January 25th, 2019
January 18th, 2019
Diana Avila traveled to Nicaragua with the University of Oregon in 2016 for a service-learning trip; an experience that she looks back to as one of the defining weeks in her life.
As part of the ‘Everyone Makes A Difference’ holiday campaign, Diana participated using her skills a photographer and offered people in her community photo shoot sessions, with all funds going to support Comunidad Connect’s programs. We were so moved by her altruism and lasting connection to the experience we asked her to write a short piece for the blog.
Diana and Doña Virginia
A single week in March 2016 resulted in what I believe now to be one of the most life-altering weeks of my life. Prior to participating in this trip, my life held a pretty linear trajectory; I could visualize my path and the role I would take in the world. I had focused my last two years of my undergrad to taking global health and health policy courses; I saw an opportunity to place what I had learned and practice it. What seemed like an ideal placement was much more than that. I had no idea that my experience in Nicaragua would provide me with such personal growth, gratitude, and clarity.
You don’t ever to get to meet people like Yarisleidy (CC Director of Comunity Development) twice. From the moment she hopped on our bus you knew exactly what she was about. She was strength; an advocate for social justice, a powerhouse, a friend, a sister and a mentor. You almost don’t believe that she wasn’t in your life before the day you met her. We laughed over everything and nothing, encouraged each other to open up and try new things, and simply, it felt a lot like she was family. She made our last night in Los Robles memorable, bringing us music, dance, light, joy and so much more and we couldn’t be more grateful.
Yarisleidy Cortez, Director of Community Development
One of my favorite memories is listening to the story from one of our brigadistas on how much the community has changed in her lifetime. She spoke of the tragedies, the joy, the power and strength that comes with overcoming great obstacles. Well over an hour I listened to her and worked. We were baking for single-parent households with children of different abilities. It was a unique experience. I remember seeing the end product and thinking of how my hands would always remember how to get there. It never felt like work, but acts of love. When the time came, we were hesitant to leave the warm space we had created for ourselves, which partly came from the ovens but mainly from being in a group of women that were working towards achieving something greater than ourselves.
Milking cows at sunrise
I had thought it was the end for that day as we began to travel back to our home. It wasn’t until the next morning when breakfast was served that I saw that everyone from our trip had a baked item on their plate from our batch. Which of course, made me cry. Not only was the bread sweet and savory, but it prolonged an even sweeter moment, which I thought vanished on the back of pick-up truck on our way home the day before. And lastly, and maybe most importantly, I milked a cow at sunrise.
Why did we choose to fundraise now? That’s a good question. I think… in part, because I feel as though I’ve never left Nicaragua, or maybe Nicaragua has never left me. We know that there is a lot of unrest in Nicaragua which makes organizations like Comunidad Connect particularly vulnerable. We left Nicaragua 2+ years ago confident that CC would always be able to reach in numbers as they have before and expand, and donating at this time seemed critical to ensure that their mission continues to go forward without interruption. I only regret that this didn’t come to mind sooner!
December 24th, 2018
December 22nd, 2018
December 18th, 2018
December 18th, 2018
Thank you for choosing to make a difference in the lives of others. In 2018, 363 donors invested $119,000 in Comunidad Connect’s efforts in Nicaragua. More people donated in 2018 than ever before, including 259 who gave for the first time.
Our staff, community partners, and local families in Nicaragua experienced tremendous economic and social instability in 2018 and you overwhelmingly answered their call to action, shared their stories, and demonstrated our capacity to improve the quality of life for the most vulnerable. Because of you, there are thousands of Nicaraguans with access to health care, adequate housing, clean water, and youth development activities. Thank you
December 13th, 2018
November 5th, 2018
Comunidad Connect inaugurated the San Juan del Sur Sports Park in 2007, thus beginning a new chapter for youth sports in the coastal fishing town of Southwest Nicaragua. CC introduced futsal and basketball leagues and hosted exhibition volleyball games, tournaments, and after-school activities. 11 years later, CC runs the municipal little league baseball program and has 500 young athletes in its youth development program, playing over 500 games a year. Today and tomorrow we will be spotlight one family who has become an integral piece of the puzzle in their community, and with Comunidad Connect.
Noel Alvarez Victor Sandino:
Noel Alvarez Sr. has devoted his life to promoting and organizing sports; particularly soccer. So when Comunidad Connect came to town in 2007, Noel was involved from the start. It was the first time “futsala” or court soccer was introduced to San Juan del Sur and it quickly gained popularity. For Noel, the CC leagues not only promoted organized sports but also social work, solidarity within peers and personal growth. “It is something transformational. For others and in my experience; to learn and be a better person”. For 11 years, Noel as worked as a referee and has relentlessly inspired the youth of San Juan to attend a game, join a team and get involved in their community.
Although the relationship with Comunidad Connect began with Noel Sr, the entire Sandino family has joined the movement. Each of them has become an integral piece of the puzzle in their community, and with Comunidad Connect.
Noel Alvarez Sandino:
For Noel Sandino, there have been two constants in his life: soccer and the sports park. Finding a love for the game at a young age and being surrounded by a supportive family cemented is trajectory as an athlete. Now at 20 years old, he works as futsala referee and team organizer while continuing to pursue his own athletic career. He is the only Sanjuaneño to be selected to play in the top division at the national level for his age group. Giving much credit to the sports programming of his youth, Noel reflected, “more than anything, I thank CC for the fundamental role they play in the development of organized sports in San Juan del Sur and the development of individual athletes”.
August 28th, 2018
October 23, 2018
San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.
Comunidad Connect facilitated a gathering of stakeholders in San Juan del Sur Tuesday evening to discuss the impact of its Youth Connections program. Representatives from local schools, municipal government, and league athletes and coaches attended the discussion led by CC’s Director of Community Development, Yarisleidy Cortez and Director of Youth Development, Alejandro Noguera. The meeting began with an overview of Comunidad Connect. Most Sanjuaneños know CC for the parque deportivo and its youth sports leagues, yet the organization has made impact throughout the country during the last 10 years, particularly in Jinotega where CC programs focus on preventative and primary health care.
Attendees were encouraged to share how CC’s sports program has impacted their lives and their community. Physical education teacher Bryan Cruz reflected on working with Comunidad Connect saying “it has been very special for me and I am grateful as the organization is always active and Alejandro never tells me no; whether it is borrowing equipment, using the parque deportivo, or helping me share sports with my students”.
Over the past ten years, the sports program has expanded significantly to reach over 1,000 young athletes annually through soccer, basketball, volleyball, and baseball leagues. CC honored longtime collaborators with certificates of appreciation, including referees, athletes, teachers, and coaches. These dedicated men and women devote their time, talents, and resources everyday to their community through youth sports.
Before closing the meeting, Yarisleidy invited attendees to share ideas about strengthening the program. Some of most notable suggestions were to provide training to referees, coaches, and scoring officials, incentivize academic excellence for athletes, incorporate lessons regarding preventative health, social work, and community service, and linking current leagues with first division and university teams and clubs.
August 16th, 2018
When strong connections are made between people and communities, the resulting ripple effects extend far and wide. It is nice to be reminded of what happens when uncommon people come together for a common cause. Below are recent examples of how people like you are affecting the world in the most interesting, and inspirational ways.
First is a heartwarming story of selfless generosity from Newport, Oregon. After a playing an impromptu show at the Oregon Coast Farmer’s market with her friends, Louisiane Potvin (10yrs old, above right) decided to donate a portion of the proceeds to Comunidad Connect.
Although she has never traveled to Nicaragua, her father is a good friend and bandmate with Comunidad Connect board member, Mat Mendonca. Louisiane’s family has supported CC over the years and Louisiane was excited to join the effort. Her funds will provide medicine and a doctor’s home visit for a special needs patient in Los Robles, Nicaragua. Thank you very much, Louisiane! …and keep playing that fiddle!!
Carey Smith-Marchi first came to Nicaragua as a student volunteer with Emory University and now currently serves as board president of Comunidad Connect. She visited Nicaragua with her fiance Jake in April 2018 and together they decided to offer their friends and family the option of donating to CC as an alternative wedding present. They created a fundraising page, and sure enough, their friends and family followed their lead! Funds raised by Carey and Jake will provide home improvements for vulnerable families in Nicaragua, like the stove they built with friends in the above photo.
Armando Castro, a resident of Los Robles, recently passed away after struggling with severe health issues for many years. He was a humble man, talented singer, and patient of the Juntos Para Salud program. When Dr. Ben Thrower, founder of the program, learned the news of Don Armando’s passing, he started a Facebook fundraiser in his memory which quickly garnered support from CC volunteers and others that knew and respected Don Armando. He was popular in Los Robles among both locals and foreigners who enjoyed meeting him during home visits and listening to his songs and stories. Thank you, Dr. Thrower and all donors for your support of Don Armando! Click here for the fundraising link.
After a wonderful trip with Kennesaw State’s Health Promotions and Education trip to the Dominican Republic in May 2018, Christen Robinson was inspired to create a birthday fundraiser to help raise awareness and funds for Comunidad Connect.
“I’ve chosen this nonprofit because their mission means a lot to me, and I hope you’ll consider contributing as a way to celebrate with me. Every little bit will help me reach my goal. Comunidad Connect is the organization that KSU’s Public Health and Nursing program worked within the Dominican Republic and are the people who made it all happen!”
Thank you for your kind words and compassionate actions Christen!
Other Facebook birthday fundraisers include our own Kelly Vlaskamp, Adam Rosendale, and board member Dan Zambrano! If you would like to create a fundraiser on Facebook, simply look in the left-hand column under the section “create”. Search for Comunidad Connect, set a goal and you’ll be well on your way to creating impact. Be sure to let us know so we can also spread the word and help you help others!
MINSA & Community Update:
Since mid-April 2018, the socio-economic crisis gripping Nicaragua has put increased strain on public institutions. During the first 100 days of public unrest, we saw several iterations of protests each carrying their respective and often tragic consequences. Recently, the nationwide network of roadblocks which had restricted movement of goods and services have been taken down. Water and power continue without interruption, and garbage pickup has resumed. And while this has allowed for some sense of “normalcy” to return to the country, public institutions responsible for health and education struggle to staff and stock local clinics, and the cost of medicine in pharmacies have doubled in price.
Comunidad Connect’s sustained presence in Los Robles and San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua is more important than ever. Residents know we are there to help and to partner with them as new priorities emerge from the circumstances stemming from the country’s political instability. We are committed to providing essential health care and supporting local health promoters in their efforts to prevent illness from happening in the first place. Emna Gutierrez (CC Nurse), Reeder Lanzas (CC Dentist), and Yarisleidy Cortez (CC Community Development Director) have remained dedicated to their work through these difficult times and have inspired us all.
In Los Robles, the most pertinent issues are high unemployment and rising prices of goods and services. Recently, a meeting was held by the Brigadistas and other community leaders in which 100 families were identified as having extreme needs within the community, the most severe being food security. These families are unemployed without any direct family support, senior citizens, or have permanent disabilities.
In early August, Comunidad Connect sent resources to Nicaragua to fund projects that will improve the living conditions and quality of life of these families. Yarisleidy, Reeder, and Enma are assessing each family’s priorities and developing work plans for each. We know that there is not a single fix-all solution to the myriad of issues facing families in rural Nicaragua, so we are being intentional with our limited resources to ensure the most vulnerable families know they are not alone and that our network of support is doing everything possible to help during these lean months before the coffee harvest returns in December.