connect nicaragua

Nursing Student Gains Greater Insight into Rural Poverty

November 6th, 2017

Written by Brandon Spratt, Doctor of Nursing Practice Candidate at the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing

Brandon came to Nicaragua in December 2016 with a group of nursing students from Emory University.

As my first true experience outside of the US, Comunidad Connect’s opportunity to volunteer in southern Nicaragua was an escapade I’ll never forget. Then a second-degree student in nursing at Emory University, Comunidad Connect reached out to the School of Nursing to offer students a one-week trip to Nicaragua to invest in opportunities of service within the healthcare systems that aim to increase civic engagement in certain areas. Following my several years of in-country cross-cultural service during my first undergraduate degree, I was ready for such an experience on different soil.

My arrival to Rivas, a southern city of ~40,000 not far from the border to Costa Rica, started with a tour of a local hospital that let me see first-hand the striking difference between the healthcare system here and the one I was used to back in the States. Obviously a lower-resource facility, I was struck at the resilience and versatility that was demanded of the healthcare staff as the nurses were often tasked to 25 patients per nurse. In asking one of the nurses how one could possibly keep up with this demand, she simply smiled and said, “you have to be an octopus to do our job!”.

Our next stop took us to Tola, a smaller community near Rivas that housed a health post for local members to receive basic curative services. It was here that we learned about Nicaragua’s MOSAF healthcare model that capitalizes on community health workers to have an intimate knowledge of the health history of each household in their community to gain insight of the current trends of disease and predict related risk factors. I was impressed at the level of detail that each worker was required to memorize for each household and found this model to be quite intriguing.

While these experiences were quite fascinating and interesting, the most impactful memory I had came from a small, rural community called El Tambo, not far from Tola. It was in this place that I really understood what poverty really is. It is not some tangible idea that can be gleaned from watching videos or reading books, but rather a felt sensation that one only understands when one is in its midst. Dirt floors, tin roofs, and a barren yard were all that many of these villagers owned and while paralyzing at first, I began to see the internal beauty and richness that these people had to offer.

At their request, we gave several presentations about how to understand and address some of the chronic health problems many of their members face. Following this, the villagers did something I will never forget: a great feast. Although our baseline luxuries in America would easily surmount this offering as mediocre in the States, it was obvious that this was no ordinary gala. Out oftheir poverty and of what little they had, their presentation was immaculate. Toiling for days, their cooked chicken, gallo pinto, and juice was displayed before us in banquet-like fashion. Yes, indeed, the food was delicious, but that was not the overarching message that was clear that day. Instead, what was seared into my mind is a life-long lesson that that I will never forget: when poverty-stricken communities come together collectively and harmoniously, it breeds a spirit of generosity.

 

El Tambo’s generosity is a lesson I will take with me wherever I go and for that I am grateful to have learned such a valuable nugget of truth in the larger arc of life. I hope that others may be able to encounter similar experiences in their lives. I’d like to thank Comunidad Connect for making this possible and hope that they continue the great work they are doing in those communities.

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Member Monday: Meet Adam Rosendale, Executive Assistant to the CEO!

November 6th, 2017

For this week’s Member Monday, meet Adam! Read more to learn about Adam, his love of learning more about Nicaraguan culture, and experience working with Comunidad Connect.

When did you start working for CC?

I began with an internship with CC in March of this year, and officially started working in October.

Describe your role.

I am the assistant to the CEO and marketing facilitator. It’s my job to make Jon’s (our CEO) life easier, facilitate donor relations, and help maintain our social media presence, among other things.

What is your favorite part about working with CC?

Adam plays shows with local musicians in Jinotega, and is often a guest member of the group Tierra Madre.

The friendships I’ve made within the team and within the communities where we work. I also love interacting with trip participants while they are in country. It’s amazing to see their change in perspective. It’s truly a powerful experience for some people; as it was for me.

What is one of your best memories living in Nicaragua?

My favorite memory is having a music gig in here in Jinotega when my parents were visiting. All my co-workers and friends were there, as well as Jon, our CEO. It was a wonderful evening.

 

What is your favorite place to visit in Nicaragua?

My favorite place to visit is the Laguna de Apoyo. Its one of the most unique and spectacular places I’ve have ever visited.

What is your favorite holiday in Nicaragua?

My favorite holiday in Nicaragua is Hipica. The entire city comes out to watch a horse parade in celebration of the city and community.

What’s your favorite typical dish?

Fritanga (street barbecue) is my favorite. They are everywhere, but some are much better than others. Options include chicken, pork, beef, gallo pinto (rice and beans), cheese, cabbage, hard boiled eggs, potatoes, enchiladas, and sweet plantains.

What is your spirit animal?

Either a sea turtle or an eagle.

What hobbies or talents do you have that most people don’t know about?

A weird fact about me is I’m sort of ambidextrous; I write, eat, golf, and bat in baseball left- handed. But I throw with my right arm and my dominant foot is my right. It really just depends on the activity.

Adam is originally from North Carolina. He was happy to have his parents visit Nicaragua this past August.

Thanks Adam! Check in next week for our next Member (& Memo) Monday! 

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Member Monday: Meet Reeder, Dentist of Preventive Oral Health!

October 16th, 2017

For this week’s Member Monday, we meet Reeder! Read more to learn about Reeder, his love of dentistry, and experience working with Comunidad Connect.

When did you start working for CC?

I started working with Comunidad Connect on July 18, 2016. At that time, a medical group was down here – Doctors Ben & Karen Thrower – so it was with this group that I started my work here.

Describe your role.

Right now I am directing a preventive oral health project. I give educational talks about dental hygiene, give fluoride treatment to children in schools in Los Robles, San Estéban, Datanlí, and possibly Pueblo Nuevo in the future. This is what we focus on, because in a study that we did last year in 2016 we found that there was a really high rate of cavities in this region. Moreover, the children with the most dental needs and with the fewest resources didn’t have access to dental attention or knowledge about these themes. Because of this, the preventive oral health program was born to give the kids educational talks to teach them how to brush their teeth, what kinds of food they can eat and when they should eat them, and after the talks give them preventive fluoride treatment.

What is your favorite part about working with CC?

My favorite part of working with Comunidad Connect is working with kids because they have a special energy. Although you will always find yourself interacting a boy or girl who is a little more challenging to work with, they are the ones who learn most and, in reality, take what you are saying more seriously. Sometimes with adults this is more difficult. Children are always open and receptive to whatever knowledge you are sharing with them.

What got you interested in dentistry?

My mom is a dentist, so from a young age I grew up in an environment with related themes, but at that time dentistry didn’t really interest me. However, when I grew up there came a moment when I began focusing more and having an interest more in people’s teeth and dental hygiene. In reality, after looking at your eyes, the second thing people notice is your mouth and smile. The mouth is constantly moving, when you’re talking to someone else you are looking at their movements, and mouth is what moves the most. So through that, my passion for dentistry began.

What is one of your best childhood memories?

Well I don’t know if this is good or not, but it’s actually related to what we’re talking about and what I do now. Like I said, dentistry didn’t really interest me at a young age. My mother was a dentist, so I would watch her do tooth extractions. I remember one time when I almost fainted, because she needed more light and asked me to shine light on the patient. And when I saw everything, I felt like fainting because I didn’t like it. This story makes me laugh because today this is what I do and it doesn’t make me faint or anything.

 

What is your favorite place to visit in Nicaragua?

Granada because it’s a completely colonial city. It has a historic atmosphere, and it makes you live and remember the colonial time.

What is your favorite holiday in Nicaragua?

Mother’s Day!

What’s your favorite typical dish?

Baho, which is a mixture of plantain, yucca, beef, salad, and green chile. (same answer as Kelly!) It’s the best food in Nicaragua. 

What is your spirit animal?

I used to say dogs, but recently I’ve felt more connected to birds. I have 10 birds: 6 Australian parakeets, 2 African parakeets, and 2 cockatiels.

What hobbies or talents do you have that most people don’t know about?

I’m a Series Marathoner (aka Netflix). I’ll start a series and finish the whole thing in a week. For instance, Game of Thrones.

 

Reeder loves working with the Comunidad Connect team!

Thanks Reeder! Check in next week for our next Member (& Memo) Monday! 

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Congratulations Justin Winter, September Donor of the Month!

September 27th, 2017

Thank you Justin Winter for your continued support of Comunidad Connect! Justin became a Comunidad Connect donor in January of 2014, and donates $10/month. His long-term contributions have greatly helped improve health and community development in Nicaragua.

Justin first got involved with CC by taking a trip with Emory’s Business School in January 2014. In his work at the time Justin was involved in a coffee project, so he was very eager to learn about the production and coffee farmer life. Through volunteering with Comunidad Connect, Justin was able to learn more about this trade. The work to fund a local medical clinic in Los Robles and personal conversations with farmers about their employees, crops, and communities opened his eyes to the opportunities to do business better by integrating economic and community development. Since then he has followed and supported Comunidad Connect as able and is happy to be able to do a small part.

Thank you for your great work and support, Justin! Stay tuned for our next Donor of the Month in October!

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Congratulations Pat Wilson, August Donor of the Month!

August 22nd, 2017

Pat Wilson (right) and friend Marty Coward in Atlanta, Georgia. Pat has been a loyal donor since 2014.

Thank you Pat Wilson for your continued support of Comunidad Connect! Pat became a Comunidad Connect donor in June of 2014, and donates $100/month. His long-term contributions have helped enhance health and community development in Nicaragua over the past few years.

Read more below on Pat’s story and how he got involved with Comunidad Connect!

During his first experience in Los Robles, working with residents to build latrines, stoves, and new roofs, Pat met and became good friends with Jon Thompson (Co-Founder/CEO of Comunidad Connect). The following year, Pat went back to Nicaragua with Jon and a friend from college, Henry Graham, and continued to build upon the good work Comunidad Connect was doing by assisting with the Nica Agua water purification project, as well as some work at the new health center. Pat is excited to return to Nicaragua later this month to work with Jon to conduct research and begin groundwork to begin a construction initiative with the people of Los Robles.

On this construction project, Pat notes, “We want to create meaningful work for the townspeople to fill in the time between coffee harvests. The work will be a continuation and expansion of Comunidad Connect’s efforts to improve homes and infrastructure, and ultimately the health and quality of life of the members of the community.”

Pat has many years of experience working in the construction industry in Atlanta, which he believes will be helpful in this new approach. Once plans are in place in Nicaragua, he will work on developing support and funding to launch the construction initiative, working with Comunidad Connect.

Additionally, Pat is interested in promoting Nicaraguan coffee in Atlanta, Georgia. He states, “The quality and taste of the coffee produced in and around Los Robles is spectacular and we are trying to spread the word and create new loyal customers for this unique coffee.”

Thank you for your great work and support, Pat! Stay tuned for our next Donor of the Month in September!

 

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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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Successful 3rd Annual Health Summit!

May 11th, 2017

Thank You NCHC Partners!

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

The 3rd Annual Nicaragua Community Health Summit was a tremendous success, and could not have been possible without the participation of our partners from the USA, Canada, and Nicaragua. We joined the staff of Comunidad Connect and local community partners to hear presentations, discuss, and see firsthand the health priorities facing rural Nicaragua. Presentations included:

  • Maternal and Child Health in Los Robles – University of Calgary
  • Adolescent Pregnancy in Nicaragua – Ohio State University
  • Women, Children & Adolescent National Health Strategy – Ministry of Health
  • Oral Health in Rural Nicaragua – Comunidad Connect
  • Health Education Needs Assessment in Los Robles – Kennesaw State
  • Community Organizing & Health – Autonomous University of Nicaragua
  • Civic Engagement & Clean Water – Comunidad Connect
  • Health & Tourism Based Community Development – Comunidad Connect

Vanessa Jones from the University of North Georgia, with Francis Aguilar Rizo – the nurse we sponsor at the new public clinic health clinic in Los Robles.

The cross-pollination of ideas and openness to collaborate across universities were apparent throughout the summit. We look forward to our future work together.

View some of the presentations here!

Respiratory Health

Doug Gardenhire is the chair of Respiratory Therapy at Georgia State University and attending the 2017 Health Summit was his first experience in Nicaragua. Smoke was pouring out of the kitchen of our first home visit, and he turned to me to say “we can definitely do something here”. After visiting the health outpost of La Fundadora and seeing the only nebulizer being used improperly, he turned to me again to say “we have got to do something here”. And after visiting the Hospital of Jinotega, I spoke first “So Doug, what are we going to do?”

The fact is that respiratory illness is the leading cause of clinic visits in Nicaragua, yet can be easily mitigated with education and appropriate technology in the home. We will soon engage the expertise of Doug’s team at GSU to address respiratory health in not only our partner communities, but also in all of Jinotega with the Ministry of Health. This work will expand on our 2016 GHIP project, and is open for collaboration. For more information, contact me (Jon Thompson) at jon@comunidadconnect.org / 404-444- 9147

Calling All Advocates! 

Yarisleidy with recent recipient of improved stove in San Esteban

You may already know that a little goes a very long way in Nicaragua. However, you might not know that as little as $20 a month provides a special medical needs patient with monthly home visits by a qualified doctor, medicine, and special exams. NCHC relies on the support of Advocates like you to ensure our good friends in Los Robles and San Esteban have access to critical health services like primary care at the local clinic, oral health education and care in area schools, ongoing research, and appropriate technology projects like improved stoves that improve respiratory health. Everyone who believes health is an essential human right can be an Advocate. All you have to do is something. Spread the word, introduce someone to our work in Nicaragua, make a donation. Remember, our capacity to make a difference increases as our network of support expands. Click here to become an Advocate today.

 

Warm regards,

Jon Thompson

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Congratulations to Rhonda Moore, CC’s Donor of the Month

May 11th, 2017

Thank you Rhonda – your donations support health and community development in rural Nicaragua.

Rhonda became a Comunidad Connect donor in February 2015, and has donated $10/month ever since. The gifts have added up to make a big difference in an effort to ensure the human right to.

Rhonda expresses the reason behind her generosity:

“As a firm believer in giving my time, talent and treasures, being a donor allows me to continue to touch Nicaragua though I am not there physically. I love Comunidad Connect’s mission and will continue to support as long as I am able.”

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A New Perspective

April 27th, 2017

Written by: Adam Rosendale, Marketing Intern, Comunidad Connect, 2017

Nicaragua, Service Travel, Volunteer

A bird’s eye view of the beautiful city of Jinotega, Nicaragua

A month ago, I moved to Nicaragua. I am completing an internship with Comunidad Connect, bolstering their marketing efforts and learning Spanish, among other things. Circumstance and good timing brought me here, and for those who have traveled, my wanderlust for new experiences should be relatable.

I have lived an extremely fortunate life and I am deeply grateful for it. Yet, on a call with a CC co-founder the other day, he said something that has stayed with me and is a good reminder for all us that want to get involved with community development or volunteer abroad.

“The simple fact that we have the capacity to travel and serve others means, by definition, that we are beginning from a place a privilege. And everything that comes next needs to stem from that point of view.” Therefore, we must become educated first and every action taken to assist these communities must be conducted with an understanding of the many complex factors involved (culture, history, government, infrastructure, health, education, etc.), in ways that are not patronizing and do not create dependence.

For those able to go, I highly encourage educational service travel. However, we must always remember to tread lightly and walk with humility as we strive to emphasize with the situation of others. This understanding must come first; for there is much to learn about ourselves, how to be happy, and how to live in this mysterious world.

guitar  

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