WINGS brings direct reproductive health services to communities that would not otherwise have access to this care. Often the communities are remote and difficult to get to, either because of the terrain or limited access roads.
Last month, WINGS staff left for Chacalté Carchá early enough to compensate for the fog and the roads, muddy from the rain the night before. For hours, the truck slid through the narrow trail, unguarded on the mountainside. Then the truck sunk into the mud. Then it began to rain. Since hardly anyone passes on this road, there was no one to lend a rope or a hand. The staff thought they might have to cancel the clinic, so Eli, a WINGS driver, walked thirty minutes to the Health Center to let them know that they would be late. Upon returning to the vehicle, he continued trying to maneuver it out. Success! Though a short distance later, it was stuck again.
Carmen, a WINGS nurse, said, “The stick shift just wouldn’t comply, we weren’t getting through. At that point we just put ourselves in God’s hands since we thought that at any minute we’d be rolling down the mountain.”
It started to rain harder when the staff decided to walk the rest of the way to the Health Center, hours late. Eli carried all the equipment he could by himself from the truck to the center, and the staff used what was available there to improvize. During the day, the rain stopped but the wind picked up, bringing with it the makeshift curtains and registration forms. Staff grabbed the edges of the curtains to ensure patient privacy, and paperwork had to be held down with rocks. Despite everything, WINGS nurses performed 31 cervical cancer screenings, 11 Jadelle 5-year implants, and one IUD.
Thankfully, after the clinic community members helped get the vehicle out. They followed the truck with buckets of rocks to place under the tires, pushing when it got stuck. Carmen reported, “I have to thank our team, that even in the worst circumstances we help each other out—enthusiastic, optimistic, and always with the desire to do the best we can with what we’ve got.”
On February 26, 2014, WINGS held a community leadership workshop in San Cristobal, Alta Verapaz. About 40 representatives learned about family planning methods and management practices to provide for men and women in their communities. Laura,* who had previously been a patient at a WINGS reproductive health mobile clinic, decided to become a promoter in her community:
“My sister got me into it. I had visited her last year and she was going around letting her community know about the WINGS clinic that was going on. She told me about being a promoter and encouraged me to participate, since I’m already a leader in my community and part of a women’s committee.
I decided to go to the clinic first as a patient, since I’d been feeling sick for a while. I’d gone to a few doctors but they weren’t able to tell me what was wrong, so I thought maybe WINGS would be able to help. I’m married with two kids, and my husband was really supportive of me going, since he was worried about what might be wrong with me.”
WINGS recommended that she be tested for cervical cancer, which resulted positive. “It scared me to hear that, but I was relieved at the same time since they told me right there, and told me they would go with me to the doctor.”
WINGS refers patients with positive results to partnering physicians, who perform colposcopies and treatments. However, Laura found out she was pregnant, and would have to wait until after she gave birth to receive treatment.
“Most of what I knew about birth control before the WINGS workshop was false—that they weren’t effective or that they made you sick. My husband and I used condoms, but had gotten careless, and now I’m pregnant! Since I’ve been in the leadership workshops I’m recognizing how important it is not to be afraid to know. I know that I need to talk to my kids about this so that they don’t have the same problems.”
Laura is now a WINGS promoter in her community and counsels men, women and teens about family planning. She says it is a challenge. “Being a leader can be difficult. I deal with women who suffer from domestic violence, who have heard all the wrong things about birth control and are afraid to use it. I try to explain to them what I could have prevented by having the right information, that it is better to know.”
WINGS offers continued support to promoters with monthly follow-up visits and method redistributions, where promoters can have questions answered and better their management skills.
* Name has been changed
Anastasia attended a WINGS clinic to receive a cervical screening, and advanced abnormal lesions were discovered. WINGS referred her to our partner organization APROFAM to receive a colposcopy, which will determine the kind of treatment she will need. WINGS paid for the colposcopy and will also cover the cost of any future treatment that Anastasia might need. This is her story.
In early May WINGS came to my village to do womb exams [cervical screenings]. The comadrona [traditional birth attendant] in our village told us about the clinic and I wanted to have the exam done because I have been feeling very ill – sometimes I have a lot of pain my womb. The WINGS nurses were very kind and patient, and they answered all my questions. I like how they treat us - they speak to us in our own language [Q’ekchi] and they don’t treat us badly or differently in the way that some health workers do.
When they finished the exam I felt very scared and sad, because the lady said I would have to go to APROFAM and have another examination because there is something wrong with my cervix. Today I travelled to the APROFAM clinic with my neighbor – we left our village at 7am and travelled in a minibus to get here. I am very grateful to WINGS for helping me. I was supposed to come to the APROFAM clinic a few days ago to be examined, but because I didn’t have any money I couldn’t attend. I went to the national hospital to try and get treatment but they said that they don’t offer the exam that I need.
WINGS called me to ask why I hadn’t gone to the APROFAM clinic, and said they would help me to get there and pay for the exam. You don’t know how grateful I am for this support. I didn’t know how much it would cost and when I saw the nurse from WINGS pay the fee I felt very grateful, but I also felt bad that I couldn’t pay for it myself – I would never have been able to save up Q200 [$25]. WINGS also helped me with the transport costs, and the nurse stayed with me while the doctor did the exam. On July 17th I will come back to get my results.
I was pregnant eight times, but only six children survived. I never used family planning although I would have really liked to – perhaps if I had had fewer children then two of them wouldn’t have died. However my husband wouldn’t let me use family planning. I am very worried because my husband doesn’t believe that I am ill. When I tell him that I don’t want to be with him [have sex] he gets angry and says that I have another man and that I only stay with him because he maintains me.
I am really grateful to WINGS – you are amazing and I hope that God blesses you and everything you do. I don’t know what to say because thank you isn’t enough. I will remember the kind staff forever, and to the donors who live far away I would like to welcome you into my humble home if you ever want to come to my country. I will greet you in my own Mayan language because I never went to school and I don’t speak Spanish very well. May God bless you and reward you for every woman that you help.