Brigadistas

Brigadista Spotlight: Meet Community Leader Doña Daysi

April 6th, 2018

“Life’s a book; whether long or short, it’s our job to make it good story.”

Daysi Gonzalez, 71, is one of the longest-serving Brigadistas in Los Robles.

In a continuation of recognizing the Brigidistas of Los Robles, We sat down with founding member, Dasyi Gonzalez to learn more about her life and how volunteers and donors support her community.

“Life’s a book; whether long or short, it’s our job to make it good story.” For the founding Brigadistas of Los Robles, this is exactly what they have done. Having lived through years of conflict and hardship, getting to know these women leaves one inspired. For through it all, they have become entrepreneurs, health volunteers, and pillars of their community.

The community of Los Robles has undergone many changes in the 54 years Daysi has lived there. In 1964, (before the man-made lake) the first community census was conducted revealing 45 homes. With this data, the women who would later become the Brigadistas made plans to construct the first formal elementary school with three teachers.

These women first became organized and began teaching knitting, sewing, embroidery, and gardening. In a pleasant memory of elementary school days, these mothers also created a rotating system of making the daily snack for the school children. In 1965, they established “Club de Damas de Casa”, or Ladies of the Home Club, where they began to formally train each other in health education and agriculture. Originally only intended to support those in Los Robles, mothers from other communities began arriving asking to be trained.

During the Nicaraguan Revolution, there was a serious problem with mosquitos, with many people becoming sick and dying from malaria in Los Robles. Consequently, this tight-knit community produced over 100 health volunteers to help take blood-samples, treat the sick, and support fumigation efforts. From this episode, the “Brigadistas” as we know them today were formed.

The current network of Brigadistas still contains members of the original group, although many have sadly passed away. However, the new generation brings with them innovative ideas, perspectives, and speed of mobilization with access to vehicles instead of only by foot.

The Brigadistas of Los Robles are a strong network of community leaders, meeting monthly with MINSA officials and Comunidad Connect Staff to discuss upcoming plans.

Although many challenges still face the community such as lack of education for youth and alcoholism, improvements have been made in recent years; for example, equipping the Brigadistas with first aid kits and training, increased involvement from the Ministry of Health (MINSA), adolescent pregnancy prevention initiatives, and collaboration with 130 health-focused volunteers in 2017 alone. Another milestone occurred in 2014 with the construction of the Los Robles Health Clinic. This project, funded and built by donors, volunteers and community members now serves Los Robles and surrounding communities, seeing an average of 242 patients a month.

Daysi’s hope for Los Robles is one of optimism. With improved health, continued foreign support and a growing national economy, Los Robles is positioned for a successful future.

When asked if she enjoys volunteers who visit the community to help with health projects, Daysi responded with a smile, “Of course! And I would love to have more volunteers come train and support the work of the Brigadistas.”

If you would like to accept Doña Daysi’s invitation to visit Los Robles and meet the Brigadistas, contact info@comunidadconnect.org today!

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The Brigadistas of Los Robles

February 9th, 2018

Doña Daisy González, sector Zelaya.

Who are the Brigadistas of Los Robles?

Most volunteer groups and partners who have come down to Nicaragua have met or heard of the network of Brigadistas that make up an integral part of Los Robles. These Brigadistas are community health volunteers: a majority female group of individuals from the community that selflessly give their time and energy to promote health initiatives among the 10 sectors of Los Robles.

One of Comunidad Connect’s driving tenants is to support sustainable community development through working with local partners. This grassroots approach enables community members to identify their most pressing needs and collaborate with other organizations and institutions to achieve their goals. Within the past 7 months, a new network of dedicated, inspired Brigadistas has formed in Los Robles, working in partnership with MINSA (Nicaraguan Ministry of Health) and Comunidad Connect.

Currently there are 17 new and veteran Brigadistas active in Los Robles from each of the 10 sectors. These community health volunteers take on a variety of roles: they frequently check in with families in their neighborhood to identify health needs, coordinate with MINSA staff at the local health clinic to make referrals, receive training on basic health care like First Aid, have monthly meetings to plan future activities, and help outside organizations and volunteers get to know the local community. The Brigadistas have also assisted Comunidad Connect in coordinating our family health and hygiene projects, enabling families to earn clean cook ovens, stoves, concrete floors, and natural insecticide treated painting. Moreover, these strong women and men serve as an invaluable resource to their community.

Having served Los Robles for over 20 years as a Brigadista – as well as volunteering her home as the community health outpost when needed – , Doña Petrona is one of the longest serving Brigadistas in the community. Doña Petrona (sector Rondana), along with Doña Virginia (sector Bodega) and Doña Daisy (sector Zelaya), are the oldest Brigadistas out of the network of 17. They are always grateful for visiting volunteer groups that come to support projects in the community and they look forward to expanding their relationships this upcoming year.

Doña Petrona Díaz, sector Rondana.

Doña Virginia del Carmen Chavarría, sector Bodega.

Stay updated for future interviews and spotlights on the Brigadistas of Los Robles in the next few weeks on Facebook and Instagram. Thank you to all of the groups who have supported the Brigadistas and Comunidad Connect’s health initiatives over the years.

 

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Los Robles Health Clinic News

January 30th, 2018

2017 brought tremendous progress for our health initiatives in northern Nicaragua, with the greatest achievement perhaps being the formal establishment of the Los Robles Health Clinic by the Nicaragua Ministry of Health (MINSA). Since renovated and converted to a health clinic in 2014, the clinic was affiliated with MINSA but management and fiscal responsibility rested with Comunidad Connect. It quickly became the center for all of our local projects relating to health and wellbeing, including training for community health volunteers, health fairs, medical consultations, and home base for research and data collection. Human and financial resources invested by monthly donors and longstanding program partners like Emory University (Social Enteprise @ Goizueta) helped finance the daily activities and staffing of the clinic. Since inception, there have been over 5,000 consultations provided to residents of Los Robles.

The Brigadistas (community health volunteers) of Los Robles receive a First Aid training from MINSA in October.

Now that MINSA is managing the clinic, we have increased bandwidth and focus on our grassroots capacity building work in rural Nicaragua. These efforts include providing individual care for 20+ special needs patients, dental care and education for 2,000+ children, monthly training for all community health volunteers, health fairs, academic research and health talks with youth groups throughout the year. We continue to fund a nurse’s salary at the clinic, which reflects our partnership with MINSA and ensures year round consultations at the clinic. In 2018, we will invest approximately $40,000 in the above mentioned initiatives and wellness activities in partnership with local health volunteers.

We look forward to working with our community partners in Nicaragua and North America in 2018 and beyond. As research and experience continue to guide our programmatic development, we invite you to engage further with us and our partner communities in Nicaragua. For more information on how, please contact us as: info@comunidadconnect.org or call Jon Thompson at 404-444-9147.

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Los Patos Fly South: Service Learning in Los Robles

June 7th, 2016

Written by Sarah Heppler, University of Oregon student, Pictures by Diana Avila. 

On March 19th, 2016, 16 University of Oregon students boarded an 11:55pm flight to begin the journey to Los Robles, Nicaragua, for a Holden Center Alternative Break project with Comunidad Connect’s Cultural Connections program. We left our home of the Pacific Northwest to expand our global knowledge and dive into a week of service learning.

The communities of Los Robles and San Esteban opened their homes to us so that, with the leadership of brigadistas and Comunidad Connect, we could participate in surveying families about their access to water and assist with home health projects. Connecting directly with community members motivated us to learn more about their culture and more deeply understand the community. The brigadistas (a good number of whom were younger than us!) taught us a lot as they showed us the steps they are taking in their own communities to improve their system of public health.

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