By Lowell Klessig, former Executive Director, Group VI
The president of the Partners of the Americas, Stephen Vetter participated in the celebration of the life of Sherin Bowen alumni of Group I. He recognized Dick Barrows for founding the Wisconsin Rural Leadership Program. He chose to recognize Dick because he understood that WRLP (now Leadership Wisconsin) inspired Sherin to make a big difference in two countries.
He told the 300 people gathered in an airplane hanger in Stevens Point on June 5 that Sherin had made the Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partnership the model Partnership. President Kennedy established the program that partnered each state with a Latin American country.
Sherin took her partnership beyond cultural exchanges to the delivery of fire trucks and Wisconsin firemen to teach Nicaraguan firefighters how to use them. After Ellis Stone (Stevens Point Construction Company) brought supervisors and materials to pour the footings and the floor for a warehouse in Stevens Point, they also supported the renovation of the Managua Warehouse with a project leader and materials. Both warehouses process tons of school supplies, medical supplies, sewing machines, bicycles, baseball ball gloves, worn baseballs and whatever materials will help improve lives with opportunities for self-determination.
Most impressive of all, Sherin helped to organize learning centers in 100 villages. Partnership staff and volunteers, not only supply learning materials to the centers, they get the hosts of the centers together for monthly “in-service” training and sharing.
I was part of Dick Barrow’s WRLP Curriculum Committee where the philosophy and flavor of WRLP was developed. I remember those 7 AM meetings well because I had to get up at 4 AM to get to Madison on time. I co-chaired the first seminar for Group I in which Sherin was a participant and regularly chaired seminars for subsequent groups. I had the great honor and the best teaching/learning experience of my life as Executive Director for Group VI. And I served on the Board of Directors for six years afterward.
There were many moments of pride and elation during those decades of involvement with WRLP. However, June 5, 2010 was the most rewarding moment: Hearing first hand accounts from several of the 13 Nicaraguans in attendance about Sherin’s impact on their personal lives and the quality of life in their communities; seeing Sherin’s people (here and there) on the big screen caring, learning and working. Feeling the emotions of the crowd as they wrote checks to support the continuing effort; an effort lead by daughter Amy and supported by husband Bob, a host of committed volunteers and a dedicated staff of Nicaraguans.
Sherin Bowen is still uplifting people in Nicaragua and Wisconsin – a Wisconsin Rural Leadership Program/Leadership Wisconsin legacy and legend.
From http://leadershipwisconsin.org/2010/06/29/sherin-bowen-group-i-is-still-uplifting-people-here-and-there/, posted June 29, 2010.