During September WINGS held our semiannual family planning and cervical cancer prevention clinics in El Tejar, Chimaltenango and Antigua. Each clinic lasted two days and offered both long term family planning methods, specifically the Jadelle sub dermal implant and the copper IUD, and screenings for cervical cancer at extremely subsidized costs.
Generally, WINGS offers such clinics in Alta Verapaz where the population is mainly rural indigenous, as the more urban departments in Guatemala typically have more options available when it comes to reproductive health. However, as seen by the large turnout of women that attend our clinics in Chimaltenango and Antigua, there is still great need for WINGS services in semi-urban areas.
At our Antigua clinic, we received a group of 50 women from Escuintla, who first walked over an hour to reach the nearest bus stop, many with a baby strapped to their back or a toddler in tow, and then traveled an additional 2 hours by bus to attend. Another group of 25 women came from a local nonprofit, Camino Seguro, in Guatemala City, and were so pleased with WINGS care that future collaboration is being discussed.
To begin each clinic, WINGS nurses give a short talk about the methods being offered and the importance of getting screened for cervical cancer. Women are given the opportunity to voice any concerns or questions they may have about any of the services before deciding which they would like to use. It is very common that a woman comes to the clinic looking only to use a family planning method, and decides to do the cervical cancer exam as well, or vice versa.
In total, WINGS attended to 233 women throughout the 4 clinic days.
We performed 173 rapid cancer screenings, and implanted 76 Jadelles and 10 copper IUDs.
Thankfully treatment for precancerous cells was only necessary in 2 cases.
We are encouraged that 20% of women in attendance were under 25 years of age, demonstrating interest from younger women in taking action concerning their reproductive health.
*For more photographs from our recent clinics, visit WINGS´ Facebook page.
Recently, WINGS responded to the needs of a partner institution, the Centro de Atención Permanente (CAP) which found itself in a difficult situation. CAP was holding a family planning clinic in the community Chamelco, Alta Verapaz, but only had the resources to attend to 25 people. Nearly 70 women and men arrived, many having left their homes as early as 3 a.m. to travel a great distance and attend the clinic. Very worried about turning away people in need, the Clinic Coordinator made an urgent call to WINGS, asking if we could fill the need.
WINGS’ mobile medical unit quickly responded and upon arriving, was met with applause and gratitude. WINGS staff was able to help the remaining 44 people in attendance and provided services free of charge to 11 users who lacked the economic resources to cover the subsidized cost of contraceptive methods.
One woman in particular stood out among those 11 users. Catarina timidly approached WINGS’ staff during the clinic, unsure if she would receive any help due to her economic situation. As a mother of four, 31 year old Catarina did not wish to have more children. She shared the economic hardships her family has faced with our team. Her husband´s income is unstable due to his seasonal work cultivating African palm-oil. The uncertainty of if and when he can work makes it difficult to provide for all four children, especially Catarina’s youngest daughter who is only 11 months old.
WINGS staff were truly overjoyed to tell Catarina that she would receive the Jadelle sub dermal implant free of charge. Her smile upon hearing the news was infectious and reminds us that the services we provide allow women like Catarina to achieve a better quality of life for themselves and their families.
WINGS thanks you for making our work possible and supporting Guatemalans as they make informed decisions to strengthen their families through reproductive health.
WINGS brings direct reproductive health services to communities that would not otherwise have access to this care. Often the communities are remote and difficult to get to, either because of the terrain or limited access roads.
Last month, WINGS staff left for Chacalté Carchá early enough to compensate for the fog and the roads, muddy from the rain the night before. For hours, the truck slid through the narrow trail, unguarded on the mountainside. Then the truck sunk into the mud. Then it began to rain. Since hardly anyone passes on this road, there was no one to lend a rope or a hand. The staff thought they might have to cancel the clinic, so Eli, a WINGS driver, walked thirty minutes to the Health Center to let them know that they would be late. Upon returning to the vehicle, he continued trying to maneuver it out. Success! Though a short distance later, it was stuck again.
Carmen, a WINGS nurse, said, “The stick shift just wouldn’t comply, we weren’t getting through. At that point we just put ourselves in God’s hands since we thought that at any minute we’d be rolling down the mountain.”
It started to rain harder when the staff decided to walk the rest of the way to the Health Center, hours late. Eli carried all the equipment he could by himself from the truck to the center, and the staff used what was available there to improvize. During the day, the rain stopped but the wind picked up, bringing with it the makeshift curtains and registration forms. Staff grabbed the edges of the curtains to ensure patient privacy, and paperwork had to be held down with rocks. Despite everything, WINGS nurses performed 31 cervical cancer screenings, 11 Jadelle 5-year implants, and one IUD.
Thankfully, after the clinic community members helped get the vehicle out. They followed the truck with buckets of rocks to place under the tires, pushing when it got stuck. Carmen reported, “I have to thank our team, that even in the worst circumstances we help each other out—enthusiastic, optimistic, and always with the desire to do the best we can with what we’ve got.”
WINGS provided Foundation Against Hunger with training in the themes of Sexual and Reproductive Health, and Celia was one of the employees who participated in this training. Celia is a thirty four year old single mother of two, and she talked to us about her experience of the workshop she received from WINGS.
“Before the training started, I was worried because I had never taken part in anything similar, and I didn’t see how it would be helpful to me as I am only the secretary. Now I am grateful to God for the opportunity I was given, because I learned so much. Sometimes the knowledge we have and the things we believe are wrong, and now I feel more comfortable with these themes and am happy to have taken part in the training.
The way the training was done was great – you are not aware of time going by because you are so engaged with the workshop. My coworkers and I felt really comfortable, and didn’t want the training to end. I commend WINGS staff for the language [Note: WINGS’ delivers trainings in Spanish and/or a Mayan dialect depending on the language used by the audience] and methods that they used, which made the information really accessible to all of us. I hope that they are able to replicate their work with many more organizations.
I have never used birth control and anything that I knew about it was from comments or stories that other people had told me. Now I know so much more, and have already made use of the training. For example, I shared some of the things I learned about family planning with my parents, brothers, and sisters. They were surprised because, just like me, they had believed many myths about family planning. They say that they want to learn more, and that they are interested in using a family planning method themselves.
Many of my doubts have been resolved. When I was pregnant with my second daughter, my husband had a vasectomy. They explained to us what would happen in the operation, but many people say that vasectomies turn men into womanizers and cause them to leave their wives. I have always been worried that this is why my husband left us, but now I know now that every person makes their own choices and that using a family planning method does not make a person leave their family.
My coworkers are also very happy to have received the training, and what impressed me most was how mature everybody was during the training. Nobody made jokes or used inappropriate words. We have since talked about how ignorant we were before and how we have a duty to share what we have learned ourselves with the communities in which we work. Although this is difficult to do, it is important that others have the opportunity to learn like we have.
I have made a promise to myself to keep learning more about family planning, and to share what I learn with my parents and my siblings. I still have many relatives who I have not spoken to about family planning, and I want them all to know what I have learned, because it is so important to our lives.
I am an evangelical Christian and in my church there are many women. I feel that it is my duty to speak to them about the methods that are available so that if they choose to have sex, but do not want to have a child, they can make healthy, responsible decisions and use a family planning method.
I hadn’t heard about WINGS before this training, but now I pray that God blesses WINGS so that this work can carry on, because it is really helping communities in Guatemala. I am going to pray for WINGS’ donors, and I hope that they get a chance to see the work that WINGS does.
WINGS continues to focus our activities on Alta Verapaz, a region of Guatemala with exceptionally high levels of poverty, child malnutrition and maternal mortality. In 2013 alone, thousands of women and families have been supported with accurate and empowering information on family planning and access to a range of contraceptive methods. However, every day we are reminded of the great and ongoing need for our services, as Maria's story demonstrates:
"My husband and I were happy that the WINGS clinic was coming and I would be able to get the little sticks [sub-dermal hormonal implant] put in my arm – we had talked before about not having more children but until now we didn’t know where to go to get the medicine. I have five children living. Two months ago my youngest child died; while I was pregnant, I fell out of a pickup truck that was still moving and was dragged along the road. I went into labor and they rushed me to hospital, but the baby was too small and he didn’t make it. I almost died as well because the birth was very difficult. I asked the hospital to operate on me so that I wouldn’t have more children, but they said that I would have to buy some of the supplies for the operation, and I didn’t have enough money."
"Today WINGS did a pregnancy test and it was positive – I am really, really sad. I don’t want to have any more children and I don’t know what to do. It isn’t that I won’t love the baby, but the problem is that we are very poor – my husband is an agricultural laborer and I feel very sorry for him because he has to work from dawn until dusk for very little money. The money he makes doesn’t go far and everything is getting more expensive. Our children are still very young and we did not want to have another baby, but we will keep struggling on. I hope to God that WINGS returns so that I can get the little sticks put in my arm and take care of myself after having the baby. I can’t have any more children - I feel very ill and I am scared of dying and leaving my young children without a mother. There are many more women like me who need these medicines so that they don’t keep getting pregnant."
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