People

Member Monday- Katherinne Peralta

August 13th, 2018

This week we recognize Katherinne, administrative assistant for Comunidad Connect! Read more to learn about Katherine, her interests and passions, and experiences working with Comunidad Connect.

When did you start working for Communidad Connect?  

I starting working for Communidad Connect on March 15, 2018.    

Describe your role with CC: 

I work in the local development connections program. My specific role is to help organize the database of projects that are carried out and fill out those files when we make a field visit. But I also have the willingness to work on everything that is necessary for Comunidad Connect.   

What is your favorite part of working with CC?  

My favorite part of working for Comunidad Connect is making field visits to Los Robles and San Esteban. Conducting home surveys with the brigadistas allows me to have relationships with the inhabitants of the community. It has been a very nice experience to talk with people, know their needs and their aspirations. For me, the best thing is to feel a part of Comunidad Connect because everything we do here has an impact on people in need.    

What is your favorite cultural event / holiday in Nicaragua?  

The anniversary of my city, Jinotega, because various activities are held for its celebration. Among them, my favorites are artisan and food fairs.  

What is your favorite place to visit in Nicaragua?  

My favorite place to visit in Nicaragua is Ometepe Island.   

What is your favorite typical dish?  

My favorite dish is the nacatamal with tortilla. 

What hobbies / talents do you have that most people do not know about?  

My favorite pastime is to share time with my family. I also like to drive and I love makeup. The talent I have that most people do not know is dance. It became my biggest passion so I decided to study at the Academia Kairos.

 

Expressions of Hope and Commitment

July 26th, 2018

Watching the success of underdogs teams in the 2018 World Cup, I was reminded of the old saying “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.In community development work, we call this phenomenon “social capital” as it is what happens when individuals leverage their talents while collaborating with others toward for a common goal. Team Comunidad Connect is no different.

We are a dynamic collective of committed staff and visionary board members, resilient community partners and stakeholders like you. We are especially thankful for the moral and financial support received over the last few months. Your solidarity from abroad and in the field, as well as your financial contributions, enable us to continue working alongside and strengthening communities as they grapple with daily challenges and an uncertain future. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do.

Remember it is never to late to make a game-changing decision from wherever you are. Making a donation, saying a prayer, and sharing the unfolding history in Nicaragua with others are all great ways to contribute to our collective synergy and social capital. Thank you!

-Jon Thompson, CEO

Smoke Rise Baptist- 2018

 

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.”

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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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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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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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.

The Brigadistas of Los Robles

February 9th, 2018

Doña Daisy González, sector Zelaya.

Who are the Brigadistas of Los Robles?

Most volunteer groups and partners who have come down to Nicaragua have met or heard of the network of Brigadistas that make up an integral part of Los Robles. These Brigadistas are community health volunteers: a majority female group of individuals from the community that selflessly give their time and energy to promote health initiatives among the 10 sectors of Los Robles.

One of Comunidad Connect’s driving tenants is to support sustainable community development through working with local partners. This grassroots approach enables community members to identify their most pressing needs and collaborate with other organizations and institutions to achieve their goals. Within the past 7 months, a new network of dedicated, inspired Brigadistas has formed in Los Robles, working in partnership with MINSA (Nicaraguan Ministry of Health) and Comunidad Connect.

Currently there are 17 new and veteran Brigadistas active in Los Robles from each of the 10 sectors. These community health volunteers take on a variety of roles: they frequently check in with families in their neighborhood to identify health needs, coordinate with MINSA staff at the local health clinic to make referrals, receive training on basic health care like First Aid, have monthly meetings to plan future activities, and help outside organizations and volunteers get to know the local community. The Brigadistas have also assisted Comunidad Connect in coordinating our family health and hygiene projects, enabling families to earn clean cook ovens, stoves, concrete floors, and natural insecticide treated painting. Moreover, these strong women and men serve as an invaluable resource to their community.

Having served Los Robles for over 20 years as a Brigadista – as well as volunteering her home as the community health outpost when needed – , Doña Petrona is one of the longest serving Brigadistas in the community. Doña Petrona (sector Rondana), along with Doña Virginia (sector Bodega) and Doña Daisy (sector Zelaya), are the oldest Brigadistas out of the network of 17. They are always grateful for visiting volunteer groups that come to support projects in the community and they look forward to expanding their relationships this upcoming year.

Doña Petrona Díaz, sector Rondana.

Doña Virginia del Carmen Chavarría, sector Bodega.

Stay updated for future interviews and spotlights on the Brigadistas of Los Robles in the next few weeks on Facebook and Instagram. Thank you to all of the groups who have supported the Brigadistas and Comunidad Connect’s health initiatives over the years.

 

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