Plena Conciencia - Mindfulness and Service in Nicaragua
Updated: Nov 25
Why Nicaragua? Because of this amazing group of health care workers at the Roberto Clemente Health Clinic. This not-for-profit clinic serves thousands in a remote and challenging area north of the city of Rivas.
Our days were filled with learning, sharing, and caring led by the clinic’s incredible team of dedicated professionals. In addition to offering the only 24/7 clinic in the area, they also provide the only ambulance service. The clinic supports more than 400 organic community gardens as a tool for teaching nutrition and healthy eating habits to local gardeners. They also have their own water purification system and they deliver jugs of clean water to schools and clinics on a weekly basis.
As part of our service work in Nicaragua, volunteers were invited to present a topic to the Roberto Clemente team, sharing our knowledge and passion for health, healing, and wellness. Dr. Hernando Garzon from the Kaiser Permanente system presented a lecture on Global Health: Past, Present, and Future. Recently retired Mayo Clinic neurosurgeon Dr. Ron Reimer educated us on the use of Medical Acupuncture in post surgical treatment. And Dr. Roxanne Pike from Mayo Clinic updated the staff on protocols for newborn resuscitation.
My presentation was scheduled for 8:00 a.m. on the last day of our visit. When I asked clinic director Dr. José Mosquera if Mindfulness and Gentle Yoga would be of interest, his answer was an enthusiastic, “yes!”
I presented bilingually, so that both volunteers and clinic staff could participate. As a former high school Spanish teacher, teaching meditation and yoga "en español" is my version of Nirvana, allowing me to combine my two passions into one integrated whole. I worked diligently the weeks before our trip, translating my Mindfulness powerpoints, getting advice from native speakers on vocabulary usage, and of course, wrapping my tongue around the rolling of rrrrrs and latin vowel sounds. The staff was grateful to learn how formal meditation changes the way our brain works by encouraging focus and concentration in the "Now" and reducing stress. We also learned an informal practice to pull out of our pocket when life is challenging that I call “Bajar el Nivel de Estrés in Tres Pasos.”
We ended with Mindful Yoga – allowing the feeling of moving to be our present moment anchor, connecting with our bodies through the doorway of awareness and practicing good self-care.
As part of our follow up, we're scheduling Zoom sessions in the very near future to practice both Yoga and Meditation. Stay tuned for Meditations in Spanish coming soon on both my website and the Insight Timer app.
Day Two we took the clinic on the road, setting up in a local restaurant space to reach the most rural patients who arrived by foot, on horseback, and by oxcart! The day was filled with community, health, and healing. The staff are veterans of remote clinic work and within minutes they had triaged the patients crowding the restaurant door, while setting up areas for intake and a variety of treatments. The concrete slab next to the back door became the pharmacy where patients delivered hand written notes on scraps of paper in exchange for a small, compostable bag filled with the medicines their doctor had prescribed.
About midway through the day, I gathered several local children to share yoga and movement – a new experience for most of them and my first opportunity to teach Children’s Yoga en español. We breathed like Montañas, twirled like Huracanes, twinkled in 5 pointed Estrella, and gazed toward new horizons in Guerrero Dos.
As we ended our practice, hands in Anjali Mudra, the smiles and laughter of the children reflected the meaning of the word Namaste - an honoring of each other, our connections, and the oneness that defines being human when we slow and down and show up in presence.
Thanks to a generous donation from Dr. Ben Romenesko, DDS (my oldest son), I distributed 80 pediatric toothbrushes at the remote clinic that afternoon, complete with oral hygiene instruction “en español.”
For many of the children, it was their first toothbrush.
Service has always been a priority in my life. I previously participated in 2 service projects in Nicaragua interpreting for PINCC (Prevention International No Cervical Cancer) in Leon and Laguna de Perla. I was the primary blogger for a service trip to India with Dining for Women, visiting existing projects in the cities of Ajmer and Ranchi. I volunteered for4 years at Core El Centro teaching bilingual yoga and interpreting for acupuncture clients and have taught Mindfulness and tutored Spanish with Future Urban Leaders (my youngest son Ross's not-for profit) in Milwaukee. Each time I show up, I receive more than I give. I am already looking forward to deepening my relationship with The Roberto Clemente Clinic through Zoom meditations and instruction and am already anticipating a return trip in 2023.
To donate or to learn more about The Roberto Clemente Health Clinic, please visit: https://nicaclinic.org/
Together we are better.
*Photos by Chip Duncan used with permission - Copyright 2022 - The Duncan Group, Inc. - All Rights Reserved