Written by: Grace Galloway, All People Be Happy Fellow, Princeton in Latin America Fellow, Comunidad Connect 2015 -2017.
Last harvest of the season: mangoes, papayas, cucumbers, green beans, and jalapeños.
After working with Comunidad Connect for a year and in Central America for three years, I felt ready to take on my own project. Our office’s spacious but vacant backyard as well as the neighborhood’s complete lack of green space offered the perfect opportunity for a community garden. As I finish up my two years living in San Juan del Sur and working with CC, I have a few memories to share.
Every interaction in the garden, except with bugs and pests, has been a highlight of my experience. Two stand out the most. At the beginning of our time in the garden, the girls from the Escuela Adelante Garden Club refused to touch our compost pile, deeming it gross and insisting that worms are scary. After a few months, the group was assigned to flip the compost, and two of the girls, Brithany and Sinaí, grabbed the shovels, and started scooping, worms and all. The second experience that stands out happened in my last weeks working with Nuevo Despertar Preschool. Our second to last lesson went over ecosystems, what they are and which animals and plants live in the ocean, forest, and desert. A week later, I asked them what scientific word we had learned the previous week. Shyly, they looked at each other, and after a minute Valeria raised her hand and whispered “ecosistema”. The teacher and I laughed with joy, knowing that our lesson had been effective and impactful in the minds of the young students.
El Carrizal English class celebrates Garden Graduation.
Thanks to our amazing volunteer of the month, Mitzi Kincaid, June was filled with volleyball and girls empowerment in San Juan del Sur. Mitzi, Sports Psychology MA candidate at the John F. Kennedy University, worked with our Youth Development Program Director, Alejandro Noguera, and Community Initiatives fellow, Grace Galloway to host Chicas Fuertes (Strong Girls), a three-week girls empowerment volleyball camp.
Girls practicing deep breathing strategies at the Centro Escolar.
Mitzi, Alejandro and Grace worked with three different schools, teaming with select groups of girls to teach mental skills including deep breathing, focus, positive self-talk and goal setting. After practicing their mental skills girls were challenged to bump, set, and spike the ball, while putting into practice their teamwork abilities. By the end of the month, over 150 girls between the ages of 7-17 had had the opportunity to consistently play a sport many of them had only watched from the sidelines. More importantly, the girls each had a chance to express themselves, sharing times that they feel nervous, unconfident, and worried. They also learned about and put into practice positive self-talk on and off the volleyball court.
Mitzi’s energy, positivity, experience, and love of both volleyball and girls empowerment made Chicas Fuertes a success. With continued support from Mitzi and Comunidad Connect, as well as other female leaders and athletes in San Juan del Sur, we hope to make Chicas Fuertes a year round opportunity.
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.
Come enjoy some of Colorado’s best craft beers while supporting Comunidad Connect this September!
Featuring some of the best micro-breweries in Boulder and Denver, this family-friendly event will benefit Comunidad Connect while celebrating the rich tradition of micro-breweries of the area. This will be the 9th year of this popular fundraiser and the second year benefiting Comunidad Connect.
Enjoy a giant smoked pork BBQ and McDevitt Taco Supply with several vegetarian options while listening to the tunes ofModern Whiskey Market, a Boulder bluegrass favorite.
What: 2017 Craft Beer Fundraiser When: Saturday September 30th, 2017 2pm – 10pm Where: Coalesce Design and Fabrication Facility, 1930 Central Ave, Boulder, CO Why: Support Comunidad Connect and enjoy live music, BBQ, and games for kids and adults Suggested Donation: $40, and $100 for the VIP package
Your support will help rural Nicaraguans access medicine and transportation for specialist doctor visits and contribute to the care for patients with developmental delays and neurological conditions, such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis.
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.
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.
The Nica Agua water filter project, supported by international donors and local volunteer efforts, has drastically reduced the incidence of diarrhea and other water borne illnesses in Los Robles. It has also contributed to a change in hygiene practices as residents are keeping their homes cleaner and washing their hands and food regularly.
With diarrhea less of a challenge, the next biggest health priority for Los Robles is respiratory illness. It’s the most common condition seen in our health clinic. A major source of this condition are wood burning stoves commonly used in rural kitchens. The basic stove or oven does not have a chimney and the smoke remains in the poorly ventilated kitchen, producing asthma, allergies, and lung irritation especially common for women and children who spend most of their day in the kitchen. Building an improved stove or oven, with a smoke venting chimney, is the solution, and one of the projects that Comunidad Connect and international volunteers help with.
Your donation can help make respiratory illness a non-issue in rural communities like Los Robles and San Esteban, just as past donations helped to drastically reduce water borne illness with the use of Nica Agua water filters.
Nicaragua is unique in its prevalence for volunteering and community organizations. One of the pillars of the free public healthcare system, in this country with the second lowest GDP per capital in the Western Hemisphere, are the brigadistas. These rural health volunteers are the first line of defense for anyone with an injury, pregnancy complication, or dangerous illness. They can triage and call an ambulance if necessary. The brigadistas coordinate their efforts with the Ministry of Health and also provide community outreach focusing on illness prevention.
Theresa and community health worker network of Los Robles. Theresa y la red de brigadistas de Los Robles.
The success of Comunidad Connect health programs in Los Robles is largely due to the support of the brigadistas. After this group of 10 women and 1 man identified diarrhea and water borne illness as a top concern in Los Robles, Comunidad Connect launched is Nica Agua water filter project. Local residents could earn a water filter, which eliminates the threat of bacteria in drinking water, by investing time in projects to improve public spaces or infrastructure, such as the construction of the rural health clinic in the center of Los Robles. Like the other projects, the health clinic construction was organized by Comunidad Connect with help from international donors and volunteers that joined forces with Los Robles residents in the construction. The opening of the health clinic in January 2015 gave more than 2,000 people access medical services in their community.
The health clinic also inspired the brigadistas to create their own project, independent of Comunidad Connect, to build a new cemetery closer to town, that would not require a 30 minute walk up a steep hill, through mud, and across a stream. (Imagine doing that with a casket.) The group started a community bank, purchased a plot of land, and with support of local and international volunteers created a model cemetery, the pride of the community.
Your donation today will help Comunidad Connect work with a new group of brigadistas in our new partner community of San Esteban, to successfully complete a Nica Agua water filter project, providing more than 100 families with clean water while improving community infrastructure. This is how the sustainable development chain reaction starts. We hope you will join us and follow the progress and impact of the brigadistas in both Los Robles and San Juan del Sur. They are the true champions of grassroots community development.
Our clean water program, Nica Agua, has been one of our anchor programs for nearly 5 years. At first glance, it may seem pretty different from our two newest programs, the community garden and our sexual and reproductive health education project. However, these three programs have one very important common thread: the All People Be Happy Foundation.
All People Be Happy (APBH) generously provides grants for education and capacity building, healthcare, and sustainable agriculture. Comunidad Connect has been honored to receive funding from APBH for the Nica Agua program’s latest filter project, allowing us to provide 120 filters to families in the rural community of San Esteban.
Community health worker meeting in San Esteban, Jinotega
Earlier this year, one of our Princeton in Latin America fellows, Grace Galloway, applied for a grant to begin a community garden project in our office’s backyard. She was thrilled to receive the grant and is currently harvesting the first fruits as the rainy season subsides. As the new year begins, Grace will continue to expand community and student involvement in the garden.
Reading about trees in the Garden.
Most recently, Theresa Bailey, also a Princeton in Latin America fellow, received a grant to expand the sexual and reproductive health services provided throughout rural communities in the north. She will spend the following months implementing the first steps of a project that will holistically address the expressed needs of men, women and adolescents.
Without generous donors such as All People Be Happy, we wouldn’t be able to provide healthcare for thousands of patients each year, or clean water for hundreds of families. We can’t wait to see how the community garden and sexual and reproductive health initiative develop and expand to empower and education our community members.
Thank you, All People Be Happy, for your ongoing support.