October 5th, 2018
October 2nd, 2018
Jinotega, Nicaragua is nicknamed the “city of centenarians”, and we would like to introduce you to one of our favorites: Doña Clementina. She is 97 years old and lives in the small farming community of Los Robles.
She has given birth to an unbelievable twelve children, each delivered healthy and in her home by a local midwife. The matriarch of many generations, Doña Clementina has helped raise her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Sadly she has lived to see two of her children pass away. One at the age of 17 during the contra war, and her eldest daughter at the age of 70. After her son’s death, she recounted a memory in which she hid her children so they wouldn’t be drafted or kidnapped into fighting in the conflict.
In the 1990s, she worked with her children in agricultural fields of Los Robles. They baked bread, made nacatamales (traditional dish, like an oversized tamale) and did whatever was necessary to survival. Exchanging food, such as chicken eggs and various harvests, for meat with friends in Jinotega provided subsistence for her family. (She emphasized to us several times how much she enjoys meat.)
The bathing area before the project
New bathing area
Katherinne, Doña Clementina, Roxana, and Yarisleidy
Originally from Dantanli, Doña Clementina moved to Los Robles some 45 years ago where she has lived since. She uses a walking stick now and is losing her vision. Consequently, her limited mobility makes bathing difficult, and thus she and her family reached out to Comunidad Connect for help in renovating her bathing space. As part of our Family Impact Project initiative, local families are eligible to receive such improvement to their household infrastructure after completing community service hours or if there is a special health priority in the household. Accessible, safe, and clean bathrooms and showers are essential to the wellbeing of all families, and we are happy to bridge resources from generous donors to people like Doña Clementina. Many people contributed to improving the quality of life of someone who has given so much to others during her long life – thank you to everyone that played a part in this heartfelt story of impact in the community of Los Robles.
September 25th, 2018
Three testimonies from Georgia State Physical Therapy’s service learning trip to the Dominican Republic. Visit the link here to read from more students.
“This experience was one that opened my eyes to many things. We can’t even imagine what parts of this world look like until you see it with your own eyes. This trip has shown me that our lives are about perspective. To us, we had the opportunity to help a community that is full of poverty and lack of resources. But whats amazing is that to them this is a happy, wonderful life. Every individual we interacted with was filled with positivity and were thankful for our work and service. This sunset was breathtaking and one like I’ve never seen before. But more than that it reminded me that you can find beauty in all parts of the world if you look hard enough. I’m infinitely grateful for the time spent in this country and for the education and service we could provide to these wonderful people!”
– Peyton Chambliss – DPT Student, GSU
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” – Gandhi.
“Not only was this trip eye-opening from start to finish but I truly believe we are leaving as better students, educators, and individuals from the experience and lessons on life this community gave us. We don’t live in a world that is all our own, and we make a life by what we can give back to others; we often underestimate the power of a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, a helping hand or a small act of caring, all of which can turn a life around. We may have been able to make an instant impact on the community in more ways than one this week, but the community helped give me a new perspective on life, opened my heart, and showed me that true happiness is in the unselfish caring of others. I loved being able to interact with the local families, learn from them, listen and talk with them despite the language barrier and see the joy in these kids eyes when we played and laughed after a long day of work. Our time spent here is invaluable and I am forever grateful to HHI and Comunidad Connect for making this trip a reality and to this community for allowing us to be a part of their lives even for a little bit.”
– Ashley Miller -DPT Student, GSU
“This is my favorite picture on the trip because we were in the process of building a community center in the village of Severet and a little girl started helping me fill the buckets with rocks. You could tell she was interested in what we were doing and she wanted to help. She was very shy but I managed to speak to her in broken Spanish and it was an amazing experience to not only participate in the manual labor of building a community center but also to connect with the local people of the village.”
– Helen To -DPT Student, GSU
August 28th, 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.
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.
August 27th, 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!
August 13th, 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′
July 26th, 2018
This week we recognize Katherinne, administrative assistant for Comunidad Connect! Read more to learn about Katherine, her interests and passions, and experiences working with Comunidad Connect.
When did you start working for Communidad Connect?
I starting working for Communidad Connect on March 15, 2018.
Describe your role with CC:
I work in the local development connections program. My specific role is to help organize the database of projects that are carried out and fill out those files when we make a field visit. But I also have the willingness to work on everything that is necessary for Comunidad Connect.
What is your favorite part of working with CC?
My favorite part of working for Comunidad Connect is making field visits to Los Robles and San Esteban. Conducting home surveys with the brigadistas allows me to have relationships with the inhabitants of the community. It has been a very nice experience to talk with people, know their needs and their aspirations. For me, the best thing is to feel a part of Comunidad Connect because everything we do here has an impact on people in need.
What is your favorite cultural event / holiday in Nicaragua?
The anniversary of my city, Jinotega, because various activities are held for its celebration. Among them, my favorites are artisan and food fairs.
What is your favorite place to visit in Nicaragua?
My favorite place to visit in Nicaragua is Ometepe Island.
What is your favorite typical dish?
My favorite dish is the nacatamal with tortilla.
What hobbies / talents do you have that most people do not know about?
My favorite pastime is to share time with my family. I also like to drive and I love makeup. The talent I have that most people do not know is dance. It became my biggest passion so I decided to study at the Academia Kairos.
May 7th, 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
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.
Enma giving vaccines during the national vaccine campaign in April.
Brigadistas receiving a training on contraceptives and reproductive health at the clinic in Los Robles.
What are the most common illnesses in the community?
- Respiratory disease
- Gonococcal arthritis
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.
April 25th, 2018
Comunidad Connect is excited to welcome back intern Abigail Hunt from Savannah, GA for her second summer internship with the organization. She first came to Nicaragua with a volunteer group in 2016 and returned last summer working as a bilingual facilitator for groups and living in Los Robles during the month of June. This year she will be working out of Jinotega with local development projects and communications.
Abigail is a senior at the University of Georgia studying Speech Pathology and hopes to use the skills she is learning while in Nicaragua to provide bilingual speech therapy to children in multicultural communities after graduation. She adds, “Nicaragua holds a special place in my heart. I can’t keep myself from coming back here every year. Who knows, maybe one day I can use my degree to benefit the people of Los Robles.”
Welcome to the team Esther!
This past month Comunidad Connect was excited to add a new member to our team, Esther María Balladares! Esther is originally from the city of Masaya, with a degree in Environmental Engineering from the Central American University (UCA) in Nicaragua. She is joining Comunidad Connect as an Administrative Assistant and Program Coordinator in our office in San Juan del Sur. She will be supporting the country director, administration of the organization, and assistance with sports activities in the south. Esther will also be leading Comunidad Connect’s Chicas Fuertes initiative to expand our girls empowerment sports program, as well as our Becas El Carrizal scholarship program for students.
Esther is excited for this new role, noting, “Comunidad Connect is a great opportunity to continue learning how to develop community projects. It has been fascinating so far to learn different sports disciplines and be able to share experiences with children, adolescentes, referees and scorekeepers. My new role brings enrichment to my personal and professional life.”