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.
WINGS provided Foundation Against Hunger with training in the themes of Sexual and Reproductive Health, and Celia was one of the employees who participated in this training. Celia is a thirty four year old single mother of two, and she talked to us about her experience of the workshop she received from WINGS.
“Before the training started, I was worried because I had never taken part in anything similar, and I didn’t see how it would be helpful to me as I am only the secretary. Now I am grateful to God for the opportunity I was given, because I learned so much. Sometimes the knowledge we have and the things we believe are wrong, and now I feel more comfortable with these themes and am happy to have taken part in the training.
The way the training was done was great – you are not aware of time going by because you are so engaged with the workshop. My coworkers and I felt really comfortable, and didn’t want the training to end. I commend WINGS staff for the language [Note: WINGS’ delivers trainings in Spanish and/or a Mayan dialect depending on the language used by the audience] and methods that they used, which made the information really accessible to all of us. I hope that they are able to replicate their work with many more organizations.
I have never used birth control and anything that I knew about it was from comments or stories that other people had told me. Now I know so much more, and have already made use of the training. For example, I shared some of the things I learned about family planning with my parents, brothers, and sisters. They were surprised because, just like me, they had believed many myths about family planning. They say that they want to learn more, and that they are interested in using a family planning method themselves.
Many of my doubts have been resolved. When I was pregnant with my second daughter, my husband had a vasectomy. They explained to us what would happen in the operation, but many people say that vasectomies turn men into womanizers and cause them to leave their wives. I have always been worried that this is why my husband left us, but now I know now that every person makes their own choices and that using a family planning method does not make a person leave their family.
My coworkers are also very happy to have received the training, and what impressed me most was how mature everybody was during the training. Nobody made jokes or used inappropriate words. We have since talked about how ignorant we were before and how we have a duty to share what we have learned ourselves with the communities in which we work. Although this is difficult to do, it is important that others have the opportunity to learn like we have.
I have made a promise to myself to keep learning more about family planning, and to share what I learn with my parents and my siblings. I still have many relatives who I have not spoken to about family planning, and I want them all to know what I have learned, because it is so important to our lives.
I am an evangelical Christian and in my church there are many women. I feel that it is my duty to speak to them about the methods that are available so that if they choose to have sex, but do not want to have a child, they can make healthy, responsible decisions and use a family planning method.
I hadn’t heard about WINGS before this training, but now I pray that God blesses WINGS so that this work can carry on, because it is really helping communities in Guatemala. I am going to pray for WINGS’ donors, and I hope that they get a chance to see the work that WINGS does.