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Apr 8, 2019

Health Education Empowers Women

Concepcion with her son Juan at a MCH event
Concepcion with her son Juan at a MCH event

One of the key elements of the Maternal Child Health project at Pueblo a Pueblo is health education. Our team of educators leads monthly workshops to introduce project participants to new ideas and strategies related to health literacy and self-advocacy, empowering them to better care for themselves and their children. Family planning is one of the topics covered in these workshops, and when sponsored women turn this new knowledge into action, it often changes their lives in meaningful ways.

Concepción is a mother of six. With little support from her husband, who suffers from alcoholism, she often struggles to provide for her children. She joined the Maternal Child Health project in 2017 just before the birth of her son Juan. She was introduced to family planning methods when she started attending project workshops—but despite this new knowledge, she became pregnant again a year later.

Maternal Child Health project coordinator Rebeca Sosóf brought this up with Concepción during a check-in meeting last year. “We’re not trying to impart that having children is a bad thing,” she told Concepción. “However, family planning methods can help you provide for your children by considering your family’s situation in choosing the best time to have another child.”

Shortly after that meeting, Concepción began to use a family planning method. During last month’s check-in, she explained why she had been reluctant at first. “I didn’t understand what family planning had to do with my life," she told Rebeca. "I didn’t understand that in order to take care of my children, I have to take care of myself, too.” Rebeca was glad to see Concepción take this step. “We’ll be here to support Concepción as she continues to advocate for her own well-being,” she said.

Dolores wrapped up her time with the Maternal Child Health project in March of this year when her daughter Jennifer turned 5 years old. When she met with Rebeca for her final check-in, Dolores expressed thanks for the knowledge she gained from the project workshops. “I learned so many things that I wouldn’t have learned just staying at home,” she said.

Dolores told Rebeca that in January, she and her husband sat down to discuss their plans for the future and decided that they should begin to use a family planning method. She had not used a method before this year, she explained. “But after that conversation I was able to use the new knowledge I gained through the project to pick the best method for me.” Dolores and her husband then decided to begin a project they’d been considering for a while: building a new bathroom in their home! Now that Dolores has taken control of spacing her pregnancies by using a family planning method, the couple feels more confident in their ability to save up bit by bit until the project is complete.

“Family planning can bring long-lasting change to the lives of women,” says Rebeca, “especially women who live in rural and low-resource settings.” The stories of Concepción and Dolores are examples of the power of education to empower women and their families. Your support fuels their success—thank you for believing in Concepción, Dolores, and all the women of the Maternal Child Health project!

Dolores and her two daughters
Dolores and her two daughters

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Apr 7, 2019

New Ways to Eat Healthy at Chacaya Primary School

Preparing a healthy meal under Sandy
Preparing a healthy meal under Sandy's instruction

The 2019 cycle of the School Nutrition project is in full swing here on Lake Atitlán! Sandy spent March planning and leading the first round of healthy cooking workshops in each of our five partner schools. The most recent training took place on March 19th at Chacayá Primary School.

The day of the training, Sandy rode from Santiago Atitlán to the community of Chacayá in the back of a pickup truck, a common form of public transportation in rural Guatemala. She paid the driver a little extra to take her right to the school, which sits on top of a very steep hill with a beautiful view of Lake Atitlán’s volcanos and the lagoon below. The extra boost was much needed—Sandy had some pretty hefty luggage with her, including a big sack containing no fewer than eight heads of cabbage!

Sandy set up her things in the school kitchen. When all of the participating mothers—each with one of their children in tow—had arrived, Sandy began the day’s activities. She started with a game to test participants’ knowledge. She handed out cards with a V for verdadero (“true”) on one side and an F for falso (“false”) on the other. “True or false: foods like chips and cookies help your children maintain a healthy weight?” she asked. "True or false: the two best ways to stay healthy are to eat healthy foods and exercise?" The students and their mothers giggled as the correct answers were announced. They listened as Sandy explained the importance of maintaining a healthy weight and the relationship between diet and body weight.

Sandy then announced the main dish of the day: stuffed cabbage! She divided the group into teams and gave instructions: wash and boil the cabbage, mix the meat-and-rice filling, and chop the elements of the day’s side dish: a broccoli and carrot salad. She sprinkled a mix of salt, pepper, clove, and dried garlic over the cabbage filling—and sprinkled some more over the broccoli as it cooked in a large pan. “The only way a lot of people in this community know how to prepare broccoli is in scrambled eggs—and cabbage is usually just boiled plain" she explained later. "I wanted to introduce these families to new ways of preparing these nutritious vegetables." She added, "I use the garlic seasoning because it's an easy way to make vegetables taste delicious! A lot of families aren't used to cooking with garlic, but they like it once they've tried it."

Sandy then showed the students and their mothers how to fold the cabbage leaves around the filling. Together, they filled up two huge pots with the stuffed leaves. While the dish cooked, everyone cleaned up and enjoyed a little down time together. At last, Sandy announced that the stuffed cabbage was done cooking, and the mothers filled up plastic containers with the final product to take home to their families for dinner!

The next months will bring new foods and new recipes into the kitchen at Chacayá Primary School—recipes that participating mothers can then make in their own kitchens at home. Sandy’s work introduces families to easy and affordable ways to incorporate nutrient-dense vegetables into their diets—invaluable knowledge when it comes to the healthy development of children! Your support helps mothers put healthy food on their families' dinner tables here in rural Guatemala. Thank you for believing in the power of education and the importance of nutrition!

Mothers participate in the opening activity
Mothers participate in the opening activity
Sandy shows students how to stuff cabbage
Sandy shows students how to stuff cabbage
Packing up food to take home for dinner!
Packing up food to take home for dinner!
Participating students try out the dishes
Participating students try out the dishes

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Apr 4, 2019

First Harvest in San Pablo La Laguna!

The first months of 2019 have brought exciting milestones for our Beekeeping project partners in San Pablo La Laguna. In late January, Genaro traveled across the lake to lead the group in their first harvest.

As always, the group began the day by trekking up to the apiary together, carrying their tools, their protective gear, and a picnic lunch. At the top, Genaro greeted the whole team. “We’ve all been waiting for this day,” he said, “and now it is here!” He asked the group members to pay careful attention to his instructions. After all, when it comes to harvesting honey, every drop counts!

The beekeepers checked their hives, removed the frames that were most full of honey, and brought those up to the processing area. Genaro showed them how to use a knife to cut the outer layer of wax from each frame so that the honey can flow freely from it. He then demonstrated how to place frames into the group’s brand new extractor—a manual machine which works like a centrifuge to pull honey from the frames. Group members took turns selecting frames, removing their wax, and operating the extractor. Soon, beautiful golden honey began pouring from the extractor’s outlet valve.

All in all, the San Pablo beekeepers harvested over 200 pounds of honey—much more than they had hoped for! “This was an extremely impressive first harvest,” Genaro notes. “I’m proud of the group’s progress so far and I look forward to seeing what they continue to accomplish.”

A couple of weeks later, Genaro returned to San Pablo to teach the group best practices for bottling their product and processing the wax they had removed from the frames during the harvest. Their honey now in bottles, the beekeepers were faced with some big questions: how would they brand their product, and how would they present their collective to customers?

These questions led the beekeepers to an exciting new development: a brand new name! The group chose to rename their collective Batz’ib’al Juyu’ (pronounced "baht-zee-bahl hoo-yoo"), a phrase in Tz’utujil, the local Mayan dialect. This name combines the words “batz’”—weaving, “bal”—machinery, and “juyu’”—volcano, to describe the ecological fabric of their lakeside home and their role as stewards of its native biodiversity. Honey production is important to these beekeepers not only as a source of supplementary income, but also as a way of preserving local bee populations and the health of their entire ecosystem.

Once they had chosen a new name, the beekeepers collaborated with the Pueblo a Pueblo team to design a logo for their product. Their logo shows the Maya god of maize face-to-face with a honey bee, both contemplating a young corn plant. Every jar of honey from the Batz’ib’al Juyu’ collective will carry this logo to communicate the group’s basis in the Maya value of environmental stewardship to their consumers.

As the group prepares to enter their second year in the Beekeeping project, Genaro will begin to prepare them with more of the entrepreneurial skills they will need to succeed as a small business. Next up? How to divide bee hives. It’s a delicate process, but it is a great way for the collective to earn some extra cash by selling some of their bees to other beekeepers—or to increase the number of hives in their own apiary! Stay tuned for more news from this hardworking team.

Your support fuels these beekeepers’ success. Thank you for believing in the power of sustainable livelihoods to build stronger communities and preserve our beautiful Earth!

Juan holds a frame ready to be harvested
Juan holds a frame ready to be harvested
Cutting open frames to release their honey
Cutting open frames to release their honey
Placing frames in the extractor
Placing frames in the extractor
Operating the extractor
Operating the extractor

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