A bi-lingual and bi-cultural group of people with a global vision

and strong local ties.


Comunidad Connect was founded in 2007 by Jon Thompson and Roman Yavich in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. Jon was directing a local education foundation and Roman was conducting research on the impact of tourism development on a Fulbright grant. Their shared interest in contributing to community and economic development in Nicaragua led to the formation Comunidad Connect, a social enterprise that combines sustainable tourism with bottom-up development work.


From the beginning, Comunidad Connect has worked with local residents and leaders, public institutions and the private sector to identify development priorities to which to attract resources in Nicaragua and from abroad. Working on a shoestring budget, with small grants, volunteers, and key donors, Comunidad Connect restored a neglected community space into a bustling multi-use recreational facility coined the San Juan del Sur Sports Park, and launched San Juan del Sur’s first municipal recycling program.


Comunidad Connect, in partnership with the Nicaraguan sister-organization Sociedad Civil Comunidad Connect, which was formed in 2012, works with groups of volunteers and students on service learning trips through the Cultural Connections program. The revenue from this program enabled CC to expand its community development work that now includes rural healthcare access and a major water filter project. With the recently built rural health clinic providing primary care to thousands of Nicaraguans, we can be proud of far we’ve come, and look forward to how much more we will do.



Community Projects and Nica Agua Manager

Yarisleidy was born and raised in San Juan del Sur and graduated from highschool as validvictorian, after having presented her thesis entitled "The Ecological Culture of Nicaragua".  She continued that trend by graduating at the top of her class at UPOLI University with a degree in Business Administration.  She started with Comunidad Connect by managing the El Teson initiative; Today, she manages the emblematic Nica Agua project and is Director of Community Development.


Sports Program Manager

Alejandro was born in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua in 1979 and early on demonstrated tremendous ability as a baseball player. After 7 years of playing in the amateur baseball leagues as a teenager, he started his

professional baseball career.  He eventually became an all-star pitcher for the national team representing Nicaragua on an international level. Alejandro traveled to Venezuela, U.S.A., and Holland to play against the world’s best teams. After a career-ending injury in late 2006, he was hired by Comunidad Connect to manage our youth development and athletic program.



Originally from Jinotega, Maria graduated with a degree in Public Accounting and Finance from the Universidad Popular de Nicaragua- Jinotega in 2005. She also has a diploma in Social Psychology from the Servicio Internacional de Educación, Hogar y Salud S.A in Managua. She has worked in community projects PCI- Nicaragua, Jinotega Global Village Association, Intermon, OXFAM, AECID, and in companies such CARUNA-Jinotega, SARET of Costa Rica SA, Cooperativa Coomulfac RL, J & M FAMILY COFFEE and in the Jinotega Municipal Government. Since January of 2017 has worked as the Accountant and Human Resource office for Comunidad Connect.



Roxana Úbeda was born in Jinotega, Nicaragua and is currently studying systems engineering. She was introduced to Comunidad Connect by her sister-in-law 3 years ago, and has been officially a member of the team now for over a year now. She values the opportunity to learn to work and study at the same time, and for her personal and professional development.



Enma was born in San Rafael del Norte in the Department of Jinotega. She studied banking services at INTAE Jinotega and Professional Nursing at UNAN Managua at the La Trinidad Esteli campus. She just recently received her public health license from UNAN Managua. Enma started working with CC in the Los Robles Clinic in October, 2017.



Dr. Reeder Lanzas was born in Leon, Nicaragua where he and his family lived until they moved to Jinotega when he was 6 years old. Dr. Reeder’s mother is a dentist and his father is a licensed nurse, so from a young age he grew up in the “world of the health”. Dr. Reeder constantly heard his parents speaking about their work and the importance of helping others to improve their health. For this reason, he chose to study dentistry and graduated from the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua – Leon. He has been working as Comunidad Connect’s dentist, providing treatment and education to rural communities in Jinotega since July 2016. Dr. Reeder also runs his own private dental clinic.


Sports Park Cuidador​

Jose Enrique Acevedo Cruz was born in Nandaime, Nicaragua. He joined the CC team in July 2017 as the cuidador of the Sports Park in San Juan Del Sur. Jose is very dedicated to his position and is always available for work. .



Co-Founder/Board Chair

Born and raised in Atlanta, GA, Jon graduated from Centre College in Danville, KY in 1997 with a B.A. in History.  He first visited Nicaragua in 1998 and returned every year thereafter.  In 2002, Jon obtained his Masters of Social Work with a concentration in Community Development from Georgia State University. Jon and his Nicaraguan wife moved to live in San Juan del Sur full time in 2005, where Jon met Roman Yavich and founded Comunidad Connect in 2006. After working as volunteer Executive Director for 5 years, Jon moved on to serve as Board President.


Director of Cultural Connections

Kelly Vlaskamp is native to Houston, Texas and graduated from Knox College in Illinois with a double major in Spanish and Sociology. As an undergraduate, she studied in Barcelona, Spain and Buenos Aires, Argentina. She has worked in programs serving unresourced communities in Mexico, Paraguay as well as in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, which were the experiences that sparked her passion for international community development. Before beginning her work with Comunidad Connect, Kelly worked on public health and sanitation projects in rural communities in the Dominican Republic and most recently worked with Bridges to Community in Nindirí, Nicaragua where she organized and led sustainable community development projects. With Bridges Kelly worked on housing, latrine, and reforestation projects, as well as hosted brigades of North American volunteers.


Assistant to the CEO

Adam was born in Athens, Georgia but grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina. After graduating from the University of North Carolina Wilmington (2016) with a B.S. in Business Administration, he joined the CC team in March of 2017 for a marketing internship. He now holds a full-time position as the assistant to the CEO as well as facilitating marketing efforts.



Austin received a B.A. from Rollins College in 1999, and returned to New York City to begin a career in the real estate arena. He soon became a founding partner in a firm specializing in property acquisition and restoration. In 2005, he migrated west to continue his real estate education at UCLA, where he turned his focus to sustainable development. After several years of exploring progressive building techniques, Austin and his wife moved to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, where they founded, Casa de Tierra, a natural building firm that furthers a global effort to integrate environmentally responsible building materials into the construction industry. Austin soon began partnering with Comunidad Connect on projects, including the eco-construction of a bathroom for a schoolhouse in a rural community, and joined the board in 2010.


Michelle earned an English degree from Rollins College in 1998, and returned to her hometown of NYC to work as a Producer at VOGUE magazine. She eventually left publishing and moved westward to parlay her print experience into a production career in film and television in Los Angeles. In 2005, she and her husband made their first trip to Nicaragua, and fell in love with the vibrancy and authenticity of San Juan del Sur. They slowly transitioned their lives to Central America, where they dedicated their time to establishing a natural building firm, Casa de Tierra, believing that sustainable development answers the need for effective, efficient, and affordable housing. Michelle proudly joined the board of Comunidad Connect in 2014.


Mathew Mendonca spends his summers fighting forest fires in his home state of Oregon as a smokejumper. During the winters he has had the opportunity to travel in Latin America, and in 2010 he found himself in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, and began to collaborated with CC. He originally started as a Comunidad Connect volunteer, where Mathew co-founded and piloted the Nica Agua program. Mathew serves on the Strategic Planning committee.


Brandon Pittman is a Senior Developer, Trainer, and Director of Business Development for Teksouth Corporation's Huntsville Office, and currently resides in Madison, Alabama. With a technology degree in Computer Information Systems from Athens State University in 2003, Brandon has held many positions across multiple organizations in the defense industry. He got involved with Comunidad Connect after a visit to Finca el Peten and San Juan del Sur during a vacation in 2010 and has been an active board member since 2011. Brandon currently serves as the Vice Chair for Comunidad Connect. He is also a licensed Foster and Adoptive Parent in Madison County Alabama and enjoys spending time with his family, riding his motorcycle, and youth ministry in the ELCA Southeastern Synod.


For more than ten years, Kristine has worked in the development field as a fundraiser, writer, field photographer, graphic designer and knowledge management specialist on major international projects. Before starting her own media consultation company, she created a multi-media communications campaign for UNICEF's emergency program in the Philippines, incorporating content from 12 INGO partners. Kristine’s passion is giving a voice to growing organizations who make an impact on global suffering, regardless of their size or access to resources. She officially joined the board in March 2018.


Carey was born and raised in a small coastal community in Northern California. She received her BA in Education from Emory College, and MBA from Emory’s Goizueta Business School. In her time at Goizueta, she traveled to Nicaragua with CommunidadConnect, where she was inspired by with the nation’s people, natural beauty, and collective community focus. She currently serves as Vice President for Strategy & Execution at SunTrust Bank driving enterprise strategy and transformational change initiatives. Prior to SunTrust, Carey was an Alumni Relations Manager for EY, leading development and delivery of the US alumni engagement strategy.


Leslie was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. After graduating from Syracuse University Leslie moved to Los Angeles where he worked in commercial real estate before joining the US Peace Corps. Leslie served as a Peace Corps Volunteer for 3 years while living in the department capital of Rivas in Nicaragua. He taught entrepreneurship to high school students and implemented various initiatives to support personal & professional development, financial planning, and leadership amongst locals.. Currently residing in San Juan del Sur, Leslie is an active real estate investor and consultant.


Dan is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, The George Washington University Law School, and Emory University's Goizueta Business School where he studied Entrepreneurship and Finance. An experienced negotiator, strategist, and adviser, he is a valuable new addition to our Board of Directors. Dan’s experience includes managing complex transactions, compliance projects and corporate governance in the United States and international markets. In his spare time, he enjoys fishing, flying (he holds a private pilot's license), and hiking in the North Georgia mountains


Born and raised in Atlanta, GA, Jon graduated from Centre College in Danville, KY in 1997 with a B.A. in History. He first visited Nicaragua in 1998 and returned every year thereafter. In 2002, Jon obtained his Masters of Social Work with a concentration in Community Development from Georgia State University. Jon and his Nicaraguan wife moved to live in San Juan del Sur full time in 2005, where Jon met Roman Yavich and founded Comunidad Connect in 2006. After working as volunteer Executive Director for 5 years, Jon moved on to serve as Board President.


Ben Thrower M.D. is a neurologist and has served as the Medical Director of the Andrew C. Carlos MS Institute at Shepherd since 2001. Prior to that, he served as Medical Director of the Holy Family MS Center in Spokane, Washington. Dr. Thrower is the Senior Medical Advisor to the MS Foundation and has served on the boards of the Consortium of MS Centers and the Georgia Chapter of the National MS Society. He is the recipient of the Norm Cohn Hope Chest Award from the National MS Society and was the first physician inductee into the Georgia Chapter Volunteer Hall of Fame. He co-authored Navigating Life with MS and is the principal investigator on many clinical MS studies.


Born and Raised in Jupiter, Florida, Karen attended college at Florida State University where she received her B.S. in biology. After receiving medical training from the University of Florida College of Medicine, she completed her pediatric residency in San Antonio at Wilford Hall USAF Medical Center. A tour of duty with the Air Force led her to reach the rank of major until her obligation was completed in 1995. After a trip to Nicaragua in 2014, Karen and her husband, Ben, immediately felt a connection with the people. This has led to a commitment of supporting the people of Los Robles, to introducing their experiences to their friends, colleagues, and family, many of whom have joined them on medical mission trips. She looks forward to continuing the goals of improving the quality of health and life for the wonderful people of Los Robles. Karen now practices general pediatrics and works part-time for a private practice in Marietta, GA

Become a piece of the puzzle.



San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua-Frente a Farmacia Comunitaria/ Jinotega, Nicaragua-Bancentro Lafise Central, cuadra y media al oeste, Barrio Omar García

Tel: 011-(505) 2782-2434


Comunidad Connect / PO Box 1687 Madison, Alabama 35758

Tel: 404-444-9147

©2014 COMUNIDAD CONNECT - Registered 501 (c)(3) organization