Norwich celebrates 25 years of friendship with El Viejo in Nicaragua

A quarter of a century ago a Norwich group created a Friendship Link to offer aid to the deprived town of El Viejo in Nicaragua.

The friendship was created to help with education, alleviate poverty and to improve awareness of the situation in Nicaragua as it emerged from a brutal dictatorship.

Over the past 25 years the group has helped pay for children to go to school and rebuild homes after Hurricane Mitch struck in 1998, killing 3,000 people.

Last night, members of the Norfolk and Norwich – El Viejo Friendship Link and invited guests gathered at the Forum to celebrate the achievements. The evening was officially opened by the Lord Mayor of Norwich Jenny Lay.

Their most recent project is a school garden. Link secretary, Ralph Gayton, who has been involved for 24 years, said: 'It's three-fold – it provides extra food, teaches them about nutrition and educates them about the environment.'

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When Hurricane Mitch struck the border of Nicaragua in 1998, the Link provided around �11,000 to help rebuild homes for 42 families, a small school and wells. The new community was named Norwich and the first baby born in the settlement was christened Norwich, as an acknowledgement of the help.

The Scholarship project which was launched in 2002 and the Link paid for 200 children to attend schools in the area every year. Since the scheme started, it has helped more than 250 pupils graduate from year six. A scholarship for one child costs around �36 a year.

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Mr Gayton said: 'We have been concerned with education and have provided scholarships. The evening is a celebration of the work we have achieved. It's good to see that the kids do value it.'

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith, who attended the evening, said: 'Twinning is very helpful to the culture of our city and our twins.

'Having four twin cities gives us a great opportunity to put Norwich on the map and enjoy such celebrations as this. I congratulate everyone who has worked hard to make the El Viejo link a success over 25 years.' Do you know about a club or organisation which is celebrating a landmark anniversary? Contact reporter Lucy Wright on 01603 772495 or email

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