First Nicaragua Blogpost - SO FAR, VERY GOOD!!!
I am so pleased to announce that I have received a $10,000 grant from the Christianson InterExchange Grant, which is truly a blessing. I was at first reluctant to take a year off after graduating to volunteer but this is a sure sign of a successful move. I have been down here in Managua for about 3 weeks now and everyday I wake up feeling more and more at home. As I get to know the community members, and the other volunteers I am working with, I feel more situated and inspired to improve the health, education, financial and social hurdles many of these people face. While many of you think I might just be working as a nurse, I am actually working on a lot of different programs, which is super fun and diverse! Here they are:
- English Level 2: MPI runs five English classes spanning five levels that serve adults, teenagers and children, and I teach English level 2. All English programs meet at the community center in Cedro Galan. Holding theseclasses in the late afternoon/evening provides opportunities for individuals to further their education following school or work. I have found this to be a lot more challenging than I thought since I am teaching 98% of it in Spanish (and I am working on my Spanish skills myself!). I know sometimes the students get frustrated with me because I can’t explain all the grammar clearly, but it is definitely a skill I am hoping to work on. I have most definitely have a new found respect for all my teachers!!
- Child Sponsorship: MPI has developed a child sponsorship program to address undernourishment in children ages 0-5 who live outside the city dump. Working in Villa Guadalupe, MPI seeks out and matches each child with a financial sponsor in the U.S. MPI currently has 50 children in the program that receive milk formula, vitamins, and oatmeal/cereal on a monthly basis at Milk Day. PDs are responsible for visiting families in their homes throughout the month to address any health/family concerns. Other PD responsibilities include building trust and maintaining relationships, writing to sponsors, and organizing monthly Milk Day. I have had a really great time working on establishing my relationships with the children/families I visit each week. With such vulnerable population that faces many financial, health and social issues (domestic abuse being a large one), I have been working on creating a trusting and supportive relationship. Once I develop that, I believe I can be more valuable to the families and hopefully aid them in some health and social concerns. *We are currently looking for more child sponsors if you are interested. It is $20 a month and truly makes a difference in a child’s life! E-mail me at email@example.com if you are!
- Women’s Exercise and Nutrition: This program works to increase the physical, mental, and emotional health in the women of Cedro Galan. It uses a mix of cardio, weight and strength exercises to increase fitness and promote a healthy, active lifestyle. PDs also address poor nutrition through lessons and cooking classes. PDs are responsible for developing exercise routines, planning nutrition lessons, and other activities outside.
- Girls’ Health: Our health programs target pre-teen and teenage students at the local public school. We hold classes for both boys and girls on a variety of topics ranging from goal setting to human development sexual health to basic nutrition. The goal of this program is to give students a safe place to talk openly about sensitive issues that affect them on a daily basis. PDs are responsible for developing curriculum, administering classes, and working in conduction with school administration and faculty to further the program.
- Jewelry Cooperative: The jewelry cooperative began in the summer of 2012 after MPI received a grant from Walmart to begin a women’s empowerment program targeted at financial independence. Throughout the fall of 2012, the cooperative took shape a s legalized Nicaraguan cooperative with a governing board and core of approximately 20 women. The coop received full legal status in June 2013. There are currently 17 women working in the coop, and we are in the process of welcoming 8 more women. The current president of the coop is a local Nicaraguan woman. PDs are responsible for working with the women to run a success coop by organizing orders, purchasing supplies, managing payments, organizing materials, managing different markets, and a collection of other oddJOBS. Currently, we give the women materials to make jewelry every Wednesday. They have space to work in at our MPI house, but they do a lot of jewelry making at home. Each woman can make up to $100USD monthly.
- Business Development: The business development program has recently been redesigned and now targets community members within Cedro Galan. PDs approach already established businesses, such as ventas (small home-based stores), as well as members with solid business ideas. PDs help members establish a business plan an teach the members important principles to follow. Small loans are then distributed and are expected to be paid back following an agreed upon timeline. PDs are expected to provide guidance to loan recipients, collect payments, and look for new potential loan recipients.
- Cedro Health: The Cedro Health Clinic opened in October 2013. The clinic provides affordable primary care to our community for only 20 cordobas (less than $1.00 USD) for a consultation and medication. Our Doctor, Wendy, and Nurse, Selma, work for the clinic three days a week. Selma also works as our community health promotor. The Cedro Health program also includes a Generation class, where youth 12-18 interested in a career in health progressions are able to learn about healthcare and different biological and medical topics. PDs who take part in this program are expected to work in the clinic conducting intakes or basic vital signs, accompany the nurse on community walks, and plan lessons for the Generation class. Furthermore, I will be helping launch a health promotion and education project, focusing on preventative health measure and community outreach.
- I am also working with Lacrosse The Nations (LTN), a program for children in these underserved communities. LTN is a great way to run around with kids, but to also provide them with a real curriculum that focuses on respect and etiquette on and off the field.
Lastly, I am very happy to announce that we are opening another clinic in Villa Guadalupe (formerly known as La Chureca). The people living in this area face many heath concerns, namely respiratory and parasite issues, as their community is just aside the municipal dump. I am really excited to get involved with health promotion projects in the community with the local health promotor.
Overall, I have been challenged so far by balancing all the different projects, yet I know all of them are vital to holistic community development and all support each other in special ways. It is important for the community to be well educated, healthy, and financially stable. By addressing the triple bottom line the MPI Program Directors and I are challenging the status quo and hoping to create true change in the lives of many. This is going to be a great year and I am very excited to see how the year will progress. While I face many challenges, all in a foreign language, my heart is in the right place and with that passion and inspiration from those around me, I hope to be apart of the change that so desperately needs to come.
Paz y amor for now and be sure to tune in for more updates!