This month the Maternal Child Health Program monthly educational seminar focused on reproductive anatomy and birth spacing and introduced family planning methods. Interestingly enough, the local language does not have words for many of the reproductive organs, so our health educator used a mixture of Spanish and Tz’utujil. The members of the group labeled the female and male reproductive parts before and after the lesson and we saw a huge improvement in what they know about their bodies. Discussion related to the importance of birth spacing gave participants the opportunity to reflect on the benefits of having fewer children. Not only was the health of the mother and existing children discussed, but also economic stability of the entire family.
Family planning continues to be a very important topic here in Guatemala. The average number of births per woman in this country is 4.4, however, in areas such as Santiago Atitlan, it is still common for women to have eight or more children. Part of the reason the birth rate is higher in rural areas of Guatemala is the lack of education and availability of family planning methods. Luckily, in Santiago our partnering medical clinic provides nearly every form of birth control. However, education about the benefits of family planning and how to use these methods is still lacking among the people in the community. For this reason, Pueblo a Pueblo is focusing the next 4 sessions of our educational seminar on how a woman can space or limit births using natural, hormonal, barrier or permanent methods.
The Maternal Child Program has been busy hosting clinics as well as having our monthly educational session. We were also able to enroll a new woman into the group who is very excited and grateful to be a part of this program and welcome a new baby, born Sunday, March 18th.
In the beginning of March, Pueblo a Pueblo and Rxiin Tnamet organized a Pap smear clinic in order to encourage annual exams to improve the health of the women within the community in and around Santiago Atitlan. During the monthly educational meetings leading up to the clinic, the women were given individual appointments with the date and location of their exam. They learned about the benefits of receiving a yearly check-up and the procedures involved with such an exam in order to promote informed decision making. Many women report the main barrier that exists to getting this exam is fear. One woman said, “Yes, I have recommended it to my friends and neighbors from my church, but they are very scared and they feel ashamed to come in for the exam. They need to be taught the right information.” At our follow-up session after the clinic, the women were able to share their experiences. Our goal is through clinics such as this, we can help spread correct knowledge about healthcare throughout the community.
This month, our educational session focused on childhood illnesses and when it is necessary to seek medical attention. Children under the age of five, especially those whom are malnourished, are most susceptible to fatal illnesses. Therefore, recognizing early signs can not only result in better health as they grow older, but can also save lives.
The Maternal Child Health Program has started the year with a bang. Last week we had our monthly class and focused on dental hygiene. The women received information related to the importance of and how to look after both baby teeth and permanent teeth. We distributed brushes to both mothers and children and practiced using the correct techniques.
We also announced to beneficiaries new services to be provided this year, including a Cervical Cancer and Pap Smear Clinic day and the family planning method of their choice. While the fertility rate across Guatemala has dropped to 4 births per woman, in and around Santiago Atitlán it still averages 7. Many women desire to space their children or prevent additional pregnancies but do not have the resources to purchase a method. We are excited to be adding these crucial reproductive health services to the MCH Program, services which will ensure the continued good health of the women which in turn will allow them to better care for their children.
We had a great end of year celebration for the women in our Maternal Child Program. Of the 67 women enrolled in the program 65 came plus 2 whose children had just graduated. One mother brought her husband and there were also several grandmothers and lots of children! We started off with games for the women, including the tocoyal race-who can put a tocoyal on first. . We also did sack races for both the women and the children. Things got very competitive-with a little pushing and shoving! The kids really enjoyed the sack races. We also played pin the star on the Christmas tree, which was a good game for the little ones.
Every women received a broom, dishcloth and bar of laundry soap-in line with our goal of improving the health of beneficiaries. Half of the brooms were donated by a local business thanks to our social work intern Vilma Concepcion Mendoza Sosof. The kids also received a small package of clothes, which were in-kind donations.
We awarded one mother Antonia Mendoza Pablo with a certificate for having attended all the classes in 2011, being on time and participating actively. Chonita, our outreach worker,was given a certificate of appreciation for all her hard work throughout the year .
Finally came the food, which included tamales (traditional for Christmas time), tostadas, mandarins and bananas and rosa de Jamaica juice. We also gave out little pineapple pies.
Everyone had a great time and left satisfied and ready for the holiday! We look forward to an even stronger program with more women next year.
Thanks to a generous in-kind donation from Zutano, a baby clothing company based in Cabot, Vermont, we are able to gift each woman in our program a pack of baby clothes when they give birth.
These clothes are bright and colorful and always bring a smile to the new mothers. So far we have distributed packs that include onesies, leggings, hats, short sleeve shirts, long sleeve shirts, socks, shorts, body suits, dresses and blankets to over 20 women this year.
What a beautiful way to enter the world!
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