Health
 Guatemala
Project #6982

Improving Maternal-Infant Health for Mayan Women

by Pueblo a Pueblo, Inc.
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. 

For Pueblo a Pueblo, working in maternal and child health means indigenous women have access to safe and healthy pregnancies. They also receive the education and support they need to give their children a healthy start in life.  

It gives us pleasure to see newborn babies grow into healthy, active children, and young women transform into educated, empowered mothers. However, there are many challenges in our work as a third of indigenous women in Guatemala give birth before turning eighteen years old.  

Teenage pregnancies cause unique risks that threaten the health of a mother and her newborn child. Such risks include lack of prenatal care, susceptibility to high blood pressure and birthing complications, premature births and low birth weights, sexually transmitted diseases, post-partum depression, and feelings of isolation and lack of social support.

As such we know how important it is to support first-time mothers and pregnant young women. So in recent months we invited twenty pregnant adolescents to join our Maternal Child Health program and two of them gave birth in early April.

Dolores, one of the new mothers, found Pueblo a Pueblo in January. She was sixteen, single and pregnant, and came from a rural community that lacked medical services. Upon enrollment in our program, Dolores received prenatal care, including multivitamins and folic acid to support the development of her unborn child, and has been very active in our monthly educational sessions. 

While her pregnancy was healthy, Dolores had a complicated delivery. She spent the day before her birth in pain and at 3 a.m. she had to call the local firemen to bring her to the nearest hospital. Upon arrival the attendees told Dolores that her pregnancy was too high risk and that she would have to travel to the region’s capital, more than an hour and a half away, to give birth. But Dolores could not make that journey.

Despite of the complications she had during her delivery, Dolores gave birth in the local hospital to a healthy baby boy, thanks in part to the prenatal care and medical services provided to her through our Maternal Child Health program. We know that healthy beginnings provide the needed foundation for a bright future, and are happy to help women and their families grow and thrive throughout rural Guatemala. 

Every second Wednesday of the month, laughter spills out of the Pueblo a Pueblo courtyard and travels through the office displaying the excitement and energy of women as they meet to learn more about healthy pregnancies and child development. In October, Pueblo a Pueblo’s Maternal Child Health meetings became not only louder, but much livelier when seventeen new expectant mothers joined our existing group.

In order to reach those women who are most in need, new beneficiaries are selected from criteria that make them ideal candidates for our program. First, they all come from rural communities where health care services are rare and poverty rates are high. They’re also young, with an average age of 24. Most importantly, they are all pregnant when they join the program, many for the first time.

Thanks to your generous support, these women receive the life-saving education and medical attention they need to ensure a healthy delivery for their newborn babies. 

One of the women we support is Antonia.  Prior to joining the group in October, Antonia’s pregnancy was labeled as high risk.  With a history of one miscarriage and a diagnosis of diabetes, she was in need of constant prenatal attention. 

Right after joining Pueblo a Pueblo’s Maternal Child Health program, Antonia suffered from early hemorrhaging in her last trimester. Using what she learned in one of our monthly meetings, Antonia recognized that she was experiencing the warning signs associated with a possible miscarriage. Due to the access to medical care that our program provides, doctors were able to stop the bleeding and save her unborn child.  Since then Antonia has been provided with prenatal vitamins and free medical appointments to ensure that the remainder of her pregnancy is a healthy one.  She now feels better and looks forward to giving birth in April.

In the span of only three months, Antonia’s life has changed. Her unborn child was saved and her health improved. Being poor and from a rural area lacking in medical services, Antonia will now receive the education and care that was previously unavailable to her. 

We are proud to be expanding our reach to provide the support that mothers like Antonia need and we look forward to increasing our impact in the coming year.   

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Organization Information

Pueblo a Pueblo, Inc.

Location: Neenah, WI - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.puebloapueblo.org
Project Leader:
Andrew Wilson
Executive Director
Santiato Atitlan, Solola Guatemala
$7,404 raised of $10,000 goal
 
147 donations
$2,596 to go
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