Programs

Building Foundations: Homes and Health

June 11th, 2018

Most volunteer groups pour at least one concrete floor for a family during their service-learning experience in Nicaragua. For the most part, these projects are straightforward and simple to complete. However, the resulting physical and emotional health benefits are abundant.

Concrete floors:

  • Reduce parasitic infestations, diarrhea, and anemia.
  • Improve cognitive development in children by permitting “floor time”.
  • Increase satisfaction with housing and quality of life.
  • Reduce depression and perceived stress.
  • Enhance respiratory health by limiting mold spores that can flourish on damp-earth floors.

See below for a step-by-step to see how these floors are created.

Each healthy home project requires the assistance of a local mason and some prep-work. Before a floor can be laid, the mason must visit the home to level the ground and create the framework using pieces of wood and cement mix.

On the day of the project,  the group and beneficiary family first make the cement mix using three buckets of sand one bag of cement. Some beneficiary family members can be quite eager to help out, like this boy here.

Once the sand and cement mix are thoroughly mixed, a mini-volcano, as we like to call it, is created and water is poured into the “crater”.

More water is added until the proper consistency is reached.

When ready, volunteers shovel the cement into buckets and lug it inside the house where the mason is waiting.

The mason then pours the cement and smooths it out with wood or a leveling tool.

The finished product is quite impressive and completely changes the aesthetic and healthy conditions of the home. These floors usually take about two days to dry and cost an average of $200. By financing a concrete floor in someone’s home, you can make a direct impact from abroad. Donate here today.

Clean Cookstoves, Healthy Homes

May 30th, 2018

Some of the most prevalent yet preventable illnesses in rural Nicaragua are respiratory diseases. To address this challenge, Comunidad Connect’s improved technology clean cookstoves can greatly improve household health.

These projects, earned by accumulating volunteer hours in the community, are built  by beneficiary families, volunteers, and local masons. Not only do these stoves use less wood and save a family money, but they also have the following health benefits:

  • Decrease indoor air pollution from smoke using chimneys
  • Prevent chronic illnesses such as respiratory disease, pneumonia, and low birth weight
  • Increase satisfaction with housing and quality of life

Take a look below to see how these stoves are built step-by-step!

Meet Don Tingo, a mason who lives in Los Robles and helps makes building these stoves possible. Before any construction can begin, Don Tingo pre-fabricates the “burners” with rebar and concrete. One of the burners must have a hole for the chimney, as you can see in the image.

When the time comes to begin construction, the mortar mixture (used to hold the stove bricks together) must be prepared. The simple recipe consists of combing dirt and cow manure with water that has been soaked in dragon fruit leaves. The dragon fruit is sticky and acts as a natural binder. And don’t worry, the cow manure doesn’t smell at all.

While the mortar mixture is being prepared, Don Tingo will lay the first layer of bricks, as these measurements are the most important to the structural integrity of the stove. Once completed, volunteers and the beneficiary family can take over laying bricks, stacking several layers high.

After Don Tingo’s approval of the group’s work, he will lay the burners into place. In the picture above, you will notice one side is higher than the other. This is to create an uneven distribution of heat, allowing one burner to heat up and cook food quickly and the other to function as a warmer. 

With the burners set in place, Don Tingo climbs to the roof of the house to install the chimney. Most of the time he has to cut a hole in the zinc roof or rearrange some shingles.

From the inside, the stove is really starting to come together. With a little bit of concrete to seal the chimney in place, it will be ready to dry. Taking only about a day to set, the beneficiary family can begin cooking very quickly after receiving a project.

And there you have it! In only 2 to 3 hours, volunteers have an amazing experience, make some new friends and significantly impact a family’s health for years to come.

Tagged: , , , , ,

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.

 

 

Kick-Off to Chicas Fuertes Sports Initiative

February 9th, 2018

Jump, set, spike! Girls in San Juan del Sur practicing their volleyball skills at the Chicas Fuertes camp last summer.

Comunidad Connect is excited to expand our girls sports program with the start of the Chicas Fuertes (Strong Girls) initiative in San Juan del Sur. This initiative builds off the three-week girls empowerment volleyball camp, also named Chicas Fuertes, hosted by volunteer Mitzi Kincaid last year. Mitzi, a Sports Psychology MA candidate at John F. Kennedy University, led over 150 girls between the ages of 7-17 in San Juan del Sur. Girls learned how to put important mental skills into practice, like deep breathing and positive self-talk, on and off the volleyball court.

We are also proud to partner with Brooke Rundle, a long-time advocate for women’s sports and empowerment through volleyball. She brings NCAA volleyball teams to Nicaragua for exhibition matches with the Nicaraguan national team, while engaging the players in service learning while in country. Chicas Fuertes will benefit from the interaction and role models associated with Brooke’s program.

Chicas Fuertes will provide a safe and structured environment for Nicaraguan youth to participate in sports-related activities to promote healthy lifestyles in rural communities. Through soccer, baseball, and volleyball leagues and clinics, young women will develop positive leadership and team-building skills.

 

With your support, we can all do our part to love and care for this wonderful community and the amazing girls who desire to play sports. Volunteers can support these projects by leading clinics in Nicaragua and donating supplies, such as uniforms and equipment while engaging in intercultural exchange. Chicas Fuertes will also partner with local businesses, municipal leaders, other NGO’s and the Nicaragua National Volleyball Team in organizing sports leagues, exhibition matches, and enrichment activities.

Learn how you can support Chicas Fuertes by contacting us at info@comunidadconnect.org. Whether you want to join as an individual, bring a group of friends or family to Nicaragua, or partner with your sports team or organization, we look forward to working with you this upcoming year!

Girls at the primary and secondary schools are always excited to share a week or more with visiting volunteers, developing athletic and leadership skills.

Tagged: , , , , ,

A Quick Look into Los Robles: Research Updates

January 30th, 2018

Approximately 2 out of 3 families in Los Robles do not have a latrine in their home. Poor sanitation is linked to the transmission of diseases including cholera, diarrhea, typhoid, intestinal worms, and others.

In 2017, Comunidad Connect collaborated with several academic partners to improve our understanding of the current socioeconomic and health status of the community of Los Robles.

Research teams from the University of Calgary, The Ohio State University, and the University of Alabama – headed by Warren Wilson (Calgary), Barbara Piperata (OSU) Kammi Schmeer (OSU), and Jason DeCaro (Alabama) – also presented preliminary findings from their research on maternal and child health in Los Robles this past summer. Some notable findings from these preliminary results are below, along with data collected from Comunidad Connect’s 2016 in-depth survey of 300 households.

In explaining her 2018 vision, Dr. Piperata aims to look at how children’s interactions with their environment (soil, water, food, animals) affects their gut microbiome and incidence of diarrhea.

“We found the people interested and very willing to help with all aspects of the research.  This is a major plus for moving ahead… people in the community are interested and willing to help advance understanding and make evidence-based changes to improve well-being. You cannot say that about every place. I think this is very important for seeing a sustained impact.”

As we move forward in 2018 and beyond, we will continue collaborating with academic and community partners to provide a holistic understanding of health in rural Nicaragua. Ongoing research is the key that drives in-country programming. For example, sanitation has emerged as a critical priority.  Currently, over 60% of Los Robles is defecating in the open air and only 20% of existing latrines are in decent conditions.  We are seeking viable solutions, so please contact us if you know of best practices, colleagues, or research related to rural sanitation in developing countries.  We hope to begin with several prototypes in 2018.

Less than 1 in 10 households have reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. Food insecurity puts people at risk for chronic stress, depression, and the inability to fight infections.

One out of every five children exhibits symptoms of chronic stress, generally due to an inadequate diet. Chronic stress during childhood has dire long-term consequences for the child’s cognitive abilities, work capacity, and the function of their immune system.

Over 50% of participants surveyed in Los Robles did not finish primary school or have received no education. Research has shown that education helps promote and sustain healthy lifestyles: families are more likely to take advantage of health care provision, the effect of education on health is at least as great as the effect of income, and additional education nurtures human development, relationships, and personal, family, and community well-being (Feinstein et al. 2006).

 

 

Tagged: ,

Oral Health Initiative a Success

January 29th, 2018

Dr. Reeder Lanzas teaching children in Los Robles how to prevent cavities.

Dr. Reeder Lanzas, our resident dentist, led and completed the first phase of our oral health initiative with the goal of working with local health volunteers, teachers, and students to identify best strategies to change oral hygiene practices. Over 2000 students participated in 54 educational talks and 1500 students received fluoride treatment in 4 rural communities: Los Robles, San Esteban, Datanlí, and Pueblo Nuevo.

In 2018, we launch the mobile dental clinic to expand our reach and improve the dental hygiene of 500-800 more students. With this clinic, Dr. Lanzas will be able to provide full dental attention, including teeth cleaning services, extractions if necessary, consultations, and preventive oral health education.

We look forward to working with dental brigades this coming year and welcome new academic partners interested in supporting our Preventive Oral Health program. If you would like to become involved, or know someone who would, please email us at info@comunidadconnect.org. Learn more about our dental hygiene initiatives by watching our Preventive Oral Health video and see Dr. Reeder Lanzas’ vision for the mobile clinic.

 

Students excited to use their new toothbrushes and toothpaste after attending Dr. Reeder’s oral health educational talk at the primary school in Los Robles.

Tagged: , , , ,

Year in Review: Highlights from 2017

January 5th, 2018

As 2017 came to a close, we took a look back to some of the best highlights from the past year. Thank you to all of the donors, trip participants, and partners who helped Comunidad Connect extend our reach and impact in communities throughout rural Nicaragua. Take a look at some of our favorite photos below from 2017. We look forward to making even more great memories with you all in the year to come!

  • We were excited to close out 2017 with a visit from our Board of Directors. Leslie Stewart, Carey Smith-Marchi, Mat Mendonca, and Michelle and Austin Drill meet with a family in Los Robles.

Thank you to all of our partners!

Tagged: , ,

New Year, New Dental Mobile Clinic

January 3rd, 2018

Over the past ten years, Comunidad Connect has helped over 10,000 Nicaraguans live healthier lives. We do this by breaking down barriers to isolation and connecting people to local and international resources that otherwise would be near impossible to obtain. This new year, we invite you to join us in a spirit of global citizenship to help launch our new project: a mobile dental clinic.

Most rural communities in Nicaragua do not have access to dental care. The majority of rural Nicaraguans, aged 15 and up, are missing adult teeth. Cavities are present at an extremely high rate in every age group, requiring many individuals to have further extractions, surgeries or restorations – problems entirely preventable with proper oral hygiene and health education.

Through our new mobile dental clinic, we can bring dental education, teeth cleaning services and consultations to new rural communities, reaching 500-800 students. Watch our Preventive Oral Health video to learn more about Dr. Reeder Lanzas, Comunidad Connect’s resident dentist, and his vision for the dental clinic.

Tagged: , , , ,

Youth Connections Soccer Tournament a Success in Jinotega

December 18th, 2017

Last week our Youth Connections Program hosted a soccer tournament in Jinotega. Four teams of youth age 13-15 participated, including a teams from Los Robles and San Juan del Sur, as well as Saprissa – a sports academy school from Costa Rica – and another local team. After a few rounds of games, San Juan del Sur and Saprissa made it to the finals. Both teams played a spectacular game, with San Juan del Sur winning the championship.

Ronald Zeledón, the coordinator of our sports programs in Los Robles, organized this event and was proud of all the teams involved. “One of the most important outcomes of this tournament was that it was the first time we have collaborated with San Juan del Sur in one sports event. This was a great way to bring together athletes from both areas of our Youth Connections Program.”

Athletes from San Juan del Sur and Saprissa (Costa Rica) compete in the final game of the tournament.

Ronald also noted the importance of these kinds of events for youth development. “Activities like this tournament are important not only to witness the great talent that these athletes have, but also to see the improvement and development of their abilities. They serve as an opportunity for adolescents to step outside of their comfort zone and be able to share experiences and what they have learned with youth from other parts of the country.”

 

Thank you to everyone who participated and came out to support this tournament!

 

Tagged: , , , , , ,

We’ll Go Farther, Together: 2017 Holiday Campaign Kick-Off

November 30th, 2017

Tania America Picado is the mother of Crisbell Gutiérrez (far right), one of the beneficiaries of our Neurological and Pediatric Patient Project in Los Robles.

Over the past ten years, Comunidad Connect has provided thousands of Nicaraguans with access to health services, youth development programs, and improved living conditions. We are thankful for your financial support this year, without which this incredible impact would not have been possible.

As we begin our next decade of work driven by our collective experience in Nicaragua, Comunidad Connect kindly requests you to consider extending your impact further by participating in our Holiday Campaign. Your contributions will allow us to expand our programs to reach thousands more residents of isolated communities in Nicaragua and connect them with critical resources and services.

Take for example the family of 9 year old Crisbell Gutiérrezwho we met in the community of Los Robles in 2015. An accident at 2 months old left her partially paralyzed with frequent seizures, while her single mother struggled to provide for her 4 children. Through our health and service programs, we connected Crisbell to Drs. Ben and Karen Thrower who helped provide the appropriate medicine and monthly check ups. Today, Crisbell has increased mobility, seizures are now rare, and her mother is happy knowing her daughter’s special medical needs are being met.

Connecting vital resources to those who need them most is what Comunidad Connect does best, but we cannot do it alone. I invite you to watch Crisbell’s story, share it with others you know and consider making a contribution to our Holiday Campaign. Each of us can be a piece of the solution…and we can indeed go much farther, together.

Keep a look out for more videos in our three-part video series and stay updated with our Holiday Campaign!

Tagged: , , , , , ,

Become a piece of the puzzle.

GET CONNECTED

COME SEE US:

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

MAIL US SOMETHING:

Comunidad Connect / PO Box 1687 Madison, Alabama 35758

Tel: Tel: 404-444-9147

©2014 COMUNIDAD CONNECT - Registered 501 (c)(3) organization