Nicaragua Now

Good Neighbors- Stories of Support Within Communities

August 27th, 2018

Since Nicaragua’s socio-economic crisis began over 100 days ago, there have been numerous ways local residents have joined together to survive this difficult time. Regardless of geography and circumstances, the character of community has shined through.

One such example is from a familiar face to many Comunidad Connect volunteers: Juan Agustín Alaniz García, or affectionately known as “Don Tingo”. He works with Yarisleidy and our volunteers as a mason, overseeing construction of stoves and ovens.

Don Tingo lives in Los Robes with his wife, Marlene Castro, three daughters: Ángela, Gema and Francis, and four grandchildren. Some of you might remember their corner home across the street from the health clinic and Francis, who is a teacher at a local elementary school.

Since April, every day had been a challenge due to the increasingly restricted circulation of goods and services in Los Robles. Earlier in the year, Don Tingo planted a hectare of cabbage with his friend. However, by the time of the harvest, the roadblocks of May and June still prevented him from distributing and selling the product. So in the true spirit of community, Don Tingo and his family gave away the cabbage to their neighbors who were struggling to provide nutrition for themselves and their families. Although the invested time and money was ultimately lost, Don Tingo stepped up to support his community during a time when they needed it the most. Currently, he is working with CC to build improved stoves and ovens for vulnerable families in Los Robles, hoping stability will return to Nicaragua so he can continue working with our volunteers.

Next week, we will continue with ‘Good Neighbors: Part 2′

Expressions of Hope and Commitment

July 26th, 2018

Watching the success of underdogs teams in the 2018 World Cup, I was reminded of the old saying “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.In community development work, we call this phenomenon “social capital” as it is what happens when individuals leverage their talents while collaborating with others toward for a common goal. Team Comunidad Connect is no different.

We are a dynamic collective of committed staff and visionary board members, resilient community partners and stakeholders like you. We are especially thankful for the moral and financial support received over the last few months. Your solidarity from abroad and in the field, as well as your financial contributions, enable us to continue working alongside and strengthening communities as they grapple with daily challenges and an uncertain future. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do.

Remember it is never to late to make a game-changing decision from wherever you are. Making a donation, saying a prayer, and sharing the unfolding history in Nicaragua with others are all great ways to contribute to our collective synergy and social capital. Thank you!

-Jon Thompson, CEO

Smoke Rise Baptist- 2018

 

Volcanoes, Lakes, Oceans, Air

July 19th, 2018

Volcanoes, lakes, oceans, air
Jungles, rain, and mountains there
Friendship from a strangers smile
Watch your step on sidewalk tile

Moving down an old dirt road
A magic place, the parts unknown
Wisdom from a day gone by
Seldom shared, she can be shy

Troubled times may be afoot
Lost time and lives were took
Yet, the sun will surely shine again
World will turn and pain will end

In this land so close to sky
We often ask ourselves why
Not near complete, a lengthy saga
The unfinished story of Nicaragua

-AR

Sadness in the Smiles

July 5th, 2018

San Juan del Sur; beautiful port with its beaches and views.

The crisis in the country has not affected {San Juan del Sur} with armed violence or blockades. This small town where everyone knows each other has taken a position of tolerance against ideological differences, especially verbal attacks. Logically, you can feel a great difference in the air. There is a sense of fear and uncertainty about what our nearby cities are going through. There is also a lot of helplessness, but at the same time, calm and hope that the town continues to respect the peaceful struggle. I do not know how long we will continue like this but I hope that all this pain has not been in vain.

I know that this struggle has its consequences for the working population, and each city feels it in different ways. I think that the geographical position and population of San Juan del Sur helps a lot regarding the political crisis that is taking place here, in terms of violence and available resources. Riot police and regular officers are few in number. This has its advantages and disadvantages as everyone has to take care of each other.

Certainly, we do not have capacity to access everything as we did before the conflict started, but at least we have basics products and services. WE CAN NOT COMPLAIN, nor ignore that our brothers in other cities are being killed and persecuted for thinking differently; for dreaming differently.

As in the whole country, unemployment is overwhelming. Tourism is the main economic source in San Juan del Sur and many people have lost their jobs. Some have migrated to Costa Rica and others have even taken up fishing to provide for their families.  Most hotels and restaurants have had to close or reduce staff while others have lowered the prices of all their services to stay open. There are not many people on the streets or beaches. Some tourists come from Costa Rica by plane and are helping to maintain the local economy.

This has been San Juan del Sur until July … A mixture of calm, uncertainty, lonely beaches, rain, sun and a lot of sadness in the smiles.

 

-A personal perspective from a citizen of Nicaragua, and resident of San Juan del Sur.

 

Tranques

June 26th, 2018

Daily life in Jinotega, like much of Nicaragua, has become paralyzed by tranques. Literally, tranques mean “dams” or “obstacles” but they more closely resemble barricades and roadblocks these days in Nicaragua. Made of road pavers, metal signs, and anything else that prevent passage to pedestrians and vehicles, the tranques have brought ground transportation and local commerce to a standstill. Products and services cannot reach their markets, and many businesses, schools, and public institutions are shuttered. Tranques have also been the focal points for conflicts between pro-government groups and civilians.

Comunidad Connect staff in Jinotega explained to me that it is difficult to know who is responsible for each tranque, but there are two primary groups at odds with eachother: pro-government individuals brought in from outside the city and the opposing “April 19th Movement” comprised of local residents. These makeshift roadblocks are on practically every corner and some are inspecting pedestrians who attempt to pass. The tranques are one of the only means locals are using to pressure the government to bring justice, peace, and democracy back to Nicaragua. While the cause in noble, the effect throughout the community is troubling.

Improvised shelters adjacent to tranques house those who are not residents of Jinotega and hygiene and sanitation have become critical issues. Trash service stopped weeks ago and many residents have resigned to leaving their garbage in the street. There are no taxis available and residents prefer to buy staple goods at the local pulperia than risk the trip to a larger supermarket.

There are no tranques in Los Robles, but their impact is certainly tangible. Farm work has dried up and without money, food and medicine can be hard to come by. Families that depend on jobs in Jinotega can no longer count on that income either. To address these challenges, we have begun fundraising to finance local projects in homes of the elderly, single mothers, and families with special medical needs patients that not only improve their quality of life, but also create jobs for local masons and assistants. Our in-country team can navigate the tranques, but we need your help to reach the 100+ families eligible for projects.

Join us in this important work by making a donation and sharing this update with others. If you would like to learn more, please contact me at jon@comunidadconnect.org or 404-444-9147

-Jon ThompsonImage result for donate

* The next installment to our series “Nicaragua Now” will spotlight how San Juan del Sur is managing the national crisis.  We would love to know your perspective and invite you to contribute to the Nicaragua Now series by contacting me via email.

Updates from Nicaragua, Letter from CEO Jon Thompson

June 12th, 2018

Ten years ago, Comunidad Connect began with a mission to alleviate poverty in Nicaragua by connecting isolated communities with appropriate resources and opportunities for growth. Relationships grew and impact deepened as more and more people connected across cultures through our projects and programs. The resulting bonds inspired financial and in-kind support, academic research, and significant social impact in Nicaragua. Everything was trending upward. As our network of support increased their engagement, so expanded our capacity to impact the communities of Nicaragua.

All that began to change on April 19th, when student-led protests reacting to drastic changes to the social security system were violently repressed. This incited more demonstrations and violence. As of today, over 100 people have been killed and over thousand wounded. National transportation strikes are making food, fuel, and other critical resources scarce, and our partner communities are struggling to find and afford the items that they need the most.

As a result, the Peace Corps has pulled its volunteers and the US State Department’s travel advisory now urges all travelers to reconsider plans to visit Nicaragua. Many organizations like ours are closing throughout Nicaragua and the tourism industry has already lost 100,000 jobs. All service-learning and mission trips scheduled to travel to Nicaragua with Comunidad Connect this year have been canceled. This has caused us to make some difficult decisions and our staff is much smaller than it was even six weeks ago. Yet our commitment is firm, and our hope is that Nicaragua will emerge stronger than ever…and we will be there to experience it.

Our network of support has the potential to make an incredible difference now in Nicaragua. All of our past and present volunteers, donors, staff, board, friends, and family can all advocate for peace, make a donation, and share our work with others. Together, we can continue to assist communities meet their basic needs through health and wellness programming. Together, we can seek creative solutions to the daily challenges resulting from the current events in Nicaragua. And only together, are we truly Comunidad Connect.

I would welcome the opportunity to talk with you in person about what is unfolding in Nicaragua and how we can make a difference together during these difficult times. You may reach me at 404.444.9147 or jon@comunidadconnect.org. Thank you for your time, prayers and thoughtful consideration.

Jon Thompson

Co-Founder/CEO
Comunidad Connect

Communities Pushing Through Current Unrest

June 12th, 2018

The current social unrest in Nicaragua has affected communities throughout the country over the past 7 weeks, including the areas where Comunidad Connect works. However, our efforts in San Juan del Sur and the communities outside of Jinotega continue to operate, and our team members in the field are actively identifying community priorities and challenges as the situation evolves.

Our in-country staff report that San Juan del Sur has remained calm without instances of violence to date.  Although with a tourism-based economy, the lack of travelers has caused many businesses to close temporarily and lay off hundreds of local workers.  National transportation strikes have caused shortages of food, fuel, and cash, and access to health services is very limited.

Until recently, our Northern office in Jinotega kept normal operating hours and our health programming in rural communities outside the city continued unimpeded.  However, violence rocked the region June 7th, and roadblocks have kept our staff from working in the office. Residents in Los Robles and San Esteban cannot travel to Jinotega to work or sell produce in the market. Consequently, this lack of employment means little to no income to purchase food and critical supplies like medicine.  

Over 2,000 residents in the community of Los Robles have been affected by recent unrest, concentrated in cities throughout Nicaragua.

Jesús Rodriguez, a community leader from Los Robles, shared his thoughts on the pressing situation facing the country:

“Tortillas for sale” at a home in Los Robles.

“With respect to the situation we are living in in Nicaragua, it is difficult because one way or another it is destroying the economic standing of families, here in our community and in other communities in the Department of Jinotega and throughout the country. If there are roadblocks or a national strike, there is no transportation to be able to travel in order to buy the items that we most need.”

Jesús explained that in Los Robles families can buy a few items in the community – like cream, cheese, and toilet paper – but people need to travel to Jinotega to purchase their main necessities – like rice, oil, meat, and detergent.

 

Jesús Rodríguez, community member from San Esteban, shares concerns about access to vital resources due to unrest.

Kohl Dothage, graduate student from the University of Alabama currently conducting research in Los Robles, also commented on the situation in Los Robles.

“Los Robles has been very calm. However, that does not mean the situation is not impacting families. Many people have loved-ones who work in Managua, who travel back and forth, and are unable to do so now. So of course this is going to have an impact on the community on some level even if it appears calm.”   

Despite these challenges and lack of access to resources, our staff continues to work with community members to address local needs. Three times a week, Comunidad Connect nurse Enma Gutiérrez travels to the Los Robles health clinic to provide primary care attention to residents. Additionally, Enma follows up with patients and delivers medication to special needs patients as part of our Together For Health program during monthly appointments. And as always, she supports the Brigadistas (community health volunteers) of Los Robles with training based on identified local priorities.

 

In this time of national change and new challenges, Comunidad Connect is dedicated to strengthening partnerships with community leaders, like Jesús, who will play a vital role in sustaining families and communities going forward.

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