Volunteer with Cultural Connections: December 2017

June 12th, 2017

Come to Nicaragua this December!

Join fellow donors, supporters, and volunteers on a week-long Volunteer Adventure December 2-10, 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!


Tagged: , , , ,

Member Monday: Meet Mayra Rivas, In-Country Director!

November 13th, 2017

Dr. Mayra Rivas is originally from Managua but now commutes to Jinotega from Matagalpa, another city in the north coffee region of Nicaragua.

For this week’s Member Monday, meet Dr. Mayra Rivas! Read more to learn about Mayra, her passion for community development, and experience working with Comunidad Connect. Today is also Dr. Mayra’s birthday!

When did you start working for CC?

I started in September of 2015 working on a collaboration project with both teams in San Juan del Sur and Jinotega. It was an analysis on how to strengthen the organization. Later, in June of 2016 I was contracted as the In-Country Director.

Describe your role.

I am the In-Country Director, which means I work to strengthen the program and administrative aspects of the organization. One of my roles is to improve the projects and programs, which all deal with community development and a focus on health. 

What is your favorite part about working with CC?

I love working on community development and health prevention, because I believe health prevention improves the quality of life for the people we work with in rural communities.

What is your favorite place to visit in Nicaragua?

My family’s farm. It’s a small farm, and when we first arrived there was basically nothing. There was only a small house and lots of weeds. I never thought it would be a pretty place. But in 31 years, it’s changed so much. Now we have coffee, cows, chickens, and a hill that you can hike up to.

What is your favorite holiday in Nicaragua?

There are so many holidays in Nicaragua, but my favorite is the Días Patrias (Independence Day).

What’s your favorite typical dish?

Baho (mixture of plantain, yucca, beef, salad, and green chile – same answer as Reeder & Kelly!)

What hobbies or talents do you have that most people don’t know about?

I love to read and listen to classical music. I also enjoy teaching and sharing with others. 

Thanks Mayra! Check in next week for our next Member (& Memo) Monday! 

Tagged: ,

Nursing Student Gains Greater Insight into Rural Poverty

November 6th, 2017

Written by Brandon Spratt, Doctor of Nursing Practice Candidate at the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing

Brandon came to Nicaragua in December 2016 with a group of nursing students from Emory University.

As my first true experience outside of the US, Comunidad Connect’s opportunity to volunteer in southern Nicaragua was an escapade I’ll never forget. Then a second-degree student in nursing at Emory University, Comunidad Connect reached out to the School of Nursing to offer students a one-week trip to Nicaragua to invest in opportunities of service within the healthcare systems that aim to increase civic engagement in certain areas. Following my several years of in-country cross-cultural service during my first undergraduate degree, I was ready for such an experience on different soil.

My arrival to Rivas, a southern city of ~40,000 not far from the border to Costa Rica, started with a tour of a local hospital that let me see first-hand the striking difference between the healthcare system here and the one I was used to back in the States. Obviously a lower-resource facility, I was struck at the resilience and versatility that was demanded of the healthcare staff as the nurses were often tasked to 25 patients per nurse. In asking one of the nurses how one could possibly keep up with this demand, she simply smiled and said, “you have to be an octopus to do our job!”.

Our next stop took us to Tola, a smaller community near Rivas that housed a health post for local members to receive basic curative services. It was here that we learned about Nicaragua’s MOSAF healthcare model that capitalizes on community health workers to have an intimate knowledge of the health history of each household in their community to gain insight of the current trends of disease and predict related risk factors. I was impressed at the level of detail that each worker was required to memorize for each household and found this model to be quite intriguing.

While these experiences were quite fascinating and interesting, the most impactful memory I had came from a small, rural community called El Tambo, not far from Tola. It was in this place that I really understood what poverty really is. It is not some tangible idea that can be gleaned from watching videos or reading books, but rather a felt sensation that one only understands when one is in its midst. Dirt floors, tin roofs, and a barren yard were all that many of these villagers owned and while paralyzing at first, I began to see the internal beauty and richness that these people had to offer.

At their request, we gave several presentations about how to understand and address some of the chronic health problems many of their members face. Following this, the villagers did something I will never forget: a great feast. Although our baseline luxuries in America would easily surmount this offering as mediocre in the States, it was obvious that this was no ordinary gala. Out oftheir poverty and of what little they had, their presentation was immaculate. Toiling for days, their cooked chicken, gallo pinto, and juice was displayed before us in banquet-like fashion. Yes, indeed, the food was delicious, but that was not the overarching message that was clear that day. Instead, what was seared into my mind is a life-long lesson that that I will never forget: when poverty-stricken communities come together collectively and harmoniously, it breeds a spirit of generosity.


El Tambo’s generosity is a lesson I will take with me wherever I go and for that I am grateful to have learned such a valuable nugget of truth in the larger arc of life. I hope that others may be able to encounter similar experiences in their lives. I’d like to thank Comunidad Connect for making this possible and hope that they continue the great work they are doing in those communities.

Tagged: , , , , ,

Member Monday: Meet Adam Rosendale, Executive Assistant to the CEO!

November 6th, 2017

For this week’s Member Monday, meet Adam! Read more to learn about Adam, his love of learning more about Nicaraguan culture, and experience working with Comunidad Connect.

When did you start working for CC?

I began with an internship with CC in March of this year, and officially started working in October.

Describe your role.

I am the assistant to the CEO and marketing facilitator. It’s my job to make Jon’s (our CEO) life easier, facilitate donor relations, and help maintain our social media presence, among other things.

What is your favorite part about working with CC?

Adam plays shows with local musicians in Jinotega, and is often a guest member of the group Tierra Madre.

The friendships I’ve made within the team and within the communities where we work. I also love interacting with trip participants while they are in country. It’s amazing to see their change in perspective. It’s truly a powerful experience for some people; as it was for me.

What is one of your best memories living in Nicaragua?

My favorite memory is having a music gig in here in Jinotega when my parents were visiting. All my co-workers and friends were there, as well as Jon, our CEO. It was a wonderful evening.


What is your favorite place to visit in Nicaragua?

My favorite place to visit is the Laguna de Apoyo. Its one of the most unique and spectacular places I’ve have ever visited.

What is your favorite holiday in Nicaragua?

My favorite holiday in Nicaragua is Hipica. The entire city comes out to watch a horse parade in celebration of the city and community.

What’s your favorite typical dish?

Fritanga (street barbecue) is my favorite. They are everywhere, but some are much better than others. Options include chicken, pork, beef, gallo pinto (rice and beans), cheese, cabbage, hard boiled eggs, potatoes, enchiladas, and sweet plantains.

What is your spirit animal?

Either a sea turtle or an eagle.

What hobbies or talents do you have that most people don’t know about?

A weird fact about me is I’m sort of ambidextrous; I write, eat, golf, and bat in baseball left- handed. But I throw with my right arm and my dominant foot is my right. It really just depends on the activity.

Adam is originally from North Carolina. He was happy to have his parents visit Nicaragua this past August.

Thanks Adam! Check in next week for our next Member (& Memo) Monday! 

Tagged: , ,

Congratulations Angie McQuaig, October Donor of the Month!

November 6th, 2017

Thank you Angie! This October Angie attended the second annual Bentoberfest in Atlanta, Georgia to help raise funds for our health and community development programs in rural Nicaragua.

Angie expresses the reason behind her generosity:
“I became aware of Comunidad Connect through Dr. Ben Thrower.  I have followed his posts and pictures for some time now and find the work that he and others do in Nicaragua to be very inspiring.  It was an honor to make a donation that will help out those who need it most.”

Thank you for your great work and support, Angie! Stay tuned for our next Donor of the Month this November!

Member Monday: Meet Yarisleidy Cortez, Director of Local Development Connections!

October 30th, 2017

For this week’s Member Monday, meet Yarisleidy! Read more to learn about Yarisleidy, her love of the environment, and experience working with Comunidad Connect.

When did you start working for CC?

I started working for CC in 2011. At that time I was working with schools on a recycling program.

Meeting with a community member in Los Robles who will receive a new concrete floor and improved stove.

Describe your role.

I plan and create budgets, direct initiatives, and monitor progress for a variety of community development projects. We started with a recycling project in San Juan del Sur, and after that we started the Nica Agua program that I took the lead on. This year, I am also in charge of overseeing community projects that volunteers participate in, environmental education, communication with our scholarship program – Becas del Carrizal – and other school activities. Now, I’m in charge of the planning, monitoring, and coordination of improved technology projects – stoves, ovens, floors.

What is your favorite part about working with CC?

I love coordinating with my colleagues on projects. It’s easy to communicate and coordinate whichever activity or group we’re working with because everyone is involved in the planning process. There is always support and communication.

What got you interested in working in clean water?

At the start, I was working with environmental projects because in they were working a lot on this topic in the schools. In my classes and my thesis focused on environmental education projects and ecological culture. So, I already liked this topic and I always would volunteer with environmental projects, like clean-up activities on the Pacific coast. When I heard about the opportunity of working with Comunidad Connect as an administrative assistant for environmental projects, I decided to apply. After working on a few projects as an assistant, I became interested in the Nica Agua program and I supported some of its activities. I was sent to the Atlantic coast for a period of time, where I learned more about Nica Agua and I started to see ways in which we could improve the program, make it more sustainable with modifications, and better documented. So working in the Atlantic coast is what helped me most to focus on clean water projects and think about the program’s design.

What is your favorite place to visit in Nicaragua?

I’m still getting to know so many parts of Nicaragua, but for me I would say the coast and the ocean is my favorite place (Yarisleidy is from San Juan del Sur, in southern Nicaragua).

What is your favorite holiday in Nicaragua?

Fiestas Patrias! I used to love the activities we did in school to celebrate.

What is your spirit animal?

Yarisleidy loves the ocean and the night sky!

A wolf, because they are strong leaders, they’re independent, and they have a bit of mystery about them. Each one has a specific role in a clan, but they all work as a group. I also love the moon and the night.

Dogs are one of Yarisleidy’s favorite animals, especially Memo!

What hobbies or talents do you have that most people don’t know about?

It’s not quite a hobby or talent, but I’m vegetarian. It’s not very common to be vegetarian in Nicaragua, but one of the things I believe is that we need to have coherence with what we do, what we say, and what we feel. For that reason, five years ago I decided to have this coherence that I had always been talking about with respect to my lifestyle and choices of how I interact with the world. Another fun fact is that tulips are my favorite flowers, but they don’t exist in Nicaragua!

Thanks Yarisleidy! Check in next week for our next Member (& Memo) Monday! 

Tagged: , ,

Member Monday: Meet Reeder, Dentist of Preventive Oral Health!

October 16th, 2017

For this week’s Member Monday, we meet Reeder! Read more to learn about Reeder, his love of dentistry, and experience working with Comunidad Connect.

When did you start working for CC?

I started working with Comunidad Connect on July 18, 2016. At that time, a medical group was down here – Doctors Ben & Karen Thrower – so it was with this group that I started my work here.

Describe your role.

Right now I am directing a preventive oral health project. I give educational talks about dental hygiene, give fluoride treatment to children in schools in Los Robles, San Estéban, Datanlí, and possibly Pueblo Nuevo in the future. This is what we focus on, because in a study that we did last year in 2016 we found that there was a really high rate of cavities in this region. Moreover, the children with the most dental needs and with the fewest resources didn’t have access to dental attention or knowledge about these themes. Because of this, the preventive oral health program was born to give the kids educational talks to teach them how to brush their teeth, what kinds of food they can eat and when they should eat them, and after the talks give them preventive fluoride treatment.

What is your favorite part about working with CC?

My favorite part of working with Comunidad Connect is working with kids because they have a special energy. Although you will always find yourself interacting a boy or girl who is a little more challenging to work with, they are the ones who learn most and, in reality, take what you are saying more seriously. Sometimes with adults this is more difficult. Children are always open and receptive to whatever knowledge you are sharing with them.

What got you interested in dentistry?

My mom is a dentist, so from a young age I grew up in an environment with related themes, but at that time dentistry didn’t really interest me. However, when I grew up there came a moment when I began focusing more and having an interest more in people’s teeth and dental hygiene. In reality, after looking at your eyes, the second thing people notice is your mouth and smile. The mouth is constantly moving, when you’re talking to someone else you are looking at their movements, and mouth is what moves the most. So through that, my passion for dentistry began.

What is one of your best childhood memories?

Well I don’t know if this is good or not, but it’s actually related to what we’re talking about and what I do now. Like I said, dentistry didn’t really interest me at a young age. My mother was a dentist, so I would watch her do tooth extractions. I remember one time when I almost fainted, because she needed more light and asked me to shine light on the patient. And when I saw everything, I felt like fainting because I didn’t like it. This story makes me laugh because today this is what I do and it doesn’t make me faint or anything.


What is your favorite place to visit in Nicaragua?

Granada because it’s a completely colonial city. It has a historic atmosphere, and it makes you live and remember the colonial time.

What is your favorite holiday in Nicaragua?

Mother’s Day!

What’s your favorite typical dish?

Baho, which is a mixture of plantain, yucca, beef, salad, and green chile. (same answer as Kelly!) It’s the best food in Nicaragua. 

What is your spirit animal?

I used to say dogs, but recently I’ve felt more connected to birds. I have 10 birds: 6 Australian parakeets, 2 African parakeets, and 2 cockatiels.

What hobbies or talents do you have that most people don’t know about?

I’m a Series Marathoner (aka Netflix). I’ll start a series and finish the whole thing in a week. For instance, Game of Thrones.


Reeder loves working with the Comunidad Connect team!

Thanks Reeder! Check in next week for our next Member (& Memo) Monday! 

Tagged: , , ,

Brigadistas Receive First Aid Training in Rural Health

October 12th, 2017

Last week we had a successful first aid workshop with the Brigadistas (community health workers) of Los Robles, Datanlí, Pueblo Nuevo and San Estéban. The Brigadistas received training and first aid kits to ensure immediate health response in their communities. Comunidad Connect partnered with MINSA, the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health, to administer this workshop.

Nurse Francis Aguilar, who works with Comunidad Connect and MINSA, comments, “This training was important because the Brigadistas live in areas that are hard to reach, increasing high health risks due to a lack of resources. Emergencies can happen at any hour, so the Brigadistas will be the first to respond immediately to those injured.”

Over 15 women participated in this first aid workshop and are excited to share their new knowledge with their respective communities. “The health workers learned lots of skills during the training, like what to do in an emergency, how to treat wounds, and immobilize patients,” notes Francis.

Thank you to all the participants and staff for making this event possible!


Tagged: , , , ,

Member Monday: Meet Roxana, Administrative Assistant!

October 9th, 2017

In today’s Member Monday, we meet Roxana! Read more to learn about Roxana, her dog Lucy, and experience working with Comunidad Connect.

When did you start working for CC?

I learned about Comunidad Connect through my sister-in-law, and started working in 2015.

Describe your role.

I work in office maintenance and administrative work, assisting our accountant and country director with various projects.

What is your favorite part about working with CC?

My favorite part of working with Comunidad Connect is interacting with my coworkers. We’re a small team but it feels like a family.

What is your favorite cultural event or celebration in Nicaragua?

On May 3rd there is the Fiestas de la Cruz in Jinotega, where lots of people climb up to the Peña de la Cruz, a large cross on top of a mountain overlooking the city. It’s the celebration for the anniversary of when Bishop Agustín Morel de Santa Cruz installed the first cross there in  1752.

What is your favorite place to visit in Nicaragua?

Corn Island because it’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. It’s off the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua, far from everything and has a different culture than the rest of the country.


Roxana competing in the Traje de Fantasia (Fantasy Costume) contest in Leon.

What’s your favorite typical dish?

Gallo pinto (rice and beans) with cuajada y crema (cheese and cream) and avocado.

What is your spirit animal?

A bird because they can always fly wherever they want.

If you could invent a new fruit, what two fruits would you combine?

Lucy and Roxana are best of friends!

Pineapple and strawberries.

What hobbies or talents do you have that most people don’t know about?

I love to stay active with sports, hiking to the Peña de la Cruz, boxing, going to the gym in the mornings, and doing yoga. I also like to draw and look for new healthy recipes. Last year, I started competing in Miss Nicaragua Turismo contests. I also have a really cute dog named Lucy, who loves to hike with me!


Thanks Roxana! Check in next week for our next Member (& Memo) Monday! 

Tagged: ,

Cheers for the Craft Beer Fundraiser!

October 4th, 2017

Thank you to everyone who came out on Saturday and participated in the 2017 Craft Beer Fundraiser. It was truly a beautiful day of music, BBQ, beer, and celebration. From all of us at Comunidad Connect, your support of Nicaragua and sustainable community development is inspiring. Thank you for helping us continue to build the puzzle!

We would like to give a special thanks to Coalesce Design and Fabrication for hosting the event, as well as to A-Lodge Boulder, Bili Blanket Baby, Jim Bulter, and Vacasa for their generous support.







Local Volunteers Invest in Community Health

October 3rd, 2017

Since 2016, local volunteers in rural Nicaragua have invested over 5800 hours of community service to earn preventative health projects, such as our painting initiative to decrease the number of mosquitos in the home. Specially formulated paint reduces mosquito-borne illnesses like Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika, which allows children to miss fewer days of school and helps families live happier, healthier lives. Thank you to all of our local and international volunteers for supporting this initiative and enhancing community health!

Tagged: , ,

Become a piece of the puzzle.



Parque Central / San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Tel: 011-(505) 2568-2731


Comunidad Connect / PO Box 1687 Madison, Alabama 35758

Tel: (720) 363-6453

©2014 COMUNIDAD CONNECT - Registered 501 (c)(3) organization