So far, 2014 has been a great year for Primeros Pasos! We are grateful for your continued support and proud to present our 2014 updates!
UPDATE ON STAFF CHANGES
2014 has been a year of many exciting staff changes for Primeros Pasos.
In March 2014, we welcomed our new Development Director, Clinic Director, and Volunteer Coordinator Jamie De Guzmán Pet to the Primeros Pasos team. Jamie is originally from San Diego, California and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in International Development and Spanish from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2010. At UCLA, Jamie was involved in various organizations centered on Global Health, Human Rights, AIDS/HIV Awareness, and UNICEF. After university, Jamie worked in Madrid, Spain for two years. In January 2014, Jamie joined Primeros Pasos as a Child Health Educator and was soon offered the position of General Clinic Director, Development Director and Volunteer Coordinator. Since Jamie took on these positions, Primeros Pasos has focused on quality management and implementing strategies for self-sustainability.
We also welcome our new Doctor, Doctora Evelyn Mariana Sum Flores, who joined our clinic at the beginning of July. We are happy to have her in the clinic, and look forward to the high quality of medical care that she will bring to the residents of the Palajunoj Valley. In addition, we were joined this June by our new Nutritionist, Licenciada Scarlet María de los Ángeles Samayoa Ríos. She has been working hard to improve the Nutritional Recuperation program and make sure that mothers enrolled in the program are receiving the support they need. Our previous nutritionist, Licenciada Crisálida Susana Menchú Tacam, has joined our Board of Directors and will continue to provide her wisdom and experience to Primeros Pasos. We also had our new Fundraising Director, Lukas Riha, join us this May. Lukas will help us implement important plans to increase our organization’s financial sustainability. Lastly, Primeros Pasos welcomed our new Education Director, Licenciada María Caniz Hernàndez, at the end of 2013. María Caniz has been a great asset to our education program, and brings over 20 years of experience as an educator to her position. She is a dynamic and captivating educator, and kids and staff alike are excited to have her in our organization.
HEALTHY SCHOOL PROGRAM
June is a busy month for Primeros Pasos, with 15 volunteers currently visiting from around the globe. Our wonderful volunteers are helping us with a variety of projects, from developing a more comprehensive Healthy Schools curriculum to conducting research on various water sources throughout the valley. With their assistance, we hope to implement our new and improved education program in selected pilot schools by July. With our new lesson plans, we will visit schools more frequently and provide in-depth lessons on important health topics, assuring that the children of the Palajunoj receive a comprehensive health education.
We are also in the midst of our yearly Healthy Schools Mobile Clinics! Our doctors have already examined and treated children from 7 of the 10 schools that we work with every year, as well as treating several community members who stopped by our mobile clinics. This year has been especially exciting for our Healthy Schools program due to our Dia de Salud (Health Day) at Xecaracoj, organized in conjunction with our local PeaceCorps Volunteer, Rachel Lequier, and the organization Soluciones Comunitarias. With the help of several teachers, local volunteers, and international volunteers, we presented lessons on nutrition, personal hygiene, sanitation, mental health and self-esteem, and dental hygiene to all 700 students from the school. Because lack of clean water access often presents a barrier to health and hygiene for these students, we partnered with the organization Soluciones Comunitarias to supply convenient, cost-effective water filters to parents and teachers.
NUTRITIONAL RECUPERATION PROJECT
We’re also working on improving and growing our Nutritional Recuperation Project! This year, our team is working closely with over 20 pregnant mothers and mothers with chronically malnourished children under 2 years old in some of the most remote communities of the Valley. Through workshops, cooking lessons, and frequent checkups, we’ve already seen great improvements in the health of our participants. Recently, author Roger Thurow visited our organization to conduct research for his upcoming book, 1,000 days. According to several studies (SUN initiative), the health of a child in its first 1,000 days will determine its lifelong health and success. In the Palajunoj Valley, where child malnutrition rates approach 70 percent, it is essential that we conduct health interventions during this critical period. We are planning to lengthen our program to three years so that we can stand by mothers throughout their children’s first 1,000 days.
This month, many exciting technological upgrades are being implemented at the clinic. Currently, two of our Medical Volunteers are developing an Android application for Primeros Pasos, which will make prescribing medicine simpler for our doctors and Guatemalan medical students. The app will automate calculating dosage requirements by a child’s weight and age, and help us to further increase accuracy and improve the quality of our medical care in the Palajunoj Valley. It will be a great asset to busy doctors at our mobile clinics.
We are also working on installing an Open MRS system and developing detailed manuals to make transitions smoother for our clinical staff and volunteers. With the new Open MRS system, Primeros Pasos will further improve its ability to track data from our medical, nutritional, and educational programs. This will allow us to improve the efficiency and sustainability of our organization, allow us to better evaluate our programs, and ensure the success of Primeros Pasos programs for years to come.
Thank you again for all of your continued support! Without you, none of the medical care, services, or educational programs that we provide would be possible! We know that there are a lot of organizations out there to support, and we are very grateful for that you’ve chosen to invest in Primeros Pasos. We truly depend on the generosity of donors like you to continue our programs in the Palajunoj Valley, and are deeply appreciative for your assistance.
We've had a great year at Primeros Pasos. October is a busy month for staff and volunteers, as we're continuing with projects and program activities, while also starting to think about next year. This year has been marked with many successes:
+Primeros Pasos attended children from all 10 schools in the Palajunoj Valley this year, making sure that all primary school students in the area had a chance to receive an anual check up and receive needed medication-- all free of charge.
+Staff and volunteers gave age appropriate health lessons in all ten schools.
+We successfully started new women's health education groups in new communities, as well as improve the current curriculum.
+We had five successful mobile clinics in remote Valley communities.
+Our scholars all made good grades in school this year and are passing to the next grade.
+We've worked with 30 children under two years of age and 20 pregnant women to combat malnutrition in the Valley through lessons on health and hygiene, gardening workshops, cooking demonstrations, and free nutritional packets and primary health care.
+We've seen more adult patients this year compared to last year's numbers.
+We were visited by journalist Roger Thurow for research on his next book about global malnutriton. Read his article about us here.
+A group of filmmakers captured the work of Primeros Pasos on video. Check them out here!
We've got big plans for next year! Help support us today so that we can continue our important work!
AN UPDATE FROM PRIMEROS PASOS - OUR FIRST QUARTER IN NUMBERSWe've had an amazing first quarter of the year and want to share our success with you! We think 2013 is shaping up to be the most successful year for Primeros Pasos and we're thankful for your support! +So far this year we've seen 1,697 medical patients, 294 dental patients and our lab has analyzed 828 tests. +We've hosted one Mobile Clinic that saw 137 children in a remote community.+During Spring Break, we built FIVE provisional hand washing stations in Valley schools. +We've taught self esteem, drug addition and puberty lessons to all 5th and 6th graders in THREE Valley schools. +We've hosted 34 Women's Health Education meetings in THREE different communities.+Our dental intern has started treating over 1,000 students with fluoride.+We've selected 50 participants to join our year long Nutritional Recuperation program.+We've had a total of 11 foreign volunteers this year. Currently, we have SEVEN volunteers working with us in various program, with 14 more joining us over the next three months. +We've helped EIGHT students register for secondary school thanks to our scholarship program.
HAND WASHING MADE FUNParasitic infections are very prevalent in the school children in the Palajunoj Valley. One key issue is the lack of sanitation infrastructure in the primary schools here. No matter how much Primeros Pasos teaches students to wash their hand, if there is no place to wash them at school, students will continue to have infections. Primeros Pasos saw this as a great opportunity for our Spring Break groups to make a difference this year.Over two weeks time in March, our Spring Break groups from Vanderbilt University and Boston University helped build provisional hand washing stations in five schools. These hand washing stations are called "Tippy Taps" and cost under $100 to make. The students gave fun health lessons about parasites and hand washing to each classroom while half of the group worked to construct the Tippy Taps. The students and teachers were really happy with the results-- we've never seen kids this excited to wash their hands!
CELEBRATION-- YEAR OF LEARNING AND SHARINGLast week, the 14 women in the Xepache group of our Women’s Health Education Program, graduated into their second year of the program. In honor of their graduation, Miriam, the program director, prepared a snack of tostadas and fruit smoothies for everyone. The women discussed what they found to be most valuable and interesting of what they had learned so far and expressed excitement over moving onto the next phase of the program.
The Stairway to Good Health program consists of three yearlong modules. In the first phase of the first year, the groups are introduced to preventative health topics such as nutrition and hygiene. In the second phase, our health educators discuss issues more specific to women’s health, such as family planning, prenatal care and women’s cancers. The second year, which the Xepache group will begin in their next session, focuses on women’s empowerment and leadership. In the final year of the program, the women become health educators or implement a project that benefits the community.____________________________
MEET OUR SCHOLARSOur Scholarship Program empowers young people from the Palajunoj Valley to continue their education and become leaders who participate in improving their communities. In addition to providing funds to cover the costs of secondary school, Primeros Pasos hosts monthly workshops for our scholars and their parents that focus on themes such as community leadership, self esteem, and health.
Juan is beginning his last year of secondary school. He lives in Chuicaracoj, a distant community in the Palajunoj Valley. During the week Juan works in Xela in a warehouse, and on the weekends maintains high grades at school. Juan is a shy kid, but is very concentrated in his studies and constantly looks to improve his life and the lives of his family members. He recently said: "I am the second of five children, and my older brother had to leave school in order to help our father with the household costs. My father works in the fields and last year lost his whole crop due to the hurricane-- we were left with nothing. I thought about working instead of going to school because it pained me to see my father spending so much money on my studies. However, before I had to make that decision, Primeros Pasos gave me a scholarship. Now I can study knowing that the money is there for me. I have high grades now and am learning about many different things as part of the program. I am very thankful for Primeros Pasos." To support Juan or another scholar, please contact email@example.com____________________________
VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHTLara is from Washington State, but received her degree from Brown University in 2009. Since then she has been working for different organizations, including a global health think tank where she worked on vaccine introduction projects. Most recently Lara traveled to Guatemala to work in the Rio Dulce area for a health organization on their public health outreach programs. Lara came to Primeros Pasos seeking a opportunity to work with indigenous populations who lacked access to adequate health care. Over the next four months, she will be helping us improve our monitoring and evaluation systems for our Women's Health Education Program and Children's Health Education Program to help us better measure our impact in the Palajunoj Valley.____________________________
MORE FAMILIES RECEIVING NUTRITIONAL SUPPORTIn 2012, our pilot Nutritional Recuperation project helped 26 children under five years recuperated their normal height and weight. Their families learned about important health topics, ensuring that the children would continue to grow and be healthy. We're pleased to say that 2013 has already proved to be a great year with new developments for the Nutrition Program. This year we'll be working in some of the most remote communities in the Valley with a group of 20 low income pregnant mothers and 30 chronically malnourished children between six and 24 months. Primeros Pasos will again provide tailored medical and nutritional treatment along with focused and practical nutrition and health classes to empower mothers and pregnant women with knowledge, skills and tools needed to maintain healthy, balanced diets for themselves and their families.
Primeros Pasos has recently been awarded a $10,000 grant to fund this important project, but we need your help! This is a special matching grant, meaning that we have to raise a portion of the money. The grant officer explained that they really wanted to work with us on the project and help us fund it quickly, which led them to decide to go above their usual 50/50 match scheme and give us the largest portion they have ever awarded-- 80/20. This means we'll need to raise $2,000 for our program! To help us-- please donate at http://www.onedayswages.org/donate/org/primeros-pasos-guatemala.
It's been a busy month at Primeros Pasos! We've had a few changes in staff and are making good changes to have a great year!
______________GENERAL UPDATE ON STAFF CHANGESWe've got some brand new faces this year. First and foremost, our new full time clinic director, María Elena Xuruc. María Elena is from Totonicapán and has her Business Administration degree from the University Mariano Gálvez of Quetzaltenango, as well as a technical degree from Broome Community College in New York. María Elena is currently attending University to obtain her Masters in Administration during the weekends in Sololá. She has worked for international and local organizations including SESAN/UNICEF, ASOSAM/ChildFund, Samaritan's Purse, and Save the Children, and has extensive knowledge in management and coordination of projects, human resource management, technical and administrative support, program development, strategic planning, and monitoring and evaluation. She's doing a great job and is a real pleasure to work with!At the beginning of January, our dentist, Dr. Cintia Velasquéz, took another position with an organization working in San Marcos, her home department. We were sad to see her go, but our new dentist is actually a familiar face. Dr. Byron Quixtan served at the clinic for nine months last year as part of his final practicum study through the University of San Carlos. Our staff enjoyed Dr. Byron's time with Primeros Pasos so much that it was easy to ask him to join our staff. Dr. Byron has a dental practice with his father in Xela and is now working at the clinic in the mornings Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. In February we will also have a new dental student working alongside Dr. Byron to serve as many patients from the Valley as possible this year. Our new volunteer coordinator, Eline Boonstra, took over in January after Rachel Kitch took a great opportunity in Antigua Guatemala. Eline is from The Netherlands and holds a degree in social work. She has traveled around Central and South America over the last few years, and has lived in Xela for the last year working as the volunteer coordinator at El Nahual Community Center. We're glad to have her with us! We also have some changes in positions at the clinic. Lucy Alvarado, our former Women's Health Education Program Assistant, is now leading our Children's Health Program as well as our Scholarship Program. Magui Pérez, our former Administrative Assistant, has now moved to assist Lucy with the Children's Health Program. Staff and the Guatemalan board decided that it was best to put an assistant in the Children's Health Program to help reach our goal of treating and educating over 3,000 children in all 10 schools, both in the clinic and in the classrooms. We've also hired a long term volunteer from the community, Adolfo Mendez, to work three days a week as our Reception and Pharmacy Coordinator, helping to keep track of our patients files and medication inventory.______________MEDICAL PROGRAMWe currently have two medical volunteers with us working on a research project looking at the levels of parasites in school children. Along with many suggestions to better track statistics, our volunteers have recommended going forward with a universal treatment system for students, meaning that we would give all children albendazole once a year and only evaluate stool samples from students with symptoms and a control group for data purposes. First we'll have to look into ways to get albendazole at a discounted price, and redesign our paperwork for Valley student patients. We'd like to assign each student a unique ID number so that patient history can also be kept and tracked. Right now staff is doing research into lowering the costs of the medical program and looking for more partnerships to reach this goal. Right now we're working to find a cheaper source of medication for our pharmacy, as well as working with the dentist on the Guatemalan board to help get us some new equipment for the dental lab. ______________SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAMThis year we have eight scholars in our program. During January our team completed home visits to all of the scholars' homes to assess their socioeconomic situation. We then had a meeting with all of the students and their parents to introduce staff, talk about commitments, and review the year's schedule, as well as have the parents sign the program contract and receive the first scholarship payment. We currently have two donors this year covering the girls from Chichicastenango as well as two students in the Valley, and have submitted funding for a small grant through EntreMundos for two children. This means we are looking for a scholarship sponsor for two students in the Valley this year. Total annual cost for one student in the program is $415.______________CHILDREN'S HEALTH EDUCATION PROGRAMOur staff is excited to start the new year and make some great strides in improving the health of students in the Valley. Our staff began in January by talking with all Valley teachers during a district wide meeting about our programs and services, plans for the year and how they can work with Primeros Pasos to improve the health of their students. We began seeing students from Llanos del Pinal at the clinic last week and will be treating these students class by class until mid-March. We are looking to improve our system for tracking data from the Healthy Schools Program, as well as partnering with the district superintendent and the Ministerio de Salud to create partnerships to expand on the work that we are doing in this program. An Engineers Without Borders Chapter is interested in partnering with Primeros Pasos to help build water and sanitation infrastructure in the Valley schools. This relationship will mean a five year partnership with EWB who will provide all the expertise and funding for appropriate infrastructure projects in the schools. The Valley may also be receiving another Healthy Schools volunteer from Peace Corps in April. Last year in May a PC volunteer left Llanos del Pinal for personal reasons, and not until just recently were we visited by the Peace Corps project director to scope out the site for potential placement in April. The new volunteer would work with the district superintendent as well as other local government entities such as the Puesto de Salud and COCODES (local government representatives) to improve school health. Their main objectives would be to facilitate with school infrastructure projects, teacher training on health topics, and implement new student action groups with parents and sixth graders. This would really help our efforts, so we are crossing our fingers that there will be a great volunteer in the Valley soon!______________WOMEN'S HEALTH EDUCATION PROGRAMWe ended 2012 with a great celebration of 20 graduates! In December all participating women gathered together for a Stairway to Health Fair and graduation ceremony. Women were mixed up into different teams for a morning of health games, an opportunity for the women to teach each other and reiterate topics from the workshops. There were prizes and snacks for the women, along with a chance to celebrate the end of the year and the graduation of the participants in their last module.We currently have three groups in Xepache, Candelaria and Tierra Colorada Baja with a total of 55 participants all in their first year of the program. Our team currently has the help of a Women's Health Education intern who is organizing and improving the program curriculum, making an inventory of our materials, and redesigning the "carnet" to better track participation and use of benefits. We are trying to carefully restructure benefits for all programs, especially for the Women's Health participants. As it stands now, all women in the program will continue to receive free consults, medication and lab tests. Related beneficiaries will only consist of husbands and children, and they will receive a 50% discount for all services.______________NUTRITIONAL RECUPERATION PROGRAMOur nutrition team is finishing up the first year of the program strong. Last month families were given their last nutrition packets and participated in their last workshop and medical check-up. On February 2nd, we'll have our graduation party which will include games, music, snacks and a presentation on the program results from the 25 children and 23 mothers graduating from the program. We have invited members of the community, employees from Habitat para la Humanidad, and SOSEP to this celebration. We are still waiting to get final approval from USAID for our proposed grant, but should hear back from them in the next few weeks. In the mean time we have decided to move forward with the goals of the proposed project, which is a big change for the program demographics. We will now only recruit children under two years (last year we had children under five) and also recruit pregnant women to participate in our program. Without USAID funding we will be able to have 20 children and 10 pregnant women in the program. If USAID money comes through, we will raise those numbers to 30 children and 20 pregnant women. Unfortunately, we will carry out 2013's program without the help of our current nutrition team. Our nutritionist will take a job with Hambre Zero, the government's initiative to combat malnutrition, and our health educator will take a fundraising position with Habitát para la Humanidad Guatemala. Thankfully, they staying on with us until the end of February and will be helping us complete an extensive end of program report, create a program manual and improve our "plans of action" with more structured monitoring and evaluation systems for next year. We have placed ads for a new nutrition team and expect these staff members to start on February 25.______________On behalf of Primeros Pasos, I'd like to send a big THANK YOU! With the help of our supporters, we raised a grand total of $15,753 during our Health for the Holidays campaign. Offline donations are still trickling in, but we wanted to share our appreciation of your help in reaching our goal! This campaign surpassed unprecedented goals. In just one month, 13 people started their own fundraising page and 199 people donated online! We know there are many organization to support, especially during the holiday season, and we appreciate those that chose to invest in Primeros Pasos.
What do we plan on doing this year with the money we raised? We plan to accept a new group of malnourished children in our Nutritional Recuperation Program starting in February. We plan to expand our Women's Health Education Program to new communities within the Valley. We plan to see more women in the clinic for comprehensive care and family planning. We plan to attend more patients and give more fluoride treatments in our Dental Clinic. We plan to attend to all primary students in the Valley and give more health lessons in the schools than last year. And we plan to have more volunteers helping us accomplish our goals. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get weekly updates about our work so that you'll know what this campaign has helped fund, our accomplishments achieved and current needs. And please share your feedback with us! We'd love to hear your thoughts!
OUR HEALTHY SCHOOLS PROGRAM -- THE 2012 SCHOOL YEAR ENDS
Our Healthy Schools Program has finished up for the year and the Guatemalan school system is now on it’s “summer break.” During 2012, more than 2,500 children were seen through our Healthy Schools Program. Through this program, we host over one hundred “health field trips” in the clinic. Every week, individual classes from the local primary schools arrive at the clinic for a “health field trip.” Students receive a medical and dental check-up, are tested for parasites, and participate in an interactive health education class focused on basic hygiene and nutrition. In addition, every child is sent home with a toothbrush, soap, and any medication that they may need. Beyond providing medical care, our Healthy Schools Program gives hundreds of workshops every year to students in the ten local elementary schools. Our team travels to the schools and gives workshops on age-appropriate themes such as the environmental, self-esteem, domestic violence, drug addiction, and reproductive health. We are excited to have wrapped up another successful year of work with the elementary school children and are excited to work with the new classes starting in January 2013!
MOBILE CLINICS -- REACHING THE MOST ISOLATED COMMUNITIES
We have been busy this summer with special initiatives in the communities. In August we completed our four Mobile Clinics of 2012 in Las Majadas, Bella Vista, Tierra Colorada Alto, and Candelaria. Through our Mobile Clinic Program, Primeros Pasos visited some of the most distant communities in the Palajunoj Valley. Our teams of medical professionals and health educators go out into these communities for approximately four to five days and set up temporary medical stations. Many of these patients rarely leave their isolated communities due to lack of transportation and resources. It is only through this outreach that many receive medical attention. 86% of the patients who gave the medical team samples tested positive for parasites, a testament to the great need for medical attention and treatment in these communities.
NUTRITIONAL RECUPERATION PROGRAM -- WORK HARD, PLAY HARD
The nutrition program staff has being doing great work this year, and their hard work is paying off. The statistics from the participants' third medical evaluation are really impressive! Over 90% of children have gained weight since their last check-up, and the rest have maintained their weight. All 26 participants have recuperated their normal weight for their age. Furthermore, these medical exams revealed a large decrease in parasitic infections. At the time of the first check-up, 100% of children tested positive for intestinal parasites. After several workshops with the mothers about sanitation and hygiene, we were disappointed to see the results of the second check-up still high at 80% positive. However, our staff continued to talk with the mothers about this issue and review lesson, and we are happy to report that the third check-up this year shows that now only 40% children still tested positive for parasitic infections.
Our most recent workshops have focussed on family planning, a topic in which the women showed high interest and were eager to learn more. We followed up with another more in depth lesson, utilizing our local nursing student volunteers, to provide the women with more information and same day direct and free access to different forms of birth control.
On October 1, the nutrition group celebrated Día del Niño (Children’s Day). Our staff received donations from INCAP (our nutritional supplement providers), individuals, and local businesses to throw a great party filled with snacks, cupcakes, piñatas, games, prizes and gifts. The staff was able to contract a group of clowns who solely do charity work to bring smiles to less fortunate and sick children. They provided great entertainment with balloon animals and face painting, and interacted well with the mothers, getting them up to dance and be silly with the kids. Each child received a party favors of crayons, notebooks, Play-Doh, and stickers, and there were games for the mothers to win prizes for the children. The party was visited by a local news channel from the Valley who came to document the festivities and talk to our staff about the nutrition program. We plan to include press releases for Guatemalan TV Channels and Newspapers in our plans for all programs and activities in 2013.
November takes us into the planning process for next year's program recruitment. Our nutrition team is working on strategies to amplify our target demographic by focusing on poorer areas in the Valley, such as targeting families who scavenge at mine waste sites and trash dumps.
STORIES FROM THE FIELD
“Before we enrolled in these classes, we did not know about good hygiene and other health issues. The clinic helps us because sometimes our children have stomach aches and there in the clinic they can run tests so that we know if they are sick from parasites or not. Thank you to Miriam and the clinic” – María Josefa -Louisa, Women's Health Education Program (EBS) Participant
"We were able to see many different communities and experience teaching in diverse classroom settings. Helping with mobile clinics was one of my favorite experiences because we were able to provide care to very rural areas. Primeros Pasos as an organization is comprehensive in services and the staff is friendly and supportive." –Yesenia, Children’s Health Education Volunteer
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