances, Nicaraguan cooking workshops and a visit from the Nicaraguan Ambassador.
Sheffield has been twinned with Estelí since the early 80’s, along with four other European towns, who as well as maintaining bilateral links with different groups in Estelí also coordinate their actions together. These twinning relationships of friendship and solidarity are managed by a committee in each city, and facilitated by the office of the twin towns
In the summer of 2002 a group of Sheffield University final year students travelled to Estelí with the help of the Sheffield Estelí Society and the Twin Towns Office in Estelí. They visited various organisations including the FAREM Estelí, then called CURN (Centro Universitario Regional del Norte), which they identified as a potential partner university.
This same group did some substantial fundraising (through the University Carnival) and were interested in supporting the CURN Estelí. However, realising they were about to graduate, on returning from Nicaragua they advertised an open presentation about their trip to Nicaragua and the ideas they had in mind, hoping someone would continue the idea.
The group of mostly first year students in that presentation were inspired by the idea, and later that year, decided to form the Sheffield-Estelí Student Partnership (SESP).
In February 2005, a representative of the SESP, Terry Brown, travelled to Estelí for 6 months during his year abroad for Hispanic Studies. He worked in the Twin Towns office in the mornings and studied in the CURN in the afternoons, also teaching English in the CURN
During this time in Estelí, Terry met with University authorities and the project ideas were discussed. An in depth socio-economic diagnostic of the university together with questionnaire about the needs of the students was carried out by the SESP member in Estelí, together with other students and the university authorities. This was designed to help guide decisions about future development of the university.
He built up trust with both the Union of Students and the University Authorities, and after various formal and informal meetings the idea for the Estelí Summer Exchange and English Course was born. The University was keen to improve English teaching and the Students were particularly interested in the idea of an intercultural exchange. A group was set up in Estelí to organise the programme.
It was decided the English teaching should be a dynamic, conversational and fun summer course, using alternative methods of teaching through games, songs and theatre etc. The first exchange was a huge success and it has been carried on ever since!
On returning to Sheffield there were suddenly much more people, energy and purpose in the society. The returned brigade felt inspired to make sure others had the opportunity to experience what they had in Estelí. At the same time, they wanted to improve the society. The society was still small, but it was a fun place to be and many crazy fundraising and awareness-raising activities were organised in the following years.
In order to reinvigorate the society in 2012 it was rebranded as ‘Students For Esteli’. It also saw the first ever ‘Esteli Week’. This was a week-long celebration of the link between the two cities through collaboration that saw performances of dance, music, talks and much more.
Three scholarships for students to go to Farem university were funded. It is hoped that these scholarships will also have a wider impact on the community. For example, one student is the first from the area of Miraflor to do a course in Veterinary, a skill much needed in his community.
This year we are building on the success of Esteli Week to make it bigger and better. We are also fundraising for a project in Esteli that sees children painting murals of what they would like to see in Esteli. The mayor then comes to opening ceremony of the mural and attempts to enact the change that is needed. For example, one year they did a mural that expressed their desire for a play space for children and this was then made a reality.