Summer Entrepreneurial Experiences

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Week 8

Thursday, August 20, 2015 6:42 pm

I believe that my project turned out well. My time here has been very busy. The students said that they learned a lot during the training.
I ended up creating a Nicaragua-specific medical glossary and made a copy for each of the students. I also made a course pack that we used during the training which ended up being two half-day sessions. I also set up the training in a way that my supervisor will be able to reproduce it.
The best part was that it was a project that I am passionate about. The worst parts were the hours I spent trying to get the formatting exactly right and then the program would crash on you before you had a chance to save it. Or also manually creating all of the course packs and dictionaries was very labor intensive. Printing out every single page, making sure it fit right, so many edits, the printer doesn’t collate so you have to manually organize all of the pages in piles, cutting all of the pages, binding all of the booklets. In the end they turned out nicely though.
Also, I need to work on transitions. I do not have much background in education so when I was giving the training and I knew that we needed to move on to a different topic, I did not know the smoothest way sometimes.
The most exciting thing was actually giving the training at the end of my time. The entire time was a big learning experience. I am glad that I did it.

Week 7

Sunday, August 2, 2015 9:15 pm

What have you learned about leadership and entrepreneurial management?
I have learned that starting a company, organization or project is very difficult at times and time consuming.
As I believe I have said before, there are little triumphs that help along the way though. Seeing a final project is always exciting, especially when you spent so much time and effort to get it done. To make things exactly perfect though is extremely difficult and strenuous.
As always, organization is very important. More direction would have been nice but it seems like as often is the situation, if you want something to get done, you have to do it yourself.
A frustrating thing about leadership is gaining respect. Because of my age, multitude of questions and lack of previous knowledge of Nicaraguan culture and colloquialisms, it has been a slow process towards gaining the respect of my coworkers. Some were very doubtful of me and hesitant to help me or would be slow to getting things done I asked for. After seeing how hard and diligently I work, my coworkers have been warming up to me, helping me get more things done and more quickly.
What have you learned about yourself as an entrepreneur?
Well this summer has been extremely difficult but my time here has reinforced what I already knew about myself: that I can accomplish anything that I need/want as long as I persevere.

The sky here is still carolina bleu

Tuesday, July 21, 2015 6:41 pm

Sorry if this entry is confusing. I am struggling to stay awake. Even with my mosquito net I am destroyed by bites at night so I have not been able to sleep as much as I need. The topic this week is also difficult:

What are the biggest challenges that face this company or organization and how are they handling them?

I broke the main problems I could think of down into three categories

1. Culture

2. Machismo

3. Lack of education and money

First, the topic of culture: you can teach people how to eat healthy but this group of people have been eating rice, beans, cheese and tortillas for centuries. Fruit, vegetables and animal protein are not impossible to come by but those foods are not as engrained into their diet.

Poor eating habits directly affect every illness, not even speaking of stunting, anemia or malnutrition as seen more often in the rural communities. More often we see diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and depression.

Second, machismo. I could write novels on this. It bothers me immensely. I have worked so hard and continue to strive to educate myself as best as I can, to achieve independence for myself and respect from others. As soon as I walk out the door here men begin to degrade me with foul comments. It makes me furious. I do not even want to go outside. I cannot believe that women put up with it. I do not feel like I can do anything because as a chela (light-skinned woman) I already need to keep a low profile for my safety.

But like I said, it is a big problem and it makes the women feel powerless. I do not want to go into detail but some of the big issues that it relates to regarding the work of AMOS are mental health, reproductive health and birth control.

I am not sure if I linked this last reason correctly: some people wait until their illness is life-threatening before coming to the clinic. Sometimes it is so severe that all we can do is refer them to the hospital and hope that they actually go.

I am unsure if it is because they do not understand the severity of their situation or if they are hoping they will get better on their own so they do not have to pay the (small) fee to come to the clinic.

Who are the key competitors?

There are not many competitors that I am aware of. The Ministry of Health (Ministerio de Salud or MINSA) is just another organization. They seem to collaborate. MINSA does impose some regulations on AMOS but I would not call them a competitor.

It sounds like there are other non-profit health organizations in Managua as well but I have not seen any in Nejapa so they would not really be competition.

There is too much space between you and me

Sunday, July 19, 2015 3:25 am

I write this time from a crowded “desk” in my second story place in Piedrecitas. It has been down pouring for several hours now and the yard and parts of the house have been flooding. I have two mosquito coils burning. This weekend is El Día de la Revolución, the anniversary of when the people overthrew the dictatorship. My neighborhood is full of the sound of firecrackers.

AMOS has an interesting culture. The employees are about three fourths Nicaraguan and one forth people from English speaking countries. It is an interesting dynamic. The whole of Nicaragua seems to run on the idea that things will happen when they happen. Often Nicaraguans are telling me, “tranquilo” which literally means tranquil but a better translation would be, “Don’t worry”.

AMOS has two modes of functioning. When both of the directors are here there is a constant feeling that you need to get all of your projects accomplished efficiently. Meetings are double booked and you might risk missing the bus home because your meeting could go over. Often only one of the directors will be working in the rural communities though. So when there is only one here, it is much more relaxed.

AMOS is really into collaborating. Every week there are several meetings. There are the support groups that I help with, the clinic staff regularly meets to talk about new procedures, planning and to schedule. The office staff often meets as well to discuss projects. AMOS also does a lot of collaborating with companies internationally so there are often Skype meetings. If it is a very important call the rest of the staff will not be allowed to use the internet for the duration of the meeting to ensure that the signal will be stronger for them.

In my work I have a lot of independence so I make a lot of decisions on my own. Failure is not the end of the world here. I often hear, “mañana”. As in, the person you need to talk to is not here, “pero mañana” or the internet is not working today. Things usually get accomplished eventually. I am not sure exactly how success is celebrated. I spend the majority of my work day in my office in the clinic or on a table outside if the internet in the clinic is too week that day. When I accomplish things I get really excited. Like when I print out something I designed and it turns out looking really cool.

People work both in teams and individually. I like working on my own. There is something satisfying about returning to your desk after a meeting and working on your own.

It still feels weird writing in so much English. I was at the bus station today and this white lady came up to me to ask me a question in English and my brain could not process which language I was supposed to reply in.

The Sun is in Our Eyes

Saturday, July 11, 2015 11:58 pm

I am making a lot of progress but there is still so much work to be done. Little things are frustrating to me. I have never worked for a non-profit organization or Latin America. I am very used to things getting done very quickly and having reliable electricity and internet. I feel like I am a patient and flexicle person but I have had to learn how to be even more so here. There are little triumphs that carry me through.

This past week I interviewed the people that will most likely be in the training to gauge what I should focus on and see how I should create my lesson plans. It is a intimidating as I have never given a course this long or with so much responsibility. I taught ESL but it was much more laid back and I was not the only teacher. I have not finished with the interviews but I am almost there.


Week 3

Sunday, July 5, 2015 10:09 pm

I feel like this blog entry should be toward the end of the internship. I am still learning a lot about AMOS and it is going to take me a while before I actually understand more in depth the history of the company. From what I have heard so far, the father of one of the current directors realized the lack of access to health resources here in Nicaragua both in the peri-urban (outskirts of a town) and rural communities. Building several clinics in the countryside is not very feasible. Instead, health stations were constructed and communities, with the help of health promoters, were organized and trained so that if an emergency too severe to be treated in the health station occurs, transportation is made available to get the patient to the closest hospital or clinic. Also, a clinic was built here in Nejapa, which is on the edge of Managua.
Some of the growing pains that AMOS has had to deal with are the Ministry of Health or MINSA (Ministerio de Salud). Sometimes they provide valuable resources but other times, they impose strict regulations that make it difficult or slow to get things done.
Another hindrance to progress is the fact that Nicaragua is a 3rd world country. It is not uncommon for us to lose electricity randomly. We have to continue working though so we just sweat a little more without the fans and the office and clinic get a little darker.
Another growing pain that some of my coworkers have expressed is a sense that no matter what is done, change cannot be made. The mentality that the husband is the provider and no one should question his power, and the woman is an object is stronger here than in the majority of North America. AMOS works to try to empower women and children so that they do not have to feel helpless and as if they are just products to reproduce children. AMOS works to promote a sense of strength and self-sufficiency in young women. Little girls feel like they are invincible and can be the next president but unfortunately, upon returning to visit the rural communities a few years after the empowerment trainings and workshops, they find these girls pregnant before eighteen and feeling like they have no way out.
The only thing that AMOS can do is to continue working, altering the workshops until they find the most effective way to make a lasting impression with hopes that one day the rates of teenage pregnancy will go down along with the sense of hopelessness. Machismo, chauvinism in Latin America, is a real problem that I have been struggling with here as well. I am not sure if it will ever change.

Week 2

Sunday, June 28, 2015 3:54 am

AMOS Health and Hope is a non-profit organization that works to improve the lives of the people of Nejapa, Managua and the surrounding rural communities. Their main concerns are malnutrition, anemia, stunting and maternal and fetal death. AMOS also has a clinic to serve the low-income families of the community and a pharmacy. My boss and I have actually changed my internship. I was Microfinance and Health but once my boss became aware of my fiend of study, she asked if I would be willing to instead do something more pertinent. She would like me to create a medical interpreter training course and supplemental materials and give the mini-course towards the end of my time here. She also would like me to teach their staff how to give the course so that they can offer it to to medical teams that come down that bring bilingual but untrained staff and generate a small profit.

The company was started by Dr. Parajon and is now run by his son and daughter-in-law, Dr. David and Dr. Laura. Since my work is medical interpreting, the majority of my time is going to be spent in the clinic, El Samaritano, The Samaritan. I am going to be working mostly under Doctor Woo. She works a lot with the teams that come to volunteer and work alongside AMOS. I have also been working with Doctor Romero and the rest of the staff as well. It is the smallest clinic I have worked in but they are still able to help a good number of patients. I am the only one doing this internship. There is a group on women’s empowerment, a group for youth empowerment and a group working on water sustainability. We are all working to improve the quality of care that the patients receive and the lives of Nicaraguans.

It feels really weird to be writing so much English.

Flies don’t like the dark

Friday, June 19, 2015 8:09 pm

I am interning with a non-profit organization called AMOS Health and Hope in Managua, Nicaragua. At this point, the majority of my time here has been training. AMOS really wants interns to have an understanding of the history, beliefs and policies of the company before beginning to work. I expect to learn a lot about healthcare in Central America and improve my Spanish. I already know that this is going to be extremely hard. I have lived in developing countries before but it has always been for school, very planned out and in a group. I have much more independence here, I will have to make my own deadlines and ensure that I reach them to complete my assigned projects.

Other than the training, my boss also wants me to observe and learn the protocols and how the clinic and health teams function. Missions come often to give health aid. This past weekend a group from Florida was here. I went with them on the rural home visits and we had a health fair on Sunday. There are also educational classes that the clinic offers. On Wednesday I attended pregnancy class and Thursday is the chronic diseases support group (diabetes, hypertension, etc.). This weekend I will have off which is great because if we have water I will be able to catch up on laundry.

The campus is pretty small. I stayed in the dorm (here they are called guesthouses) at first but recently moved to a homestay. I am still working out things and settling in to life here. Learning the public transportation, where to buy certain things and asking a lot of questions. I am still getting used to everything. One of the most important things I have learned so far is that flies don’t like the dark. It is kind of weird to work with the lights off but the windows give enough light and it is way nicer and cooler than working with flies.


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