Why Nicaragua

Global Partners-Nicaragua aims to improve the overall health of the people and their communities in the Matagalpa region of Nicaragua by helping communities secure adequate nutrition, a clean water supply and safe housing. The program promotes education and collaborates with Nicaraguan medical providers to improve access to vital healthcare. The program also supports changes that are seen as valuable by the citizens of the region and can be sustained by their own efforts.

Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, second only to Haiti. Most of the country is mountainous and rural, making it difficult for people to access needed services and opportunities. The state of Wisconsin and the Coulee Region in particular enjoy a long history of partnerships with Nicaragua, making it a natural fit for Global Partners.

Current Projects

  • Cervical Cancer Screening and Education - Providing training and equipment needed to perform procedures leading to prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cervical cancer for women in the Matagalpa Region of Nicaragua.
  • Early Detection of Breast Cancer - Providing breast health education in rural communities to promote self-breast exam and prompt referral for concerns. Increasing capacity of local providers in the Matagalpa Region of Nicaragua to perform procedures leading to earlier detection of breast cancer.
  • Education Workshops - Teaching education program coordinators, government teachers and student tutors simple, effective and adaptable strategies and games they can use to encourage and reinforce reading and math skills to primary students, as well as classroom planning and management skills.
  • Lending Libraries and Early Literacy Training - Establishing and maintaining small lending libraries in rural Nicaraguan communities to promote literacy through access to books and training.
  • Medical Education - Engage in meaningful discussions with Nicaragua healthcare providers to share and learn best practices across cultures.
  • Nursing Education and Training - Supporting the education of future nurses in Nicaragua through classroom training, hands-on workshops and educational resources.
  • Vascular Surgery and Training - Providing training for Nicaraguan providers to diagnose and treat varicose veins for patients living in the Matagalpa Region.
  • Vision Screening - Provide comprehensive eye exams and glasses as appropriate to rural Nicaraguan populations who do not have access to this level of care.


Trip DatesTrip FocusRoles NeededSign-up Deadline
Jan. 7-15, 2017

Vision Screening

Ophthalmology/Optometry providers
Ophthalmic techs
Non-clinical volunteers

Sept. 1, 2016
March 12-20, 2017

Cervical Cancer Training


June 2017 (TBD)

Education Workshops

Cervical Cancer Training


Fall 2017 (TBD)

Cervical Cancer Training


Each trip requires participation in 3 orientation sessions (2 for returning volunteers), usually held from 5-7pm at Gundersen Health System in La Crosse. Due to the community-based nature of our program, in-person attendance is required at the orientation sessions and preference is given to volunteers from the local region (vs. those from outside this region). Details about these sessions will be sent out via email to the volunteers signed up for each trip.

If you are interested in learning about opportunities to get involved with the Nicaragua partnerships, please complete a volunteer form.

Volunteers in Nicaragua must be able to endure long days (10+ hours) of physical activity, which may include standing, walking, light lifting and sitting. Volunteers must be age 14 or older. Minors must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Travel: Trips typically are Saturday to Saturday. The group will leave from La Crosse, Wisconsin, in the morning and arrive in Managua that evening. All volunteers must be on the same flight, and must depart from La Crosse. The first night in Nicaragua will be spent at the Las Mercedes Best Western, a comfortable hotel just across from the airport. Matagalpa is a 2.5 hour car ride from Managua. Volunteers usually stay at the Hotel St. Thomas, on the hill overlooking Matagalpa. The hotel is approximately 45 minutes from Santa Celia and 10 minutes from the Matagalpa Regional Hospital.

Cost: Airfare from La Crosse is generally $800-1,100 depending on multiple factors. The additional cost to cover lodging, in-country transportation, interpreters, breakfast at the hotel, and other shared team expenses for the trip varies depending on whether the volunteer is staying in a single, double or triple room as well as the exact length of stay. An estimate for these in-country costs is $700-1000. These volunteer costs will be paid to Global Partners and can be considered a charitable contribution for volunteer service work, per the IRS code.

Occasionally teams decide to stay one extra day to do additional site-seeing within Nicaragua; this added day will increase the cost slightly. Additional expenses which will be each volunteer's responsibility to cover (i.e. these are not paid to Global Partners) include pre-trip immunizations, passport costs, and medications (malaria prophylaxis and medicine for traveler's diarrhea). Total estimated cost per volunteer is $1,800-2,000.

Gundersen employees may apply for a Global Partners grant to help offset the costs of volunteering in Nicaragua (up to $500). Learn more about how to apply for a Global Partners Grant.

Medical issues: Your trip leader will inform you of needed vaccinations and medications for travel to Nicaragua. Vaccinations need to be up-to-date and include Hepatitis A & B, Typhoid, Influenza, DPT, and MMR. Malaria prophylaxis is recommended. Volunteers - please do not make an appointment to get your vaccines at Gundersen until AFTER your first orientation meeting. Volunteers will need to schedule a visit with their primary care provider to receive needed vaccines.

Zika Virus and Travel to Nicaragua: In November 2015, the first local transmission of Zika virus infection (Zika) was reported in Central America. Since then, several Central American countries, including Nicaragua, have reported ongoing transmission of Zika. There have been reports of a serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly and other poor pregnancy outcomes in babies of mothers who were infected with Zika virus while pregnant. Global Partners recommends that women who ARE or MIGHT BE pregnant during the time they would be in Nicaragua should postpone travel. The infection is mainly spread by mosquito bites and is a mild infection for adults, so it is not dangerous to non-pregnant individuals. Also, women who wish to become pregnant after travel are advised that there is no evidence that previous infection with Zika virus will affect future pregnancy. More information about Zika will be shared with GP volunteers during orientations prior to a trip. Up to date information can also be found on the CDC website or by contacting Global Partners-Nicaragua medical lead: Dana Benden, MD

Communication: Spanish is the primary language and as you go further from the centers of commerce fewer people speak English. Therefore, each trip will provide at least one interpreter. Learning phrases in Spanish is a helpful and friendly way to meet the Nicaraguan people.

Passport: Your passport cannot be within 6 months of expiration or you will not be allowed into the country. If you are a frequent traveler, please check and see that you have enough pages available in your passport.

Time off: This is a volunteer experience for which you will not be paid. You may choose to take PTO or unpaid time off - you need to make arrangements with your manager. Gundersen associate and medical staff may also use CME time (but not CME money) to participate in a Global Partners trip.

Volunteering: If you are interested in volunteering with the Global Partners-Nicaragua team, please fill out our volunteer form.


The work of Global Partners-Nicaragua is supported by many local organizations, as well as partners in Nicaragua.

Local Partnerships

  • Aquinas High School: collected baseball equipment and apparel
  • Blessed Sacrament School: donated Spanish reading books
  • La Crosse and La Crescent Rotary Clubs: supported purchase of water filters
  • La Crosse County Public Health Department: provided baby scale for Santa Celia community health assessment
  • La Crosse Radio Group: donated advertisements to promote the housing project raffle
  • Longfellow Middle School: supported purchase of water filters and provided school supplies
  • North Woods International School: held a school-wide read-a-thon to raise funds used to purchase desks, textbooks and school supplies
  • Rotary Works Foundation: supported purchase of water filters
  • Travel Leaders: donated a portion of the grand prize for the housing project raffle
  • Viterbo University Interpreter Program: provided interpreters to support volunteer teams; provides ongoing translation and interpretation support

Nicaragua Partnerships

  • Fara Clinic, a clinic operated by Fara Foundation in downtown Matagalpa. Fara Clinic provides services virtually free ($1.25 for any visit) so that Matagalpans are able to afford the care they may otherwise not receive.
  • Rainbow Network, a non-governmental organization (NGO) working in over 100 rural Nicaraguan communities to end extreme poverty. Through Rainbow Network, Global Partners has developed a partnership with Santa Celia, a poor, rural village on a coffee plantation in the mountainous region of Matagalpa.
  • Matagalpa Regional Hospital, a 300 bed hospital serving an area with more than 500,000 individuals, with a limited number of services available.

Interested in learning more about the Nicaragua partnerships? Contact Global Partners office at (608) 775-9883 or

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