People

“The best ambassadors are children”

March 13th, 2019

Earlier this year, Director of Community Development, Yarisleidy Cortez, led a small group of students from the University of Virginia in the Dominican Republic. For two weeks, the group lived and worked in the community of Arroyo de Leche (Stream of milk) building and testing bio-sand water filters. As the students settled into the experience, the tight-knit community embraced them with open arms. Below is a powerful reflection from Yarisleidy about the bonds created between the students, the community and the children. 

Although the culture and language may be different, the needs in rural communities are the same: clean water, food security, education, health, etc. We all want to help, share the experience and our knowledge and turn it into a project of impact. 

But deeper than that, there comes the emotional, cultural connection that occurs in through cultural exchange without shyness or limitations. Even more so, by staying with a family in the community, these bonds are only strengthened. And guess who catches you in the midst of this exciting adventure, living in a community that does not speak your own language or practices your customs? Children! Yes, they are the best ambassadors of your community. They teach you to speak the language or lexicon, to play, to climb mountains, to ride horses without saddles, to walk without surrendering, and show you that you don’t need a telephone with Wi-Fi every hour to live! They connect you with their families and the community. And when you are saying goodbye, they will not want to let you go. That is the moment you think about returning or keeping in touch in some way because there are some children who will remember you in between the laughter, love and so many photos.

Together for Health Group, February 2019

February 27th, 2019

Tessa’s Trip to the DR

February 26th, 2019

University of Virginia student, Tessa Danehy, shares about her experience living and working in the community of Arroyo de Leche in the Dominican Republic.  

I am truly so thankful for Comunidad Connect and everything their organization did to make this research trip a once in a lifetime experience. Our 4-person group from the University of Virginia was quickly swept up into the community of Arroyo de Leche in the Dominican Republic, building and testing water filters during the day and spending time with neighbors at night. We went to study a new design of the biosand filter, but we left with much more than just our data- new friendships, new experiences, and new perspectives accompanied us home.

One thing that really stood out to me was the beautiful generosity of everyone in the community- every day I was offered something new. I complimented someone’s horse and they jumped off and said “Please! Take her for a ride!”. I loved the fluffy baby chicks at one of the houses where we were building a filter and their owner said I could just take one home (an offer I had to deny logistically, but appreciated nevertheless). We were given sugar cane, big hugs, home cooked meals, cute handwritten notes from kids, and coconuts freshly cut off the palm tree. Everyone in the community seemed so excited to have visitors and always wanted to show us around.

Truthfully, when I first arrived I thought I would go crazy with limited wifi and staying within a few mile radius for 2 weeks straight but it ended up being so relaxing and rewarding and the time just flew by. Making friends, exploring the wilderness around us, playing pool, riding horses, and building the filters took up our days and by the time night came I was asleep before my head hit the pillow. I’ve attached photos of some favorite memories, from the beautiful view we saw while going up a mountain at 6am to milk cows, to the earrings and note a group of little girls that I spent a lot of time with gave me. Now all four of us are back in college, spending the majority of our time studying, and I think about our amazing experience living in rural Dominican Republic every day.

Georgia State Professor, Anne Lorio

January 28th, 2019

Kennesaw State University Nursing Student in the Dominican Republic

January 27th, 2019

Kennesaw State nursing student, Lily Roche, sharing her thoughts on her experience working in the Dominican Republic.

 

Lasting Connections

January 25th, 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!

Everyone Makes A Difference (Community Impact)

December 24th, 2018

Dr. Ben Thrower & Comunidad Connect

December 22nd, 2018

Youth Connections (Sandino Family Part 1)

December 18th, 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”.

 

 

Everyone Makes A Difference (Health Connections)

December 13th, 2018

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