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”.
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.)
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.
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
“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
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.
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!
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′
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.
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
Become a piece of the puzzle.
COME SEE US:
San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua-Frente a Farmacia Comunitaria/ Jinotega, Nicaragua-Bancentro Lafise Central, cuadra y media al oeste, Barrio Omar García
MAIL US SOMETHING:
Comunidad Connect / PO Box 1687 Madison, Alabama 35758
Tel: Tel: 404-444-9147
©2014 COMUNIDAD CONNECT - Registered 501 (c)(3) organization