Doña Ángela, a founding member of the brigadistas, shows volunteers how to dry coffee. Photo Credit: Kristine Wager, http://kwmediaconsulting.com/
Los Robles is a small farming community in the mountains of northern Nicaragua. A collection of rolling hills and bumpy dirt roads, wide-eyed cows and even wider-eyed children, this is the community I call home. As I read on the porch of my host family’s home, there’s plenty of time to observe the going-ons of this quiet town. The one thing that has caught my attention, and continues to amaze me, are the women of Los Robles. I watch women pass with loads of firewood that would make my legs tremble. They carry them with sure steps and determined faces, already envisioning how they will delicately tend the fire and, with it, feed their children. I watch as mothers carry one child on their hip, three in tow, as they make their way to the health clinic across the street. They are the first line of defense, the whisperers in the night, the calmers of fever and the wipers of tears. From my porch I look on as women slowly pass up and down the main road, and my gaze drifts to my host mother.
She is a member of the local network of health care volunteers, or ‘brigadistas.’ This group of twelve women (and one adolescent male) is the key to our success in Los Robles. Through the network of brigadistas, Comunidad Connect is able to partner with the community to address the needs it identifies. The brigadistas also help us spread preventative health messages and encourage families to volunteer time to better their community. These women are leaders in Los Robles. They have earned the respect of their community and are trusted to make decisions every day that impact the health and well being of their peers. They are an inspiration to foreign and local volunteers who have never seen such dedication and success from a group that is driven not by monetary gain, but by a passion for service.
The team of brigadistas shows off the new uniforms they raised money to purchase.
My gaze drifts to my host mother and I am struck by her strength. And as she tends to her husband and son-in-law, while cooing to her newest grandson as his sister looks on, I realize that just like Comunidad Connect, my host mother is in the business of empowerment. She and the women of Los Robles have empowered me to focus less on what my body looks like and more on what it can do for my family, my friends and my community. These women inspire me to proudly use my intelligence to reach people in ways that overcome our limited resources. The women in this community assume the responsibilities of womanhood, but challenge the limiting notions of what women are capable of achieving.
Women are mothers; women are givers; women are providers. Women are powerful; women are intelligent; women are leaders. Women are the agents of change and the managers of chaos. Women are the quiet strength of Los Robles.
Theresa's host mother Doña Alba and her daughter Keyling during a presentation for the brigadistas.