April 29th, 2016
Inspired by: Flavia Castro, Natural Medicine Workshop Attendee, Los Robles
¡Lea en español!
The community health workers of Los Robles have hosted one month of traditional medicine talks in Los Robles.
Flavia Castro, after the workshop, después de la charla
Flavia Castro, of the participants in the natural medicine charlas, reflects on her experience: “I attend the workshops because it’s very important; they help us to improve our health. With these workshops we learn about natural medicine and all the things that we can make right at home. Also, with this knowledge we can help others – our neighbors – and do something that improves their health. I am grateful that Comunidad Connect continuously supports us and I hope we continue to receive this support in the future. I hope that after these workshops we can learn more about preventative health to improve our daily lives. With unity and faith in God, we can do anything.”
Tagged: community, Education, Health, Natural Medicine, Smoothies
April 26th, 2016
Read this post in English!
Escrito por: Nerys Blandon, Cordinadora de Educación y Enlace Comunitaria, Comunidad Connect
Quiero compartirles la experiencia en San Esteban.
Fuimos hace un par de semanas a San Esteban, para organizar el censo del proyecto Nica Agua. Los miembros de la comunidad que llegaron llegaron tarde. La expresion de la unica brigadiata alla era que nadie quiere ser brigadista, sola ella. Ella me dijo que cuando les explicó a la comunidad del trabajo no les gustó. Ella tenía la preocupación de que si el líder del grupo es negativo, todo el equipo va a ser negativo.
El Equipo de San Esteban – San Esteban Team
En este momento empezamos la reunion y les dije nuestra forma de trabajar, nuestra vivencia en Los Robles. Les prometí que ibamos a compartir con ellos todo lo que hemos hecho. Les pregunté si hay alguien que le gustaría ser brigadista de salud. Me preguntaron, “qué tenemos que hacer?” Les respondí, “Por hoy solo tienen a una brigadista de salud y hoy vamos a empezar a expandir el grupo con los que están aquí.” Supimos que otros nos iban a seguir.
Un par de días después de la reunion, llegaron dos jóvenes a mi casa que iban a ayudar rectificar el censo. Pero no solo eso, ¡van a participar como brigadistas de salud! Me preguntaron, “Cuantos brigadistas podemos ser?” “Pueden ser 10 brigadistas,” les dije. Los escuche tan animados, me dijeron que van a lograrlo.
Hoy en día tenemos 10 brigadistas de salud en San Esteban, 4 mujeres y 6 hombres.
Gracias a todos, por seguir dando cobertura a más comunidades.
Tagged: Agua Limpia, Brigadistas de Salud, Comunidad, Nica Agua, Salud Comunitario, Sostenible
April 26th, 2016
¡Lea en Español!
Written by Nerys Blandón, Community Outreach and Education Coordinator, Comunidad Connect
I want to share an experience from the community of San Esteban.
A few weeks ago we went to San Esteban to organize the census for their upcoming Nica Agua project. Only a few community members came to the meeting, and those who came arrived late. The only community health worker, or brigadista, there gave the impression that no one knew why they should be there; the was the only one truly interested. She told me that when she explained to the community about the community health work, no body seemed interested. She was worried that if the group leader was negative, the whole group would be negative.
El Equipo de San Esteban – San Esteban Team
At this moment we started the meeting and I told them about our work style and the success we’ve had in Los Robles. I promised that we would share with them everything we’ve learned. I asked them if anyone would like to be a brigadista. They asked me, “What would we have to do?” I told them “Today your community only has one brigadista and today we are going to expand that group using those of you here.” We knew they would want to join.
A few days later two young men arrived at my house to help with the census, but they had other news as well. They decided to become brigadistas! They asked me “How many brigadistas can there be?” I told them 10. They sounded so excited and they said they were going to gather the group of ten.
Now we have 10 community health works in San Esteban, four women and six men.
Thank you everyone for allowing us to reach out to more and more communities.
Tagged: Brigadista, Clean Water, Commitment, Community Health Worker, Nica Agua, San Esteban
April 19th, 2016
by Roman Yavich, Co-Founder, Comunidad Connect
A canal is a small body of water that connects two larger bodies. Ironically it also divides. The mere idea of a canal in Nicaragua has revived the dormant rivalry between the liberals and conservatives in this country 25 years removed from a bloody civil war. The canal passing across the middle of Nicaragua would sever the country in two geographically, north and south, and economically, the haves and the have nots. The haves being those who have access to the canal and the global trade it represents.
Map of proposed canal. Image from HKND Group, the China-based company planning to build the canal
Tagged: canal, connection, Development, division, Lake Nicaragua, Nicaragua
April 7th, 2016
Written by: Grace Galloway, Comunidad Connect, Princeton in Latin America Fellow
Sontule is a 600-resident town nestled in the Miraflor Nature Reserve of Northern Nicaragua. Peace and tranquility characterize the community today, but in the 1970s and 80s it was a site of revolution and war: brothers and sisters killing brothers and sisters, mothers hiding in caves with their children as their husbands and sons defended their homes.
Volunteers watch the sunset from Sontule, blog author Grace Galloway sits on the far right.
Three cooperatives, two co-ed and focused primarily on coffee and one exclusively female and focused on both eco-tourism and coffee, held the town together during the Sandinista revolution of the 1970s and the Contra war of the 1980s. I spent a week there leading a Comunidad Connect volunteer group. My host dad, Marvin, explained to me that he lost both his brother and sister in the war, each fighting on different sides. Mefalia, his wife and my host mother, quietly shared with me the impact the women’s cooperative made on her life. “The machismo used to be horrific. There has been a lot of education for both men and women, they are teaching the children about it in the schools. We still have a long way to go, but the men are learning to share the household chores and we are becoming more independent.”
Coffee – the main form of income in Sontule
On my last night in Sontule, I sat around the dinner table with our bus driver Ronald (31) and two of Mefalia’s sons, Wilder (22) and Jason (16). As the conversation waned I decided to ask a what I thought would be a fun get-to-know-each-other question. I asked my new friends, “Si tuvieron que ser de otro país, de donde serían?” “If you had to be from a different country, where would be from?” I was met with looks of hurt, as they struggled to answer my question. They brainstormed about the beautiful women they would meet in Brazil, the delicious food they could eat in France, the American dream. After a few minutes Wilder spoke up, “Yo no cambiaría mi Nicaragua para nada.” “I wouldn’t trade my Nicaragua for anything.”
Mefalia and Marvin’s host family farm.
Leaving Sontule the next morning brought tears to my eyes. Seeing families who less than 30 years ago were in the midst of a nightmarish war now pursuing peace and sustainability inspires me to do the same. I have been working in community development in Central America for three years and have learned so much about internal and external peace through the simplicity of rural life. I encourage all of us to find a way to learn about and through service whether it’s through Comunidad Connect and Sontule, or a different sustainable development opportunity.
Tagged: Cafe, Coffee, Comunidad Connect, Conexiones Culturales, Cultural Connections, Esteli, Miraflor Nature Reserve, Nicaragua, Sontule, Sostenible, Sustainability, volunteer
March 31st, 2016
Written by: Taylor McNair, Comunidad Connect Volunteer, Emory MBA Candidate,
I was certainly skeptical. I heard so much hype about this trip to Nicaragua, I was curious as to whether the experience would truly live up to all it was made up to be. Beyond this, I could not stop thinking about my high school service learning trip, Builders Beyond Borders. Every winter, hoards of students poured out of their overly privileged lifestyles and brought their J. Crew button downs and Rayban sunglasses to “save” an underdeveloped nation, most recently Nicaragua. It is the fundamental development-support model that many NGOs pride themselves on. Fortunately, my expectations were far surpassed. Not only did the trip and our activities prove to be more than I imagined, but our team of students combined with Wes and Carey’s obvious and unending passion for this work, made the trip a truly enlightening experience. More than anything, this trip to Nicaragua detailed a sustainable development that I had never been exposed to be before, leaving me both fascinated and inspired.
I enjoyed almost every aspect of the trip, and certainly have a few critiques, but above all, I was most impressed with our first half. Living on the coffee farm, and having the opportunity to spend the day with Byron, an experience coffee farmer from Northern Nicaragua, was an awesome experience. For one, it justifies much of what I’ve read about sustainable agriculture. Clearly, these farmers have learned to deal with climate change impacts, and have the ability to produce effectively in an organic and sustainable manner. Byron proved to be just as inspiring and enlightening as the last time he spoke, and doubled down on his sustainability and interconnected ecosystem mantra. While the end of the trip was much less hands on and intimate, it still exposed us to a number of exciting opportunities, particularly the geothermal plant and social enterprises. The lake tour and monkey visit were definitely weird!
Overall, an awesome trip, and I’m glad I got to experience it with fellow Emory MBA candidates. I’m looking forward to continuing to support these development projects.
Tagged: Emory MBA, Emory University, Jinotega, MBA, Nicaragua, voluntario, volunteer
March 9th, 2016
Written by Guest Blogger: Dr. Ben Thrower, Neurologist & Comunidad Connect Volunteer, February 2016
A child’s curious eyes peeking out from a doorway. Bright greetings of “Hola!” calling out in the cool morning breeze. The power of human dignity and the pride of accomplishment in spite of the challenge of living in a country with low resources. These are a few of the wonderful memories that my wife and I bring home from our trips to Los Robles through Comunidad Connect.
Dr. Thrower follows up with patients in Los Robles.
Serendipity brought us to Nicaragua and Comunidad Connect. I like to say that Nicaragua chose us, rather than us choosing it. Karen and I are both physicians, she’s a pediatrician and I’m a neurologist. Many years ago we did a medical mission to Haiti and always knew we would like to do something like that again. As fate would have it, our 18 year old son, Nathan, was dating a young lady whose church was going to Nicaragua in July 2015. We went with this group of people and found ourselves in Los Robles.
Agriculture and cattle-raising are main forms of income in Los Robles
It was love at first sight. Let’s start with the Comunidad Connect staff. Jon, Roman, Alisson, Alicia, Theresa, Brian, Ronald and Rosa will all make sure your experience is rewarding to both you and the community. Nerys is a whirling dervish of energy and commitment. Sylvia and Pedro at La Finca Java will make sure you are never hungry. Groups I have gone with are usually sad when the trip comes to an end and anxious to return. The rhythm of life at the farm and in Los Robles seems so much more natural than the hustle and bustle of life at home. From the roosters, sheep and cows announcing the rising sun each morning to the smell of real coffee in the dining area, your senses will seem so much more alive.
One thing that Karen and I found so amazing in Los Robles was the brigadista system. These women and men serve as community health volunteers and truly are vital to the sustained improvement of life in the village. Each sector of the village has a brigadista who keeps a finger on the health of their neighbors.
The brigadistas educate, problem solve and sometimes cajole the people of Los Robles as the community works in unison towards shared goals. I would strongly encourage you to consider a trip through Comunidad Connect. No matter what your training or background, there is something for everyone. You may find that the experience and people touch your hearts as they have ours.
View from Finca El Peten
Tagged: Comunidad, doctor, farm life, Los Robles, Service, vida campestre, voluntario, volunteer
February 26th, 2016
Written by: Dick Olsson, Volunteer & Donor, Comunidad Connect, February 2016
I consider myself well traveled and I had been to Nicaragua before…or at least I thought I had been there. This past November, I got to see the real Nicaragua. I was fortunate to get a tour of some of the projects Comunidad Connect is doing. I am usually skeptical of programs that are established to help people in “third-world” countries. It was exciting to see how CC involves the locals in the projects and to see that they “earn” what they get. They take personal pride in what they receive. They understand that they have power to improve the environment for their families. The community service that people do not only improves their environment; it builds a sense of civic pride that is contagious. The people are not only grateful for the help they receive but are proud for the role they play.
I am so impressed with the impact that clean water, vented stoves and solid floors has on the health of the population. The people are so warm and welcoming that you want nothing but the best for them. The clinic and the human resources CC provide are so valuable yet done at a cost that would embarrass any American facility. It feels really good to see smart young people with the right priorities being successful at something that matters.
The time I spent in a homestay was remarkable. I gained a perspective of history possible no where else. My family told me of hiding out in the mountains during the revolution and how the people were impacted by decisions in the United States. I listened to the dreams of a family with no running water or electricity. They are planning for a better life and I have no doubt they will have it.
This was an inspirational trip I will always remember.
Tagged: civic pride, Clean Water, Ecotourism, History, Nicaragua, public health, Sontule, volunteer
February 1st, 2016
Written by guest blogger: Anisha Patel, volunteer, GSU School of Physical Therapy
Tucked in the lush green mountain region of northern Nicaragua lies the rural community of Los Robles. The community, built by the hands of its coffee farmers, is not only alive with the sounds of creatures living under the brush of its landscape, but also the joy that surrounds its people. It is here that our student physical therapy group experienced one of the most memorable adventures of our lives.
The most impactful experience for me was having the chance to play with the children of the community. All day, I was terrified. Never having worked with a large group of children before, the millions of ways it could all go wrong was constantly in my mind as we approached the home that would serve as our base. The children were already standing at the porch – silent, waiting. I marveled at their stillness, their patience.
Learning to play duck, duck, goose
We were greeted with a kind shyness. As we began to play, the children began to open up and laugh, accepting us without a second thought. Even though I speak little Spanish, it was easy to connect with each of them. We spoke in a language beyond words — one that was filled with gestures, laughter, and a lot of love.
What struck me the most is how much joy these children exuded. They each thoroughly enjoyed even the most simple games. When they fell, they got up and kept running. In the span of two hours, not one of them shed a tear, yelled an insult, or displayed any displeasure. They each rose to every challenge with the grace of the wise old and the unparalleled joy of those who have learned to appreciate everything. From them, in such a short span, I learned the true meaning of gratitude.
Tagged: children, GSU, learning, Los Robles, physical therapy, play, volunteer
January 26th, 2016
Last Saturday Comunidad Connect celebrated our 9 years of community development work.
Trophies and prizes for the frisbee golf, cornhole and horseshoes tournaments
Over 300 of our friends and supporters came out to the Marsella Valley Nature Center for an afternoon of games, food and drinks. Skilled and aspiring players competed in frisbee golf, cornhole and horseshoe tournaments; others enjoyed burgers and beers in the shade. San Juan del Sur’s Tae Kwon Do champion, Juan Pablo Lopez, taught basic techniques to children, who showed off their new skills by kicking open a piñata. As the final games came to a close trophies were given out and raffles prizes were drawn. At sunset, we wrapped up the day by honoring Jon Thompson, a Comunidad Connect co-founder and agent of social change in San Juan.
Grand raffle prize: a night at Rancho Chilamate Eco Guest Ranch
We are thrilled to share our accomplishments and continue connecting with our supporters and teammates from near and far. In San Juan del Sur our sports and youth development program works with over 2,000 athletes, facilitating soccer and baseball leagues while providing a safe, healthy space. We sponsor English classes and university-level scholarships for students in El Carrizal, a small town 20 minutes outside of town. Nica Agua – our clean water program – has provided water filters to hundreds of families in the Tola area. However, our work expands far beyond the San Juan del Sur area.
Final basket of the frisbee golf course
In the northern department of Jinotega, our health clinic in consults over 200 patients each month. Our medical and community health staff provide preventative care, treatment and education. Across the country we host North American volunteer groups for week-long trips based on community service and cultural exchange. These student, professional, or church-based volunteers lay cement floors, paint houses with insect-repellent paint, and construct eco-stoves for family homes. They visit families, provide educational workshops, and spend time getting to know Nicaraguan families.
Learn more about what we do and how you can get involved within and beyond San Juan del Sur!
We are grateful to our amazing sponsors for making Fun Bajo el Sol possible!