Executive Director John Hannan on Second Quarter Accomplishments

July 7th, 2016

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From the Desk of the Executive Director

John Hannan, Executive DirectorWe are half way through 2016 and, thanks to your support, the impact we have had on the lives of Dominicans and Nicaraguans is incredible. In just the last three months, over 150 Bridges volunteers have helped construct 12 homes, 10 latrines, 5 stoves, perform repairs on 8 houses and provide medical attention to over 700 patients in health posts out in the most rural parts of Nicaragua. Combined with the amazing work from the beginning of the year, we have touched the lives of 2,385 people living across 10 communities.

BUT…We still have a ways to go before reaching our summer goals, so don’t stop reading now!  There are 48 families waiting and hoping we can build them a new home, provide a sanitary latrine, a healthy stove or even just repairs to their current house, and that is why I still need your help to be able to make these families dreams a reality.  Let’s not let them down!

This quarter really has been about families–the families in Nicaragua and the DR whose lives you’ve touched with your support, as well as the families that have grown together through a Bridges trip. Dozens of families have traveled to Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic with Bridges to Community already this year, either as part of larger groups or as their own Friends and Family Group. We hope you’ll read some of their stories about why they do Bridges together, and how it makes them stronger as individuals, and as families.

Looking ahead to the fall, we have several wonderful trips and events coming up and I invite you to join us on at least one of them.  Our NY Young Professionals, NYC Professionals, Fall Business Leaders, and “New Friends” trips each provides a great opportunity to build your network or simply meet new people while engaging in meaningful service projects for families in need. Are you interested in the economics of these countries or just want to know what are the best coffees, chocolate and other retail products to buy?  Come on one of our Fair Trade trips to see how fairly traded coffee and direct trade cacao is produced in the mountains of Nicaragua and cloud forests of the Dominican Republic. While there you will experience the most beautiful landscapes, flora and fauna possible.  These trips echo our commitment to creating sustainable futures for Nicaraguans and Dominicans, and that’s why we’ve partnered with Birds & Beans to promote bird-friendly fairly traded coffee that will give you the best tasting coffee while giving back a fair economic deal to Bridges communities.  I hope you will support this great company and promising collaboration.

And there are fun things to be done at home too. I hope to see you at our 2016 Volunteer Appreciation Picnic next week. This free event is a perfect way for you to meet other Bridges members to swap stories while enjoying a summer barbecue right here at Croton Point Park in New York. There are also two great fundraising events in October that I hope you’ll attend—Raise the Roof in the DC area and Rock the Roundhouse in Toronto.

With your continued support, we hope to see our impact grow even more in the months to come. We thank you for your support, and look forward to all the work yet to come this year.

 

American Council of Engineers Members Volunteer with Bridges to Community

June 7th, 2016

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A New Collaboration with the Peace Corps

June 1st, 2016

Bridges to Community is excited to announce a new collaboration with the US Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic. On April 7th, 2016, Peace Corps Volunteer Bruno Estrada began working with our youth project at the new Youth Center in Derrumbadero, Dominican Republic. Below, Bruno shares a little bit about himself and his impressions of the youth program.


 

1. Introduce yourself and let us know why you decided to join Peace Corps.

My name is Bruno Estrada. I am a 25 year old Peace Corps volunteer serving in the Dominican Republic’s Health Sector. I work on many development projects specifically in the border province of Elias Piña. The biggest project has a goal of building 80 fuel-efficient healthy cook-stoves for our marginalized population. I am also a SUNY Purchase College Alumni- I graduated in 2012. My mother and father migrated to New York City from Colombia and Argentina, respectively, and I was born and raised in Queens, New York. Being raised in a Spanish speaking home, going to school and growing up with friends from diverse backgrounds, and seeing all of the injustice we had to endure were some factors that led to my joining the Peace Corps. However, one of the most influential factors was help from the YMCA of Greater New York’s staff and youth programs, which kept me away from bad influences while teaching me life skills that I did not learn in school. Also extremely influential was my mother, who made sure that I was humble by granting me the opportunity to travel back to her native Colombia. Seeing and experiencing some of the harsh conditions that the majority of the world lives in really influenced how I wanted to live my life. I will forever be thankful.

2. Why did you decide to partner with BTC?

One day while browsing through social media, I found a page where BTC had posted information about the inauguration of its new community center in Derrumbadero. I thought, “how awesome and environmentally conscious.” I decided to reach out to see how we could potentially work together to better both of our communities. After talking with Christina Balint for the first time and meeting the team, I was ecstatic to work with such a dedicated and experienced bunch. We immediately began working on an experimental, fuel efficient, cost effective, and eco-friendly cook-stove, which turned out to be even better than I had anticipated. Seeing everything that I learned from BTC, I decided to dedicate more time to the community and facilitate a PC-BTC work relationship.

3. What was your first impression of the Pre-youth and Youth Committees?

I was blown away by the youth in both Derrumbadero and Caimonial. They were very dynamic during our session and excited for what was to come in the next sessions. Being a Latino male who participated and worked in youth development programs with the YMCA of Greater New York as well as the YMCA of Central and Northern Westchester, not only was I impressed by the youth, but also by how well the staff interacted with these young people. It was refreshing to see invested adults working with marginalized youth and to see how the youth respected and embraced them.

4. Why do you think the youth chose Brigada Verde as their first workshop with PC? Why do you think Brigada Verde is important?

From my experience with BTC-DR’s projects, it seems that they’ve all had a focus on being intertwined with environmental education. When the youth were offered an opportunity to continue with that education, they were interested and eager to share their knowledge and gain more. In this year and a half of service, I have come to understand how the environment and development work are dependent on each other in many ways. Coming from a big city, I know how damaging the over-consumption of a population can be. By explaining to folks who live in rural areas that we need them more than they need us, teaching them how to empower themselves by educating younger generations as well as older ones, and through protecting life-giving resources, we will ensure that the empowerment they are feeling will be secure for future generations.

5. What do you think of the Youth Center made with 50,000 plastic bottles? In what ways do you see it benefiting the community?

The Youth Center is a pillar of progress. Not just because of its progressive method of building for the Dominican people, but also because of the opportunities it grants them just by being there. Having and using a space outside of a formal classroom setting and away from bad influences has been one of the major ways I have avoided systemic oppression. I feel that having this space has created a sense of pride in the youth that I worked with, and most importantly, cultivated a sense of belonging that they may not otherwise have had.

6. What do you hope to see come from this PC-BTC partnership and the joint workshops?

I believe this partnership links the best of both worlds of development. On one hand, you have a wealth of experience that comes from over fifty years of a Peace Corps presence in the Dominican Republic. On the other hand, you have the pioneering spirit of Bridges to Community that links willing individuals with the opportunity to lend a helping hand within a structure whose focus is sustainable empowerment. I hope that eventually we may be able to place a volunteer who can live and work with these communities while continuing to provide youth and community development technical support. The end goal is that the community no longer needs us and is instead leading the workshops we have shared as well as workshops of their own.

7. Is there anything else you would like to share?

Can we expand Bridges to Community to Colombia when I move there? Just a thought…

Celebrating International Day of Families

May 15th, 2016

“The love of a family is life’s greatest blessing.”

 

International-Day-Of-FamiliesHappy International Day of Families! The theme for this year’s Day of Families is “Families, Healthy Lives, and Sustainable Futures”. This comes from the United Nation’s recently approved 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes 17 goals, all aimed at ensuring healthy living and promoting well-being for all.

Bridges to Community is proud to be contributing to many of the 17 goals laid out by the United Nations in its Agenda for Sustainable Development.  In just the first few months of 2016, Bridges volunteers have built 29 houses, performed 2 house repairs, installed 10 latrines and biodigesters, and built 7 smoke-reducing stoves, impacting the lives of 50 families and their communities. 

In honor of this holiday, it’s time to celebrate all of the families in the United States, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic who contribute to our global Bridges community! You can read here about some of the families we’ve helped, with the incredible stories of Idania, Karelia, Margarita and Karla, and Jacqueline and more.

Bridges works to help all types of families by providing a safe and secure home for those in need. With help from dedicated Bridges volunteers, beneficiary families go from living in houses made of rotted wood and tin roofs to houses made of cinder blocks and cement. It may be difficult to understand how life-changing this upgrade can be, but the difference between an unstable shack and a sturdy, weather-proof structure can completely alter the lives of generations to come.

ry=400-2International Day of Families is about more than just celebrating those who share DNA with you- it’s about celebrating all of the people you love, whether they live down the street, across the country, or even on another continent!

Happy World Fair Trade Day

May 13th, 2016

What is World Fair Trade Day?

WFTO_global_rgbThis year, May 14th is the international World Fair Trade Day, with the theme of “Be an agent for change.” This day celebrates Fair Trade farmers, cooperatives and organizations around the world, and is sponsored by the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO). Fair Trade is an ethical way of doing international trade, where the producers of products, such as coffee, chocolate, and tea, are paid a fair wage for their labor.

Bridges to Community’s mission is to create agents for change by facilitating cultural exchanges and sustainable development projects in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. To celebrate World Fair Trade Day, we are announcing our 2016 Fair Trade Trips dates, where you can learn more about fair trade while connecting with communities and growing as an individual. 

Why is fair trade important?

VDA07 0130 coffee 26Fair trade ensures that everyone that contributes to the production of a product–from the farmer to the barista–receives a fair wage for their work. This helps to lift up families, communities, and even countries, creating a more just and equitable world. A major aspect of Fair Trade and the work done by the World Fair Trade Organization is the idea of “trade, not aid.” Rather than funding communities or allowing them to become dependent on an outside source, this organization helps communities to become self sufficient.

Bridges to Community operates with similar goals. Instead of just sending a group to go into a community for a week, building a house, and leaving, Bridges forms relationships with communities, assists in projects that are community-driven, and promotes the communities economic development by establishing a sustainable community fund, which you can read more about hereThe goal for Bridges trips is for volunteers to spend time working alongside the community, not for the community- an important distinction–and to go back home and make important changes in their own communities as agents for change

Bridges to Community, Fair Trade, and You

Bridges offers the opportunity for adults and college students to take Fair Trade Trips. One trip goes to the Dominican Republic and explores the role of cacao in the local economies. Another trip is to Jinotega, the northern region of Nicaragua, where 80% of Nicaragua’s coffee is produced. On these trips, you will be able to experience firsthand the impact of fair trade by seeing how small businesses and cooperatives are working to improve their economic success through trade with other countries. You’ll become educated about the workings of local economic systems and gain a better understanding of our globalized economy.

How can you contribute to Fair Trade?

The first step to making a difference is knowledge. Educate yourself about fair trade and its impacts. A great way to learn about fair trade is to sign up for one of our Fair Trade Trips. We have trips going to the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua in the fall, and can customize a fair trade trip that meets the needs of you and your group for any time of the year. You can also find a multitude of resources on Fair Trade USA’s website (as well as fun giveaways, events, and contests!) and from the World Fair Trade Organization. So, brew up a nice cup of fair trade coffee or tea while you learn about and celebrate World Fair Trade Day!

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2015 Raise the Roof Sponsors

May 10th, 2016

THANKS FOR MAKING OUR 2015 EVENT A HUGE SUCCESS!

SAVE THE DATE FOR OUR 9th ANNUAL EVENT:
Wednesday, October 5, 2016!

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Thank you to our 2015 sponsors!

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Executive Director John Hannan Highlights First Quarter 2016 Achievements

April 8th, 2016

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John Hannan, Executive DirectorFrom the Director's Desk

We are only three months into this year, and already you have helped us accomplish so much in the communities of Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.  Over 380 volunteers traveled with us during this time, including 210 high schoolers, helping construct 25 houses, perform 2 house repairs, install 10 latrines and biodigestors, and build 7 smoke-reducing stoves. In addition, our 3 medical brigades attended to a combined 1,887 patients from the rural communities of Siuna, Nicaragua.

In the Dominican Republic, our enthusiastic youth committees from Caimonial and Derrumbadero have doubled in size, and were ecstatic to break ground on our new housing repairs project there. This project will address 100% of the housing need in Caimonial, creating safe and secure homes by installing new roofs, floors, walls, windows and doors.

On a more somber note, I want to take this opportunity to honor the memory of a long-standing and dedicated Bridges to Community Board Member, supporter, and volunteer, Susan Hadley. Susan will always be remembered by Bridges to Community staff & Board, Nicaraguan medical colleagues, and the residents of the north eastern Nicaraguan communities she volunteered in.  Susan led at least 8 medical delegations to this beautiful but medically under-served region of Nicaragua, giving her time and skills and inspiring medical students and other doctors to come with her and do the same.

As you can see this quarter has been highly successful, but there is still so much more we want, and need, to do this year. We hope you will join us for our annual Leadership Dinner on April 28th, honoring Lisa Kunstadter and 12 remarkable educators.  Funds from the Dinner will directly support the projects we all believe in and want to see happen.  There are so many great volunteer projects and programs for you to be involved with, I know I can count on your support to make them a reality.  Together, we can motivate the volunteer spirit of young and old, turning that unstoppable energy into secure housing, clean water, and access to health and education for the communities we partner with.

SEE WHAT'S NEW WITH BRIDGES

Health Programs

Bridges Honors the Memory of Susan Hadley
It is with a heavy heart that I relay the passing of a long-standing and dedicated Bridges to Community Board Member, supporter, and volunteer, Susan Hadley. READ MORE


 

Nicaragua 2015_TuftsBridges Medical Program Grows in 2016
Bridges to Community's medical brigades attend to over 7,000 Nicaraguans annually, construct dozens of latrines and smoke-reducing stoves, and we continue to expand.   READ MORE


 

Reunión Juvenil de Caimonial (2)Youth Lead Effort for Housing Repairs in DR
Not only have the youth committees doubled since the opening of the new youth center, they have broken ground on their next new project: housing repairs.   LEARN MORE


 

CornellGroupCropped2016Volunteer Highlight: Gabriella's Story
Returning from her service-learning trip with Bridges just last week, Gabriella from Cornell University reflects on her experience and why it was so important.   READ MORE


 

LOOK WHAT'S COMING UP

We hope you will join us at our next event!


Thursday, April 28, Tappan Hill Mansion, Tarrytown, NY
Bridges to Community 2016 Leadership Dinner

Join us as at our annual gala as we honor Lisa Kunstadter and 12 incredible educators for their dedication to Bridges and to serving their communities. Come enjoy good music and company while contributing to positive change in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.  Buy Tickets


Sunday, July 17th, Croton-Point County Park, Croton-on-Hudson, NY
Bridges to Community Volunteer Appreciation Picnic

Our annual volunteer picnic is a great way to reunite with your group, meet other volunteers and Bridges staff, and enjoy a fun summer barbecue. Join us! RSVP


 

Thanks again for making a difference!
Sincerely,
John Hannan


 

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Bridges Honors the Memory of Susan Hadley

April 6th, 2016

Health ProgramsFrom Executive Director John Hannan

It is with a heavy heart that I relay the passing of a long-standing and dedicated Bridges to Community Board Member, supporter, and volunteer, Susan Hadley.

Susan’s professional career was extremely distinguished.   She was a Professor of Medicine in the Division of Geographic Medicine and Infectious Diseases at Tufts University of Medicine.  Her colleagues and family describe her as “a physician of exceptional skill, heart and commitment who was devoted to patients and their families as well as the deeper, sacred obligations of treating human disease.”   Susan began her medical career during the beginning of the AIDS crisis and, most recently, spent a great deal of her time inspiring young physicians to work in global health, and that led her to Bridges to Community.

Susan will always be remembered by Bridges to Community staff, Board, Nicaragua medical colleagues, and the residents of Hormiguero and all the rural communities that surround.  Susan led at least 8 medical delegations to this beautiful but medically under-served region of Nicaragua giving her time, skills and inspiring medical students and other doctors to come with her and do the same.

Susan joined the Bridges Board of Directors in 2012 and was instrumental in guiding our efforts to bring better health care to that region.  She helped guide the process that led to our building a Maternity House for women and their families to receive care before, during and after their pregnancy.  Susan helped establish our Medical health Task Force and spearheaded the effort to build a major clinic that can serve the 20,000 residents of that area.

Literally thousands of rural, indigenous men, women and children are in her debt for increasing health care services in an area most of the world has forgotten.  I believe that people of all faiths and beliefs share a common feeling that we never lose the essence of a person, even when they have passed on from their mortal life, as long as we remember them and celebrate their life through the good deeds we continue to do in their honor.  I know all of us at Bridges to Community, and all the residents of the communities Susan served, will always hold her up as a light and inspiration to do continue her work.

Our thoughts and prayers are with her friends and family at this time of her passing.

To share a memory or express condolences for Susan Hadley and her family, please visit the Legacy Page her family has set up.


 

Es con gran tristeza que yo transmito el paso de una miembra dedicada de la Junta Directiva de Bridges, voluntaria, y partidaria de Bridges durante muchos años, Susan Hadley.

La carrera profesional de Susan fue muy distinguida. Ella era un profesor de Medicina en la División de Medicina geográfica y Enfermedades Infecciosas de la Universidad de Medicina de Tufts. Sus colegas y familiares la describen como “un médico de habilidad excepcional, el corazón y el compromiso que se dedicó a los pacientes y sus familias, así como las obligaciones más profundas y sagradas del tratamiento de la enfermedad humana.” Susan comenzó su carrera médica durante el inicio del SIDA crisis y, más recientemente, pasó gran parte de su tiempo a los médicos jóvenes inspiradores para trabajar en la salud mundial, y que la llevó a Bridges to Community.

Susan siempre será recordado por el personal de Bridges to Community, la Junta Directiva, colegas médicos Nicaragüense, y los residentes de Hormiguero y todas las comunidades rurales que la rodean. Susan fue en 8 delegaciones médicas a este hermoso región de Nicaragua que sufre de no tener bastante servicios medicales.  Ella dio su tiempo y sus habilidades y fue una inspiración a los estudiantes de medicina de y otros médicos que fueran con ella para hacer lo mismo.

Susan se incorporó al Junta Directiva de Bridges en 2012 y fue instrumental en guiar nuestros esfuerzos para lograr una mejor atención médica a esa región. Ella ayudó a guiar el proceso que condujo a nuestra construcción de una Casa de Materna para las mujeres y sus familias para recibir atención antes, durante y después de su embarazos. Susan ayudó a establecer nuestra Equipo de Salud Y Médicos y encabezó el esfuerzo para construir una clínica importante que puede servir a los 20 mil residentes de esa zona.

Literalmente, miles de gente rurales, hombres, mujeres y niños están en deuda d’ella para aumentar los servicios de salud en un área donde lo mayoría del mundo se ha olvidado. Creo que la gente de todas las religiones comparten un sentimiento común de que no se pierde la esencia de una persona, incluso cuando han pasado de su vida mortal, cuando los recordamos y celebramos su vida a través de las buenas acciones que seguimos hacer en su honor. Sé que todos nosotros en Bridges to Community, y todos los residentes de las comunidades Susan sirve, siempre van a sostenerla como una luz y una inspiración para continuar con su trabajo y vision.

Nuestros pensamientos y oraciones están con sus amigos y familia en este momento de su fallecimiento.

Para compartir un recuerdo de Susan o para expresar sus condolencias a su familia, por favor pase a la pagina de Legacy que ha creado su familia.

Bridges Medical Program Grows in 2016

April 4th, 2016

Since its founding, Bridges to Community has been dedicated to the improvement of health and sanitation in the countries where we work. Indeed,
our first projects were providing access to water through well construction. Today, we have expanded our health program to include the construction of health clinics, maternity houses, latrines, and smoke-reducing stoves. Our growing number of medical volunteers currently attend to over 7,000 patients annually.

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Dartmouth volunteers building latrine

"Bridges to Community's health program continues to advance the UN Millennium Goals, and is now contributing to the UN 2015 17 Sustainability Goals," explains Executive Director John Hannan. In particular, Bridges to Community's work furthers the UN Sustainability Goals of ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for people of all ages through our medical brigades, and the goal of clean water and sanitation through the continued construction of latrines and smoke-reducing stoves in the areas that need them most.

CasaMaterna_JadiraFrancisca_Nurse_SiunaIn addition, the construction of the Maternity Home in 2014 in Siuna has provided care to hundreds of expecting and postpartum women--women who live up to a 2-day walk away from a clinic, and who are even further from the local hospital.  This addresses another very important UN Sustainability Goal. Plus, the maternity home has provided Bridges medical brigades, like those of Geisel Medical School at Dartmouth College, Greater Lawrence Family Medicine Residency, Tufts University School of Medicine, University of Nevada School of Medicine at Reno, Wayne State University School of Medicine and more, the opportunity to experience this component of rural health care.

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Tufts Medical Group, 2016

"It's been a really great experience...we've seen the challenges of practicing medicine here, but also the rewards that come from serving this population," related fourth year medical student Ilana on her trip last December with Dartmouth College.  On that trip, over 600 patients were attended to, and medicine was provided to them that would not be available to their communities otherwise. The Dartmouth group also brings pre-medical students who engage in service learning both before, during, and after the trip, and help in the construction of latrines, smoke-reducing stoves, and other health related projects.

Already this year, 3 medical groups have partnered with Bridges to Community, providing medical assistance to almost 2,000 patients throughout several communities, and more are to come.

Nicaragua 2015_Tufts"Bridges' model for medical brigades has evolved in recent years through discussions with our US and Nicaraguan partners," explains John Hannan. "We now send almost all of our medical teams to one location where their collective work can build on each other, creating a sustainable model of community health care with on-going care and consistency of services."

Bridges to Community's medical brigades are currently working with the rural communities of Siuna, and Bridges wants to expand our health program to meet the dire needs of these communities. Look for new and exciting updates about volunteer and construction opportunities coming in the near future  plans to expand our reach shortly with 

These opportunities will allow for our medical partners to expand the attention they are already providing, and strengthen our cross-cultural relationships.

For more information on how you can get involved with our Medical Brigade or service-learning program, our upcoming health initiatives, or more, please contact our Development Officer Jeanine Racioppo at development@bridgestocommunity.org.

Youth Group Leads Effort for Housing Repairs in DR

April 1st, 2016

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The pre-teen committee poses in front of the youth center

Everyday, Victor Carrasco sees more students come through the doors of the youth center. Victor is Bridges to Community's Community Coordinator in the Dominican Republic, and he was astonished to see the numbers of youth committee members double in the last three months.

One great motivator for this has been the new youth center, which provides after school classes, recreation area, and space to hold committee meetings for the youth of both Derrumbadero and Caimonial, the communities where Bridges to Community works.  Another motivator has been the new housing repairs project that the youth committees worked hard to prepare for, and which broke ground in March of this year.

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Dinavia and her family

The youth of both communities helped to lead workshops with community members about the housing repairs project, which will repair 54 homes in the community of Caimonial, addressing 100% of the housing need there.  The Lahn Family and Friends group arrived at the end of March to help break ground on the project, and the youth committees were the first in line to greet them.  The first two housing repair beneficiaries were Valentina, her husband and five children, and Dinavia and her husband and four children. The repairs for the houses consisted of new doors and windows to improve the security of the house, replacing rotting wood and rusty tin roofs, and painting the facade.

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The Lahn Group in front of Dinavia's completed house

More than pleased with the results, the youth committees are anxious to begin repairs on the rest of the homes.  "It's been incredible to see how involved and excited the kids are. They were part of the planning and preparation for this project, and now they're finally seeing the fruits of their labor--with the first two houses complete," commented DR Country Co-Director, Christina Balint. "We're all excited to continue the project."