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Brigadista Spotlight: Meet Community Leader Doña Daysi

April 6th, 2018

“Life’s a book; whether long or short, it’s our job to make it good story.”

Daysi Gonzalez, 71, is one of the longest-serving Brigadistas in Los Robles.

In a continuation of recognizing the Brigidistas of Los Robles, We sat down with founding member, Dasyi Gonzalez to learn more about her life and how volunteers and donors support her community.

“Life’s a book; whether long or short, it’s our job to make it good story.” For the founding Brigadistas of Los Robles, this is exactly what they have done. Having lived through years of conflict and hardship, getting to know these women leaves one inspired. For through it all, they have become entrepreneurs, health volunteers, and pillars of their community.

The community of Los Robles has undergone many changes in the 54 years Daysi has lived there. In 1964, (before the man-made lake) the first community census was conducted revealing 45 homes. With this data, the women who would later become the Brigadistas made plans to construct the first formal elementary school with three teachers.

These women first became organized and began teaching knitting, sewing, embroidery, and gardening. In a pleasant memory of elementary school days, these mothers also created a rotating system of making the daily snack for the school children. In 1965, they established “Club de Damas de Casa”, or Ladies of the Home Club, where they began to formally train each other in health education and agriculture. Originally only intended to support those in Los Robles, mothers from other communities began arriving asking to be trained.

During the Nicaraguan Revolution, there was a serious problem with mosquitos, with many people becoming sick and dying from malaria in Los Robles. Consequently, this tight-knit community produced over 100 health volunteers to help take blood-samples, treat the sick, and support fumigation efforts. From this episode, the “Brigadistas” as we know them today were formed.

The current network of Brigadistas still contains members of the original group, although many have sadly passed away. However, the new generation brings with them innovative ideas, perspectives, and speed of mobilization with access to vehicles instead of only by foot.

The Brigadistas of Los Robles are a strong network of community leaders, meeting monthly with MINSA officials and Comunidad Connect Staff to discuss upcoming plans.

Although many challenges still face the community such as lack of education for youth and alcoholism, improvements have been made in recent years; for example, equipping the Brigadistas with first aid kits and training, increased involvement from the Ministry of Health (MINSA), adolescent pregnancy prevention initiatives, and collaboration with 130 health-focused volunteers in 2017 alone. Another milestone occurred in 2014 with the construction of the Los Robles Health Clinic. This project, funded and built by donors, volunteers and community members now serves Los Robles and surrounding communities, seeing an average of 242 patients a month.

Daysi’s hope for Los Robles is one of optimism. With improved health, continued foreign support and a growing national economy, Los Robles is positioned for a successful future.

When asked if she enjoys volunteers who visit the community to help with health projects, Daysi responded with a smile, “Of course! And I would love to have more volunteers come train and support the work of the Brigadistas.”

If you would like to accept Doña Daysi’s invitation to visit Los Robles and meet the Brigadistas, contact info@comunidadconnect.org today!

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Fourth Annual Health Summit 2018

May 7th, 2018

 

Academics and health care professionals reunited once again in Jinotega, Nicaragua for Comunidad Connect’s Fourth Annual Health Summit. Comunidad Connect was pleased to host both veteran and new attendees, continuing to augment local and international relationships in the health field.

Professors and students attended from Georgia State University, University of North Georgia, Kennesaw State University, and Ohio State University. The summit began with a day of home visits in the community of Los Robles, an orientation to the organization, and updates of the past year. Highlights from the day included meeting beneficiaries of Comundidad Connect’s healthy home projects of concrete floors, stoves, and ovens, speaking with homeowners about their improved health, and meeting with the network of Brigadistas (community health volunteers) for a Q&A session.

The second day of the health summit began in the city of Jinotega with presentations from the SILAIS (local system of integral health attention), the Health Center Guillermo Matute, the University of Martin Luther, and UNAN FAREM-Matagalpa about community health strategies, achievements through community strategies, and breast cancer, respectively.

Second year health summit attendee and local nonprofit ‘Together for Tomorrow’ founder, Tommy Brown, was happy to participate as it provides the opportunity to connect not only government agencies like the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health (MINSA), but also with academics from the United States. “We were here last year and it is great to hear what the government is currently doing or has plans to do so that we may work together if the opportunity presents itself.”

The afternoon session included presentations of research results from the University of Calgary, Ohio State University, Kennesaw State University, and the University of North Georgia. MINSA representatives and international academic partners saw opportunities to collaborate and look for ways to share research findings with local communities. Presenters covered a variety of topics, ranging from maternal mental health, childhood digestive health, cervical cancer, and a community health needs assessment study.

After presenting her team’s findings regarding cervical cancer screenings in the department of Leon, Professor Vanessa Jones commented, “It’s exciting to see how relationships and collaborations have developed as a result of the Health Summit. We all have the same goal–improving the health of Nicaraguans in rural communities. Sharing our work provides opportunities to work together to achieve this goal. During this year’s Summit, I was introduced to nursing faculty in Nicaragua who were interested in the same research, which could result in future research collaboration.”

For Kennesaw State’s University Dean of Health and Human Services, Mark Tillman, “The health summit was a great opportunity for teamwork and to share our knowledge of health issues. It gives me a stronger appreciation for the country, the people and the concerns that they face. And it also makes me motivated to provide more opportunities for the faculty and students of Kennesaw State to come here.”

If you would like to learn more about Comunidad Connect, the research presented, or how you can can become involved, please send us an email us a info@comunidadconnect.org or call 404-444-9147.

Check out more photos from the Health Summit below!

Staff Spotlight: Meet Enma Gutiérrez, Ministry of Health Nurse!

May 7th, 2018

Comunidad Connect values its partnership with the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health, or MINSA, to carry to out our health programs. This month, meet Enma Gutiérrez, a nurse with MINSA who works with Comunidad Connect at the health clinic in Los Robles. Enma serves an important role providing primary health attention and promoting preventative health measures in the community. Learn more about Enma’s work below!

When did you begin to work with Comunidad Connect?

I started working with CC on October 17, 2017. I’ve been with the organization for about 7 months now!

What is your typical work day like?

My job at the health center in Los Robles is focused on individual care oriented on health promotion, maintenance, and recuperation. I also promote ways to increase individuals’ quality of life and social wellbeing, and create spaces to train people and groups about ways to address their health needs and problems.

 

Enma attends patients at the Health Clinic in Los Robles and gives educational talks on various health topics in the community. Some areas and themes are listed above.

What is your favorite part about working at the Health Center in Los Robles?

I love working with children and patients with special needs.

 

What are the most common illnesses in the community?

  • Respiratory disease
  • Parasites
  • Gonococcal arthritis
  • Hypertension
  • Epilepsy

How do you work with the Brigadistas (community health workers) in Los Robles? 

I meet with the Brigadistas once or twice per month to train them on certain health topics that affect the community. They support MINSA’s (Ministry of Health) community outreach efforts and inform us of problems most prevalent in the area. The Brigadistas play an important role in training and sharing information about health to other community members in the neighborhoods where they live.

Where is your favorite place to visit in Nicaragua?

I love any place that is in the countryside, waterfalls, and the ocean.

What is your favorite typical Nicaragua dish?

My favorite typical foods are the nacatamal and baho.

Do you have any talent or hobby?

I think my talent is creative! I love to make crafts and read books.

Welcome Abigail Hunt: Summer Intern

May 7th, 2018

Comunidad Connect is excited to welcome back intern Abigail Hunt from Savannah, GA for her second summer internship with the organization. She first came to Nicaragua with a volunteer group in 2016 and returned last summer working as a bilingual facilitator for groups and living in Los Robles during the month of June. This year she will be working out of Jinotega with local development projects and communications.

Abigail is a senior at the University of Georgia studying Speech Pathology and hopes to use the skills she is learning while in Nicaragua to provide bilingual speech therapy to children in multicultural communities after graduation. She adds, “Nicaragua holds a special place in my heart. I can’t keep myself from coming back here every year. Who knows, maybe one day I can use my degree to benefit the people of Los Robles.”

Thank You Donors: New Mobile Dental Clinic in Action!

April 25th, 2018

We are excited to announce that our Mobile Dental Clinic is up and running! Thanks to your generous donations and support, our resident dentist Dr. Reeder Lanzas is expanding our Preventive Oral Health program to provide dental attention to residents in rural communities. Dr. Reeder also continues to give educational preventive health talks in primary and secondary schools, provide fluoride treatment, and supply students with basic dental kits while supplies last.

Dr. Reeder is extremely excited to put the new mobile dental clinic to work. “With this new clinic, we are going to do tooth fillings, cleanings, as well as extractions. However, our first priorities are cleanings and fillings. Currently we are working in a community on prevention (about 700 students – 400 primary, 300 secondary), and with the new clinic we are able to provide full dental primary care.”

This April Comunidad Connect welcomed Tufts University Dental students in our first dental brigade to the community of Los Robles. During the week the dental students consulted 105 patients and performed 91 tooth extractions, in addition to delivering toothbrushes and toothpaste to numerous others. Comunidad Connect is excited to expand our reach and health impact in the community with this clinic and looks forward to working with more dentists, hygienists, and university dental programs in the future.

Because of your invested support, Comunidad Connect’s mobile dental clinic is bringing smiles to thousands of students and residents in Nicaragua! The new mobile dental clinic marks an important first step toward addressing oral health in remote areas. However, this is just the beginning. You can expand this impact across rural Nicaragua by contacting us today at info@comunidadconnect.org.

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Welcome to the Comunidad Connect team, Esther María Balladares!

April 25th, 2018

Welcome to the team Esther!

This past month Comunidad Connect was excited to add a new member to our team, Esther María Balladares! Esther is originally from the city of Masaya, with a degree in Environmental Engineering from the Central American University (UCA) in Nicaragua. She is joining Comunidad Connect as an Administrative Assistant and Program Coordinator in our office in San Juan del Sur. She will be supporting the country director, administration of the organization, and assistance with sports activities in the south. Esther will also be leading Comunidad Connect’s Chicas Fuertes initiative to expand our girls empowerment sports program, as well as our Becas El Carrizal scholarship program for students.

Esther is excited for this new role, noting, “Comunidad Connect is a great opportunity to continue learning how to develop community projects. It has been fascinating so far to learn different sports disciplines and be able to share experiences with children, adolescentes, referees and scorekeepers. My new role brings enrichment to my personal and professional life.”

Atlanta to Los Robles: How Nursing Expands Beyond Borders

April 6th, 2018

Written by Bianca Lombay, nursing volunteer 

Bianca taking Juan Carlos’ blood pressure during his monthly health evaluation.

My name is Bianca and I am a Registered Nurse from Atlanta, GA. My passion in healthcare has always been in community public health since nursing school when I was exposed to the health needs in communities as opposed to the acute ailments found in hospitals. My mom works with Dr. Thrower and one day he mentioned to her that he travels to Nicaragua twice a year to provide medical care to a small community. She shared with him that that is a passion of mine and he quickly reached out to me with an invitation to join the next group. I was thrilled!

While in Los Robles, I helped Drs. Ben and Karen Thrower interpret medical care and assess patients both in the health clinic and in their homes. I also helped paint the inside of a home and donated supplies. One of my favorite experiences was witnessing such a united community. It was a beautiful thing to see the community doing everything it could for the people who live there. I was amazed by the work of Comunidad Connect, the local medical team, and the Brigadistas.

This was a very rewarding experience for me because I feel like we really made a difference and we were so warmly welcomed. I met some amazing people and plan on continuing those friendships. I definitely want to return to get to know more about the Brigadistas and work alongside the community nurse on home visits and in the health clinic. I am thankful for this experience; it has impacted my life.

Bianca loved meeting patients in Los Robles and hopes to return to work more with the health clinic in the future.

 

 

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Coming Home: The Power of a Community

March 12th, 2018

Don Ernesto has lived in Los Robles for over 40 years. 78 years old, he has lived alone in a small, simple home made of tambo (open-air wood structure) without any family nearby. A few people in the community stop by his home to bring food and visit every once in a while, aware of his situation. Due to his age and years of working in the fields, Don Ernesto now suffers from many health issues, unable to work on home improvement projects to enhance his living conditions.

After getting to know Don Ernesto and seeing his circumstances, a family in Los Robles decided to take action. They began working to repair his home, motivated to help Don Ernesto because he had served so many others in the community as well in his youth. Don Ernesto graciously accepted their support, which expanded to over 45 people in the community working together with a private company to improve his home. The family of community member Javier Lopez Gonzalez led the effort to complete this project. Each of these community members – neighbors, friends and acquaintances – donated materials (wood, zinc, paint, nails, etc.) and hands-on work in their free time to create a space of dignity for Don Ernesto, little by little.

This beautiful act of community members coming together reflects the power of community development from within. The individuals who saw Don Ernesto’s needs and decided to take action and are determined to continue supporting him to provide a comfortable and happy home where he can spend his days.

Comunidad Connect was excited to join their efforts to support Don Ernesto improve his living conditions. A group from Smoke Rise Baptist Church met Don Ernesto during a home prayer visit in February,  learning about Don Ernesto’s past challenges and seeing how happy he is to be in his new home. Volunteers that came down with Doctors Ben and Karen Thrower also worked on home improvement projects to lay down a concrete floor and build a ventilated stove in his home since he cooks for himself. Don Ernesto was extremely grateful for the support.

We invite you to come to Los Robles and get to know inspiring members of the community. If you stop by Don Ernesto’s new place, be prepared to listen to lots of stories and spend a good time with him.

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Home Run in Los Robles

March 7th, 2018

Young athletes in Los Robles smile with professional baseball player Gonzalo López during their clinic.

At the end of February, young athletes in Los Robles received an exciting surprise. Comunidad Connect helped bring three nationally-known Nicaraguan professional baseball players to Los Robles for an afternoon of baseball training and motivational talks.

Twenty-two children arrived to the sports field to meet Gonzalo Lopez (signed by the Atlanta Braves in 2000), Juan Vicente Lopez (played with the national team in Nicaragua six times), and Bismarck Guadamuz (played with the national team in Nicaragua four times). The three athletes shared their stories with the boys and girls of how they became professional baseball players, stressing the importance of studying and practicing with dedication. The children worked with the athletes on basic baseball skills, like using a mitt, catching, batting, and pitching.

Ronald Zeledón, coordinator of Comunidad Connect’s sports program in Los Robles, saw the event as a great success. “These Nicaraguan baseball icons shared basic technical skills with the Academy of Los Robles, which was very exciting because they serve as motivation for the young athletes to continue with their training and love of sports.”

 

The kids were very excited for this opportunity because they had never had professional athletes visit their community before. They also look forward to meeting another local athlete from Jinotega’s baseball team, Juan Blandón, who will be working with the young athletes in Los Robles in the upcoming weeks.

Thank you to everyone who made this event possible! Find out how you can support youth development in Nicaragua today by emailing: info@comunidadconnect.org.

The kids of Los Robles had a fun afternoon training with three of their national baseball idols.

Juan Vicente López (far left), Gonzalo López (center) and Bismarck Guadamuz (far right) volunteered their time to help young athletes in Los Robles improve their baseball skills and personal development.

 

 

Community Close-Up: How a Lens Offers a New Perspective

March 7th, 2018

“There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment.”
— Robert Frank

I view photography as a form of storytelling. – Katie Figura

Capturing special moments on film has taken Katie Figura around the world. Katie is usually found photographing weddings in the U.S. throughout the year, but her passion for travel and documenting untold stories has inspired her to volunteer her time photographing with international organizations.

Although she graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Industrial and Labor Relations, Katie found a passion for photography while serving as an AmeriCorps Volunteer in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has volunteered with nonprofits across Europe, offering her talents to share stories of families in refugee camps in Greece. This February, Comunidad Connect had the pleasure of working with Katie to capture and share stories in Los Robles.

I focus on capturing intimate shots that resonate deep emotion. – Katie Figura

Like other communities in rural Nicaragua, Los Robles may be geographically isolated but it is a community full of vibrant life and generations of personal histories. Some of Katie’s photographs are below, highlighting families living in Los Robles: in their homes, with their loved ones, in the coffee fields, and dealing with the wonderful and challenging moments of everyday life.

Thank you, Katie, for donating your time to help us share these moments as we continue to connect untold stories of the individuals we serve with our amazing network of support.

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San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua-Frente a Farmacia Comunitaria/ Jinotega, Nicaragua-Bancentro Lafise Central, cuadra y media al oeste, Barrio Omar García

Tel:011-(505) 2782-2434

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Comunidad Connect / PO Box 1687 Madison, Alabama 35758

Tel: Tel: 404-444-9147

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