Health / NCHC

Stories of Impact – Josefa

September 25th, 2018

“Thank you for seeing us, not leaving us aside, and most importantly, providing my baby better-living conditions” – Josefa Meza Gutiérrez

Deteriorating and dilapidated roofs can have dramatic health repercussions during the wettest months of the rainy season. In rural Nicaragua, the rains increase the prevalence of upper respiratory illnesses like asthma and the flu, often overflows latrines/septic, and provides ideal conditions for mosquito-borne illnesses like dengue fever and malaria. Roofs mitigate these issues by keeping families dry. Josefa Meza Gutiérrez (35) and her husband, Luis (40), are both originally from Los Robles and work as laborers on local farms. Together, they have a 17- year old son, 14-year-old daughter and also care for their 1-month old granddaughter who was hospitalized in July 2018 due to heart problems. Their roof was a patchwork of salvaged materials and leaked in all directions.With the rainy season looming, Comunidad Connect field staff proposed replacing the roof, but when the family removed the old roof, the entire house collapsed due to a rotten wood structure! So with the help of relatives and neighbors, Josefa and family worked for three days framing the house and CC donors financed a new roof for Josefa, Luis and their family. Everyone played a vital part in providing for Josefa and her family before the heavy rains began. Upon leaving the worksite, Josefa thanked God, Comunidad Connect, and everyone who made this project possible.

Addendum:

In a wonderful continuation of the story of Doña Josefa, CC driver Alan and his niece Katherine donated a queen-size bed to Josefa and her family. A true act of compassion, this bed will give the newborn baby, as well as other members of the family, a safe and sanitary place to rest.

 

MINSA & Community Update

August 16th, 2018

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.  

Fourth Annual Health Summit 2018

May 7th, 2018

 

Academics and health care professionals reunited once again in Jinotega, Nicaragua for Comunidad Connect’s Fourth Annual Health Summit. Comunidad Connect was pleased to host both veteran and new attendees, continuing to augment local and international relationships in the health field.

Professors and students attended from Georgia State University, University of North Georgia, Kennesaw State University, and Ohio State University. The summit began with a day of home visits in the community of Los Robles, an orientation to the organization, and updates of the past year. Highlights from the day included meeting beneficiaries of Comundidad Connect’s healthy home projects of concrete floors, stoves, and ovens, speaking with homeowners about their improved health, and meeting with the network of Brigadistas (community health volunteers) for a Q&A session.

The second day of the health summit began in the city of Jinotega with presentations from the SILAIS (local system of integral health attention), the Health Center Guillermo Matute, the University of Martin Luther, and UNAN FAREM-Matagalpa about community health strategies, achievements through community strategies, and breast cancer, respectively.

Second year health summit attendee and local nonprofit ‘Together for Tomorrow’ founder, Tommy Brown, was happy to participate as it provides the opportunity to connect not only government agencies like the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health (MINSA), but also with academics from the United States. “We were here last year and it is great to hear what the government is currently doing or has plans to do so that we may work together if the opportunity presents itself.”

The afternoon session included presentations of research results from the University of Calgary, Ohio State University, Kennesaw State University, and the University of North Georgia. MINSA representatives and international academic partners saw opportunities to collaborate and look for ways to share research findings with local communities. Presenters covered a variety of topics, ranging from maternal mental health, childhood digestive health, cervical cancer, and a community health needs assessment study.

After presenting her team’s findings regarding cervical cancer screenings in the department of Leon, Professor Vanessa Jones commented, “It’s exciting to see how relationships and collaborations have developed as a result of the Health Summit. We all have the same goal–improving the health of Nicaraguans in rural communities. Sharing our work provides opportunities to work together to achieve this goal. During this year’s Summit, I was introduced to nursing faculty in Nicaragua who were interested in the same research, which could result in future research collaboration.”

For Kennesaw State’s University Dean of Health and Human Services, Mark Tillman, “The health summit was a great opportunity for teamwork and to share our knowledge of health issues. It gives me a stronger appreciation for the country, the people and the concerns that they face. And it also makes me motivated to provide more opportunities for the faculty and students of Kennesaw State to come here.”

If you would like to learn more about Comunidad Connect, the research presented, or how you can can become involved, please send us an email us a info@comunidadconnect.org or call 404-444-9147.

Check out more photos from the Health Summit below!

Staff Spotlight: Meet Enma Gutiérrez, Ministry of Health Nurse!

May 7th, 2018

Comunidad Connect values its partnership with the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health, or MINSA, to carry to out our health programs. This month, meet Enma Gutiérrez, a nurse with MINSA who works with Comunidad Connect at the health clinic in Los Robles. Enma serves an important role providing primary health attention and promoting preventative health measures in the community. Learn more about Enma’s work below!

When did you begin to work with Comunidad Connect?

I started working with CC on October 17, 2017. I’ve been with the organization for about 7 months now!

What is your typical work day like?

My job at the health center in Los Robles is focused on individual care oriented on health promotion, maintenance, and recuperation. I also promote ways to increase individuals’ quality of life and social wellbeing, and create spaces to train people and groups about ways to address their health needs and problems.

 

Enma attends patients at the Health Clinic in Los Robles and gives educational talks on various health topics in the community. Some areas and themes are listed above.

What is your favorite part about working at the Health Center in Los Robles?

I love working with children and patients with special needs.

 

What are the most common illnesses in the community?

  • Respiratory disease
  • Parasites
  • Gonococcal arthritis
  • Hypertension
  • Epilepsy

How do you work with the Brigadistas (community health workers) in Los Robles? 

I meet with the Brigadistas once or twice per month to train them on certain health topics that affect the community. They support MINSA’s (Ministry of Health) community outreach efforts and inform us of problems most prevalent in the area. The Brigadistas play an important role in training and sharing information about health to other community members in the neighborhoods where they live.

Where is your favorite place to visit in Nicaragua?

I love any place that is in the countryside, waterfalls, and the ocean.

What is your favorite typical Nicaragua dish?

My favorite typical foods are the nacatamal and baho.

Do you have any talent or hobby?

I think my talent is creative! I love to make crafts and read books.

Thank You Donors: New Mobile Dental Clinic in Action!

April 25th, 2018

We are excited to announce that our Mobile Dental Clinic is up and running! Thanks to your generous donations and support, our resident dentist Dr. Reeder Lanzas is expanding our Preventive Oral Health program to provide dental attention to residents in rural communities. Dr. Reeder also continues to give educational preventive health talks in primary and secondary schools, provide fluoride treatment, and supply students with basic dental kits while supplies last.

Dr. Reeder is extremely excited to put the new mobile dental clinic to work. “With this new clinic, we are going to do tooth fillings, cleanings, as well as extractions. However, our first priorities are cleanings and fillings. Currently we are working in a community on prevention (about 700 students – 400 primary, 300 secondary), and with the new clinic we are able to provide full dental primary care.”

This April Comunidad Connect welcomed Tufts University Dental students in our first dental brigade to the community of Los Robles. During the week the dental students consulted 105 patients and performed 91 tooth extractions, in addition to delivering toothbrushes and toothpaste to numerous others. Comunidad Connect is excited to expand our reach and health impact in the community with this clinic and looks forward to working with more dentists, hygienists, and university dental programs in the future.

Because of your invested support, Comunidad Connect’s mobile dental clinic is bringing smiles to thousands of students and residents in Nicaragua! The new mobile dental clinic marks an important first step toward addressing oral health in remote areas. However, this is just the beginning. You can expand this impact across rural Nicaragua by contacting us today at info@comunidadconnect.org.

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Atlanta to Los Robles: How Nursing Expands Beyond Borders

April 6th, 2018

Written by Bianca Lombay, nursing volunteer 

Bianca taking Juan Carlos’ blood pressure during his monthly health evaluation.

My name is Bianca and I am a Registered Nurse from Atlanta, GA. My passion in healthcare has always been in community public health since nursing school when I was exposed to the health needs in communities as opposed to the acute ailments found in hospitals. My mom works with Dr. Thrower and one day he mentioned to her that he travels to Nicaragua twice a year to provide medical care to a small community. She shared with him that that is a passion of mine and he quickly reached out to me with an invitation to join the next group. I was thrilled!

While in Los Robles, I helped Drs. Ben and Karen Thrower interpret medical care and assess patients both in the health clinic and in their homes. I also helped paint the inside of a home and donated supplies. One of my favorite experiences was witnessing such a united community. It was a beautiful thing to see the community doing everything it could for the people who live there. I was amazed by the work of Comunidad Connect, the local medical team, and the Brigadistas.

This was a very rewarding experience for me because I feel like we really made a difference and we were so warmly welcomed. I met some amazing people and plan on continuing those friendships. I definitely want to return to get to know more about the Brigadistas and work alongside the community nurse on home visits and in the health clinic. I am thankful for this experience; it has impacted my life.

Bianca loved meeting patients in Los Robles and hopes to return to work more with the health clinic in the future.

 

 

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Juntos Para Salud, Together for Health

March 6th, 2018

Emily Ruger, Bianca Lombay and Dr. Ben Thrower smile with Juan Carlos, a patient with partial paralysis enrolled in the project since 2015.

Comunidad Connect was very excited to welcome Doctors Ben and Karen Thrower and their team back to Nicaragua in February. The Throwers first came to Nicaragua in 2014, when they witnessed the drastic health disparities that exist in rural communities. It was after this trip that they decided to start a project to serve neurological and pediatric patients in Los Robles. The project has since expanded to a second community, San Esteban 2, with 23 patients currently enrolled in both communities.

Dr. Karen Thrower evaluates Priscila in San Esteban 2, a patient who has Down’s Syndrome.

Most individuals in rural Nicaragua do not have access to specialized health services, due to a lack of physicians in the area and economic resources that prevent families from seeking private care. Since 2014, Drs. Ben and Karen have returned to Nicaragua twice each year to offer specialty care to patients with identified needs.

In addition to their yearly visits, Comunidad Connect coordinates with the Ministry of Health (MINSA) to monitor patients and ensure medication is delivered each month. Through this collaboration, pediatric patients and patients with special needs enrolled in this project are able to improve and maintain their overall health condition.

This February, the Throwers were excited to see old patients and welcome a few new ones into their project. The families of each patient were extremely grateful for the support and specialized attention provided by the Throwers and Comunidad Connect. A special thank you to Ben and Karen Thrower, as well as to all our donors who support this and other health initiatives in rural Nicaragua. With your support, we help break barriers to isolation and enhance the health and wellbeing of families in rural communities.

Enma Gutiérrez, MINSA nurse (left), explains to Bianca Lombay how the clinic collects patient statistics. Enma works with Comunidad Connect to monitor patients enrolled in the Thrower’s project on a monthly basis.

Dr. Ben Thrower and group visit Doña Gabina (center) in her home for her monthly evaluation.

Dr. Ben and Karen Thrower and their group were happy to return to Nicaragua for their 6th trip working in Los Robles and surrounding communities.

 

The Brigadistas of Los Robles

February 9th, 2018

Doña Daisy González, sector Zelaya.

Who are the Brigadistas of Los Robles?

Most volunteer groups and partners who have come down to Nicaragua have met or heard of the network of Brigadistas that make up an integral part of Los Robles. These Brigadistas are community health volunteers: a majority female group of individuals from the community that selflessly give their time and energy to promote health initiatives among the 10 sectors of Los Robles.

One of Comunidad Connect’s driving tenants is to support sustainable community development through working with local partners. This grassroots approach enables community members to identify their most pressing needs and collaborate with other organizations and institutions to achieve their goals. Within the past 7 months, a new network of dedicated, inspired Brigadistas has formed in Los Robles, working in partnership with MINSA (Nicaraguan Ministry of Health) and Comunidad Connect.

Currently there are 17 new and veteran Brigadistas active in Los Robles from each of the 10 sectors. These community health volunteers take on a variety of roles: they frequently check in with families in their neighborhood to identify health needs, coordinate with MINSA staff at the local health clinic to make referrals, receive training on basic health care like First Aid, have monthly meetings to plan future activities, and help outside organizations and volunteers get to know the local community. The Brigadistas have also assisted Comunidad Connect in coordinating our family health and hygiene projects, enabling families to earn clean cook ovens, stoves, concrete floors, and natural insecticide treated painting. Moreover, these strong women and men serve as an invaluable resource to their community.

Having served Los Robles for over 20 years as a Brigadista – as well as volunteering her home as the community health outpost when needed – , Doña Petrona is one of the longest serving Brigadistas in the community. Doña Petrona (sector Rondana), along with Doña Virginia (sector Bodega) and Doña Daisy (sector Zelaya), are the oldest Brigadistas out of the network of 17. They are always grateful for visiting volunteer groups that come to support projects in the community and they look forward to expanding their relationships this upcoming year.

Doña Petrona Díaz, sector Rondana.

Doña Virginia del Carmen Chavarría, sector Bodega.

Stay updated for future interviews and spotlights on the Brigadistas of Los Robles in the next few weeks on Facebook and Instagram. Thank you to all of the groups who have supported the Brigadistas and Comunidad Connect’s health initiatives over the years.

 

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Rural Communities Grateful for Physical Therapy Visits

February 9th, 2018

Doña Gabina, a stroke patient, gets her blood pressure checked by a GSU physical therapy student.

Two physical therapy (PT) student groups visited Los Robles and San Esteban 2 this January to gain a better understanding of health needs in rural Nicaragua and provide PT home consultations.

A group of 9 PT students from Upstate Medical University joined us from late December through early January, followed by 19 PT students from Georgia State University. Due to their rural location and lack of medical and economic resources, Los Robles and San Esteban 2 lack access to specialized medical attention, such as physical therapy. However, many residents have health needs requiring therapy and rehabilitation education.

During their time in the communities, Upstate and GSU conducted a total of 15 home visits to residents with physical impairments. Each individual was very grateful for the one-on-one attention and PT exercise recommendations specific to their unique challenges. One patient, Don Armando, was extremely grateful for the adjustments GSU students made to his wheelchair, which improved pain in his hips and legs, allowing him to move around the house more comfortably.

Meg Prentice, part of the PT program at GSU, commented on the work she did in the community: “We were able to go into people’s homes that had all kinds of things going on with them. I went with a group to assess how someone was able to get around their home and provide ideas of how they could do that better, and how to problem solve to make the care of their family member easier on the rest of the family.”

Don Armando (front center) and wife Reyna were very happy to receive a home visit from GSU PT students. Don Armando is now able to use his wheelchair more and with less pain and discomfort.

In addition, the two groups constructed 12 family health and hygiene projects (i.e. clean cookstoves, ovens, concrete floors) and gave educational health talks. GSU ended their trip with a morning providing PT attention to patients in the hospital in Jinotega, followed by a meeting with hospital staff and directors to exchange knowledge and learn about each other’s health care system.

Students from Upstate Medical University hard at work putting in a concrete floor in a family’s home. Concrete floors help reduce parasites, improve families’ hygiene, and enhance child development.

A special thank you to Upstate Medical University and Georgia State University for your support in providing much needed physical therapy attention in the communities we serve. If your school or professional team would like to partner with Comunidad Connect in addressing health needs in rural Nicaragua, please contact us at info@comunidadconnect.org.

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Los Robles Health Clinic News

January 30th, 2018

2017 brought tremendous progress for our health initiatives in northern Nicaragua, with the greatest achievement perhaps being the formal establishment of the Los Robles Health Clinic by the Nicaragua Ministry of Health (MINSA). Since renovated and converted to a health clinic in 2014, the clinic was affiliated with MINSA but management and fiscal responsibility rested with Comunidad Connect. It quickly became the center for all of our local projects relating to health and wellbeing, including training for community health volunteers, health fairs, medical consultations, and home base for research and data collection. Human and financial resources invested by monthly donors and longstanding program partners like Emory University (Social Enteprise @ Goizueta) helped finance the daily activities and staffing of the clinic. Since inception, there have been over 5,000 consultations provided to residents of Los Robles.

The Brigadistas (community health volunteers) of Los Robles receive a First Aid training from MINSA in October.

Now that MINSA is managing the clinic, we have increased bandwidth and focus on our grassroots capacity building work in rural Nicaragua. These efforts include providing individual care for 20+ special needs patients, dental care and education for 2,000+ children, monthly training for all community health volunteers, health fairs, academic research and health talks with youth groups throughout the year. We continue to fund a nurse’s salary at the clinic, which reflects our partnership with MINSA and ensures year round consultations at the clinic. In 2018, we will invest approximately $40,000 in the above mentioned initiatives and wellness activities in partnership with local health volunteers.

We look forward to working with our community partners in Nicaragua and North America in 2018 and beyond. As research and experience continue to guide our programmatic development, we invite you to engage further with us and our partner communities in Nicaragua. For more information on how, please contact us as: info@comunidadconnect.org or call Jon Thompson at 404-444-9147.

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