The Vicentinas in Nicaragua

The Role of the Vicentinas in the Transnational Projects

Blessing ceremony for the medical facility sponsored by the Vicentinas and other volunteer groups

Martina Bolaños, Vice President of the Asociación Internacional de Caridades and Mercedes Bolaños Martínez, Nacional President of Voluntarias Vicentinas in Nicaragua (a Laic association founded in 1617 by San Vicente de Paul in France) mentioned that the Vicentinas have more than 150 thousand volunteers in 21 countries, including 22 in Managua.

When asked about the impact of the associations from Miami, they emphasized their links to the Women’s Group from the Community Presbyterian Church and NANA. In addition, they mentioned that the Nicaraguan American Foundation had assisted them with the distribution of medical and school materials in poor communities.

The Vicentinas have logistically supported the summer volunteer programs and other activities of NANA and the Women’s Group. It has facilitated the provision of dental and dermatology services, general medicine doctors, and pediatric services in poor rural areas, small towns, and neighborhoods targeted by them.

Portrait of a Voluntary Worker

The devoted efforts of the Vicentinas tend to be neglected. Occasionally, they receive some public recognition (like the media profile shown on the left, devoted to recognize the work of Mercedes Bolaños) but such profiles do not necessarily translate into the channeling of donations for the clinics and other community projects that they support.

The sustained partnership between the Vincentinas, NANA and the Women’s Group from the Community Presbyterian Church have allowed them to take care of population groups who live in marginal areas of Managua, as well as other cities and groups who usually live 10 to 20 kilometers away from a health care institution.

A working session of the volunteer physicians and other volunteers at the Dispensario

Martina and Mercedes Bolaños mention that the communities they work with are so poor that it is hard to even raise 100 dollars locally. They also mention that these efforts have become more difficult in recent years due to lack of support from local government entities, such as municipalities, which used to support their projects.

They organize raffles where they sell local crafts and other items and they gather some money out of these efforts which they use to support the medical facilities or specific projects. A raffle producing $50 dollars is considered a good one.

Raffle organized by the Vicnetinas and other voluntary workers to raise funds

They have secured 500 dollars every six month from South Florida through the Women’s Group from the Community Presbyterian Church. This amount arrives punctually and is used to maintain the clinics of a medical center which is being built with the support of these organizations.

Part of the money is also used for the health center at the Diez y Ocho de Mayo neighborhood which has a dentist clinic and for a health care facility that they also support at the Pedro Joaquín Chamorro neighborhood in Managua.  The Women’s Group and NANA also bring basic medicines and school supplies, toys and other items during the medical missions.

The Vicentinas assist in strategizing the provision of health care in the small town (Comarca) of Los Altos, the municipality of Nindirí, in Masaya (these include the poor areas known as El Cocal, San Joaquín, and El Calvarito de San Jerónimo).

They explain the need for this kind of support in the following terms: “The national Social Security system of Nicaragua does not cover the people of these poor communities. It only assists people who are working or have worked. Even retirees do not receive all the medical services, just some services. We take care of the elderly, the peasants; they do not have medical insurance and many don’t even have medical services available in their areas. We are currently doing a campaign to eliminate parasites among children in the semi-urban area of Nindirí, in Masaya. We plan to extend it to the rural area. We are working through primary schools and take care of 10,000 children more or less.  The physicians are voluntary. They work for the clinics or for different medical offices and they offer their services. We are all voluntary workers.” (interview with Martina Bolaños and Mercedes Bolaños, Managua, 2010).

Erlinda Brown, the coordinator of the Women’s Group sees their support to Nicaraguan families also in light of issues that transcend direct institutional and community support through the clinics projects:

“Our work is important also for the children. People are very poor there and the many Nicaraguan children are not even registered; they don’t have birth certificates. The women’s group goes once a year and the nurses go at least twice every year and we assist the families in gaining awareness about the importance of having the children registered to have greater access to social services and things like that. We also take as many things as possible when we go, from basic medicines and sanitary products to sugar bowls, and we help provide school meals.”  (interview in Miami-Dade County, 2010).

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Copyrights 2009-2013

* 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.

About Margarita

Blog on Nicaraguan immigrant organizations based on fieldwork conducted in South Florida and Nicaragua. For more information contact the author at:
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