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Community, Authenticity, and Joy

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!

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Una Nota de Una Brigadista de Salud

April 26th, 2016

Read this post in English!

Escrito por: Nerys Blandon, Cordinadora de Educación y Enlace Comunitaria, Comunidad Connect

Hola Equipo,

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

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.

Saludos,

Nerys

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Peace in Sontule

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.

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

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.

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.

 

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