Global Ministries

The United Methodist Church

Connecting the Church in Mission

In Nicaragua, local health promoters are empowered to address community health, food security, and disaster prevention and mitigation.
An Acción Medica Cristiana (AMC) boat carries local volunteers and Norwegian exchange students over the Kukalaya River in the municipality of Rosita in the North Autonomous Caribbean Region. They were volunteering with AMC in support of a mobile health care team with the Ministry of Health to distribute water, food supplies, and medicines to remote communities.

Locals empowered in Nicaragua to be ‘protagonists of their own development’

By Judith Santiago*

During last December’s UMC #GivingTuesday event, Dr. Belinda Forbes, a General Board of Global Ministries missionary serving Acción Medica Cristiana (AMC) in Nicaragua, received the most online donations as a missionary, totaling more than $14,000. To celebrate that honor, Forbes was awarded an additional $10,000 from Global Ministries, which she will use to fill funding gaps at AMC.

AMC is a partner of The United Methodist Church, Global Ministries, United Methodist Women, and the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), which recognized AMC for having an exemplary and replicable health model. AMC builds local capacity among families in the areas of health education and promotion, farming and nutrition, disaster prevention, HIV/AIDS prevention, clean water and sanitation, women’s health, and youth leadership.

Dr. Belinda Forbes (center) oversees a dental worker in training. Forbes leads a community-based primary dental health program, mentoring volunteers and interfacing with AMC’s international partner organizations.
Dr.Belinda Forbes (center) oversees a dental worker in training. Forbes leads a community-based primary dental health program, mentoring volunteers and interfacing with AMC’s international partner organizations. Photo: Courtesy of Belinda Forbes.

A leading nongovernment organization in Nicaragua, AMC works to empower people through training in community health services and developing impoverished communities. The organization also regularly hosts missionaries, Global Mission Fellows, Global Justice Volunteers, and Volunteers In Mission teams.

Reaching underserved communities

The communities where AMC works are among the most ecologically and economically vulnerable populations Central America. Most of the people AMC serves earn a living by subsistence farming, small commerce, fishing, or logging.

Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in Latin America. Widespread malnutrition and inadequate water and sanitation systems produce ongoing health risks. Reaching these underserved communities to provide healthcare and foster sustainability are challenges for AMC, because the people they serve often live in remote and isolated communities.

Empowering locals

One of AMC’s key strengths in community health is engaging local populations in identifying and responding to root problems that impact health.

Dr. Belinda Forbes (right) with AMC staff and dental workers in Nicaragua.
Dr. Belinda Forbes (right) with AMC staff and dental workers in Nicaragua. Photo: Courtesy of Belinda Forbes.

“Health promoters are trained to derive appropriate solutions to basic health care needs,” explained Belinda Forbes, who serves AMC as the international liaison for community health, a role that engages her in direct dental care, training, communications and partnership development, and in promoting AMC’s work.

“AMC’s health promoters are inhabitants of the local community. They are poor farmers or indigenous people who have the capacity to adequately address the first level of health in their community. They know the context and issues, and they have a moral commitment to attend to their own people,” continued Forbes.

UMCOR support will aid in health improvement

UMCOR is assisting AMC in disaster risk reduction and sustainable agriculture strategies, which has become linked to AMC’s community health work to address community needs in a more integrated way.

Just last month, a grant from UMCOR was approved to help AMC improve food security and provide access to clean water for children in Tasba Pri, one of the poorest areas of Nicaragua. About 90 percent of the population there has no formal source of income. The funding will benefit more than 900 people and help families reduce the risks that lead to child malnutrition; improve hygiene and safe water access through rainwater harvesting; and aid in improving nutrition for students in five schools in the Miskito and Mestizo communities.

More than a health agency

From the time of AMC’s founding in 1984, it was young Nicaraguan health professionals who delivered clinical care services to people living in conflict zones during the Contra War. After the armed conflict ended, AMC handed the clinical care work back to the Ministry of Health and began to focus on the root causes of health problems.

An AMC worker travels through muddy waters to deliver medicine and supplies to communities living in remote areas.
An AMC worker travels through muddy waters to deliver medicine and supplies to communities living in remote areas. Photo: Courtesy of Belinda Forbes. 

Today, AMC has evolved to become a more of a development agency than a health agency. With 30 years of experience in health and development in indigenous regions, AMC is staffed with a team of multidisciplinary professionals, all Nicaraguan.

“Local community members are empowered with the skills and alliances to be protagonists of their own development,” stated Forbes.

The organization is made up of public health doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, and includes other professionals such as agronomists, educators, social workers, sociologists, and disaster prevention experts—all with some subspecialty in the development area.

AMC works in 200 communities and reaches about 250,000 people with a primary focus on community health, food security, and disaster prevention and mitigation.

“Our vision is for the communities we serve to have the quality of life through the respect of their basic rights as human beings. Also, to be empowered with the tools and knowledge to be heard by decision-makers at all levels in health, employment, education, and commerce,” stated Forbes.

Forbes concluded by expressing her thanks, “I want to thank Global Ministries and our donors for the ongoing support of our work, and for giving me the opportunity to fulfill my role to be a light to the world by following God’s call to serve.”

You can support the work of AMC, which is helping communities implement their own model for growth and development through your gifts to Advance #14846A.

*Judith Santiago is the editorial and content coordinator for Global Ministries.