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Community, Authenticity, and Joy

February 13th, 2017

Léelo en español

Written by Laura Bonin, GSU Phsyical Therapy Student

Months of planning, endless crowdfunding emails, and feelings of anticipation and excitement all preceded a weeklong trip for fourteen physical therapy students, one professor, and two physical therapists from the Atlanta community. But what better way to start the New Year than leaving the privileges we value, including the luxuries of our own homes in the United States, and traveling to Nicaragua. There we were able to share our physical therapy knowledge and skills while immersing ourselves in some of the intangibles the Nicaraguans hold so dear: community, authenticity, and joy.

During the week we saw community in finding contentment outside our comfort zone. Nicaraguans made us feel a part of their community from day one, even as we relied on nonverbal communication and embraced the flexibility of our daily schedule. We entered homes to treat some of the sickest and most vulnerable members of Los Robles and found ourselves making instantaneous connections built off of trust and empathy. By focusing on the components of patient centered care during each home visit, we built relationships and memories with smiles and laughter, something more difficult to do with patients back home.

However, true community is built on the foundation of authenticity, losing the façade of who we want others to think we are and focusing solely on who we really are. The Los Robles community is the epitome of an authentic community. When we didn’t have our physical therapy hat on we participated in home improvement projects, witnessing firsthand the pride men and women took in lending a helping hand to their neighbors and welcoming our group like family. The brigadistas also embraced authenticity, helping bring basic medical knowledge to those in need, regardless of their age or complexity of the information.

The final theme that illuminated every activity and encounter in Los Robles was joy. For the opportunity to spend time with family. For the bonds made with new friends. For the ability to work on projects while also imparting sustainable healthcare from which the community will continue to benefit. We are so thankful for the life and culture that was poured into us throughout our week in Nicaragua and are eager to take the togetherness of community, the rawness of authenticity, and the contagious nature of joy into our last clinical rotation to leave a mark on every patient just as the Nicaraguans did for us!

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A year in the life – Cultural Connections Coordinator

February 4th, 2017

Léelo en Español

The Cultural Connections team started 2017 with a bang. In January alone, we’ve received over 30 volunteers (shout out to Emory @ Goizueta, NYU Alternative Breaks, and Georgia State University Physical Therapy)! And we’re just getting started.

As we move full force into our busy season, we’re preparing to host more volunteers, enhance our model of sustainable tourism, all while still visiting some of our favorite spots: Los Robles, San Esteban, Granada, and Leon, among other gems throughout Nicaragua.

In this coming week the Cultural Connections team will host a group of 12 volunteers who will work alongside beneficiary families to whitewash walls with mosquito repellant paint, construct smoke reducing ovens and grey water collection basins, visit chronic neurological patients with a team of specialists, and offer pediatric consultations to over 50 children… all in a span of just 4 days.

Our volunteers don’t end the trip by counting the service hours they gained for school credit or how many cement bags they lifted. They leave remembering the new friendships they made despite the language barrier, the humbleness and generosity of the beneficiary families they worked with and the dedication of the community leaders to sustainably develop their community.

Since beginning my role with Comunidad Connect almost a year ago I have met countless numbers of North American and Nicaraguan volunteers working together towards a mutual goal. Now more than ever, my favorite quote by Margaret Mead’s rings true: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

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Volunteer Adventure: April 2017

February 1st, 2017

Come to Nicaragua this April!

Join fellow donors, supporters, and volunteers on a week-long Volunteer Adventure April 22-30, 2017.

Volunteers will stay at an organic coffee farm in the hills of Jinotega, complete public health projects with local families, and participate in cultural exchange activities such as baking local treats! Come to Nicaragua to give back, exchange experiences, learn about our work first-hand, and get a taste of the unbelievable beauty this Central American country has to offer.

Learn more and register today!

 

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IMAIM CAPITAL Supporting CC from Miami

January 27th, 2017


Nathan Korn, CEO of IMAIM CAPITAL in Miami, presenting Roman Yavich, co-founder of Comunidad Connect, with IMAIM’s latest contribution supporting the 2016 holiday campaign. 

 

Last year I moved from New York City to Miami to be closer to Nicaragua. Miami also has the largest population of Nicaraguan immigrants of any city in the US. This city’s warmth, literal and figurative, has been a welcome change from the winters of New York.

I’m starting to build a team of support for Comunidad Connect here, and one of the most enthusiastic and active members on this team has been Nathan Korn of IMAIM CAPITAL, a Miami-based investment firm. Nathan is a friend from college with whom I shared the formative experience of studying abroad in Chile and Argentina 13 years ago. We have been great friends since, and I was particularly excited about him joining the CC board of directors in 2014. He brought knowledge of financial  and organizational management that has helped us become a stronger organization, primed for long-term growth. Nathan has helped us raise nearly $10,000 since joining the board, getting his professional network, his friends, and his family involved in community development in Nicaragua.

As our vision and impact in Nicaragua grows, we are thankful and excited to have the support of Nathan Korn, IMAIM CAPITAL and the Miami community. If you find yourself in Miami, be sure to let us know. Nathan and I will be happy to share a cafecito with you.

By Roman Yavich

 

Education for the Children of San Esteban

January 11th, 2017

Written by Yarisleidy Mayorquin, Coordinator of Nica Agua

Léalo en español!

 

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The “Water Droplets” work on an educational poster. Las “Gotitas de Agua” completan un póster educativo.

The work of Nica Agua doesn’t stop at delivering filters and monitoring their use; the program is becoming more and more like the new model we are implementing in San Esteban. There we strengthen the capabilities of our community volunteers as well as the children, because children are the best demographic to learn and apply new information. A group of 21 kids between the ages of 7 and 13, representatives of their local primary school, receive a talk once a month focused on health and prevention where they learn about filters, water purification, hygiene, and cleanliness. These talks are dynamic and help the kids to strengthen their reading, speaking, and drawing abilities while instilling in them the spirit of volunteering. An environment where children always keep their community in mind, transmit their knowledge to their classmates, and motivate their parents, neighbors and friends to participate in community development is the goal that we hope to one day achieve!

Encouraging team work. Promoviendo el trabajo en equipo.

Encouraging team work. Promoviendo el trabajo en equipo.

“Water Droplets” is now the nickname for these children that have participated in our educational talks. After chatting with Martaeliza Blandon, the technical coordinator of Nica Agua in San Esteban, about the activities we’ve done, we wanted to find a name for this group of kids to make them feel special. After many ideas and much laughter, while a rain storm came our way, the name “Water Droplets” was born. The nickname is the perfect fit for the group of kids chosen to learn about various subjects and in turn teach them in their classrooms. I hope that the kids like their new nickname and believe that from a drop can come a stream; that a constant drip can change the shape of the hardest stones.

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Your donation can aid in reducing respiratory infections!

December 15th, 2016

The Nica Agua water filter project, supported by international donors and local volunteer efforts, has drastically reduced the incidence of diarrhea and other water borne illnesses in Los Robles. It has also contributed to a change in hygiene practices as residents are keeping their homes cleaner and washing their hands and food regularly.

With diarrhea less of a challenge, the next biggest health priority for Los Robles is respiratory illness. It’s the most common condition seen in our health clinic. A major source of this condition are wood burning stoves commonly used in rural kitchens. The basic stove or oven does not have a chimney and the smoke remains in the poorly ventilated kitchen, producing asthma, allergies, and lung irritation especially common for women and children who spend most of their day in the kitchen. Building an improved stove or oven, with a smoke venting chimney, is the solution, and one of the projects that Comunidad Connect and international volunteers help with.

Nicaraguan family in Los Robles.

Your donation can help make respiratory illness a non-issue in rural communities like Los Robles and San Esteban, just as past donations helped to drastically reduce water borne illness with the use of Nica Agua water filters.

Support our work today by contributing to the Holiday Campaign.

Progress and Growth for the Brigadista Team

December 10th, 2016

Nicaragua is unique in its prevalence for volunteering and community organizations. One of the pillars of the free public healthcare system, in this country with the second lowest GDP per capital in the Western Hemisphere, are the brigadistas. These rural health volunteers are the first line of defense for anyone with an injury, pregnancy complication, or dangerous illness. They can triage and call an ambulance if necessary. The brigadistas coordinate their efforts with the Ministry of Health and also provide community outreach focusing on illness prevention.

Theresa and community health worker network of Los Robles. Theresa y la red de brigadistas de Los Robles.

Theresa and community health worker network of Los Robles. Theresa y la red de brigadistas de Los Robles.

The success of Comunidad Connect health programs in Los Robles is largely due to the support of the brigadistas. After this group of 10 women and 1 man identified diarrhea and water borne illness as a top concern in Los Robles, Comunidad Connect launched is Nica Agua water filter project. Local residents could earn a water filter, which eliminates the threat of bacteria in drinking water, by investing time in projects to improve public spaces or infrastructure, such as the construction of the rural health clinic in the center of Los Robles. Like the other projects, the health clinic construction was organized by Comunidad Connect with help from international donors and volunteers that joined forces with Los Robles residents in the construction. The opening of the health clinic in January 2015 gave more than 2,000 people access medical services in their community.

The health clinic also inspired the brigadistas to create their own project, independent of Comunidad Connect, to build a new cemetery closer to town, that would not require a 30 minute walk up a steep hill, through mud, and across a stream. (Imagine doing that with a casket.) The group started a community bank, purchased a plot of land, and with support of local and international volunteers created a model cemetery, the pride of the community.

Your donation today will help Comunidad Connect work with a new group of brigadistas in our new partner community of San Esteban, to successfully complete a Nica Agua water filter project, providing more than 100 families with clean water while improving community infrastructure. This is how the sustainable development chain reaction starts. We hope you will join us and follow the progress and impact of the brigadistas in both Los Robles and San Juan del Sur. They are the true champions of grassroots community development.

Los Robles Health Clinic operated by Comunidad Connect

Support what you love and love what you support!

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Alejandro & Comunidad Connect’s Sports Program

December 10th, 2016

About 10 years ago Jon Thompson who had traveled to Nicaragua as a tourist and Alejandro Noguera, who had recently retired from professional baseball in Nicaragua, came together around the vision of organized leagues in soccer, baseball, and basketball for young people in San Juan del Sur, who otherwise did not have much to do with their free time.

Girls soccer clinic at the Sports Park

Girls soccer clinic at the Sports Park

Working with the municipal government and local sports and culture association, Jon and Alejandro secured a 10 year, $1 lease on a dilapidated basketball court that had once been the tennis court for Nicaragua’s dictator, Samoza. Working together with local athletes, with major support from international donors, the enthusiastic group remodeled the court, adding cement bleachers, an entrance gate, new lightings, new basketball and soccer goals, and a new cement playing surface. The Sports Park was born!

Over the last 10 years an entire generation of children in San Juan del Sur (population 10,000+) has grown up with the chance to play organized soccer, basketball and baseball, a chance that few of their peers have around the country.

Alejandro throws the first pitch of the season.

Alejandro throws the first pitch of the season.

Your donation today will help replicate the success story of sports in San Juan del Sur in a rural community in the northern highlands called Los Robles (population 2,000+). Comunidad Connect has been working on supporting healthcare inthis community since 2012. Exercise is an imperative component for preventative healthcare. Organized sports programming would provide this opportunity for the young people of Los Robles.

All People Be Happy – Supporting 3 different CC programs

December 10th, 2016

Our clean water program, Nica Agua, has been one of our anchor programs for nearly 5 years. At first glance, it may seem pretty different from our two newest programs, the community garden and our sexual and reproductive health education project. However, these three programs have one very important common thread: the All People Be Happy Foundation.

All People Be Happy (APBH) generously provides grants for education and capacity building, healthcare, and sustainable agriculture. Comunidad Connect has been honored to receive funding from APBH for the Nica Agua program’s latest filter project, allowing us to provide 120 filters to families in the rural community of San Esteban.

Community health worker meeting in San Esteban, Jinotega

Community health worker meeting in San Esteban, Jinotega

Earlier this year, one of our Princeton in Latin America fellows, Grace Galloway, applied for a grant to begin a community garden project in our office’s backyard. She was thrilled to receive the grant and is currently harvesting the first fruits as the rainy season subsides. As the new year begins, Grace will continue to expand community and student involvement in the garden.

Reading about trees in the Garden.

Reading about trees in the Garden.

Most recently, Theresa Bailey, also a Princeton in Latin America fellow, received a grant to expand the sexual and reproductive health services provided throughout rural communities in the north. She will spend the following months implementing the first steps of a project that will holistically address the expressed needs of men, women and adolescents.

Without generous donors such as All People Be Happy, we wouldn’t be able to provide healthcare for thousands of patients each year, or clean water for hundreds of families. We can’t wait to see how the community garden and sexual and reproductive health initiative develop and expand to empower and education our community members.

Thank you, All People Be Happy, for your ongoing support.

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A Year in Nicaragua – Annual Report from Comunidad Connect

October 31st, 2016

Written by: Grace Galloway, Princeton in Latin America Fellow, 2015-2017, Comunidad Connect

A year in community development can mean a lot of different things. It means patience and progress, it means shovels and sweat, but most of all it means determination from the amazing community members that we are honored to work with here in Nicaragua.

Learn more, check out the 2015 Annual Report!

Do you want to join us as we work towards better health, clean water, and youth development in Nicaragua? Join our Volunteer Adventure Trips this winter and see sustainable community development for yourself!

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COME SEE US:

Parque Central / San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Tel: 011-(505) 2568-2731

MAIL US SOMETHING:

Comunidad Connect / PO Box 1687 Madison, Alabama 35758

Tel: (720) 363-6453

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