February 13th, 2017
Léelo en español
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!
Tagged: Atlanta, community, Community Development, Cultural Connections, desarrollo comunitario, Health, Los Robles, Nicaragua, physical therapy, Salud, Sostenible, Sustainable Development, terapia físcia, voluntario, volunteer
September 19th, 2016
Written by: Doricel Aguirre, Cultural Connections Volunteer Guide, Comunidad Connect
¡Lea en español aqui!
Doricel (left) and co-worker Nerys in Los Robles
So far during 2016, I have guided 7 groups from Honduras Outreach International (HOI). That’s 99 volunteers who have come to share their experiences with the community of Los Robles, contribute to the social projects and promote religious values through bible studies with children, women and men. One of the most impactful experiences I have had was when we visited the home of Doña Guillermina to build a floor that was just 16 meters in area; her home was too small to build a larger floor.
Tagged: Health, HOI, Jinotega, Los Robles, Nicaragua, Salud, volunteers
August 15th, 2016
Written by guest blogger: Gina Carroll, Ph.D. candidate, University of Calgary, Comunidad Connect volunteer, Summer 2016
Like everyone, I have always struggled to find my place in the world. To find the one thing that defines me…the thing that separates me from the endless masses of people who seemingly meld together in a sea of accomplishments I never quite seem to master. As a 27-year-old Ph.D. student, still living in her parent’s basement, I never thought that I had much to offer to anyone, let alone the world. How could I? I have barely any money, and the majority of my time is spent sitting at a poorly lit desk desperately trying to finish assignments before 3am. Like a lot of people my age, I felt utterly lost in who I was as a person, and couldn’t overcome the feeling that I had missed the opportunity to blossom into the person I should have been by now. This all changed in the summer of 2016 when I was lucky enough to work as a biological anthropologist with Comunidad Connect, an NGO working to enrich the health and welfare of Nicaraguans.
As a biological anthropologist, my job is to use both the biological and behavioral aspects of humans, and their culture, to define and inform my research – in this case, why do so many young children in Nicaragua have iron deficiency, despite access to an assortment of iron-rich foods. The goal of my three-month trip to Los Robles, a small community in Northern Nicaragua, was to immerse myself within the community, and learn first-hand what factors might contribute to the epidemic of malnutrition within, and outside, of this small community. While I was fortunate enough to gain insight into what some of these factors might be, what I really learned from my neighbors in Los Robles was that it doesn’t take much to be a hero – to positively affect change in the world, and be someone worth having around. This revelation didn’t come crashing down on me, like a swell of wisdom sent forth from the divine, but rather, it occurred slowly and throughout the course of three months. While many incidents profoundly changed who I was as a person, and I hope who I will continue to develop into, one stands out the most.
Tagged: cambio, change, desarrollo, Development, Health, Jinotega, Los Robles, Nicaragua, Salud
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.
Tagged: Baking, Brigadistas, Cocinar, Cultural Connections, Ducks, Hornear, Los Robles, NCHC, Nicaragua, Oregon Ducks, University of Oregon, volunteer
May 17th, 2016
Rosa Diaz with her son Alder
¡Léalo en Español!
We recently had a chance to catch up with Rosa Diaz of Los Robles, where the Nicaragua Community Health Connection program has operated since 2013. The impact of this program on this community has been drastic and we are happy to share Rosa’s thoughts in this post.
First of all, our water filter has been a great benefit to my family. Before, my sons, especially the youngest, would get very sick from diarrhea. Now they do not. My youngest is healthy and he loves filtered water. He even asks for it! Before my family drank water directly from the tap and we stored large quantities in barrels. It tasted bad and the water in the barrels would come contaminated. Now our water tastes much better and my sons have learned why it is so important to have clean drinking water.
Next, our floor. We are still waiting to see the long-term health benefits, because during rainy season our kitchen floods with rain water. I hope that the new floor will allow the water to flow through and make it easier to clean when it pools. If that happens, my sons will be able to come into the kitchen and help me cook without getting wet. But for now we have seen a large change in our family since the installation of the concrete floor. Now my sons can play on the ground in the kitchen without getting dirt on their hands, clothes and shoes. It is much cleaner and healthier for them to play in our kitchen.
Finally, our oven. We’ve been very blessed in receiving this project. Since we got it, I have baked bread five times for my family. Now I don’t have to buy bread from the store. I save money this way, and I also save firewood because of the improved design. My extended family comes over to bake too. It’s be a benefit for the whole family.
Rosa Diaz with her family and Theresa Bailey of Comunidad Connect
Tagged: agua limpio, Clean Water, family, Jinotega, Los Robles, NCHC, Nica Agua, Nicaragua, Sustainable Development, Theresa Bailey
April 29th, 2016
Inspirado por: Flavia Castro, Participante de Charla de Medicina Natural, Los Robles
Read in English!
Flavia Castro, after the workshop, después de la charla
Este abril, los brigadistas de salud de Los Robles han brindado un mes de charlas sobre la medicina tradicional. Aquí tenemos la perspectiva de Señora Flavia Castro, una de los más que 60 participantes que llegaron.
“[Yo asisto a las charlas] porque es algo importante; nos ayuda para mejorar la salud. Con estas charlas aprendemos sobre la medicina natural y todo es algo que podemos hacer en la casa. También, con estos conocimientos podemos ayudar a otros, nuestros vecinos, y hacer por ellos algo que mejorará su salud. Agradezco a Comunidad Connect por seguir apoyándonos y espero que siguen apoyándonos en el futuro. Espero que después de esta charla podemos aprender más [sobre la salud preventiva] para mejorar nuestras vidas diarias. Con la unidad y fe en Dios, podemos realizar cualquier cosa.”
Nos llena con alegría saber que los brigadistas de salud están mejorando la salud de su comunidad a través de compartir conocimiento y tiempo con sus vecinos.
Tagged: Aprender, Clinic, Clinica, Compartir, Learn, Los Robles, Medicina Natural, Natural Medicine, NCHC, Nicaragua, Share
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 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
October 28th, 2015
Written by: Ronald Zeledon, Logistics Team and Soccer Academy Coach, Comunidad Connect
Lea este blog en Español
In one of his many visits to the community of Los Robles, I got to know Jon Thompson while he worked with Comunidad Connect volunteers. One of those days I walked past the soccer field in town where Jon was watching the kids playing soccer and having a great time. This inspired Jon – he wanted to play.
Since Jon’s passion is soccer and sports in general, he loved the fervor the kids brought to the field. Jon started to brainstorm the possibility of supporting Los Robles through the game of soccer. One day we were working with a group of volunteers and Jon and I observed a group of girls playing soccer; they were filled with joy. We started talking and arrived at the idea of a Soccer Academy. With my knowledge and experience with soccer and working with kids, along with the push the Jon gave, we began to form the amazing idea of creating an Academy through Comunidad Connect.
Tagged: Futbol, Health, Jon Thompson, Los Robles, Soccer, Sports, Values
July 14th, 2015
Escrito por: Kim Gordon, Princeton-in-Latin America Fellow, Comunidad Connect 2015
Cuando me di cuenta de que mi beca para la pasantía con Comunidad Connect cubriría dos vuelos a Atlanta, hice mi meta personal llevar a mi colega Nicaragüense, Nerys Blandon, a los Estados Unidos.
Nerys es una líder increíble, haciendo todo con pasión y fuerza. Sin embargo, todo le da miedo, todito. Siempre me contaba de las pesadillas del día anterior en una manera graciosa pero seria: la amenaza de enfermedades, peligros, animales bravos, lluvia, y tormentas. Por eso, yo sabía que su reacción a la propuesta de viajar a los Estados Unidos sería “¡¡NOOOO, KEEEM, NOOO!!” Pero también sabía que ella quería decir, “¡¿Tal vez, Keem, no lo sé, puede ser?!”Yo le dije que sería una oportunidad profesional e inolvidable, y que no podemos crecer si estamos demasiadas cómodas. Ya era hora de sentirse incómoda. No importaba que nunca haya salido más allá de Jinotega en su vida.
Nerys, Kim, and Sustainable Tourism Program Manager Alicia Harvey at work in Los Robles
Tagged: Atlanta, Emory University, Kim Gordon, Los Robles, Nerys Blandon