So far, 2014 has been a great year for Primeros Pasos! We are grateful for your continued support and proud to present our 2014 updates!
UPDATE ON STAFF CHANGES
2014 has been a year of many exciting staff changes for Primeros Pasos.
In March 2014, we welcomed our new Development Director, Clinic Director, and Volunteer Coordinator Jamie De Guzmán Pet to the Primeros Pasos team. Jamie is originally from San Diego, California and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in International Development and Spanish from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2010. At UCLA, Jamie was involved in various organizations centered on Global Health, Human Rights, AIDS/HIV Awareness, and UNICEF. After university, Jamie worked in Madrid, Spain for two years. In January 2014, Jamie joined Primeros Pasos as a Child Health Educator and was soon offered the position of General Clinic Director, Development Director and Volunteer Coordinator. Since Jamie took on these positions, Primeros Pasos has focused on quality management and implementing strategies for self-sustainability.
We also welcome our new Doctor, Doctora Evelyn Mariana Sum Flores, who joined our clinic at the beginning of July. We are happy to have her in the clinic, and look forward to the high quality of medical care that she will bring to the residents of the Palajunoj Valley. In addition, we were joined this June by our new Nutritionist, Licenciada Scarlet María de los Ángeles Samayoa Ríos. She has been working hard to improve the Nutritional Recuperation program and make sure that mothers enrolled in the program are receiving the support they need. Our previous nutritionist, Licenciada Crisálida Susana Menchú Tacam, has joined our Board of Directors and will continue to provide her wisdom and experience to Primeros Pasos. We also had our new Fundraising Director, Lukas Riha, join us this May. Lukas will help us implement important plans to increase our organization’s financial sustainability. Lastly, Primeros Pasos welcomed our new Education Director, Licenciada María Caniz Hernàndez, at the end of 2013. María Caniz has been a great asset to our education program, and brings over 20 years of experience as an educator to her position. She is a dynamic and captivating educator, and kids and staff alike are excited to have her in our organization.
HEALTHY SCHOOL PROGRAM
June is a busy month for Primeros Pasos, with 15 volunteers currently visiting from around the globe. Our wonderful volunteers are helping us with a variety of projects, from developing a more comprehensive Healthy Schools curriculum to conducting research on various water sources throughout the valley. With their assistance, we hope to implement our new and improved education program in selected pilot schools by July. With our new lesson plans, we will visit schools more frequently and provide in-depth lessons on important health topics, assuring that the children of the Palajunoj receive a comprehensive health education.
We are also in the midst of our yearly Healthy Schools Mobile Clinics! Our doctors have already examined and treated children from 7 of the 10 schools that we work with every year, as well as treating several community members who stopped by our mobile clinics. This year has been especially exciting for our Healthy Schools program due to our Dia de Salud (Health Day) at Xecaracoj, organized in conjunction with our local PeaceCorps Volunteer, Rachel Lequier, and the organization Soluciones Comunitarias. With the help of several teachers, local volunteers, and international volunteers, we presented lessons on nutrition, personal hygiene, sanitation, mental health and self-esteem, and dental hygiene to all 700 students from the school. Because lack of clean water access often presents a barrier to health and hygiene for these students, we partnered with the organization Soluciones Comunitarias to supply convenient, cost-effective water filters to parents and teachers.
NUTRITIONAL RECUPERATION PROJECT
We’re also working on improving and growing our Nutritional Recuperation Project! This year, our team is working closely with over 20 pregnant mothers and mothers with chronically malnourished children under 2 years old in some of the most remote communities of the Valley. Through workshops, cooking lessons, and frequent checkups, we’ve already seen great improvements in the health of our participants. Recently, author Roger Thurow visited our organization to conduct research for his upcoming book, 1,000 days. According to several studies (SUN initiative), the health of a child in its first 1,000 days will determine its lifelong health and success. In the Palajunoj Valley, where child malnutrition rates approach 70 percent, it is essential that we conduct health interventions during this critical period. We are planning to lengthen our program to three years so that we can stand by mothers throughout their children’s first 1,000 days.
This month, many exciting technological upgrades are being implemented at the clinic. Currently, two of our Medical Volunteers are developing an Android application for Primeros Pasos, which will make prescribing medicine simpler for our doctors and Guatemalan medical students. The app will automate calculating dosage requirements by a child’s weight and age, and help us to further increase accuracy and improve the quality of our medical care in the Palajunoj Valley. It will be a great asset to busy doctors at our mobile clinics.
We are also working on installing an Open MRS system and developing detailed manuals to make transitions smoother for our clinical staff and volunteers. With the new Open MRS system, Primeros Pasos will further improve its ability to track data from our medical, nutritional, and educational programs. This will allow us to improve the efficiency and sustainability of our organization, allow us to better evaluate our programs, and ensure the success of Primeros Pasos programs for years to come.
Thank you again for all of your continued support! Without you, none of the medical care, services, or educational programs that we provide would be possible! We know that there are a lot of organizations out there to support, and we are very grateful for that you’ve chosen to invest in Primeros Pasos. We truly depend on the generosity of donors like you to continue our programs in the Palajunoj Valley, and are deeply appreciative for your assistance.
Volunteers at Work
Healthy Schools Program
Nutrition Group Meeting