Eda Masantos is live on the air, reaching homes in Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast with information about health through the program she hosts on Radio URACCAN.
Her part-time job at the radio station allows Masantos, 29, to provide for her two young sons and help her listeners by sharing tips on living healthy, preventing illnesses and maintaining good hygiene.
As a Miskito woman in Waspam, in the Northern Caribbean Coast, Masantos faced many obstacles to becoming an educated professional working to improve health in this remote area of Nicaragua.
But through the Aprendo y Emprendo project, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, she was able to earn a scholarship to pursue a technical education and graduated with honors in June from an Intercultural Nursing program at the University of the Autonomous Regions of the Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast (URACCAN).
“If the Aprendo y Emprendo project had not come to my town, this dream would not have been possible,” she says. “It changed the lives of many young people, mine included.”
Masantos and 31 other classmates, 25 of them women, received their degrees and became nursing technicians, with a focus on addressing the needs of the region’s ethnically and linguistically diverse population. In addition to her job as a radio host, Masantos also spends time as a health volunteer in the community.
For Masantos, a single mom, reaching graduation day was not easy. Mid-way through her studies, she became pregnant and gave birth to her second son, who was diagnosed with microcephaly. She credits her parents for helping her provide the specialized care her son needed while continuing her schoolwork.
“These situations were not an obstacle. On the contrary, they gave me the strength to continue,” she says. “My son’s illness motivated me to finish my studies so that I could gain knowledge to better take care of him.”
The Aprendo y Emprendo Project, with strategic partner URACCAN, developed the Intercultural Nursing degree to meet the unique needs of a region in which rural families often lack access to healthcare services and information. According to the National Information for Development Institute, 71 percent of households in the Northern Caribbean Coast are affected by extreme poverty.
Hermes Castellano, Coordinator of URACCAN in Waspam, explains that existing healthcare services can also be ill-suited to serve the region’s many ethnic minority groups.
"In recent years, there has been a growing concern about the inequity in health services that affects many sectors of the population, including the indigenous and Afro-descendant populations, due to insufficient health care strategies incompatible with distinct worldviews,” Castellano says.
In this context, the Intercultural Nursing program incorporated traditional, ancestral and alternative medicine approaches into its curriculum so that its graduates could provide the best care for the multi-ethnic population. Aprendo y Emprendo focuses on at-risk and often marginalized groups, so many of the students and scholarship recipients were ethnic minorities themselves.
“These professionals are very unique because they are multi-ethnic and multilingual, they have respect for Mother Earth and are very aware of interculturality,” Castellano says. “They respect ancestral wisdom, which allows them to respond with traditional Western medicine.”
Castellano hopes that this class of students and future graduates will strengthen the Northern Caribbean Coast’s health system and make it more accessible to all. Masanto is already becoming a part of that change through her radio program and is looking ahead to the next step in her education.
“Everything I learned I put into practice through the radio show,” she says. “My dream is to become part of the municipality’s health system, to continue studying and to help my family to forge ahead.”
Contact: Evelyn Rupert, Creative DC: EvelynR@CreativeDC.com