By Jon Thompson, Comunidad Connect Co-Founder and Board President
By the time Comunidad Connect launched the Nica Agua program in Los Robles in 2011, I had been in Los Robles for almost 5 years. I had met Angela Lopez, a local pioneer health volunteer, and her daughter Nerys on several occasions. I knew of the brigadistas and their work out of the Casa Base, which consisted of their living room that they offer up for basic health care 24/7. They facilitated post and prenatal care, calls for the Jinotega ambulance, and general assistance with an emergency situation. Having grown up in such an environment, Nerys was the logical person to emerge as the project coordinator for Nica Agua.
And emerge she did. I realized this in no uncertain terms when I looked over my shoulder to see her seated in 6D on Delta 370 to Atlanta, GA. She had been invited by Social Enterprise at Goizueta to speak to students and faculty and meet with a growing number of NCHC Advocates (more on them later) who were eager to reconnect with Los Robles. Flying over the Gulf of Mexico, I thought back to when Nerys was once too shy to speak with me directly, much less speak in front of 30 foreigners. She once fumbled through text messages. Now she manages her email via via her smart phone, participates in video conferences, and submits monthly reports.
Nerys with her two youngest children, Engyl (right, 6) and Ashly (left, 9), preparing to leave Los Robles for the Atlanta visit
Just how far she has come was highlighted as we ascended to the 4th floor of Emory’s Goizueta School of Business and walked the long hallway past offices and cubicles. We found the conference room with all the A/V appointments you could imagine and a sea of smiling graduate students, staff, and faculty waiting for us. As I set up the powerpoint presentation she and Kim had prepared, Nerys’ smile became infectious throughout the room. And as she seamlessly explained the message behind each slide, her confidence could not have been more evident. She commanded the room, and she impressed us all. The applause at the end was perfect punctuation.
Nerys (second from the left) meets with students of Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. CC’s Kim Gordon (immediately to the left of Nerys) translates.
They say you never really know a person until you meet their family. As many times as we have been with Nerys’ family, her recent trip to Atlanta was the first time she had the opportunity to meet our people in our hometown. Nerys came away with a more profound understanding of who we are as individuals, parents, friends and professionals, where we come from, and why we are so committed to our work in Los Robles. It is a perspective that can only come from trusting each other enough to open up and share that which we keep close to our hearts. By spending time in our homes, offices, classrooms, and places of worship, Nerys was exposed to our culture much in the same way she facilitates for us every day we spend with her in Los Robles. Thank you everyone who made that possible.
Nerys and CC PiLA Fellow Kim Gordon with two students of Emory University’s Goizueta Business School and a donation to the NCHC project!
I am humbled by how Nerys has embraced NCHC. The Nicaragua Community Health Connection is a success because of her hard work, yet there are others who play significant supporting roles. The 14 brigadistas that are the boots on the ground every day in Los Robles, the 30+ NCHC Advocates that make small yet critical monthly donations to support the Los Robles Clinic, and institutions like SEG, CC, MINSA, and a growing number of international universities are all part of the vast network working to ensure NCHC becomes a model for rural community health in Nicaragua. Together, we are NCHC.
For information on how to become an NCHC Advocate, contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org.