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Rosa Diaz: Impact of NCHC

May 17th, 2016
Rosa and Alder Diaz

Rosa Diaz with her son Alder

¡Léalo en Español!

We recently had a chance to catch up with Rosa Diaz of Los Robles, where the Nicaragua Community Health Connection program has operated since 2013. The impact of this program on this community has been drastic and we are happy to share Rosa’s thoughts in this post.

After reading, click here to become a NCHC advocate and support families just like Rosa’s!

 

First of all, our water filter has been a great benefit to my family. Before, my sons, especially the youngest, would get very sick from diarrhea. Now they do not. My youngest is healthy and he loves filtered water. He even asks for it! Before my family drank water directly from the tap and we stored large quantities in barrels. It tasted bad and the water in the barrels would come contaminated. Now our water tastes much better and my sons have learned why it is so important to have clean drinking water.

Next, our floor. We are still waiting to see the long-term health benefits, because during rainy season our kitchen floods with rain water. I hope that the new floor will allow the water to flow through and make it easier to clean when it pools. If that happens, my sons will be able to come into the kitchen and help me cook without getting wet. But for now we have seen a large change in our family since the installation of the concrete floor. Now my sons can play on the ground in the kitchen without getting dirt on their hands, clothes and shoes. It is much cleaner and healthier for them to play in our kitchen.

Finally, our oven. We’ve been very blessed in receiving this project. Since we got it, I have baked bread five times for my family. Now I don’t have to buy bread from the store. I save money this way, and I also save firewood because of the improved design. My extended family comes over to bake too. It’s be a benefit for the whole family.

Rosa Diaz with family and Theresa Bailey

Rosa Diaz with her family and Theresa Bailey of Comunidad Connect

Click here to become a NCHC Advocate today!

 

 

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Completing the Puzzle of Community Development

May 9th, 2016

Written by: Roman Yavich, Comunidad Connect Co-Founder

I’m really lucky to have been born where I was and have the chance to get good healthcare, a good education, and an opportunity to do what I want to do in life. Many people don’t have that type of luck. They are born in places where meeting basic human needs is a daily challenge. For me working in Nicaragua is a way to make the best use of the opportunity that I have had in life.

I came to Nicaragua in 2006 to study the impact that tourism growth was having in this country and understand what would make tourism more sustainable. What came out of that project is Comunidad Connect.

CC Staff at Fun Bajo el Sol

From left to right, back row: Blog author, Roman Yavich. Alejandro Noguera, Theresa Bailey, Jon Thompson, Dariel Potoy. Left to right, front row: Yarisleidy Mayorquin, Anielka Galan, Grace Galloway, Ronald Zeledon, Samuel Munguia

One of our first volunteers Mat Mendonca was so inspired by his experience that he donated all of his summer earnings from fighting forest fires to start our water filter project, Nica Agua, that this day has allowed more than 6000 people across Nicaragua to drink clean water.  I recently had the chance to translate for a group of doctors and nurses as they visited residents in the rural Los Robles community, where much of our work has taken place. What an amazing feeling to be able to facilitate these connections!

Our vision in Nicaragua is ambitious but attainable. We want to create a network of communities across Nicaragua, driven by their own strengths, knowledge, and leadership, with support from international partners, donors, and volunteers. Income through tourism and small business entrepreneurship can support health and education-focused programming envisioned, driven, and managed locally by the community. Comunidad Connect would be like a phone operator of the past, plugging resources into development projects. We’re building a large puzzle with thousands of pieces. When you put all the pieces together a beautiful picture emerges.

I invite you to help us complete this puzzle. Come to Nicaragua, learn about what makes it such a special place, and experience sustainable community development first-hand.

HOI volunteers share health and hygiene education, and of course fun, with the children of Los Robles.

HOI volunteers share health and hygiene education, and of course fun, with the children of Los Robles.

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Perspectiva de Participante: Charlas de Medicina Natural

April 29th, 2016

Inspirado por: Flavia Castro, Participante de Charla de Medicina Natural, Los Robles

Read in English!

Flavia Castro, after the workshop, después de la charla

Flavia Castro, after the workshop, después de la charla

Este abril, los brigadistas de salud de Los Robles han brindado un mes de charlas sobre la medicina tradicional. Aquí tenemos la perspectiva de Señora Flavia Castro, una de los más que 60 participantes que llegaron.

“[Yo asisto a las charlas] porque es algo importante; nos ayuda para mejorar la salud. Con estas charlas aprendemos sobre la medicina natural y todo es algo que podemos hacer en la casa. También, con estos conocimientos podemos ayudar a otros, nuestros vecinos, y hacer por ellos algo que mejorará su salud. Agradezco a Comunidad Connect por seguir apoyándonos y espero que siguen apoyándonos en el futuro. Espero que después de esta charla podemos aprender más [sobre la salud preventiva] para mejorar nuestras vidas diarias. Con la unidad y fe en Dios, podemos realizar cualquier cosa.”

Nos llena con alegría saber que los brigadistas de salud están mejorando la salud de su comunidad a través de compartir conocimiento y tiempo con sus vecinos.

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Participant’s Perspective: Natural Medicine Workshop

April 29th, 2016
Inspired by: Flavia Castro, Natural Medicine Workshop Attendee, Los Robles

¡Lea en español!

The community health workers of Los Robles have hosted one month of traditional medicine talks in Los Robles.

Flavia Castro, after the workshop, después de la charla

Flavia Castro, after the workshop, después de la charla

Flavia Castro, of the participants in the natural medicine charlas, reflects on her experience: “I attend the workshops because it’s very important; they help us to improve our health. With these workshops we learn about natural medicine and all the things that we can make right at home. Also, with this knowledge we can help others – our neighbors – and do something that improves their health. I am grateful that Comunidad Connect continuously supports us and I hope we continue to receive this support in the future. I hope that after these workshops we can learn more about preventative health to improve our daily lives. With unity and faith in God, we can do anything.”

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Una Nota de Una Brigadista de Salud

April 26th, 2016

Read this post in English!

Escrito por: Nerys Blandon, Cordinadora de Educación y Enlace Comunitaria, Comunidad Connect

Hola Equipo,

Quiero compartirles la experiencia en San Esteban.

Fuimos hace un par de semanas a San Esteban, para organizar el censo del proyecto Nica Agua. Los miembros de la comunidad que llegaron llegaron tarde. La expresion de la unica brigadiata alla era que nadie quiere ser brigadista, sola ella. Ella me dijo que cuando les explicó a la comunidad del trabajo no les gustó. Ella tenía la preocupación de que si el líder del grupo es negativo, todo el equipo va a ser negativo.

El Equipo de San Esteban - San Esteban Team

El Equipo de San Esteban – San Esteban Team

En este momento empezamos la reunion y les dije nuestra forma de trabajar, nuestra vivencia en Los Robles. Les prometí que ibamos a compartir con ellos todo lo que hemos hecho. Les pregunté si hay alguien que le gustaría ser brigadista de salud. Me preguntaron, “qué tenemos que hacer?” Les respondí, “Por hoy solo tienen a una brigadista de salud y hoy vamos a empezar a expandir el grupo con los que están aquí.” Supimos que otros nos iban a seguir.

Un par de días después de la reunion, llegaron dos jóvenes a mi casa que iban a ayudar rectificar el censo. Pero no solo eso, ¡van a participar como brigadistas de salud! Me preguntaron, “Cuantos brigadistas podemos ser?” “Pueden ser 10 brigadistas,” les dije. Los escuche tan animados, me dijeron que van a lograrlo.

Hoy en día tenemos 10 brigadistas de salud en San Esteban, 4 mujeres y 6 hombres.

Gracias a todos, por seguir dando cobertura a más comunidades.

Saludos,

Nerys

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A letter from a Community Health Worker

April 26th, 2016

¡Lea en Español!

Written by Nerys Blandón, Community Outreach and Education Coordinator, Comunidad Connect

Hello team,

I want to share an experience from the community of San Esteban.

A few weeks ago we went to San Esteban to organize the census for their upcoming Nica Agua project. Only a few community members came to the meeting, and those who came arrived late. The only community health worker, or brigadista, there gave the impression that no one knew why they should be there; the was the only one truly interested. She told me that when she explained to the community about the community health work, no body seemed interested. She was worried that if the group leader was negative, the whole group would be negative.

El Equipo de San Esteban - San Esteban Team

El Equipo de San Esteban – San Esteban Team

At this moment we started the meeting and I told them about our work style and the success we’ve had in Los Robles. I promised that we would share with them everything we’ve learned. I asked them if anyone would like to be a brigadista. They asked me, “What would we have to do?” I told them “Today your community only has one brigadista and today we are going to expand that group using those of you here.” We knew they would want to join.

A few days later two young men arrived at my house to help with the census, but they had other news as well. They decided to become brigadistas! They asked me “How many brigadistas can there be?” I told them 10. They sounded so excited and they said they were going to gather the group of ten.

Now we have 10 community health works in San Esteban, four women and six men.

Thank you everyone for allowing us to reach out to more and more communities.

Saludos,

Nerys

 

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Both sides of the Canal

April 19th, 2016

by Roman Yavich, Co-Founder, Comunidad Connect

A canal is a small body of water that connects two larger bodies. Ironically it also divides. The mere idea of a canal in Nicaragua has revived the dormant rivalry between the liberals and conservatives in this country 25 years removed from a bloody civil war. The canal passing across the middle of Nicaragua would sever the country in two geographically, north and south, and economically, the haves and the have nots. The haves being those who have access to the canal and the global trade it represents.

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Map of proposed canal. Image from HKND Group, the China-based company planning to build the canal

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Peace in Sontule

April 7th, 2016

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

Sontule is a 600-resident town nestled in the Miraflor Nature Reserve of Northern Nicaragua. Peace and tranquility characterize the community today, but in the 1970s and 80s it was a site of revolution and war: brothers and sisters killing brothers and sisters, mothers hiding in caves with their children as their husbands and sons defended their homes.

Volunteers watch the sunset from Sontule, blog author Grace Galloway sits on the far right.

Volunteers watch the sunset from Sontule, blog author Grace Galloway sits on the far right.

Three cooperatives, two co-ed and focused primarily on coffee and one exclusively female and focused on both eco-tourism and coffee, held the town together during the Sandinista revolution of the 1970s and the Contra war of the 1980s. I spent a week there leading a Comunidad Connect volunteer group. My host dad, Marvin, explained to me that he lost both his brother and sister in the war, each fighting on different sides. Mefalia, his wife and my host mother, quietly shared with me the impact the women’s cooperative made on her life. “The machismo used to be horrific. There has been a lot of education for both men and women, they are teaching the children about it in the schools. We still have a long way to go, but the men are learning to share the household chores and we are becoming more independent.”

Coffee - the main form of income in Sontule

Coffee – the main form of income in Sontule

On my last night in Sontule, I sat around the dinner table with our bus driver Ronald (31) and two of Mefalia’s sons, Wilder (22) and Jason (16). As the conversation waned I decided to ask a what I thought would be a fun get-to-know-each-other question. I asked my new friends, “Si tuvieron que ser de otro país, de donde serían?” “If you had to be from a different country, where would be from?” I was met with looks of hurt, as they struggled to answer my question. They brainstormed about the beautiful women they would meet in Brazil, the delicious food they could eat in France, the American dream. After a few minutes Wilder spoke up, “Yo no cambiaría mi Nicaragua para nada.” “I wouldn’t trade my Nicaragua for anything.”

Mefalia and Marvin's host family farm.

Mefalia and Marvin’s host family farm.

Leaving Sontule the next morning brought tears to my eyes. Seeing families who less than 30 years ago were in the midst of a nightmarish war now pursuing peace and sustainability inspires me to do the same. I have been working in community development in Central America for three years and have learned so much about internal and external peace through the simplicity of rural life. I encourage all of us to find a way to learn about and through service whether it’s through Comunidad Connect and Sontule, or a different sustainable development opportunity.

 

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Reflection from an Volunteer: March 2016

March 31st, 2016

Written by: Taylor McNair, Comunidad Connect Volunteer, Emory MBA Candidate,

Taylor McNair, Volunteer, Emory MBA CandidateI was certainly skeptical. I heard so much hype about this trip to Nicaragua, I was curious as to whether the experience would truly live up to all it was made up to be. Beyond this, I could not stop thinking about my high school service learning trip, Builders Beyond Borders. Every winter, hoards of students poured out of their overly privileged lifestyles and brought their J. Crew button downs and Rayban sunglasses to “save” an underdeveloped nation, most recently Nicaragua. It is the fundamental development-support model that many NGOs pride themselves on. Fortunately, my expectations were far surpassed. Not only did the trip and our activities prove to be more than I imagined, but our team of students combined with Wes and Carey’s obvious and unending passion for this work, made the trip a truly enlightening experience. More than anything, this trip to Nicaragua detailed a sustainable development that I had never been exposed to be before, leaving me both fascinated and inspired.

I enjoyed almost every aspect of the trip, and certainly have a few critiques, but above all, I was most impressed with our first half. Living on the coffee farm, and having the opportunity to spend the day with Byron, an experience coffee farmer from Northern Nicaragua, was an awesome experience. For one, it justifies much of what I’ve read about sustainable agriculture. Clearly, these farmers have learned to deal with climate change impacts, and have the ability to produce effectively in an organic and sustainable manner. Byron proved to be just as inspiring and enlightening as the last time he spoke, and doubled down on his sustainability and interconnected ecosystem mantra. While the end of the trip was much less hands on and intimate, it still exposed us to a number of exciting opportunities, particularly the geothermal plant and social enterprises. The lake tour and monkey visit were definitely weird!

Overall, an awesome trip, and I’m glad I got to experience it with fellow Emory MBA candidates. I’m looking forward to continuing to support these development projects. 

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Physicians as Volunteers, in Los Robles, Nicaragua

March 9th, 2016

Written by Guest Blogger: Dr. Ben Thrower, Neurologist & Comunidad Connect Volunteer, February 2016

A child’s curious eyes peeking out from a doorway. Bright greetings of “Hola!” calling out in the cool morning breeze. The power of human dignity and the pride of accomplishment in spite of the challenge of living in a country with low resources. These are a few of the wonderful memories that my wife and I bring home from our trips to Los Robles through Comunidad Connect.

Dr. Thrower follows up with patients in Los Robles.

Dr. Thrower follows up with patients in Los Robles.

Serendipity brought us to Nicaragua and Comunidad Connect. I like to say that Nicaragua chose us, rather than us choosing it. Karen and I are both physicians, she’s a pediatrician and I’m a neurologist. Many years ago we did a medical mission to Haiti and always knew we would like to do something like that again. As fate would have it, our 18 year old son, Nathan, was dating a young lady whose church was going to Nicaragua in July 2015. We went with this group of people and found ourselves in Los Robles.

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Agriculture and cattle-raising are main forms of income in Los Robles

It was love at first sight. Let’s start with the Comunidad Connect staff. Jon, Roman, Alisson, Alicia, Theresa, Brian, Ronald and Rosa will all make sure your experience is rewarding to both you and the community. Nerys is a whirling dervish of energy and commitment. Sylvia and Pedro at La Finca Java will make sure you are never hungry. Groups I have gone with are usually sad when the trip comes to an end and anxious to return. The rhythm of life at the farm and in Los Robles seems so much more natural than the hustle and bustle of life at home. From the roosters, sheep and cows announcing the rising sun each morning to the smell of real coffee in the dining area, your senses will seem so much more alive.

One thing that Karen and I found so amazing in Los Robles was the brigadista system. These women and men serve as community health volunteers and truly are vital to the sustained improvement of life in the village. Each sector of the village has a brigadista who keeps a finger on the health of their neighbors.

The brigadistas educate, problem solve and sometimes cajole the people of Los Robles as the community works in unison towards shared goals. I would strongly encourage you to consider a trip through Comunidad Connect. No matter what your training or background, there is something for everyone. You may find that the experience and people touch your hearts as they have ours.

View from Finca El Peten

View from Finca El Peten

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