There are so many updates on our midwife and women's health programs that I am not sure where to begin!
First of all, I am writing this right now in the airport on the way to Guatemala, in part to attend a graduation ceremony for the classes of midwives that we are supporting. For a number of years, we have supported a midwifery cooperative of some 100 midwives, who get together for training sessions and professional development. However, three years ago, we added a new training track especially for young women interested in getting into the profession for the first time. Over the past thre years they have participated in formal classroom and clinical activities - and they will be graduating this week! This is a major accomplishment for the cooperative, and we are proud to have played a small role. I will make sure to post some photos from the ceremony later on!
In other news, this week is also important because our women's health nursing staff are receiving training from a volunteer gynecologist visiting from the United States. Already, our women's health nurses are providing a wide range of medical services to women, including cervical cancer screening and access to birth control methods. This week, they will be learning how to insert intrauterine devices (IUDs), which will be a major boost to our family planning programs. At the same time, they will be learning to use basic laboratory technology to diagnosis common sexually transmitted infections, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. This technology will allow them to immediately identify women infected with these disease and provide on the spot treatment.
Finally, our women's sexual health classes continue to be a big hit. Currently, we are offering simultaneous classes in four different communities (where we also have other projects, such as child nutrition programs). In 2012, our goal is to provide these classes to at least 250 new women, and we will keep you updated on progress towards that goal!
As you have been hearing about in our recent program updates for this project, a major focus of our efforts this year in our midwifery and women's health programs as been improvement of the quality of our educational offerings for women.
To this end, we have been running general educational classes for women of all ages and professions, where small groups of women get together to discuss important topics, like sexual health and contraception. These classes are facilitated by female Wuqu' Kawoq staff members, which creates an intimate and confidential space to discuss these important topics.
We are now happy to say that we are in our 6th round of these classes, and enrollment continues to grow! We are now offering simultaneous class sessions both in our central Santiago clinic location as well as in several rural communities where we have a clinical presence due to other activities (like child malnutrition programs).
In addition to being a great educational opportunity for the women in our communities, these classes also serve as a great way to introduce women to the concept of their basic health care needs. Each participant is offered full access to our clinical services, which means that these classes are providing a way for women to get pap smears, screening for sexually transmitted infections, treatment for menstrual problems, and the like.
All of these services are provided by skilled female nursing staff, with back up from our doctors as needed, and we have been very excited by how enthusiastic women are to participate!
In the coming year we plan to keep growing this program, and our target for these classes, and the associated health care package, will be to reach at least 250 new women in 12 months.
Thanks as always for your support, and feel free to email us with questions or comments at any time (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Recently we completed some needs assessment work in a few of the rural communities where we are working. One of the most important things to come out of these surveys is that more than 70% of women have no access to contraception! Furthermore, in our clinical work providing pap smear/cervical cancer screening to women, we continue to diagnose extremely high rates of sexually transmitted infections. Taken together, these experience show how little health care there is in rural Guatemala for women!
On the ground, our local nursing staff have now been trained on how to run the sexual health classes, and they are now operating independently. We just completed another round of classes in our central urban location in Santiago Sacatepéquez. Based on the need we are finding in rural areas, we will be expanding these offerings into the rural communities we work in, providing classes on site in these locations! These classes are extremely well received and offer an opportunity to women to talk about the issues they face. They also provide a way for them to plug in to our clinical services, such as cervical cancer screening and treatment of common menstrual disorders and sexually transmitted infections.
In other news, the ACOTCHI midwifery cooperative continues to grow. Recently a long term lease was signed on a property to build the first-ever comprehensive midwife-run birthing center in rural Guatemala. Another separate property was also acquired, which will serve as an educational center for the community.
Stay tuned for more exciting news in months to come!
Wuqu’ Kawoq has collaborated on educational opportunities for Guatemalan midwives for years, and in January of 2011 we began a pilot program to expand our model to include education for other women in our communities as well. The pilot program is a series of five themed classes on sexual health every two weeks for a total of ten weeks. The themes include: getting to know one’s body (essentially a women’s anatomy class), sexually transmitted infections (STI) and HIV/AIDS, cervical cancer and menopause, family planning and contraception, and the final class is a review of all of the themes and a graduation with diplomas.
In addition providing education to the women, we encourage them to attend our monthly women's clinics where we provide pelvic/papanicolaou exams, STI testing and treatment, as well as contraception (birth control pills and injections) free of charge to each of our patients.
We started our first round of classes with 3 groups of women, ranging in size from 7 to 18 students, in Santiago and San Pedro, Sacatepéquez. In the past month we have completed these classes and successfully graduated 27 students. These classes were extremely successful in terms of participant reception as well as attendance. We will continue to offer these classes and expand them to other communities!
Women’s health services are severely lacking in most regions of Guatemala, but much more so in the areas where the majority of the population is indigenous. Wuqu’ Kawoq has been working to improve women’s healthcare in Guatemala in a number of ways since its inception in 2007. However, this year, with the funding raised during our Global Giving fundraising campaign in October, Wuqu’ Kawoq has expanded its women’s healthcare program to provide more services in more areas of the country, with a greater focus on sexual and reproductive health and education than before.
Since 2007, Wuqu’ Kawoq has collaborated with a group of midwives called ACOTCHI (Asociación civil de Comadronas Tradicionales de Chimaltenango) based in the department of Chimaltenango. This group of midwives started in 2004 to create a network through which needs, information, resources, and support can be shared. These midwives are immensely dedicated, resourceful, and have come together to provide the best healthcare possible for the women of Chimaltenango. Wuqu’ Kawoq has specifically been working with them in clinical settings as well as in educational classes conducted by U.S. physicians (translated into Kaqchikel) to complement their work with more information and resources. In return, the physicians and Wuqu’ Kawoq learn more about the work the midwives are doing and their roles as major health providers in the communities of Guatemala.
In November of 2010, two volunteer pediatricians, Drs. Ty Melvin and Jane Striegel, from the Carle Physicians Group of Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, Illinois, joined in teaching classes about neonatal resuscitation. Each midwife was provided a Laerdal Paediatric Pocket Mask used to administer effective mouth-to-mouth to infants not breathing after birth. These classes took place in Tecpán and San Juan Comalapa for three sessions in total. Each midwife practiced resuscitating an infant mannequin (made to simulate breathing once given effective mouth-to-mouth) while their peers and the physicians looked on to ensure proper technique. These classes were extremely successful and provided simple yet indispensable information and resources for assisting an infant to breath in the critical first minute of life.
In addition to working with midwives, Wuqu’ Kawoq is implementing two new branches of the women’s healthcare program for 2011. The first branch is educational, and the second is clinical. Starting in January of 2011, Wuqu’ Kawoq will hold sexual and reproductive health classes in Kaqchikel on topics like these: sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV/AIDS, cervical cancer, family planning, and contraception. These classes will initially be held in Santiago and San Pedro, in the department of Sacatepéquez, for women aged 15 and up.The clinical branch of this program will start in January 2011 as well. Wuqu’ Kawoq’s women’s healthcare clinics will provide STI testing and treatment, provision of contraception, and eventually HIV screening, as well as testing and treatment for cervical cancer.
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