voluntario

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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Reflection from an Volunteer: March 2016

March 31st, 2016

Written by: Taylor McNair, Comunidad Connect Volunteer, Emory MBA Candidate,

Taylor McNair, Volunteer, Emory MBA CandidateI was certainly skeptical. I heard so much hype about this trip to Nicaragua, I was curious as to whether the experience would truly live up to all it was made up to be. Beyond this, I could not stop thinking about my high school service learning trip, Builders Beyond Borders. Every winter, hoards of students poured out of their overly privileged lifestyles and brought their J. Crew button downs and Rayban sunglasses to “save” an underdeveloped nation, most recently Nicaragua. It is the fundamental development-support model that many NGOs pride themselves on. Fortunately, my expectations were far surpassed. Not only did the trip and our activities prove to be more than I imagined, but our team of students combined with Wes and Carey’s obvious and unending passion for this work, made the trip a truly enlightening experience. More than anything, this trip to Nicaragua detailed a sustainable development that I had never been exposed to be before, leaving me both fascinated and inspired.

I enjoyed almost every aspect of the trip, and certainly have a few critiques, but above all, I was most impressed with our first half. Living on the coffee farm, and having the opportunity to spend the day with Byron, an experience coffee farmer from Northern Nicaragua, was an awesome experience. For one, it justifies much of what I’ve read about sustainable agriculture. Clearly, these farmers have learned to deal with climate change impacts, and have the ability to produce effectively in an organic and sustainable manner. Byron proved to be just as inspiring and enlightening as the last time he spoke, and doubled down on his sustainability and interconnected ecosystem mantra. While the end of the trip was much less hands on and intimate, it still exposed us to a number of exciting opportunities, particularly the geothermal plant and social enterprises. The lake tour and monkey visit were definitely weird!

Overall, an awesome trip, and I’m glad I got to experience it with fellow Emory MBA candidates. I’m looking forward to continuing to support these development projects. 

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Physicians as Volunteers, in Los Robles, Nicaragua

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.

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.

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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

View from Finca El Peten

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