Staff

Member Monday: Meet Gloria Rizo, Cultural Connections Coordinator!

December 18th, 2017

For this week’s Member Monday, meet Gloria, Comundad Connect’s newest team member! Read more to learn about Gloria, her love of social work, and time working with Comunidad Connect.

When did you start working for CC?

I started working for Comunidad Connect at the beginning of December this year.

Describe your role.

I work helping to coordinate volunteer groups, making sure everyone is okay, planning logistics for projects, and ensuring that each project is appropriately carried out in the communities.

What is your favorite part about working with CC?

I love to visit new places with the groups of volunteers.

What is your favorite place to visit in Nicaragua?

My favorite place in Nicaragua is Selva Negra (coffee farm and nature reserve). I love the artificial lake that’s in front of the restaurant, and there’s spaces to read and hike. It’s really beautiful.

Where and what did you study in university?

I studied social work at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN) in León.

What’s your favorite typical dish?

Nacatamales – I love to eat them on weekends!

What is your spirit animal?

I would say a bird, because they’re free, they can fly and travel wherever they want.

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

I really enjoy reading, especially books that are also movies. But I always read the book first and then watch the movie.

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

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Member Monday: Meet Susi Martinez, Princeton in Latin America Fellow!

December 4th, 2017

For this week’s Member Monday, we meet Susi! Read more to learn about Susi, her interest in public health, her experience being vegetarian in Nicaragua, and time working with Comunidad Connect.

When did you start working for CC?

I started working for Comunidad Connect at the end of June this year.

Describe your role.

I’m the Princeton in Latin American Fellow, so I give support to all of our main projects with a focus on our Health Connections Program. I spend about half of my time working with Adam on marketing, social media, our blog, and graphic design to share Comunidad Connect’s story and work. Additionally, I coordinate logistics for our Neurological and Pediatric Patient project and translate and serve as a guide for health-focused volunteer groups.

What is your favorite part about working with CC?

I really enjoy working directly with community members that have received our projects (improved stoves, ovens, concrete floors, etc.) and conducting interviews with them about how these projects have affected their families. I love to share their stories and see the impact of sustainable community development.

What is your favorite place to visit in Nicaragua?

I love living in Jinotega because it’s a beautiful small city surrounded by mountains, but I also really love visiting León. There are lots of cultural things to do there – museums, art galleries, delicious food – and it’s nearby to several volcanoes (I love hiking!).

What is one of your best memories living in Nicaragua?

During my first month in Nicaragua, I lived with a host family in Los Robles. My little host sisters were so fun and loved playing with my guitar and ukulele, so I taught them a few songs in Spanish that I learned from my dad and they put on a mini-concert for me one afternoon. It was so fun to see them excited to play for me, and they learned really fast!

What is your favorite holiday in Nicaragua?

Las Fiestas Patrias (Independence Day) because it’s fun to see all of the students playing music and dancing in parades during the week.

What’s your favorite typical dish?

I’m vegetarian, so I haven’t tried a lot of the typical dishes that contain meat. However, I always enjoy gallo pinto and tostones, and all of the delicious fresh fruit in Nicaragua – especially pitahaya (dragonfruit)!

What is your spirit animal?

A sloth, because they’re gentle creatures, they’re also vegetarian, and like me they love trees 🙂

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

I play the ukulele and some guitar, but I definitely need to practice more! I also love cooking and finding new vegetarian/vegan recipes, hiking, and learning Portuguese.

 

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

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Member Monday: Meet Mayra Rivas, In-Country Director!

November 13th, 2017

Dr. Mayra Rivas is originally from Managua but now commutes to Jinotega from Matagalpa, another city in the north coffee region of Nicaragua.

For this week’s Member Monday, meet Dr. Mayra Rivas! Read more to learn about Mayra, her passion for community development, and experience working with Comunidad Connect. Today is also Dr. Mayra’s birthday!

When did you start working for CC?

I started in September of 2015 working on a collaboration project with both teams in San Juan del Sur and Jinotega. It was an analysis on how to strengthen the organization. Later, in June of 2016 I was contracted as the In-Country Director.

Describe your role.

I am the In-Country Director, which means I work to strengthen the program and administrative aspects of the organization. One of my roles is to improve the projects and programs, which all deal with community development and a focus on health. 

What is your favorite part about working with CC?

I love working on community development and health prevention, because I believe health prevention improves the quality of life for the people we work with in rural communities.

What is your favorite place to visit in Nicaragua?

My family’s farm. It’s a small farm, and when we first arrived there was basically nothing. There was only a small house and lots of weeds. I never thought it would be a pretty place. But in 31 years, it’s changed so much. Now we have coffee, cows, chickens, and a hill that you can hike up to.

What is your favorite holiday in Nicaragua?

There are so many holidays in Nicaragua, but my favorite is the Días Patrias (Independence Day).

What’s your favorite typical dish?

Baho (mixture of plantain, yucca, beef, salad, and green chile – same answer as Reeder & Kelly!)

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

I love to read and listen to classical music. I also enjoy teaching and sharing with others. 

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

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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 Yarisleidy Cortez, Director of Local Development Connections!

October 30th, 2017

For this week’s Member Monday, meet Yarisleidy! Read more to learn about Yarisleidy, her love of the environment, and experience working with Comunidad Connect.

When did you start working for CC?

I started working for CC in 2011. At that time I was working with schools on a recycling program.

Meeting with a community member in Los Robles who will receive a new concrete floor and improved stove.

Describe your role.

I plan and create budgets, direct initiatives, and monitor progress for a variety of community development projects. We started with a recycling project in San Juan del Sur, and after that we started the Nica Agua program that I took the lead on. This year, I am also in charge of overseeing community projects that volunteers participate in, environmental education, communication with our scholarship program – Becas del Carrizal – and other school activities. Now, I’m in charge of the planning, monitoring, and coordination of improved technology projects – stoves, ovens, floors.

What is your favorite part about working with CC?

I love coordinating with my colleagues on projects. It’s easy to communicate and coordinate whichever activity or group we’re working with because everyone is involved in the planning process. There is always support and communication.

What got you interested in working in clean water?

At the start, I was working with environmental projects because in they were working a lot on this topic in the schools. In my classes and my thesis focused on environmental education projects and ecological culture. So, I already liked this topic and I always would volunteer with environmental projects, like clean-up activities on the Pacific coast. When I heard about the opportunity of working with Comunidad Connect as an administrative assistant for environmental projects, I decided to apply. After working on a few projects as an assistant, I became interested in the Nica Agua program and I supported some of its activities. I was sent to the Atlantic coast for a period of time, where I learned more about Nica Agua and I started to see ways in which we could improve the program, make it more sustainable with modifications, and better documented. So working in the Atlantic coast is what helped me most to focus on clean water projects and think about the program’s design.

What is your favorite place to visit in Nicaragua?

I’m still getting to know so many parts of Nicaragua, but for me I would say the coast and the ocean is my favorite place (Yarisleidy is from San Juan del Sur, in southern Nicaragua).

What is your favorite holiday in Nicaragua?

Fiestas Patrias! I used to love the activities we did in school to celebrate.

What is your spirit animal?

Yarisleidy loves the ocean and the night sky!

A wolf, because they are strong leaders, they’re independent, and they have a bit of mystery about them. Each one has a specific role in a clan, but they all work as a group. I also love the moon and the night.

Dogs are one of Yarisleidy’s favorite animals, especially Memo!

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

It’s not quite a hobby or talent, but I’m vegetarian. It’s not very common to be vegetarian in Nicaragua, but one of the things I believe is that we need to have coherence with what we do, what we say, and what we feel. For that reason, five years ago I decided to have this coherence that I had always been talking about with respect to my lifestyle and choices of how I interact with the world. Another fun fact is that tulips are my favorite flowers, but they don’t exist in Nicaragua!

Thanks Yarisleidy! 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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Member Monday: Meet Roxana, Administrative Assistant!

October 9th, 2017

In today’s Member Monday, we meet Roxana! Read more to learn about Roxana, her dog Lucy, and experience working with Comunidad Connect.

When did you start working for CC?

I learned about Comunidad Connect through my sister-in-law, and started working in 2015.

Describe your role.

I work in office maintenance and administrative work, assisting our accountant and country director with various projects.

What is your favorite part about working with CC?

My favorite part of working with Comunidad Connect is interacting with my coworkers. We’re a small team but it feels like a family.

What is your favorite cultural event or celebration in Nicaragua?

On May 3rd there is the Fiestas de la Cruz in Jinotega, where lots of people climb up to the Peña de la Cruz, a large cross on top of a mountain overlooking the city. It’s the celebration for the anniversary of when Bishop Agustín Morel de Santa Cruz installed the first cross there in  1752.

What is your favorite place to visit in Nicaragua?

Corn Island because it’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. It’s off the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua, far from everything and has a different culture than the rest of the country.

 

Roxana competing in the Traje de Fantasia (Fantasy Costume) contest in Leon.

What’s your favorite typical dish?

Gallo pinto (rice and beans) with cuajada y crema (cheese and cream) and avocado.

What is your spirit animal?

A bird because they can always fly wherever they want.

If you could invent a new fruit, what two fruits would you combine?

Lucy and Roxana are best of friends!

Pineapple and strawberries.

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

I love to stay active with sports, hiking to the Peña de la Cruz, boxing, going to the gym in the mornings, and doing yoga. I also like to draw and look for new healthy recipes. Last year, I started competing in Miss Nicaragua Turismo contests. I also have a really cute dog named Lucy, who loves to hike with me!

 

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

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Member Monday: Meet Kelly Vlaskamp, Director of Cultural Connections!

October 2nd, 2017

 

Apart from running our Cultural Connections program, Kelly loves harvesting avocados in her backyard!

Today we kick off a weekly series of posts getting to know each of the team members at Comunidad Connect. Our first Member Monday is Kelly Vlaskamp, our Director of Cultural Connections, with honorary member of the team, Memo! Read more to learn about Kelly and her experience living and working in Nicaragua.

When did you start working for CC?

April of 2016. 

Describe your role.

As Director of the Cultural Connections Program, I oversee all the volunteers that come down support our programs to work in Los Robles, San Estaban, and surrounding communities. My day to day is a lot of administrative work, such as preparation for the groups that come down to volunteer: making sure volunteers are prepared and coordinating logistics for community projects.

What is your favorite part about working with CC?

I really like when you see the spark in volunteers, of someone wanting to become an agent of change and ambassador of Nicaragua and work to promote sustainable community development. It’s inspiring to see that change happen in such a short amount of days.

Kelly coordinates Cultural Connections trips to support intercultural exchange and promote community development. Here, Kelly was working with LifeBridge Church from Savannah, GA.

Students march in a parade during the Fiestas Patrias in Jinotega, September 14-15th.

What is your favorite cultural event or celebration in Nicaragua?

Fiesta Patrias (independence of Central America) because I really enjoy seeing the parades in the streets and the kids in their nice clothes. Everyone is in the streets and you get to see people you haven’t seen in awhile. It’s a great time to reconnect with the country and culture.

What is your favorite place to visit in Nicaragua?

The Laguna de Apoyo because it’s a beautiful crater lake with warm water. It’s also the deepest point in Central America. 

Where can you find the best rosquillas in Nicaragua?

So they say the best come from Somoto, but my favorite in Jinotega are from El Arbolito because of their Somoto style. Something that’s really fun do to on the weekends is go to fairs, like farmers markets, that En Tour (part of the Nicaraguan department of tourism) puts on representing different regions in the country. It’s a great opportunity to try food from different departments without traveling. I’ve gotten coffee from Esteli, rosquillas from Somoto, and cheese from Boaco.

What’s your favorite typical dish?

Baho, which is a mixture of plantain, yucca, and beef. I’m a sucker for soups!

What is your spirit animal?

I have two: Koala Bear or Goat.

Kelly’s new puppy Memo loves to play and run around, especially at the farm when volunteer groups visit!

If you could invent a new fruit, what two fruits would you combine?

Papaya with grapefruit to combine the blandness and creamy papaya with the kick of a grapefruit. 

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

A fun fact about me, I can dislocate my shoulders. Also, in middle school I was a part of a Houston Dynamo halftime show (MLS). Most of my moments of glory happened between the ages of 8-15.

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

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Yarisleidy Mayorquin: Nica Agua Program Administrator

November 23rd, 2015

Written by: Yarisleidy Mariana Cortez Mayorquin, Administrator of Nica Agua & Community Projects

Lea este blog en español

Before Comunidad Connect I had a few informal jobs while studying at the university.

I started my professional work experience with Comunidad Connect while I was finishing up my studies. I began as Assistant Director and now I am the head of Nica Agua & Community Projects. From planning to executing projects, my experience has been enriching both personally and professionally. Every day new situations arise, along with new challenges inside and outside the office. Through learning, feedback and sharing with coworkers, we as a CC team achieve success. Without a doubt our work is bringing positive results.

YLblog

Yarisleidy works with CC staff on Data Analysis

My character is a mix of calm and temperamental, therefore I describe myself as a person with various qualities. I like to work for the wellbeing of people, families, and their communities. I always keep in mind that my priority above all else is the community. They are my people, they are the families with whom I have connected and they have trusted me. For this reason sometimes I take control of situations in order to be able to take into account the perspective of every team member. (more…)

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