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Member Monday: Meet Susi Martinez, Princeton in Latin America Fellow!

December 4th, 2017

For this week’s Member Monday, we meet Susi! Read more to learn about Susi, her interest in public health, her experience being vegetarian in Nicaragua, and time working with Comunidad Connect.

When did you start working for CC?

I started working for Comunidad Connect at the end of June this year.

Describe your role.

I’m the Princeton in Latin American Fellow, so I give support to all of our main projects with a focus on our Health Connections Program. I spend about half of my time working with Adam on marketing, social media, our blog, and graphic design to share Comunidad Connect’s story and work. Additionally, I coordinate logistics for our Neurological and Pediatric Patient project and translate and serve as a guide for health-focused volunteer groups.

What is your favorite part about working with CC?

I really enjoy working directly with community members that have received our projects (improved stoves, ovens, concrete floors, etc.) and conducting interviews with them about how these projects have affected their families. I love to share their stories and see the impact of sustainable community development.

What is your favorite place to visit in Nicaragua?

I love living in Jinotega because it’s a beautiful small city surrounded by mountains, but I also really love visiting León. There are lots of cultural things to do there – museums, art galleries, delicious food – and it’s nearby to several volcanoes (I love hiking!).

What is one of your best memories living in Nicaragua?

During my first month in Nicaragua, I lived with a host family in Los Robles. My little host sisters were so fun and loved playing with my guitar and ukulele, so I taught them a few songs in Spanish that I learned from my dad and they put on a mini-concert for me one afternoon. It was so fun to see them excited to play for me, and they learned really fast!

What is your favorite holiday in Nicaragua?

Las Fiestas Patrias (Independence Day) because it’s fun to see all of the students playing music and dancing in parades during the week.

What’s your favorite typical dish?

I’m vegetarian, so I haven’t tried a lot of the typical dishes that contain meat. However, I always enjoy gallo pinto and tostones, and all of the delicious fresh fruit in Nicaragua – especially pitahaya (dragonfruit)!

What is your spirit animal?

A sloth, because they’re gentle creatures, they’re also vegetarian, and like me they love trees 🙂

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

I play the ukulele and some guitar, but I definitely need to practice more! I also love cooking and finding new vegetarian/vegan recipes, hiking, and learning Portuguese.

 

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

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Congratulations Matt Knoop, November Donor of the Month!

December 4th, 2017

Matt Knoop (left) recently came down to Nicaragua with his family and helped local families build improved ovens to support their health.

Thank you Matt Knoop for your support of Comunidad Connect! Matt became a Comunidad Connect donor this year. His family’s contributions have greatly helped improve health and community development in Nicaragua. Read below to see how Matt and his family became involved with Comunidad Connect!

“We have long been fans and supporters of Comunidad Connect, but our recent trip to Nicaragua (and Los Robles and San Juan del Sur in particular) reinforced the importance of Comunidad Connect’s work.

In Los Robles, with our family and friends, we assisted in the construction of an oven for a family that provides in-home pre-school services and is active in the community. This service project not only provided our children acute insight into how blessed we are to afford the lifestyle we pursue but also demonstrated just how much impact a donation can have on families thousands of miles away.  For the cost of our family of four to eat at a local restaurant two or three times, we provided a family additional means to provide for themselves and others.

In San Juan del Sur, we spent Friday evening watching organized games of futsala in a social-club-turned-community-sports-complex.  Our children were transfixed by the speed and athleticism of the players (ranging from ages 11-17) as well as the number of spectators.  These games are truly community events. Comunidad Connect organized and paid for conversion of the space and runs the leagues, which in turn provides alternative outlets for community members.

We are proud to support Comunidad Connect and encourage you to see its good works in person.”

Thank you for your great work and support, Matt! Stay tuned for our next Donor of the Month in December!

We’ll Go Farther, Together: 2017 Holiday Campaign Kick-Off

November 30th, 2017

Tania America Picado is the mother of Crisbell Gutiérrez (far right), one of the beneficiaries of our Neurological and Pediatric Patient Project in Los Robles.

Over the past ten years, Comunidad Connect has provided thousands of Nicaraguans with access to health services, youth development programs, and improved living conditions. We are thankful for your financial support this year, without which this incredible impact would not have been possible.

As we begin our next decade of work driven by our collective experience in Nicaragua, Comunidad Connect kindly requests you to consider extending your impact further by participating in our Holiday Campaign. Your contributions will allow us to expand our programs to reach thousands more residents of isolated communities in Nicaragua and connect them with critical resources and services.

Take for example the family of 9 year old Crisbell Gutiérrezwho we met in the community of Los Robles in 2015. An accident at 2 months old left her partially paralyzed with frequent seizures, while her single mother struggled to provide for her 4 children. Through our health and service programs, we connected Crisbell to Drs. Ben and Karen Thrower who helped provide the appropriate medicine and monthly check ups. Today, Crisbell has increased mobility, seizures are now rare, and her mother is happy knowing her daughter’s special medical needs are being met.

Connecting vital resources to those who need them most is what Comunidad Connect does best, but we cannot do it alone. I invite you to watch Crisbell’s story, share it with others you know and consider making a contribution to our Holiday Campaign. Each of us can be a piece of the solution…and we can indeed go much farther, together.

Keep a look out for more videos in our three-part video series and stay updated with our Holiday Campaign!

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Member Monday: Meet Alejandro Jose Noguera Castro, Sports Program Manager!

November 27th, 2017

For this week’s Member Monday, meet Alejandro Jose Noguera Castro! Read more to learn about Alejandro, his love of baseball and experience working with Comunidad Connect.

When did you start working for CC?

In 2007, one year after Comunidad Connect began.

Describe your role.

I am the administrator of the sports program. This includes all the different types of teams we organize within the [San Juan del sur] sports park and outside the park. For example for baseball, we need a larger field.

What is your favorite part of working with CC?

Teaching the children, young people, adults, the way of responsibility and discipline through sports. This is what I like the most because without discipline in sports, it’s had to get better and be disciplined in other aspects of life. I like to teach this type of message to young athletes.

What is your favorite place to visit in Nicaragua?

Ometepe island. It’s a beautiful, tranquil place with fresh water.

What is your favorite holiday in Nicaragua?

New years eve. Because you get to spend the end of the year with your friends and family and receive the new year, together.

What’s your favorite typical dish?

Vigoron or Nacatamales

What do you do in your pastime?

I watch a lot of Baseball. I follow the Cuban, Mexican and MLB leagues.

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

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2017 Trip Participant Handbook

November 27th, 2017

Click Here For The Trip Participant Handbook

 

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! 

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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.

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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! 

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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! 

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