Amanda Eastwood has been working as a program assistant for Grounds for Health on the ground in Nicaragua since May. Recently, she travelled with the vice president of one of the co-ops Grounds for Health works with, to visit women in the co-op’s communities. The following is her account of that experience; a glimpse into some of Grounds for Health’s on-site work:
La Dalia is a small, charming town in the department of Matagalpa, Nicaragua located roughly – in terms of ‘generally speaking’ and the state of the treacherous dirt ‘highway’ leading there – two hours north of my home base in the city of Matagalpa. It is also the main site of a pilot project I currently focus most of my energies on. In collaboration with the Union of Agribusiness Cooperatives (UCA) branch in La Dalia, we’ve trained a solid force of community health promoters from the nearly twenty participating cooperative communities to return to their communities and share the lessons learned with their peers.
In the name of solidarity, a deeply rooted Nicaraguan value, co-op vice-president and inspirational figure Lucia and I have been visiting each and every of the communities to assist the promoters in sharing the good news of free cervical cancer screening services. Following the meeting, the women choose a date to all go together for their screening. Each woman receives a form with her name and other pertinent information on it to be turned in to the nurse at her appointment; a source of information that enhances the data I’m collecting at each participating health center.
Lucia, a mother, spouse, university student and coffee/community building/health promoting professional is an absolute warrior. At the ripe age of 23, she has taught me a thing or 500 about rural farming life, grass roots community development, leadership, getting the job done with strength and grace, and finally, generosity and friendship. Over the course of our last month spending two or three work days a week together forging the wilderness and the long held fears and taboos around reproductive health, she has proven to be one of the strongest links in my chain and one of my greatest sources of friendship and inspiration.
To provide a snippet of context, Nicaragua fought a civil war in the 1980’s where not only men but women and youth alike participated in the gruesome realities of battle in order to survive and progress as a nation and society. This important layer of recent history is still very present in every day sites, events and culture of the Nicaraguan people. I’ve been daily inspired by the inner strength of the women in these communities. While many rural farming women I’ve worked with previously in other places and cultures are timid and very slow to warm up to me, many of the women in these small villages have confidently spoken up in our community meetings with questions, comments, opinions and ideas. They are spunky and bold, blowing me away during each cooperative visit. While my days in La Dalia often begin for me with catching the two hour 6 a.m. bus followed by an hour and a half walk or horseback ride into the mountain communities and eventually end returning home, muddy, sweaty and exhausted around 6 or 7 PM, they are, without a doubt, my favorite.