Programs

Comunidad Connect Stakeholder Meeting in San Juan del Sur

November 5th, 2018

October 23, 2018

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.

Comunidad Connect facilitated a gathering of stakeholders in San Juan del Sur Tuesday evening to discuss the impact of its Youth Connections program. Representatives from local schools, municipal government, and league athletes and coaches attended the discussion led by CC’s Director of Community Development, Yarisleidy Cortez and Director of Youth Development, Alejandro Noguera. The meeting began with an overview of Comunidad Connect. Most Sanjuaneños know CC for the parque deportivo and its youth sports leagues, yet the organization has made impact throughout the country during the last 10 years, particularly in Jinotega where CC programs focus on preventative and primary health care.

Attendees were encouraged to share how CC’s sports program has impacted their lives and their community. Physical education teacher Bryan Cruz reflected on working with Comunidad Connect saying “it has been very special for me and I am grateful as the organization is always active and Alejandro never tells me no; whether it is borrowing equipment, using the parque deportivo, or helping me share sports with my students”.

Over the past ten years, the sports program has expanded significantly to reach over 1,000 young athletes annually through soccer, basketball, volleyball, and baseball leagues. CC honored longtime collaborators with certificates of appreciation, including referees, athletes, teachers, and coaches. These dedicated men and women devote their time, talents, and resources everyday to their community through youth sports.

Before closing the meeting, Yarisleidy invited attendees to share ideas about strengthening the program.  Some of most notable suggestions were to provide training to referees, coaches, and scoring officials, incentivize academic excellence for athletes, incorporate lessons regarding preventative health, social work, and community service, and linking current leagues with first division and university teams and clubs.

Doña Clementina

October 5th, 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.

 

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.

 

Comunidad Connect’s Guiding Principles

September 20th, 2018

Léalo en español

Strengths Perspective

We do not think of development in terms of addressing needs alone, but also within the context of local human and social capital.

Relationship Driven

Sustainable development requires open and ongoing collaboration between global, national, and local partners; both public and private.

Resolving Isolation Drives Economic Development

Connecting local communities with networks, knowledge, and capital creates opportunities for appropriate socio-economic development.

Co-investment

Investment of in-kind and financial resources by all committed partners is essential to ensure shared ownership of success.

Member Monday- Katherinne Peralta

August 13th, 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.

 

Building Foundations: Homes and Health

June 11th, 2018

Most volunteer groups pour at least one concrete floor for a family during their service-learning experience in Nicaragua. For the most part, these projects are straightforward and simple to complete. However, the resulting physical and emotional health benefits are abundant.

Concrete floors:

  • Reduce parasitic infestations, diarrhea, and anemia.
  • Improve cognitive development in children by permitting “floor time”.
  • Increase satisfaction with housing and quality of life.
  • Reduce depression and perceived stress.
  • Enhance respiratory health by limiting mold spores that can flourish on damp-earth floors.

See below for a step-by-step to see how these floors are created.

Each healthy home project requires the assistance of a local mason and some prep-work. Before a floor can be laid, the mason must visit the home to level the ground and create the framework using pieces of wood and cement mix.

On the day of the project,  the group and beneficiary family first make the cement mix using three buckets of sand one bag of cement. Some beneficiary family members can be quite eager to help out, like this boy here.

Once the sand and cement mix are thoroughly mixed, a mini-volcano, as we like to call it, is created and water is poured into the “crater”.

More water is added until the proper consistency is reached.

When ready, volunteers shovel the cement into buckets and lug it inside the house where the mason is waiting.

The mason then pours the cement and smooths it out with wood or a leveling tool.

The finished product is quite impressive and completely changes the aesthetic and healthy conditions of the home. These floors usually take about two days to dry and cost an average of $200. By financing a concrete floor in someone’s home, you can make a direct impact from abroad. Donate here today.

Clean Cookstoves, Healthy Homes

May 30th, 2018

Some of the most prevalent yet preventable illnesses in rural Nicaragua are respiratory diseases. To address this challenge, Comunidad Connect’s improved technology clean cookstoves can greatly improve household health.

These projects, earned by accumulating volunteer hours in the community, are built  by beneficiary families, volunteers, and local masons. Not only do these stoves use less wood and save a family money, but they also have the following health benefits:

  • Decrease indoor air pollution from smoke using chimneys
  • Prevent chronic illnesses such as respiratory disease, pneumonia, and low birth weight
  • Increase satisfaction with housing and quality of life

Take a look below to see how these stoves are built step-by-step!

Meet Don Tingo, a mason who lives in Los Robles and helps makes building these stoves possible. Before any construction can begin, Don Tingo pre-fabricates the “burners” with rebar and concrete. One of the burners must have a hole for the chimney, as you can see in the image.

When the time comes to begin construction, the mortar mixture (used to hold the stove bricks together) must be prepared. The simple recipe consists of combing dirt and cow manure with water that has been soaked in dragon fruit leaves. The dragon fruit is sticky and acts as a natural binder. And don’t worry, the cow manure doesn’t smell at all.

While the mortar mixture is being prepared, Don Tingo will lay the first layer of bricks, as these measurements are the most important to the structural integrity of the stove. Once completed, volunteers and the beneficiary family can take over laying bricks, stacking several layers high.

After Don Tingo’s approval of the group’s work, he will lay the burners into place. In the picture above, you will notice one side is higher than the other. This is to create an uneven distribution of heat, allowing one burner to heat up and cook food quickly and the other to function as a warmer. 

With the burners set in place, Don Tingo climbs to the roof of the house to install the chimney. Most of the time he has to cut a hole in the zinc roof or rearrange some shingles.

From the inside, the stove is really starting to come together. With a little bit of concrete to seal the chimney in place, it will be ready to dry. Taking only about a day to set, the beneficiary family can begin cooking very quickly after receiving a project.

And there you have it! In only 2 to 3 hours, volunteers have an amazing experience, make some new friends and significantly impact a family’s health for years to come.

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Home Run in Los Robles

March 7th, 2018

Young athletes in Los Robles smile with professional baseball player Gonzalo López during their clinic.

At the end of February, young athletes in Los Robles received an exciting surprise. Comunidad Connect helped bring three nationally-known Nicaraguan professional baseball players to Los Robles for an afternoon of baseball training and motivational talks.

Twenty-two children arrived to the sports field to meet Gonzalo Lopez (signed by the Atlanta Braves in 2000), Juan Vicente Lopez (played with the national team in Nicaragua six times), and Bismarck Guadamuz (played with the national team in Nicaragua four times). The three athletes shared their stories with the boys and girls of how they became professional baseball players, stressing the importance of studying and practicing with dedication. The children worked with the athletes on basic baseball skills, like using a mitt, catching, batting, and pitching.

Ronald Zeledón, coordinator of Comunidad Connect’s sports program in Los Robles, saw the event as a great success. “These Nicaraguan baseball icons shared basic technical skills with the Academy of Los Robles, which was very exciting because they serve as motivation for the young athletes to continue with their training and love of sports.”

 

The kids were very excited for this opportunity because they had never had professional athletes visit their community before. They also look forward to meeting another local athlete from Jinotega’s baseball team, Juan Blandón, who will be working with the young athletes in Los Robles in the upcoming weeks.

Thank you to everyone who made this event possible! Find out how you can support youth development in Nicaragua today by emailing: info@comunidadconnect.org.

The kids of Los Robles had a fun afternoon training with three of their national baseball idols.

Juan Vicente López (far left), Gonzalo López (center) and Bismarck Guadamuz (far right) volunteered their time to help young athletes in Los Robles improve their baseball skills and personal development.

 

 

Kick-Off to Chicas Fuertes Sports Initiative

February 9th, 2018

Jump, set, spike! Girls in San Juan del Sur practicing their volleyball skills at the Chicas Fuertes camp last summer.

Comunidad Connect is excited to expand our girls sports program with the start of the Chicas Fuertes (Strong Girls) initiative in San Juan del Sur. This initiative builds off the three-week girls empowerment volleyball camp, also named Chicas Fuertes, hosted by volunteer Mitzi Kincaid last year. Mitzi, a Sports Psychology MA candidate at John F. Kennedy University, led over 150 girls between the ages of 7-17 in San Juan del Sur. Girls learned how to put important mental skills into practice, like deep breathing and positive self-talk, on and off the volleyball court.

We are also proud to partner with Brooke Rundle, a long-time advocate for women’s sports and empowerment through volleyball. She brings NCAA volleyball teams to Nicaragua for exhibition matches with the Nicaraguan national team, while engaging the players in service learning while in country. Chicas Fuertes will benefit from the interaction and role models associated with Brooke’s program.

Chicas Fuertes will provide a safe and structured environment for Nicaraguan youth to participate in sports-related activities to promote healthy lifestyles in rural communities. Through soccer, baseball, and volleyball leagues and clinics, young women will develop positive leadership and team-building skills.

 

With your support, we can all do our part to love and care for this wonderful community and the amazing girls who desire to play sports. Volunteers can support these projects by leading clinics in Nicaragua and donating supplies, such as uniforms and equipment while engaging in intercultural exchange. Chicas Fuertes will also partner with local businesses, municipal leaders, other NGO’s and the Nicaragua National Volleyball Team in organizing sports leagues, exhibition matches, and enrichment activities.

Learn how you can support Chicas Fuertes by contacting us at info@comunidadconnect.org. Whether you want to join as an individual, bring a group of friends or family to Nicaragua, or partner with your sports team or organization, we look forward to working with you this upcoming year!

Girls at the primary and secondary schools are always excited to share a week or more with visiting volunteers, developing athletic and leadership skills.

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A Quick Look into Los Robles: Research Updates

January 30th, 2018

Approximately 2 out of 3 families in Los Robles do not have a latrine in their home. Poor sanitation is linked to the transmission of diseases including cholera, diarrhea, typhoid, intestinal worms, and others.

In 2017, Comunidad Connect collaborated with several academic partners to improve our understanding of the current socioeconomic and health status of the community of Los Robles.

Research teams from the University of Calgary, The Ohio State University, and the University of Alabama – headed by Warren Wilson (Calgary), Barbara Piperata (OSU) Kammi Schmeer (OSU), and Jason DeCaro (Alabama) – also presented preliminary findings from their research on maternal and child health in Los Robles this past summer. Some notable findings from these preliminary results are below, along with data collected from Comunidad Connect’s 2016 in-depth survey of 300 households.

In explaining her 2018 vision, Dr. Piperata aims to look at how children’s interactions with their environment (soil, water, food, animals) affects their gut microbiome and incidence of diarrhea.

“We found the people interested and very willing to help with all aspects of the research.  This is a major plus for moving ahead… people in the community are interested and willing to help advance understanding and make evidence-based changes to improve well-being. You cannot say that about every place. I think this is very important for seeing a sustained impact.”

As we move forward in 2018 and beyond, we will continue collaborating with academic and community partners to provide a holistic understanding of health in rural Nicaragua. Ongoing research is the key that drives in-country programming. For example, sanitation has emerged as a critical priority.  Currently, over 60% of Los Robles is defecating in the open air and only 20% of existing latrines are in decent conditions.  We are seeking viable solutions, so please contact us if you know of best practices, colleagues, or research related to rural sanitation in developing countries.  We hope to begin with several prototypes in 2018.

Less than 1 in 10 households have reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. Food insecurity puts people at risk for chronic stress, depression, and the inability to fight infections.

One out of every five children exhibits symptoms of chronic stress, generally due to an inadequate diet. Chronic stress during childhood has dire long-term consequences for the child’s cognitive abilities, work capacity, and the function of their immune system.

Over 50% of participants surveyed in Los Robles did not finish primary school or have received no education. Research has shown that education helps promote and sustain healthy lifestyles: families are more likely to take advantage of health care provision, the effect of education on health is at least as great as the effect of income, and additional education nurtures human development, relationships, and personal, family, and community well-being (Feinstein et al. 2006).

 

 

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