Nicaraguan American Nurses Association (NANA)
The organization was founded in 1996 with the intention of supporting the professional efforts of Nicaraguan nurses in Miami and to formalize their assistance to communities in Nicaragua. Most members of this organization are immigrants from the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua, although the organization includes nurses from different countries of origin and specialities.
The history of NANA is intertwined with a strong tradition of nursing services related to the missionaries projects in the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua to bring health services into the communities of that region in earlier centuries. Their efforts were particularly intense in frontier areas of Honduras and Nicaragua.
In Nicaragua, the missionaries were very active in the locality of Bilwaskarma which is separated from Honduras by a river (rio Coco) and the most populated areas of Puerto Cabazas and Bluefields. A turning point came about with the establishment of The Moravian School of Nursing in Puerto Cabezas in the 1930s. Areleene Bloomsield, founder and first president of NANA, and some other members are originally from Bilwaskarma.
Most members of the organization have been in the United States for more than a decade and they have been working as registered nurses in South Florida for many years.
The members of NANA tend to reside in northern areas of Greater Miami including borderland areas of Miami-Dade County and Broward County. NANA members tend to live and the organization operates from those areas which are not the ones where most Nicaraguans have settled in the county (such as Sweetwater, Little Havana, and several areas within the South West). And they have very little interaction with Nicaraguan groups from the Pacific who reside elsewhere in Greater Miami.
In general, most leaders of the organizations are not aware of the existence of most of the other organizations, while those who know each other generally exhibit a weak pattern of collaboration.
However, the pattern of sociogeographical “distance” among the populations from the Pacific and the Atlantic regions of Nicaragua in Miami-Dade County has deep historical roots.
It is indicative of the historical resonance of the different colonial experiences to which the populations of these regions were exposed. Differences in terms of linguistic and overall cultural backgrounds followed the colonial experience, as well as different patterns of power configurations and other social characteristics that find a reflection among Nicaraguan-origin groups in South Florida today.
Interestingly enough, the modus operandi of the Nicaraguan American Nurses Association and its close partner, the Women’s Group from the Community Presbyterian Church, has bridged the Pacific-Atlantic gap insofar as NANA’s health-care-centered transnational projects target poor populations of the Managua-Masaya-Granada corridor.
Existing personal networks related to kinship relations with Nicaraguans involved in voluntary activities in this corridor have played a key role in directing NANA’s efforts toward specific population groups in those areas.
The Women’s Group from the Community Presbyterian Church and the Vincetinas Connection
The Nicaraguan American Nurses Association works in close partnership with the Women’s Group from the Community Presbyterian Church. Many members of NANA also belong to the Church group.
The partnership in question has been built upon social networks that have been forged through kinship, professional and other types of relationships.
For example, the leader of the women’s group, Erlinda Brown, is the sister of the president of NANA. Although women have strong leadership positions in these organizations, their husbands and other family members contribute to them and they also become actively involved in coordination efforts.
The focus of these organizations on areas of the Pacific has been established in coordination with the Volunteer Order of the Vicentinas.
This triple link (NANA-Women’s Group-Vicentinas) originated in a personal connection after the daughter of Erlinda Brown married a son of one of the Vicentinas and found out about the humanitarian projects they had in Nicaragua, and then encouraged their relatives in South Florida to assist them.
NANA, Women’s Group from the Community Presbyterian Church and the Vicentinas eventually created the conditions for the advancement of transnational projects focused on the provision of humanitarian assistance, mainly related to health care.
Their efforts have relied on an extensive transnational network that has been built through family and friendship ties and networks and commitments forged through a professional community and a religious community.
They have organized several medical missions to Nicaragua as well as systematic shipments of remittances and basic medicines for specific projects. During their medical missions to Nicaragua, these organizations tend to focus on marginal neighborhoods and rural areas in Managua, Masaya, and Granada.
Some members of these organizations have personal links in the Atlantic Coast and assist with remittances and through other means but their organized efforts center in areas of the Pacific.
NANA celebrates a fundraising event every year in early May as part of the celebration of Nurses Day in the United States. This is one of their main sources of monetary donations but they also receive monetary and other material types of donations from Churchgoers, the medical institutions with which they are affiliated, as well as other sources.
Thus, several factors explain NANA and its partners’ ability to maintain their efforts and even expand them throughout the years:
- They have a highly educated and professionally-oriented leadership that has been able to strategize the mobilization of resources by virtue of their membership in various social networks.
- The effectiveness of their strategies has heavily relied on the strong commitment of their leaders and their family members, friends and colleagues with the goals of the organizations.
- They have developed their humanitarian assistance and health care-centered projects in Nicaragua by accessing materials resources available in South Florida and with the assistance of a trusted devoted partner in Nicaragua, the Volunteer Order of the Vicentinas.
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* The author appreciates the interviews granted by the leaders of the organizations and some members during her research in South Florida and Nicaragua and the supporting logistics and materials provided by them.