Family Planning for Guatemalans Living in Poverty

by WINGS
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Family Planning for Guatemalans Living in Poverty
Family Planning for Guatemalans Living in Poverty
Family Planning for Guatemalans Living in Poverty
Family Planning for Guatemalans Living in Poverty
Family Planning for Guatemalans Living in Poverty
Family Planning for Guatemalans Living in Poverty
Family Planning for Guatemalans Living in Poverty
Family Planning for Guatemalans Living in Poverty
Family Planning for Guatemalans Living in Poverty
Family Planning for Guatemalans Living in Poverty
Family Planning for Guatemalans Living in Poverty
Family Planning for Guatemalans Living in Poverty
Family Planning for Guatemalans Living in Poverty
Family Planning for Guatemalans Living in Poverty
Family Planning for Guatemalans Living in Poverty
Family Planning for Guatemalans Living in Poverty
Family Planning for Guatemalans Living in Poverty
Family Planning for Guatemalans Living in Poverty
Family Planning for Guatemalans Living in Poverty
Family Planning for Guatemalans Living in Poverty
Family Planning for Guatemalans Living in Poverty
Family Planning for Guatemalans Living in Poverty
Family Planning for Guatemalans Living in Poverty
Family Planning for Guatemalans Living in Poverty
Family Planning for Guatemalans Living in Poverty
Family Planning for Guatemalans Living in Poverty
Family Planning for Guatemalans Living in Poverty
Family Planning for Guatemalans Living in Poverty
Family Planning for Guatemalans Living in Poverty
Family Planning for Guatemalans Living in Poverty
Family Planning for Guatemalans Living in Poverty

It is with feelings of both gratitude and sadness that I write to inform you that as of August 31, Rodrigo Barillas will step down as Executive Director of WINGS Guatemala. Rodrigo leaves WINGS to assume the position of Executive Director at the newly established Luis von Ahn Foundation, which plans to support community-based organizations working in Guatemala.

We are tremendously grateful for Rodrigo’s leadership, dedication, and service to our mission over the past seven years, and appreciate the strong position in which he leaves our beloved organization. During his tenure, WINGS has experienced significant growth, expanding its presence to over half the country. From pioneering a single mobile clinical unit, WINGS now operates three mobile units, thus becoming the second largest private provider of sexual and reproductive health services in Guatemala. 
 
Looking ahead, the Board has formed a Transition Task Force to oversee the search and transition process for our next Executive Director. We are partnering with an executive search firm to ensure we find the best possible person to lead WINGS into the future. As the search is underway, the Board has selected Eleanor Unsworth, WINGS Program Director, as Interim Executive Director. Eleanor joined WINGS in 2016. As Program Director she is responsible for the administrative supervision of the WINGS field teams, including for our youth programs, promoter network, and clinical services. She has close to 15 years of experience working in reproductive health in both the US and Guatemala. Eleanor graduated from Tufts University with a degree in Community Health and Women’s Studies, and completed a Master’s in Non-Profit Management from Northeastern University. Fully bilingual and with strong ties to Guatemala, we feel she is fully capable of leading us through this transition period. (To learn more about Eleanor, please check out this recent conversation she had with Rodrigo.)
 
Having seen WINGS flourish over the past few years, serving clients in mostly rural areas of Guatemala with efficiency and compassion, and providing excellent clinical services, I hope you feel as confident as the Board does about our future. We are excited about the possibilities that lie ahead and will keep you informed of our progress.

With appreciation on behalf of WINGS Board of Directors.

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In the best of times, Guatemala is one of the most disadvantaged countries in Central America in terms of access to contraception, maternal deaths, and adolescent birth rates. And we are most certainly not living in the best of times. The COVID-19 global pandemic has had obvious effects around the globe in terms of overall health, economic stability, and equity. The effects of strict quarantine orders In Guatemala and restricted intra-village movement have had disastrous effects on families who were already struggling to survive. Farmers who were already experiencing failing crops due to climate change and therefore reduced income now cannot even consider moving to more urban areas to look for work. Residents of areas where COVID-19 outbreaks were identified were placed under absolute isolation orders and all incoming goods/services were prohibited.

In 2020, WINGS suspended all clinical services from March 16 through June 11. During that time, our administrative staff and youth program staff continued working from home, setting up home offices, virtual trainings, and relying on WhatsApp and Zoom more than we ever could have imagined we would. In June, we gradually re-opened our clinical services, starting with our clinic in Antigua, where we could have the most control to assure the highest level of contamination reduction and adherence to PPE use and protocols.

At the beginning of October, the Guatemalan Government officially ended the state of calamity, removing nation-wide restrictions, and transferring the continued management of COVID mitigation to the Ministry of Health and municipal authorities. We began to see increasing movement across many sectors. This decision, as needed as it may have been, increased the risk of more infections and disruptions to an already decimated health system.  

In terms of the current state of our clinical service provision, we have reopened our Antigua and Guatemalan City clinics and are hosting regional clinics with stringent safety precautions in place. We are constantly making modifications to our services and protocols in order to protect our staff and patients.

Despite the restrictions of the pandemic in 2020, WINGS ensured access to quality, affordable reproductive health services through a network of 30 Volunteer Health Promoters, 3 mobile medical units, 3 stationary clinics (Antigua, Retalhuleu, and Guatemala City Dump), and 4 regional satellite teams (Retalhuleu/Suchitepéquez, Santa Rosa, Chimaltenango, and Alta Verapaz), providing educational talks, private counseling, short and long-acting reversible contraception, cervical cancer screening/treatment, and permanent birth control procedures.

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At the beginning of October, the Guatemalan Government officially ended the state of calamity, removing nation-wide restrictions, and transferring the continued management of COVID mitigation to the Ministry of Health and municipal authorities. We expect to see increasing movement across many sectors soon. This decision, as needed as it may be, will increase the risk of more infections and disruptions to an already decimated health system.  

In terms of the current state of our clinical service provision, we have reopened our Antigua clinic and are hosting regional clinics with stringent safety precautions in place. We are constantly making modifications to our services and protocols in order to protect our staff and patients. 

Unfortunately, we have not yet been able to offer tubal ligations, but we are actively talking to partners in order to begin as soon as it is safe to do so. All WINGS team members are working full-time, but compared to pre-pandemic times our services are down, although higher than we had anticipated. Tubal ligations account for the vast majority of this decline, but this is also affected by the lack of public transportation (patients are finding it difficult to come to us), and the fact that the hotels our staff stayed in are still closed or not fully operational makes it impossible to go out to the communities for a whole week as we used to. In sum, we are back; we are strong; we will keep on going! In that vein, we recently had a story that we’d like to share with you…

Ana Leticia is one of our Volunteer Health Promoters from Chiquixjí village, in the municipality of San Pedro Carcha in the department of Alta Verapaz. She told us about a long-time WINGS patient on her caseload who went through a very difficult situation during the pandemic, the death of her 5-year-old daughter. Ana Leticia mentioned that before she met this particular patient, she had no knowledge of contraceptive methods and already had 2 children spaced closely together, since she had not had the opportunity or information on how to space her pregnancies. Then she heard people speak about Doña Ana Leticia, an important pillar in her community, who provided counseling on contraception and since then the patient has been getting quarterly contraceptive injections.

As communities and families are struggling in the face of this global pandemic, her patient is truly grateful to Doña Ana Leticia and WINGS for continuing to provide contraceptive methods for just a small donation, and even knowing when that donation is simply not possible - the few times she has been able to give a donation, Doña Ana Leticia always gives her her injection without question.

Doña Ana Leticia tells us, “My patient does not have the resources to buy her Depo Provera in a pharmacy, due to unemployment on the part of her spouse due to the pandemic situation and the death of her daughter.” WINGS is honored to have the resources, thanks to supporters like you, to exonerate these costs.

Guatemala and the United States are both living in a traumatized state, with a public health disaster, an economic crisis, environmental threats, demands for social and racial justice, and a very long etcetera.  If I may dare paraphrase Dr. King’s “I have a Dream” speech, twenty-twenty is not an end, but a beginning, and this pandemic must be a new beginning towards a better and brighter future for all, but especially for the most vulnerable populations.

As always, thank you for your continued support. 

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WINGS entry with nurses using PPE
WINGS entry with nurses using PPE

The last few months have been intense! I am happy to report that our Antigua clinic reopened its doors in mid-June, almost three months after we took the unprecedented decision to suspend most field operations.  It took us a bit longer than expected, and we had some challenges getting all the PPE and other supplies (for example, non-contact thermometers) that were sold out or unavailable in the country. 

Anticipating high demand for services in Antigua, we set up two clinic spaces, where patients are seen by appointment only.  We will gradually reopen the rest of our services.  Next up is the clinic near the Guatemala City dump.  The Ministry of Health has officially approved our clinic license application, giving us the green light to begin services as soon as possible. We are excited that this clinic space will allow us to serve a population living under the harshest of conditions of urban poverty.  We anticipate this clinic will eventually offer services 4 days a week.  

Shortly after will be time for what we are calling “Temporary Clinics”.  This is part of the ‘new normal’ and, as the name states, will be community-based points of services that WINGS will temporarily “take over” one day each week, and where our nurses will offer services.   We are working on agreements with 6 different Health Areas (department-level authority of the Ministry of Health) for a total of 23 clinic sites in Alta Verapaz, Chimaltenango, Suchitepéquez, Totonicapán, Quetzaltenango (highlands and coast), and Huehuetenango. We are evaluating the possibility of an additional 3 clinic sites in Sololá, though the situation around COVID-19 in that department is a bit more difficult for now.  We are also finalizing the purchase of new equipment (including two vehicles) and supplies so that we may have the capacity to operate this way, with smaller teams distributed throughout the country, for at least the rest of the year. 

Also in July, WINGS will begin hosting Vasectomy clinics every Friday in our Antigua clinic.  Due to the high risk of COVID-19 contamination, we will not be able to offer tubal ligations, therefore we will heavily promote FREE VASECTOMY CLINICS each Friday. Beginning in Antigua, we will evaluate a way to replicate this in the coming months in more locations (Guatemala City, Quetzaltenango, Retalhuleu, Chimaltenango, Escuintla, and others).

In August, once (we hope) the curve begins to flatten, we will begin hosting small-scale pop-up clinics.  These clinics will be staffed by one or two nurses and, where transport is required, a driver.  The most critical part here will not be our own willingness or capacity to offer services in rural areas, but whether local leaders will allow us to come into their communities.  Our Field Promotion team will soon begin conversations with Municipal Women’s Offices so that they can help us get “invited” back into communities by local authorities.  We are quite aware of the different dynamics and politics that take place in rural communities, oftentimes not in sync with government mandates, and so we will do our very best to comply with their rules as a way to safeguard our staff.  The last thing we want to be considered is a source of contagion and be kicked out, or worse.       

Finally, some of you may be wondering how we will be able to promote and schedule all these different services.  WINGS Field Promotion team has begun experimenting with new ways to communicate with communities and partners.  One way is through virtual talks and presentations. Another is through radio spots, which we have begun recording in Spanish and some Mayan languages represented within our diverse staff.  Some of these spots will differ from the traditional 30-second commercial spots and will be podcast-style interviews.

As you can imagine, there’s a lot of excitement, but also anxiety and nervousness.  The Executive Team at WINGS has been talking about this with some frequency lately, and we are taking steps to work with our staff on these emotional issues as well.  I am sure that tense moments await us, but if we remain observant, if we communicate in the most truthful and transparent way possible, I know we will thrive.  As long as our WHY remains our northern star, WINGS will be a better, stronger institution, and will be able to provide even better reproductive health services and education to many more vulnerable women, men, and adolescents.

Please keep us in your thoughts in the weeks and months to come.  As we begin reopening we will happily receive all the positive energy and vibes we can get. And as always, thank you for your support!

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WINGS 2019 Service Provision Results
WINGS 2019 Service Provision Results

WINGS experienced strategic growth in 2019 that is the beginning of incredible momentum as we aim to have a greater geographic and programmatic reach across Guatemala. In June 2019, we expanded into the Western Highlands where we now have a third mobile unit team that serves the departments of Huehuetenango, Quetzaltenango, and San Marcos. Providing services in remote areas of Guatemala allows us to fulfill our mission and to serve individuals who might otherwise have no access whatsoever to contraception.

We also solidified relationships with national health facilities based on the agreement that we signed with the Guatemalan Ministry of Health, which has allowed us to coordinate our services with the Ministry to serve communities with high unmet need by working directly with Ministry facilities. By partnering with local health posts and national hospitals, we assure that the communities we serve have both sufficient contraceptive inventory AND highly-trained medical providers to see patients.

Programmatically, we continued to focus on the provision of rights-based, patient-centered reproductive health education and services. The success of the LARCs First methodology (wherein contraceptive choices are explained in the order of their effectiveness) allowed us to realize a 41% increase in the number of adolescent patients using a long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC). Our Youth-Friendly Space in Antigua had the busiest year yet and our monthly vasectomy clinics in Antigua grew in popularity.

Throughout the year, WINGS served a total of 24,450 individuals with contraceptive services and reproductive health education. 

All of these results would not be possible without the generous support of individuals like you form around the globe who believe, as we do, that IT ALL BEGINS WITH RPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS.

¡Mil gracias!

WINGS 2019 Impact
WINGS 2019 Impact
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Organization Information

WINGS

Location: Antigua, Sacatepequez - Guatemala
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @WINGSGUATEMALA
Project Leader:
Kirsten Taylor
Development Director
Antigua, Guatemala
$73,206 raised of $100,000 goal
 
1,370 donations
$26,794 to go
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