What is the city bond between Maastricht and Rama?
The foundation Maastricht-Rama (RaMa in short) is the organization that is responsible for the bond between the city of Maastricht in the Netherlands and the city of El Rama in Nicaragua.
Starting in 1987, many volunteers have participated in the development projects in Rama and the activities in Maastricht. The foundation not only tries to make a difference in Rama, but it also uses Nicaraguan culture and global issues to increase awareness about Rama in Maastricht itself. Over the last years, RaMa has been able to set up a housing project, a reforestation project, a credit project, a local radio station, a public library and several other education-related initiatives.
Activities of RaMa in El Rama
The RaMa projects are intended to improve the socio-economic situation in Rama. They are set up and carried out with the help of local organizations. Asdrúbal Ruíz is the local coordinator in Rama.
RaMa activities in Maastricht
Thanks to the foundation, the city bond does much more than just collecting funds for the projects. The foundation also tries to exchange knowledge and culture between the cities. The contacts with Rama and its culture form the basis of activities back in Maastricht. Examples of this exhange are pupils in the two cities writing letters to each other, expositions, lectures and theatre shows. Last but not least, there is an exchange program for officials between the two cities.
El Rama is situated in Region V in the eastern part of Nicaragua, near the Atlantic coast. The city is important because it lies between the capital Managua and the Atlantic coast. Its small harbor is located at the end of the road to Managua and at three rivers (the rivers called Síquai, Rama and Escondido). The region only has one major road. It takes more than eight hours to make the 300 kilometre trip. Once in Rama, it is virtually impossible to continue by car. It is possible, however, to continue by boat, horse, or simply walking along one of the many paths. El Rama is located in an area with a hot and humid climate. During the rain season, floods are common. This is the reason why many buildings have two floors. The surface of El Rama is approx. as big as the province of Limburg in the Netherlands, and has about 54.000 inhabitants. About a third of the people live in the city, the rest lives outside the city and grow corn, beans and rice: the basis of the Nicaraguan nutrition. Trade and commerce are mostly located in the village.
El Rama is located on the border of two cultures. In the past, the Atlantic coast has been colonized by the English. The population consists of the Misquitos, the Sumos and the descendants of African slaves. The Pacific coast, which is much more populated, was colonized by the Spanish and the inhabitants of this part of the country have always felt superior to the other, more "primitive" side of the country. Development From a socio-economic point of view, the zone of El Rama is less developed when compared to the prosperity of the West coast, where about 80% of the population lives. Infrastructure and services (such as telecommunications, roads, education and healthcare) are less developed in the East. In addition, this part of the country was ravaged by the civil war in the eighties. The situation in El Rama is exemplatory for a country on the road to development. Few public services are offered to the inhabitants and the local government does not have enough funds to improve the situation. Electricity is available, but not all houses are connected to the grid. From time to time blackouts occur. All houses have a toilet, but many of them only have buckets instead of basins to wash. Most house are connected to the water system, but it only offers water for about two hours a day. This means that in practice, many people still depend on rainwater (it rains quite often) or a pump for their water supply. In combination with the hot weather, bacteria and infections are a real danger.
Politically the population of Nicaragua is very polarized. On one side are the supporters of the revolutionary socialist party, the FSLN (Frente Sandinista de la Liberación Nacional). On the other side, one finds the party of the current government, the Liberal Alliance (Alianza Liberal). In the cities where the liberals are in charge, they have dismissed the Sandinistas and vice versa. The same thing has happened on a national level since the elections in 1996. In El Rama, the liberals have been in charge since 1996. In the local elections of 2000, the liberals were elected in charge once again.
The city bond projects not only focus on development in El Rama, but also on creating awareness in Maastricht. This is why many of our projects have something to do with education: while helping education in Rama, they can also involve schools and pupils in Maastricht.
The 'Escuela Holanda' (Holland school), located in the Oscar Brenes neighborhood in Rama, has been adopted by the 'Elckerlyc Boschpoort' school in Maastricht in 1995. In 1999, another bond was created: the 'Montessori' high school adopted the 'Instituto Berardo de Ciragui' in El Rama. Both Dutch schools pay special attention to development in El Rama. All this is coordinated from El Rama. The Dutch pupils also organize activities to raise money for their counterparts in Nicaragua. By corresponding with each other, the students also learn about daily life in other countries. Currently, an internet project is being developed.