NCHC Academic Partners and Comunidad Connect Staff at the 3rd Annual Health Summit in Nicaragua
The 3rd Annual Nicaragua Community Health Summit was a tremendous success, and could not have been possible without the participation of our partners from the USA, Canada, and Nicaragua. We joined the staff of Comunidad Connect and local community partners to hear presentations, discuss, and see firsthand the health priorities facing rural Nicaragua. Presentations included:
Maternal and Child Health in Los Robles – University of Calgary
Adolescent Pregnancy in Nicaragua – Ohio State University
Women, Children & Adolescent National Health Strategy – Ministry of Health
Oral Health in Rural Nicaragua – Comunidad Connect
Health Education Needs Assessment in Los Robles – Kennesaw State
Community Organizing & Health – Autonomous University of Nicaragua
Civic Engagement & Clean Water – Comunidad Connect
Health & Tourism Based Community Development – Comunidad Connect
Vanessa Jones from the University of North Georgia, with Francis Aguilar Rizo – the nurse we sponsor at the new public clinic health clinic in Los Robles.
The cross-pollination of ideas and openness to collaborate across universities were apparent throughout the summit. We look forward to our future work together.
Doug Gardenhire is the chair of Respiratory Therapy at Georgia State University and attending the 2017 Health Summit was his first experience in Nicaragua. Smoke was pouring out of the kitchen of our first home visit, and he turned to me to say “we can definitely do something here”. After visiting the health outpost of La Fundadora and seeing the only nebulizer being used improperly, he turned to me again to say “we have got to do something here”. And after visiting the Hospital of Jinotega, I spoke first “So Doug, what are we going to do?”
The fact is that respiratory illness is the leading cause of clinic visits in Nicaragua, yet can be easily mitigated with education and appropriate technology in the home. We will soon engage the expertise of Doug’s team at GSU to address respiratory health in not only our partner communities, but also in all of Jinotega with the Ministry of Health. This work will expand on our 2016 GHIP project, and is open for collaboration. For more information, contact me (Jon Thompson) at firstname.lastname@example.org / 404-444- 9147
Calling All Advocates!
Yarisleidy with recent recipient of improved stove in San Esteban
You may already know that a little goes a very long way in Nicaragua. However, you might not know that as little as $20 a month provides a special medical needs patient with monthly home visits by a qualified doctor, medicine, and special exams. NCHC relies on the support of Advocates like you to ensure our good friends in Los Robles and San Esteban have access to critical health services like primary care at the local clinic, oral health education and care in area schools, ongoing research, and appropriate technology projects like improved stoves that improve respiratory health. Everyone who believes health is an essential human right can be an Advocate. All you have to do is something. Spread the word, introduce someone to our work in Nicaragua, make a donation. Remember, our capacity to make a difference increases as our network of support expands. Click here to become an Advocate today.
Thank you Rhonda – your donations support health and community development in rural Nicaragua.
Rhonda became a Comunidad Connect donor in February 2015, and has donated $10/month ever since. The gifts have added up to make a big difference in an effort to ensure the human right to.
Rhonda expresses the reason behind her generosity:
“As a firm believer in giving my time, talent and treasures, being a donor allows me to continue to touch Nicaragua though I am not there physically. I love Comunidad Connect’s mission and will continue to support as long as I am able.”
Written by: Adam Rosendale, Marketing Intern, Comunidad Connect, 2017
A bird’s eye view of the beautiful city of Jinotega, Nicaragua
A month ago, I moved to Nicaragua. I am completing an internship with Comunidad Connect, bolstering their marketing efforts and learning Spanish, among other things. Circumstance and good timing brought me here, and for those who have traveled, my wanderlust for new experiences should be relatable.
I have lived an extremely fortunate life and I am deeply grateful for it. Yet, on a call with a CC co-founder the other day, he said something that has stayed with me and is a good reminder for all us that want to get involved with community development or volunteer abroad.
“The simple fact that we have the capacity to travel and serve others means, by definition, that we are beginning from a place a privilege. And everything that comes next needs to stem from that point of view.” Therefore, we must become educated first and every action taken to assist these communities must be conducted with an understanding of the many complex factors involved (culture, history, government, infrastructure, health, education, etc.), in ways that are not patronizing and do not create dependence.
For those able to go, I highly encourage educational service travel. However, we must always remember to tread lightly and walk with humility as we strive to emphasize with the situation of others. This understanding must come first; for there is much to learn about ourselves, how to be happy, and how to live in this mysterious world.
Written by: Jon Thompson, Comunidad Connect Co-Founder
At the NCHC Academic Partners meeting in December 2016, I shared the incredible news that for the first time ever, the Ministry of Health (MINSA) has established a public health clinic in the community of Los Robles! Located in the humble home of long time brigadista Petrona Diaz, the MINSA clinic is managed by nurses Sonia Rosales, Francis Rizo and Rosa Aguilar. They see over 250 patients a month and reflect a much improved commitment by the government to Los Robles. Given this progress and to avoid duplicating efforts in providing primary care, we have closed our clinic and broadened our preventive health strategy in Los Robles and neighboring communities. We will support the MINSA clinic with donations of medicine, materials, and equipment, and we will continue to partner with local brigadistas who promote and facilitate preventive health education and outreach initiatives. Together, we look forward to collaborating with volunteer groups, medical brigades, and MINSA in Los Robles and beyond.
Doña Petrona Diaz (left) and nurse Sonia Rosales at the new MINSA health clinic in Los Robles.
Written by: Guest Blogger, Anna Nam, Comunidad Connect Volunteer, February 2017
It was very rewarding to see both children and adults smiling and welcoming strangers like ourselves with open arms.
During the week I was in Los Robles to do projects and to make a difference in the lives of every person that I had come across while I was there, I had a very eye-opening experience. Academically, I realized that education is important no matter where anyone goes or where anyone is. That holds true for boys and girls, and likewise men and women. It also made me realize that education is not something to take for granted. Seeing the children in school uniforms made me smile and it made me think that these children are the future generation who are going to make the world a better place. Without education, I do not think that anything could be achieved. So it made me excited to see these children in school uniforms and even more excited because of the things that they will achieve with the knowledge that they will gain each and every day-not only in school but also from life experiences.
Professionally, this trip was eye opening because I saw that both communication and making social networks are very important. Personally, I am more of an introvert than an extrovert but being in the community of Los Robles, I began to open myself up more to the people in the community despite even the language barrier. This was a great experience in itself because it also made me realize that something like a language barrier will not keep us from offering a helping hand. Though I do not know Spanish to where I can carry on a detailed conversation with another individual, if another person and I are on the same level in terms of what we want to get done and if we are willing to carry out the duty or task together, then nothing else matters. It’s the mindset of unity that is stronger than any barrier that anyone could come across. That is the most important thing that I got out of this trip.
Written by: Yarisleidy Mayorquin, Program Director, Nica Agua, Comunidad Connect
Yarisleidy, far left, distributes water filters to the community of San Esteban with the help of CC staff and community health workers.
A few weeks ago I participated in a free online video conferences for sustainable development in Latin American countries. It was hosted by Actúa, an online platform for consulting projects for change.
I had the opportunity to submit a development project of personal interest and I chose to submit Nica Agua, our clean water project. The prize is that experts in the field, in this case clean water, will provide consulting, edits, and improvements to the project. The idea is to mold the project to make it more effective in the communities and more attractive to potential grant makers and donors. Out of 253 projects from all across Latin America only 15 were chosen for each topic.
I am proud to say Nica Agua was selected as one of the winning projects! Now I have the assistance of two experts in project development and a virtual campus where we have debates and brainstorming session. I already have a few suggestions for ways to improve the project.
Written by: Grace Galloway, Princeton in Latin America Senior Fellow, All People Be Happy Fellowship Grant Recipient
Every Wednesday, I go to preschool. Well, and sometimes preschool comes to me.
The Nuevo Despertar (New Awakening) Preschool of Barrio Nuevo is located just a block away from the Comunidad Connect office. Since August I have been participating with this preschool nearly every Wednesday morning. At first, I would load my backpack with library books and motorcycle to the school for a morning of reading, pointing at the illustrations and shouting what colors appear, and of course, arguing over who gets to read about tractors first.
Since the beginning of February, the 26 preschoolers, accompanied by their fearless and patient teacher Naomi, have been coming to the CC community garden every Wednesday morning. There, we color, confirm that tomatoes are red, and learn about the papayas as they hang heavily from their trees.
Last week, we learned that leaves are the hands of a tree, and that like human hands, they help the trees to eat. My lesson consisted of asking “what do the trees eat?” until I received my desired answer: the sun. Alternative answers included: squirrels and mangos.
Later in the same class, while the students were tracing leaves, the sun went behind the clouds. One of the preschoolers looked up at me and asked, “Grace, el arból terminó de comer el sol?” Did the tree finish eating the sun?
I stifled my laugh and tears as I assured her that the sun would be right back.
This March, as the Nicaraguan school year gets into full swing and volunteers join us by the dozens, we as Comunidad Connect staff is focusing especially on two preventative health education topics: oral hygiene and sexual and reproductive health.
Help us meet of our goal of $200 towards preventative health education materials!
Dr. Reeder, our resident dentist, will be providing capacity building workshops with the community health workers of San Esteban on a variety of oral health subjects, ranging from the damaging effects of sugar and tobacco to the warning signs of gum disease. Theresa Bailey, Princeton in Latin America Fellow, will be working closely with adolescents, women and men providing information and safe space for discussions in order to reduce rates of teenage pregnancy, increase family planning and communication amongst partners, and engage men and women to work together to reduce violence and promote human rights.
Donations to this month’s health education campaign will support our workshops, providing the necessary dental equipment as well as purchasing the supplies necessary to teach the community health workers about these topics and empowering them to spread their knowledge to others in their community. Donations will also help us to invite experts in the field to work with the men and women in rural communities.
Community health workers are all smiles, ready for their oral hygiene workshop.
Written by Laura Bonin, GSU Physical 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!
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.”