Project #6982

Improving Maternal-Infant Health for Mayan Women

by Pueblo a Pueblo, Inc.
Concepcion, a Pueblo a Pueblo beneficiary
Concepcion, a Pueblo a Pueblo beneficiary

For first-time mothers, pregnancy is an exciting, new experience, but it can also be a scary time filled with uncertainty. This is especially true for young women without access to proper maternal health care.

Concepcion, a first-time mother from Santiago Atitlan, was recently in a similar situation. As a 23-year-old single woman without economic support, Concepcion spent the majority of her pregnancy without any type of prenatal health care. Concepcion had badly swollen feet throughout her pregnancy and could not walk well, which made it even more difficult to seek medical assistance.

Vilma Mendoza, Pueblo a Pueblo’s Maternal Child Health Project Manager, notes that Concepcion, “felt a lot of panic and fear, because she didn’t know if the symptoms she experienced were normal. Concepcion felt like she was going through this vulnerable period of her life all alone.”

Thankfully, a former Maternal Child Health beneficiary told us about Concepcion, and with the generous contributions from supporters like you, the Pueblo a Pueblo team was able to get Concepcion the proper medical support to carry out a healthy, successful pregnancy.

Pueblo a Pueblo provided transportation so Concepcion could go to her prenatal appointments at the local clinic in town, Clinica Rxiin Tnamet, and at the larger hospital farther away in Solola, the state capital, which has specialized care. Rebeca Tiney, our Maternal Child Health Program Assistant, also began to accompany Concepcion to each appointment and follow up with routine home visits.

With the support of Pueblo a Pueblo’s team during her last few months of pregnancy, Concepcion gave birth on July 5 to a healthy, happy girl named Sofia. Both mom and baby are doing great! Pueblo a Pueblo will continue to support Concepcion until she is three months postpartum and until the child turns 5 years old. Concepcion will also continue to visit the Pueblo a Pueblo office for educational workshops on important topics like nutrition and family planning.

According to Vilma Mendoza, the overall impact of the Maternal Child Health program is two-fold. First, “families are very happy that babies are in good health and moms are safe after labor,” but also, “mothers who received help from Pueblo a Pueblo are able to spread the word to other women in their communities who may be single, scared first-time mothers. Through Pueblo a Pueblo, these young women are able to get the support they need to carry out safe pregnancies and raise healthy children!”

Baby Sofia
Baby Sofia
Mothers, including Concepcion, at a workshop
Mothers, including Concepcion, at a workshop
Rebeca conducting a home visit with Dolores
Rebeca conducting a home visit with Dolores

Home visits are an integral part of our Maternal Child Health (MCH) project because they let us follow up with the health and well-being of sponsored mothers and children. Project staff conduct home visits nearly every week of the year, for various reasons: to carry out regular evaluations, to reinforce the skills the mothers learned in trainings and to make sure they continue to attend trainings, and to check on the health and well-being of the mothers and their children.

Most recently, project staff have been conducting visits to follow up with the 10 children who visited our partner clinic, Rxiin Tnamet (re-sheen tin-a-met), in the past month to make sure they are taking their medicine properly and their health is improving.

Maternal Child Health Program Assistant, Rebeca, also explained that “because many mothers cannot read or write, it is important to do the follow up visit. Even though they they understand the doctor’s instructions at the clinic, sometimes they forget or misunderstand once they get home.”

If a child is still sick during this first follow-up visit, MCH project staff will give recommendations to the mother and conduct a second follow up visit to check on the health of the child.

This month, our communications team accompanied Rebeca to a second follow-up visit with Dolores, a 17-year-old single mother and her one-year-old son, Josue. Dolores lives in Tzanchaj, a rural community on the outskirts of Santiago Atitlan, with her mother, father, and sister. She supports herself by selling her beadwork. The family has struggled to cover the costs of medical care in the past.

When Josue became sick in January, Dolores was able to bring him to Clínica Rxiin Tnamet because of the support from Pueblo a Pueblo. At the clinic, the doctors diagnosed him with pharyngitis and gave him medicine to treat the infection. However, Dolores noticed that Josue had very little appetite because of his illness and was not eating enough. When she returned to the Rxiin Tnamet in March, the doctors diagnosed Josue with anorexia and gave him vitamins to stimulate his appetite.

At the first follow-up visit with Dolores, Rebeca saw that Josue was still struggling to eat enough food despite some small improvement. She decided to come back for a second follow-up later in the month. Last week she went back for the second visit and was happy to see that Josué was doing better. She said, “He is eating more foods besides just breastmilk, and little by little he is recuperating.” Josue has finished his medicine, but the family has continued to give him natural medicine to try to encourage his appetite more and soothe his stomach.

Rebeca used this second home visit as an opportunity to not only check on Josue’s health, but to give the family recommendations and encourage them to continue practicing the lessons they learned at trainings in their home. She will continue to follow up with Dolores and other sponsored mothers through more home visits in the coming weeks, making a big difference in the lives of these families.

Rebeca with Dolores and Josue
Rebeca with Dolores and Josue
Dolores' mother speaks with Rebeca
Sponsored mothers in the 6-legged race!
Sponsored mothers in the 6-legged race!

The end of the year was an exciting time for the Maternal Child Health Program! To celebrate a successful 2015, project staff hosted two year-end retreats: one for sponsored mothers and their children, and one for our Family Planning Champions. Maternal Child Health Program Manager, Vilma Mendoza, told us the retreats are her favorite events, since they bring together all the groups of women that do not normally get to interact during the year.

During the first retreat, sponsored mothers and their children enjoyed a fun-filled morning. The women participated in a relay with balloon games, a sack race, blind baby food taste-testing, and a three-legged race. Afterwards, they shared what they had learned over the year and ate a delicious meal, and the children received small holiday gifts. Vilma told us, “The women were very happy, and with smiles from ear to ear!”

The Family Planning Champions retreat was a quieter, but equally joyous event. Our ten 2015 champions wrapped up a successful year, sharing the most important things they had learned and sharing with the group how participating in the project has impacted their lives.

Now, project staff are excited to begin a new year! So far this year, sponsored mothers have participated in two workshops, and will participate in many more this year. The themes they learn about range from hygiene and sanitation, to proper spacing of births and reproductive anatomy, to managing family finances.

The new year also means new women participating in the projects, since seven sponsored mothers will graduate and our 2015 campeonas will move on. To select new sponsored mothers,  project staff visit pregnant mothers in surrounding communities to share about the program’s benefits. Then they conduct interviews with interested mothers to decide, giving priority to first time mothers or those with risky pregnancies. For the Family Planning Champions, project staff look first to sponsored mothers in the final stage of the program, and also ask former campeonas to refer interested women they know.

We are excited to welcome more women to our Maternal Child Health Program this year! Judging by the success of 2015, there are a lot of good things to look forward to.

Blind taste test!
Blind taste test!
Mothers resting at the retreat
Mothers resting at the retreat
Antonia, a 2015 campeona, discusses her experience
Antonia, a 2015 campeona, discusses her experience
Antonia and Concepcion
Antonia and Concepcion

Since we last checked in with you, our Family Planning Champions Project has been growing and expanding, empowering even more local women to take charge of their reproductive health. Our partner clinic, Clínica Rxiin Tnamet, has seen many more women seeking out contraceptives because of referrals from our campeonas, or champions. From January until now, we have seen 19 new women regularly visiting the clinic for family planning methods—bringing the total to 77 women!

The increase in participation has in part been due to the efforts of several particularly motivated campeonas, who have pushed to host even more charlas with women in their community.After learning about family planning and sexual health, and seeing the benefits in their own lives, many of our campeonas have told us they feel inspired and empowered to share their knowledge with others.

One campeona, Concepción, explained how using one of the methods she has learned about has helped her personally. She says she has not only been able to see her youngest daughter grow, but has also had more time to better care for her other children. As she told us, “I have learned a lot about the family planning methods that exist here. I am grateful for this knowledge, because I can share this information with other women. [...] I have shared with family members, friends, neighbors, and others.”

One of the biggest impacts, however, is how many campeonas have felt more personally empowered and self-confident because of their participation. Concepción explained how the ability to leave her home during the day and give her time to the project has been a big change for her. Another dedicated campeona, Antonia, echoed these sentiments. She told us that being able to participate in the program and host discussions with other women “encourages me to have self-confidence, to stray from my daily routine, and also to lose the fear of public speaking—and with this have the opportunity to develop myself personally.”

Antonia also shared about her experience giving a presentation on family planning and sexual health to a group of adolescents. She explained how she at first felt out of her comfort zone, but she really appreciated the experience: “Because of this I had more confidence in myself. After, I saw the importance and was thankful to have given the talks, because before I stayed at home a lot. For me, this was a big change.”

A recent training with our campeonas
A recent training with our campeonas
Campeonas receive nutritious food after training
Campeonas receive nutritious food after training
Rebeka visiting mothers in the Chacaya community
Rebeka visiting mothers in the Chacaya community

For the past year, Rebeka, a young resident of Santiago Atitlan, has been volunteering for Pueblo a Pueblo. This past March she became a full-time employee with our Maternal Child Health program and in her new position as program assistant, she has been very busy. Each month, Rebeka prepares and leads eight different educational sessions for the women in our Family Planning Champions and Maternal Child Health projects.

She also conducts home visits in three rural communities to meet one-on-one with the women in our program. Through these home visits, which are done to gain information on the health of a mother or her child or to help a Champion feel prepared for her charla, Rebeka has gotten to know the women personally and over time has gained their trust. Now, many of the home visits function as “safe spaces,” where women feel they can ask and talk about other taboo topics, like alcoholism and domestic violence.

Although her work in community outreach can be controversial at times, Rebeka feels that it is important to educate women on the topics of reproductive health, responsibilities of child-raising, and the women’s sexual rights. In her view, Rebeka feels like she is educating women when she gives a charla, but more importantly the women become empowered when they begin discussing these topics with their friends or spouses, or when they decide to use a family planning method.

“I’m considered very educated for my community,” she told me, “I went to primary school, high school, and university and I never learned about these topics. So imagine what it’s like for someone without an education hearing these topics for the first time.” For this reason, Rebeka is moved to work on women’s health issues and we’re happy to have her as an employee at Pueblo a Pueblo. 


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Organization Information

Pueblo a Pueblo, Inc.

Location: Neenah, WI - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Andrew Wilson
Executive Director
Neenah, WI United States
$9,429 raised of $15,000 goal
177 donations
$5,571 to go
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