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Farewell to NCHC Fellow, Theresa Bailey

August 8th, 2017

After two years of supporting our Health Connections programs, Princeton in Latin America Fellow Theresa Bailey has concluded her time with Comunidad Connect and will begin her graduate studies at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.. Theresa’s contributions across a wide range of projects – including research, preventive and primary health care, health fairs, presentations, mentoring, translating, impact measurement, and communications – were a tremendous source of support for all stakeholders and have had a profound impact in Los Robles and the surrounding communities. Theresa worked closely with Dr Mayra Rivas, Dr. Lia, Dr. Alaniz, Dr. Reeder Lanzas, the Ministry of Health, and the network of brigadistas of Los Robles tirelessly to coordinate our collective efforts and improve health outcomes in rural Nicaragua.  

Spending her first year in Los Robles, Theresa formed strong relationships with community members and her co-workers. As fellow NCHC colleague Reeder Lanzas describes, “Working with Theresa was like working with the entire community. No one from our team knew the community better than her. She was also one of the best interpreters I have ever known.”

Theresa’s compassion for others, sense of responsibility, hard-work ethic, and friendship were greatly valued. Marketing intern Adam Rosendale remembers Theresa as a wonderful mentor and co-worker, wishing her the best with her studies back in Georgia.  

This fall, Theresa will continue pursuing her passion of global health as she begins a Master’s program at Emory University’s School of Public Health. We wish Theresa the best of luck and are excited to see the amazing work she will do in the future.

Q&A with University of Calgary Researcher, Natasha Hoehn

August 7th, 2017

Interview with Natasha Hoehn, Graduate Student at the University of Calgary

Jinotega, health research, Los Robles, public health, Nicaragua

Climbing to the cross in Jinotega with Daisi Iveth Gonzalez, one of the Los Robles mothers.

Can you give us a brief background of your research study?

I am interested in how the mental health of mothers may, or may not, affect the health of their children. Previous research has suggested that maternal depression may be associated with poor child growth, decreased cognitive development, and increased episodes of diarrhea. However, few studies have examined markers of physiological status that may predispose children to these adverse outcomes. By studying markers of physiological status, we can see vulnerability to disease before it manifests by taking a step back in the process of disease development. My research tests for correlations between maternal mental health and physiological markers of stress in children, which can offer new insight into the relationship between maternal mental health and child health.

Jinotega, health research, Los Robles, public health, Nicaragua

An accurate representation of how afraid I am of machetes (with Maritza de Jesus Romero).

How did your research go this summer while you lived in Los Robles?

While I spent two months in Los Robles collecting data in 2015, there was very little time dedicated to observing the everyday lives of mothers in the community. To gain the context necessary to help explain patterns in our “hard” data, I returned to Los Robles this summer to do participant observation research in a series of households. Participant observation, as the name would suggest, entails both participating in and recording everything that happens in a day. This involved cooking gallo pinto, hand washing clothes, and the occasional pig slaughtering (quite an experience for this city-raised vegetarian). Community members welcomed me into their homes, and allowed me to follow them around with a notebook for week-long periods of time. The insight gained from this experience will be invaluable in writing my thesis. Additionally, and more importantly, my experience this summer strengthened my connection to the women in Los Robles, and I hope the relationships we built together will extend beyond my graduate studies.

How did the community respond to results you shared from 2015?

The second goal of my time in Los Robles was to communicate preliminary findings from the data our team collected in 2015. To achieve this goal, I presented results in a series of community meetings that were organized and hosted by Brigadistas. While women were at times shocked by some of the more troubling statistics (4 out of 10 mothers may have problems with mental health, 3 of 10 mothers are at risk for developing diabetes. Etc.), they demonstrated an appreciation for the knowledge by asking questions about each point. Our team looks forward to continuing to work with the data, and being able to share more findings in the future.

What reflections do you have on experiences that stood out?

The people I spent time with in Los Robles were incredibly open and welcoming. My host family was always there to remind me that, even though I was away from my Canadian family, I had new Nicaraguan friends all around me. This was most evident on my birthday when I felt terribly homesick (and spent a good portion of the day wallowing in self-pity), only to arrive at a surprise party organized by my host mother. There were songs, and music, and special food, and I have never had such a special birthday celebration. While being away from home can be difficult, community members made it clear that they cared very deeply about me, and I will forever remember their hospitality.

Photo of Linda in performance dress on Mother’s Day.

Observations from Los Robles

August 1st, 2017

Written by: Pallavi Oruganti, MPH Student at The Ohio State University

Thank you Comunidad Connect for allowing me to share my experience in Los Robles with you! My name is Pallavi Oruganti, and I am currently a Master of Public Health student at the Ohio State University in Columbus, OH. My concentration is in Veterinary Public Health, and I’m specifically interested in global health, zoonotic diseases and human-animal interactions. This summer, I had the opportunity to work and live in Los Robles, Jinotega, Nicaragua as part of a interdisciplinary research team from Ohio State made up of students from Public Health, Anthropology, and Veterinary Medicine. Our project centers around infant and child gut micriobiomes, and how interactions with soil, water, animals, and others in the household may impact microbiome makeup, and ultimately diarrheal disease risk. To do this, we worked in the community with several households collecting biological samples of children, animals, soil, and water. Additionally, we observed children and babies  and conducted interviews with several moms in the community to ascertain cultural ideas of raising children and animals in Los Robles.

Alba Mayta and Helena Fox organize their research samples at the end of the day.

Our experience in Los Robles was incredibly rewarding and unforgettable. Partnering with Comunidad Connect allowed us to gain our footing in Nicaragua and the community, as they were able to arrange our stays with host families. The love, hospitality, home-cooked meals, and patience with our Spanish we experienced in our homes made our research possible and also allowed us to better understand daily life in the community. We are endlessly thankful for every single household  that agreed to partiicpate in our study, and for their genuine interest and willingness to share their experiences. We are also incredibly indebted to the Brigadistas of Los Robles for sacrificing their time to assist us with identifying households, sharing their public health knowledge, and becoming our friends along the way. One of the main observations we had about the community is the sheer strength and work ethic of the women in this community, and the Brigadistas are a testament to this. Thank you so much ladies for all you did for us the past two months!

My favorite memory of our time in Los Robles is the surprise going-away fiesta my host-family and neighbors threw for us. It was a great way to celebrate with the amazing people we have met in the community and it truly warmed our hearts that in such a short time we experienced such love and care.

We hope next year we are able to return to Los Robles to share the results of our study, reconnect with all the amazing people we met, and additionally work more with Comunidad Connect in identifying areas of outreach to further promote health and wellness within the community. It was tough so say our last “Adios!” but we are so thankful to Comunidad Connect and la comunidad for our incredible first experience working in Nicaragua.

 

Cultural Connections Open Enrollment December Trip

July 26th, 2017

View the Cultural Connections Open-Enrollment Trip Flyer using the link below!

Cultural Connections Dec_2017

Reflections from the Community Garden

July 20th, 2017

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.

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Mitzi Kincaid – Chicas Fuertes Volleyball Camp

July 3rd, 2017

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.

Bump, set, spike!

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Volunteer with Cultural Connections: December 2017

June 12th, 2017

Come to Nicaragua this December!

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.

Learn more and register today!

 

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Celebrate Comunidad Connect: Craft Beer Fundraiser 2017

June 11th, 2017

 

Come enjoy some of Colorado’s best craft beers while supporting Comunidad Connect this September!

Featuring some of the best micro-breweries in Boulder, 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.

Saturday September 30th, 2017 2 pm
1930 Central Ave, Boulder, CO
Suggested Donation: $40, and $100 for the VIP package

Visit Event Page for Full Details

 

 

Get a Glimpse at our Rural Health Program!

June 1st, 2017

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.

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Community Development Non-profit Hosts Third Annual International Community Health Summit in Nicaragua

May 31st, 2017

 

Los Robles, Jinotega, Nicaragua, April 2017

Representatives from Georgia State University, Kennesaw State University, and the University of North Georgia gathered in Jinotega, Nicaragua to attend Comunidad Connect’s Third Annual Health Summit. From April 19th – April 21st, invitees learned about Comunidad Connect’s model for sustainable development, grew in their understanding of health care delivery systems, and made connections with representatives from the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health, the Local System of Integral Health Care, Ohio State University, the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua – Matagalpa, the Red Cross, and other community development institutions working in the region. This summit promoted interdisciplinary research and advocated for volunteer trips to the region that will complement national programs and initiatives impacting the health of thousands of Nicaraguans living in rural communities with limited resources.

Comunidad Connect Co-Founder, Jon Thompson

During the first day, Comunidad Connect co-founder Jon Thompson presented on behalf of Dr. Warren Wilson of the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology of the University of Calgary. Other presenters speaking on current research taking place in the community of Los Robles included Maryanne Tranter, MS, CPNP of Ohio State University College of Nursing and Johnathan Steppe, MSN of Kennesaw State University School of Nursing. Topics included, respectively: “The Health of Mothers and Children in Los Robles,” “Adolescent Pregnancy in Nicaragua,” and preliminary findings from a “Health Education Needs Assessment for Los Robles, Nicaragua.” After listening to the first day’s presentations, Brian Culp, PhD of Kennesaw State University said he was “learning better ways to promote health and human services to underserved communities, particularity women” through these presentations.

Jonathan Steppe and Barbara Blake from Kennesaw State University

Attendees also visited the newest community in which Comunidad Connect is expanding its services, San Esteban II. Maryanne Tranter was excited to see that “the community of San Esteban is very engaged with CC in such a short period of time.” The second day of presentations and visits to health centers was met with similar enthusiasm; Kandice Porter of Kennesaw State University remarked that she was delighted by “community participation with the solutions, rather than just coming in with [an] artificial, external approach.”  National and international attendees enjoyed presentations about the Nicaraguan Model for Community Health and ways in which universities can prioritize social justice and community development.

Vanessa Jones of the University of North Georgia felt that “this experience has renewed [her] desire to really see where [she]…can continue working with Comunidad Connect, to see where the biggest impact [in these communities] will be.” Comunidad Connect is excited to continue facilitating partnerships between both nationals and internationals and hopes future summits will help others be part of the solution to improved community health in Nicaragua.

NCHC Academic Partners and Comunidad Connect Staff at the 3rd Annual Health Summit in Nicaragua

About Comunidad Connect

Comunidad Connect is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization working in Nicaragua to promote sustainable community development, cultural exchange, and civic engagement through programs in rural healthcare, water access, youth development, and service learning. To learn more visit: http://comunidadconnect.org

 

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