Written by Laura Bonin, GSU Physical Therapy Student
Months of planning, endless crowdfunding emails, and feelings of anticipation and excitement all preceded a weeklong trip for fourteen physical therapy students, one professor, and two physical therapists from the Atlanta community. But what better way to start the New Year than leaving the privileges we value, including the luxuries of our own homes in the United States, and traveling to Nicaragua. There we were able to share our physical therapy knowledge and skills while immersing ourselves in some of the intangibles the Nicaraguans hold so dear: community, authenticity, and joy.
During the week we saw community in finding contentment outside our comfort zone. Nicaraguans made us feel a part of their community from day one, even as we relied on nonverbal communication and embraced the flexibility of our daily schedule. We entered homes to treat some of the sickest and most vulnerable members of Los Robles and found ourselves making instantaneous connections built off of trust and empathy. By focusing on the components of patient centered care during each home visit, we built relationships and memories with smiles and laughter, something more difficult to do with patients back home.
However, true community is built on the foundation of authenticity, losing the façade of who we want others to think we are and focusing solely on who we really are. The Los Robles community is the epitome of an authentic community. When we didn’t have our physical therapy hat on we participated in home improvement projects, witnessing firsthand the pride men and women took in lending a helping hand to their neighbors and welcoming our group like family. The brigadistas also embraced authenticity, helping bring basic medical knowledge to those in need, regardless of their age or complexity of the information.
The final theme that illuminated every activity and encounter in Los Robles was joy. For the opportunity to spend time with family. For the bonds made with new friends. For the ability to work on projects while also imparting sustainable healthcare from which the community will continue to benefit. We are so thankful for the life and culture that was poured into us throughout our week in Nicaragua and are eager to take the togetherness of community, the rawness of authenticity, and the contagious nature of joy into our last clinical rotation to leave a mark on every patient just as the Nicaraguans did for us!
The Cultural Connections team started 2017 with a bang. In January alone, we’ve received over 30 volunteers (shout out to Emory @ Goizueta, NYU Alternative Breaks, and Georgia State University Physical Therapy)! And we’re just getting started.
As we move full force into our busy season, we’re preparing to host more volunteers, enhance our model of sustainable tourism, all while still visiting some of our favorite spots: Los Robles, San Esteban, Granada, and Leon, among other gems throughout Nicaragua.
In this coming week the Cultural Connections team will host a group of 12 volunteers who will work alongside beneficiary families to whitewash walls with mosquito repellant paint, construct smoke reducing ovens and grey water collection basins, visit chronic neurological patients with a team of specialists, and offer pediatric consultations to over 50 children… all in a span of just 4 days.
Our volunteers don’t end the trip by counting the service hours they gained for school credit or how many cement bags they lifted. They leave remembering the new friendships they made despite the language barrier, the humbleness and generosity of the beneficiary families they worked with and the dedication of the community leaders to sustainably develop their community.
Since beginning my role with Comunidad Connect almost a year ago I have met countless numbers of North American and Nicaraguan volunteers working together towards a mutual goal. Now more than ever, my favorite quote by Margaret Mead’s rings true: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
The “Water Droplets” work on an educational poster. Las “Gotitas de Agua” completan un póster educativo.
The work of Nica Agua doesn’t stop at delivering filters and monitoring their use; the program is becoming more and more like the new model we are implementing in San Esteban. There we strengthen the capabilities of our community volunteers as well as the children, because children are the best demographic to learn and apply new information. A group of 21 kids between the ages of 7 and 13, representatives of their local primary school, receive a talk once a month focused on health and prevention where they learn about filters, water purification, hygiene, and cleanliness. These talks are dynamic and help the kids to strengthen their reading, speaking, and drawing abilities while instilling in them the spirit of volunteering. An environment where children always keep their community in mind, transmit their knowledge to their classmates, and motivate their parents, neighbors and friends to participate in community development is the goal that we hope to one day achieve!
Encouraging team work. Promoviendo el trabajo en equipo.
“Water Droplets” is now the nickname for these children that have participated in our educational talks. After chatting with Martaeliza Blandon, the technical coordinator of Nica Agua in San Esteban, about the activities we’ve done, we wanted to find a name for this group of kids to make them feel special. After many ideas and much laughter, while a rain storm came our way, the name “Water Droplets” was born. The nickname is the perfect fit for the group of kids chosen to learn about various subjects and in turn teach them in their classrooms. I hope that the kids like their new nickname and believe that from a drop can come a stream; that a constant drip can change the shape of the hardest stones.
Yarisleidy Mayorquin – Comunidad Connect, con los colaboradores Dr. Ortiz Ayala – FUNDOH, Ejecutiva Alba Gonzalez- UNAN Managua. Ms. Yarisleidy Mayorquin from Comunidad Connect with representatives Dr. Ortiz Ayala from FUNDOH and executive Alba Gonzalez from UNAN Managua.
When the name of an organization shines through in the execution of its work, the results are a clear example of its mission. This is how we feel day to day while “we connect opportunities.” A beautiful example of “links and connections” was this past May when, thanks to the collaboration of our friends from Maderas Sostenibles, we were able to “think green” through the donation of trees dedicated to several reforestation projects: one being with our new friends from UNAN Managua and the other in the community of San Esteban 2 in Jinotega, Nicaragua. And how does this link opportunities? By giving resources we receive to people who could utilize them the best. We are confident that “hand in hand,” “ voices united” is the best way to form networks of friends and collaborators that help each other to strengthen the social work of many organizations and institutions. During this month of independence, we give thanks to the friends and colleagues who have, without a doubt, served as the bridge between resources and various social development opportunities in our beautiful country, Nicaragua.
Yarisleidy Mayorquin and Alba Gonzalez meet to receive the donation of saplings. Yarisleidy Mayorquin y Alba Gonzalez reunen para recibir la donación de árboles.
You can help us double our impact over the next two years by helping us buy a truck for our second location. We will use this new truck in rural communities near Jinotega, Nicaragua to deliver:
* Health supplies to our rural health clinic which sees more than 200 patients each month
* Water filters to more than 200 additional families in our new major partner community, San Esteban
* Sports equipment to our recently launched rural sports academy supporting dozens of girls and boys developing athletic and life skills.
Best of all, you can come down to Nicaragua for a tour of our projects in the truck you, your friends, and your family helped make a reality!
The Los Robles health clinic doubles as a health education center.
Millions of people around the world and tens of thousands in Nicaragua do not have access to clean drinking water, healthcare, or safe recreational activities for their children. Since 2007 Comunidad Connect has developed successful initiatives to provide clean water access, healthcare, youth development, and cultural exchange, with the help of 450 small and large donors. Each year we grow bigger with more patients, more filters, more athletes, and more students on service learning trips. Now we need your help to expand our efforts and reach more communities.
In 2016 we are expanding the water filter project to a new community called San Esteban, expanding the recently launched sports program in Los Robles, adding on to the preventative healthcare at our clinic, and looking to support all of these community development efforts with a new education and community center.
So what does it take to double our organizational impact? It takes double the donors, double the programs, and double the tools! With your donation today, you can be a part of all three of these actions.
Beyond our talented staff, our most important tool is our vehicle. But with two locations and only one truck, we spend tons of money on car rentals and gasoline to drive between the two locations. Our first truck has gone more than 100,000 Km in more than 5 years. It has been the foundation of our success. Now we want to double that success. We need a second vehicle.
Former CC PiLA Fellow, Brian Reilly, ready to deliver water filters in our awesome but only truck.
What You Can Do To Help
Help us raise $15,000 for the down payment on a second truck.
Join our work in Nicaragua and bring your friends and family along.
Share our mission to bring together local and global resources to address the most pressing development priorities with your network, and help us grow our donor base from 400 to 800 by the end of 2016.
Sports and youth development programs for girls and boys have been hugely popular our San Juan del Sur location. Now we are expanding them to Los Robles.
What You Get
We want to recognize your contribution, after all trucks drive on two-way roads (unless it’s a river crossing or a jungle road or a tight squeeze through a heard of cows…you’ll see.)
The biggest perk is that your donation is tax-deductible if you make it before the end of the year! Here are some more amazing perks at each giving level. Perks are optional.
5 day Nicaragua adventure with private guide for you and up to three friends. Visit stunning coffee country and colonial Leon. Ride horses, active volcanoes, and of course, your new truck. Your bi-lingual guide will take care of everything. (Food, lodging, and transportation not included, but the guide is!)
When you visit you’ll see rainbows over coffee country (if you come in the rainy season.) We can’t promise unicorns, but you can ride horses.
Everything at the $500 level and a guide for a 3 day rural Nicaragua experience with a homestay, including a ride in the back of the truck through coffee country. Taste freshly roasted and brewed coffee with farmers that grew the beans and picked them. (Food, lodging, and transportation not included, but the guide is!)
Everything below and a 2 day adventure tourism experience in colonial Leon with, you guessed it, your own bi-lingual guide! Take the truck to a volcano you can surf. (Food, lodging, and transportation not included, but the guide is!)
Everything below and 5 pounds of better than fair trade, freshly harvested coffee right from the farmer to your door. You can share it with your friends or keep it till next December’s harvest! Support the farmers and their new health clinic with one click.
Everything below and 1 pound of better than fair trade coffee right from the farmer to your door.
Everything below and a hot new CC T-shirt or tank top with the softest fabric this side of American Apparel.
Eye exam in the Los Robles Clinic
Everything below and a personal post card from one of our staff sent all the way from Nicaragua.
Everything below and a hot new CC sticker. Show your friends that you are part of the puzzle!
Everything below and be a guest blogger on our site. Tell the world why you support community development in Nicaragua.
Our model is built on investment. not handouts. To receive a water filter each family has to volunteer for 16 hours on a community improvement project.
Spotify playlist of the best Nicaraguan music made by entire CC staff, and Facebook post.
Facebook post on your wall recognizing your global citizenship with a photo of you photo-shopped into Nicaragua. Next year we can take a real photo.