AN OVERVIEW OF FIRST HALF OF THE YEAR
Primeros Pasos had a great first half of the year! We have expanded many of our medical services and added two new programs, Nutritional Recuperation and Scholarships for Continuing Education. So far we've seen over 4,000 patients in the clinic, including community members and students from the local schools, in addition to providing educational services to over a 100 participants in our programs.
With the help of our new doctor, the clinic is now offering our patients new services, testing and materials. Patients can now be tested for HIV, TB and strep throat without having to travel into Xela. Our entire staff also received a workshop on HIV and one of our staff members is currently being trained to be an HIV counselor, providing our patients not only with medical help but also social support.
Primeros Pasos is also expanding patient services by partnering with other organizations. The clinic hosted two Medical Campaigns last month, one for vaccines and the other for vision. Our vaccine campaign lasted several days and was facilitated by nursing students from a local nursing program in Xela. The vision campaign was a combined effort with international Cuban physicians and local ophthalmologists. In just one morning, over 100 patients received eye exams and low cost glasses.
Right now Primeros Pasos is visiting some of the most distant communities in the Palajunoj Valley through our Mobile Clinics Program. 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. Our first mobile clinic of the year saw over 300 patients in the distant community, Las Majadas.
We are excited to share our successes with you!
NUTRITIONAL RECUPERATION - THE NEED IS HIGH
Many people don't know that the overall rate of malnutrition in Guatemala is the highest in Central America and higher than many African countries. Primeros Pasos' newest program, Nutritional Recuperation, started in January with the mission of supporting chronically malnourished children and their families through medical treatment and nutritional education, in turn improving children’s health and promoting healthy homes. The program is now in full swing and showing great progress. The nutrition team began the year by weighing and measuring over 150 children under the age of five in 11 public daycares in the Valley. The 25 most malnourished children and their families were selected to participate in the one-year pilot program.
Over the course of this year, the parents attend biweekly educational seminars, which include interactive activities about hygiene and health. Theses classes are well attended with over 90% participation rates, and feedback from the families is positive. Each family receives monthly supplement packets containing nutrient fortified beverage mix, protein-packed meat substitute, and chewable multivitamins. Recently, the families received a cooking workshop from a local chef, where the parents learned to prepare healthy meals, such as Chinese rice with the meat substitute and a vegetable stew made with Incaparina. Each family was given a handmade, highly visual recipe book specifically designed for illiterate adults and new recipes will be added each month.
Progress is monitored through tri-monthly medical check-ups, monthly weigh-ins, and periodic parasite checks. All clinic visits are free in addition to any medication that they may need. The baseline medical exams revealed that almost every child had intestinal parasites. In most cases, children in the area receive enough daily calories, but often lack sufficient nutrients due to parasites and unvaried diets. Over the last few months, there has been noted weight gain in most children; they are looking healthier and parents are reporting higher spirits and energy. The caregivers at the day cares have also seen improved habits in hygiene from the participating families.
With the hopes of making the program more holistic, the nutrition team is performing a full needs assessment during home visits. These have proven invaluable in understanding the issues and challenges that the families face. Primeros Pasos is also in the beginning stages of partnering with various organizations to address basic needs that these families lack, such as water and sanitation.
Many people in the communities are learning about our Nutritional Recuperation Program through word of mouth and we have seen an increase in interest for participation. Primeros Pasos is working hard to improve the program and looking for ways to sustainably expand our reach and breadth in the Valley.
WOMEN'S GROUP MAKE THE VALLEY GREENER
Thanks to the work of the Women's Health Education Program (EBS) the Valley is much more green! Two women's groups in their third and final year in the program came together to address the problem of deforestation, and in March, began planning a community project. They heard from a horticulturalist on the importance of reforestation, which trees are best in the Valley, and how to plant trees correctly. The women then secured tree donations from The National Forresty Association (INAB) and AGRECUA, a local construction company in the area. They then teamed up with kids from the local schools to plant over 350 trees in Tierra Colorada Baja and Llanos de Pinal. Not only did these women help their local environment, but they also created an educational experience for the local students.
STORIES FROM THE FIELD
"Thank God that there is a clinic with free medicine that is close to the communities in the Valley. It is a great help to us here. There are many children in Candelaria that need to be seen by a doctor. When kids in my class are sick, I tell their mothers that they need to go to the the Primeros Pasos Clinic." -Lucía, Teacher from Candelaria
"Zanahoria! Manzana! Aguacate!” Kids scream out a flurry of fruits and vegetables, practically falling out of their seats to raise their hands to volunteer for the activity I am leading with other volunteers from Primeros Pasos on nutrition in this 3rd grade classroom. In my first week at Primeros Pasos, such was the environment I was thrown into as a Children’s Health Educator: fast-paced, demanding, and rewarding." -Olivia, Children's Health Education Volunteer
"I am the second of five brothers, and my older brother had to leave school only after completing the 9th grade to help my dad with household expenses. My dad works in the field and last year he lost his crop by the tropical storm- we were left with nothing. I thought of working instead of studying, it pained me to cause my dad so much expenses. However, soon after Primeros Pasos gave me a scholarship. Now I can study calmly knowing that the money is there for me. I have a high average in school now and I'm also being trained on various topics each month as part of the program. I am very grateful for Primeros Pasos." -Fernando, Primeros Pasos Scholarship Recipient
"I am the mother of 11 children. I raise them with my husband, and we have strong faith in God. He helps us to move forward against the lack of resources, work and opportunities that make it difficult to support all of our children. My youngest son's is making progress thanks to the Nutrition Program at Primeros Pasos. His energy and spirits are on the rise." -Paula, Nutritional Recuperation Participant
"Before coming to the EBS group, I did not have any experience in community events. But after learning the importance of women's participation in the community, I have integrated with other groups to learn different things and share what I have learned in EBS. Thanks to Primeros Pasos for giving women the opportunity to learn about new and productive topics, even if at some point we thought we could not learn. What we have learned is absolutely useful to us as women." -Louisa, Women's Health Education Program (EBS) Participant
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