WINGS

WINGS creates opportunities for Guatemalan families to improve their lives through family planning education and access to reproductive health services.
Mar 7, 2017

Saving Young Women's Lives

Women wait at a screening clinic
Women wait at a screening clinic

At WINGS, our nurses provide services to hundreds of patients each month. In 2016, we provided 4,194 cervical cancer screenings to women throughout Guatemala, mostly through our Mobile Units. Teams made up of 2-3 nurses and 1 driver load up one of our trucks and travel to some of the most remote regions of the country to provide reproductive health services. In addition to providing education at these sites, nurses also place short-acting contraceptive methods like subdermal hormonal implants and IUDs and provide cervical cancer screening and treatment. You can imagine that each nurse from our two Mobile Unit teams sees her fair share of patients every month. But one case recently stuck in the hearts of our team.

Nurse Flori recently had the opportunity to meet a young woman called “Jennifer” (for privacy reasons, we will not use her real name). Jennifer was 18 years old when she came to one of our Mobile Unit clinics in her village. She had a one-year old son and had not had a cervical cancer screening for over a year. She was terrified when Flori met her, uncertain of what a screening might show. As is common with many indigenous girls from her village, she had finished middle school but not gone on to high school. She shared that she had become sexually active at the age of 14 and was currently living with her partner.

Jennifer’s screening showed that she did, in fact, have precancerous cells. Thankfully though, the abnormality that Nurse Flori detected is highly treatable with cryotherapy. Jennifer received the treatment and Flori counseled her that she should avoid pregnancy for at least one year to allow her body to fully recuperate and reach optimum health before trying to conceive another child. After weighing her options, Jennifer chose to have a subdermal hormonal implant placed in her upper arm that same day, protecting her from pregnancy for up to 5 years.

After receiving these services, Jennifer felt relieved and able to explain her choice to her partner. Flori says that she could feel Jennifer relax and feel calm knowing that she had confronted her fear and dealt with the results.

We know that seeking healthcare screening can be a daunting process for anyone. We also know that nurses like Flori and her coworkers have a gentle way of making their patients feel at ease and empowered to make healthy choices.

Cervical cancer continues to be the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in Guatemala, making early screening and treatment absolutely necessary to save lives. Women in remote villages often have limited access to healthcare services and fear is a common deterrent even if services are available. We are grateful for your support and can confidently say that we know Jennifer’s gratitude is beyond words. ¡Gracias!

Nurse Flori and her sweet smile
Nurse Flori and her sweet smile
Mar 6, 2017

Growing our Own Leaders

Tania, right, meets with promotoras regularly
Tania, right, meets with promotoras regularly

Here at WINGS, we focus on building knowledge and empowering youth, women, and men to thrive and be fully able to exercise their sexual and reproductive rights. Two of our community-based programs in particular allow us to have incredible impact in 12 of Guatemala’s 22 provinces: our Youth Peer Education Program and our Volunteer Promoter Network.

We begin our work by partnering with Youth Leaders who are trained as peer educators and provide education and referrals to their friends and neighbors at a grassroots level. Each year, we recruit 50 young people between the ages of 14 and 19 who receive specific training not only on contraceptive methods, but on communication strategies, common reproductive health myths, and gender-based violence prevention. Through these Youth Leaders, our message reached nearly 9,000 young Guatemalans in 2016!

One former Youth Leader’s story is particularly remarkable. In early 2016, 18 year-old Tania Pineda had a family member who was receiving her birth control injections from one of our volunteer family planning promoters, Etelvina Álvarez in Sacatepéquez. During a visit Tania made with her family member, Etelvina asked Tania whether she was studying and Tania explained that for economic reasons she was not studying at that time. Etelvina told Tania about the Youth Peer Leadership Program at Alas and recommended that she contact our Youth Coordinator to see if there was still a space. At that point, Tania had already missed the first training but was so excited about the opportunity that she made special arrangements to get the training on days when she was not working. She went on to become one of the most involved Youth Leaders and gave formal talks in her free time after work. She was proud to have hosted two talks in particular that were well-attended at the school where she worked. In late 2016, an opening for a Family Planning Specialist at WINGS came up and Tania applied and was hired as one of our newest staff members. She attributes the leadership skills she gained as a Youth Leader for her ability to listen and provide counseling, particularly to members of the Volunteer Promoter Network who work directly with adolescents.

Tania’s main responsibility now is to help facilitate the work of the Volunteer Promoters, including Etelvina, in the southern region of Guatemala. She organizes trainings with nearly 20 women from surrounding areas and manages the monthly birth control method disbursement that each promotora receives. These promotoras and their counterparts in Northern Guatemala distribute short-acting contraception to nearly 6,000 Guatemalans each year and help to educate their communities, dispelling many common-held myths around contraception.

Women like Tania and Etelvina are the backbone of the WINGS activities happening in villages across the country. We are grateful to them for their commitment to WINGS and to their own communities.

We are also incredibly grateful to you and to all our donors who continue to support the vital work we are doing. Without you, Tania, Etelvina, and the other Youth Leaders, Promotoras, nurses, and doctors would not be able to offer our services. We thank you!!

Youth Leaders at their January training session
Youth Leaders at their January training session
Dec 8, 2016

Ana Isabel Learns About Cervical Cancer

Ana Isabel and her son
Ana Isabel and her son

Ana Isabel is a 31-year-old mother of three from the rural community Pueblo Viejo. She spends her days caring for her home and children, while her husband works in the fields. Ana Isabel had her first child, a baby girl, at the age of 20. It was an unplanned pregnancy, as she knew almost nothing about family planning methods at that time. “Back then, this wasn’t talked about. I don’t know why; but even our parents didn’t talk to us about it. And on the occasions when our parents did talk about these topics, they would ask us to leave the room or they would send us somewhere else where we couldn’t hear anything. We were told that it was adult stuff, so they refused to talk about it.”

After her first pregnancy, Ana Isabel started to hear a bit more about contraceptives from other people in her community. But all the information made her believe contraceptives were dangerous. “I heard about birth control, but I was afraid to use it because people told me that it caused diseases. I was also told that it would dry up my cervix and that I wouldn’t be able to have kids after, so I got scared.” Eventually, after her third child Ana Isabel began using the 3-month injection to plan her family and continued using that method until recently, when she decided she wanted to have another child.

A woman in Ana Isabel’s community told her that WINGS’ mobile medical team would be offering a family planning and cervical cancer prevention mobile clinic in their community. Ana Isabel decided to attend and undergo a cervical cancer screening. She shared, “…the reason I wanted to get a cervical cancer screening was that I can’t manage to get pregnant, and I would love to have another baby.” Ana Isabel admitted that before the mobile clinic, she didn’t actually know what cervical cancer was, but thought she might have some illness and maybe WINGS could help. “Sometimes, because of ignorance, we don’t know what goes on inside us, and we can’t afford getting a checkup. So, when a mobile clinic comes here, we have to take advantage of it because it helps us. We can’t go to hospitals because it would be too expensive, and here, we don’t have the means to afford those services.”

Thankfully, the results of Ana Isabel’s cervical cancer screening were negative. WINGS’ nurses did detect a common sexually transmitted infection during the exam, and gave Ana Isabel counseling and treatment for herself and her husband. WINGS’ mobile team is happy to have provided reproductive health services for Ana Isabel, which she could not afford elsewhere. Ana Isabel left well-informed about her personal health and with the reassurance that she did not have cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer is the number one cause of cancer related deaths in Guatemala and there are still many women in need a screening. As a solution, WINGS' Mobile Units travel to many remote, rural communities each month to provide long-acting reversible contraception and cervical cancer prevention services. It is thanks to you that we can reach out to so many people in need; your support is crucial in helping us save lives from cervical cancer.

Nurses set up mobile clinic in Tecpan
Nurses set up mobile clinic in Tecpan
Ana Isabel during mobile clinic talk
Ana Isabel during mobile clinic talk
 
   

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