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).



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Photo Gallery: Thank You Academic Partners!

January 29th, 2018

In 2017, 13 academic and health-focused groups sent 130 student volunteers to work alongside Comunidad Connect and rural communities in both northern and southern Nicaragua. They provided medical attention, physical therapy, nursing, clean water, health talks, research, and much more to hundreds of residents in communities at most risk of illnesses.

Thank you to all of our partners in health for enhancing the health and wellbeing of vulnerable communities throughout Nicaragua. Together, we played a critical role and made a direct impact on the lives of those needing our support the most.  Take a look at some of our favorite photos below from 2017. We look forward to creating even more memorable experiences with you all in the years to come!

  • Our Health Summit was a success this past May. Medical and academic partners joined us in Los Robles to discuss our Health Connections Program, research, and initiatives going forward.

Thank you to all of our academic partners!

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 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.

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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!

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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.

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Member Monday: Meet Gloria Rizo, Cultural Connections Coordinator!

December 18th, 2017

For this week’s Member Monday, meet Gloria, Comundad Connect’s newest team member! Read more to learn about Gloria, her love of social work, and time working with Comunidad Connect.

When did you start working for CC?

I started working for Comunidad Connect at the beginning of December this year.

Describe your role.

I work helping to coordinate volunteer groups, making sure everyone is okay, planning logistics for projects, and ensuring that each project is appropriately carried out in the communities.

What is your favorite part about working with CC?

I love to visit new places with the groups of volunteers.

What is your favorite place to visit in Nicaragua?

My favorite place in Nicaragua is Selva Negra (coffee farm and nature reserve). I love the artificial lake that’s in front of the restaurant, and there’s spaces to read and hike. It’s really beautiful.

Where and what did you study in university?

I studied social work at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN) in León.

What’s your favorite typical dish?

Nacatamales – I love to eat them on weekends!

What is your spirit animal?

I would say a bird, because they’re free, they can fly and travel wherever they want.

What hobbies or talents do you have that most people don’t know about?

I really enjoy reading, especially books that are also movies. But I always read the book first and then watch the movie.

Thanks Gloria! Check in next week for our next Member (& Memo) Monday! 

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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!


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Member Monday: Meet Susi Martinez, Princeton in Latin America Fellow!

December 4th, 2017

For this week’s Member Monday, we meet Susi! Read more to learn about Susi, her interest in public health, her experience being vegetarian in Nicaragua, and time working with Comunidad Connect.

When did you start working for CC?

I started working for Comunidad Connect at the end of June this year.

Describe your role.

I’m the Princeton in Latin American Fellow, so I give support to all of our main projects with a focus on our Health Connections Program. I spend about half of my time working with Adam on marketing, social media, our blog, and graphic design to share Comunidad Connect’s story and work. Additionally, I coordinate logistics for our Neurological and Pediatric Patient project and translate and serve as a guide for health-focused volunteer groups.

What is your favorite part about working with CC?

I really enjoy working directly with community members that have received our projects (improved stoves, ovens, concrete floors, etc.) and conducting interviews with them about how these projects have affected their families. I love to share their stories and see the impact of sustainable community development.

What is your favorite place to visit in Nicaragua?

I love living in Jinotega because it’s a beautiful small city surrounded by mountains, but I also really love visiting León. There are lots of cultural things to do there – museums, art galleries, delicious food – and it’s nearby to several volcanoes (I love hiking!).

What is one of your best memories living in Nicaragua?

During my first month in Nicaragua, I lived with a host family in Los Robles. My little host sisters were so fun and loved playing with my guitar and ukulele, so I taught them a few songs in Spanish that I learned from my dad and they put on a mini-concert for me one afternoon. It was so fun to see them excited to play for me, and they learned really fast!

What is your favorite holiday in Nicaragua?

Las Fiestas Patrias (Independence Day) because it’s fun to see all of the students playing music and dancing in parades during the week.

What’s your favorite typical dish?

I’m vegetarian, so I haven’t tried a lot of the typical dishes that contain meat. However, I always enjoy gallo pinto and tostones, and all of the delicious fresh fruit in Nicaragua – especially pitahaya (dragonfruit)!

What is your spirit animal?

A sloth, because they’re gentle creatures, they’re also vegetarian, and like me they love trees 🙂

What hobbies or talents do you have that most people don’t know about?

I play the ukulele and some guitar, but I definitely need to practice more! I also love cooking and finding new vegetarian/vegan recipes, hiking, and learning Portuguese.


Thanks Susi! Check in next week for our next Member (& Memo) Monday! 

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Congratulations Matt Knoop, November Donor of the Month!

December 4th, 2017

Matt Knoop (left) recently came down to Nicaragua with his family and helped local families build improved ovens to support their health.

Thank you Matt Knoop for your support of Comunidad Connect! Matt became a Comunidad Connect donor this year. His family’s contributions have greatly helped improve health and community development in Nicaragua. Read below to see how Matt and his family became involved with Comunidad Connect!

“We have long been fans and supporters of Comunidad Connect, but our recent trip to Nicaragua (and Los Robles and San Juan del Sur in particular) reinforced the importance of Comunidad Connect’s work.

In Los Robles, with our family and friends, we assisted in the construction of an oven for a family that provides in-home pre-school services and is active in the community. This service project not only provided our children acute insight into how blessed we are to afford the lifestyle we pursue but also demonstrated just how much impact a donation can have on families thousands of miles away.  For the cost of our family of four to eat at a local restaurant two or three times, we provided a family additional means to provide for themselves and others.

In San Juan del Sur, we spent Friday evening watching organized games of futsala in a social-club-turned-community-sports-complex.  Our children were transfixed by the speed and athleticism of the players (ranging from ages 11-17) as well as the number of spectators.  These games are truly community events. Comunidad Connect organized and paid for conversion of the space and runs the leagues, which in turn provides alternative outlets for community members.

We are proud to support Comunidad Connect and encourage you to see its good works in person.”

Thank you for your great work and support, Matt! Stay tuned for our next Donor of the Month in December!

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!

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Become a piece of the puzzle.



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


Comunidad Connect / PO Box 1687 Madison, Alabama 35758

Tel: Tel: 404-444-9147

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