Since the beginning of 2012, Primeros Pasos has been in full swing operating all established programs and also initiating new ventures. Here is a short report of what we have been up to for the last four months.
WE WELCOME OUR NEW MEDICAL DIRECTOR
It is with great pleasure that we welcome our new Medical Director Dr. Gabriela Gonzala to the Primeros Pasos team! Dra. Gonzala not only has over 10 years of experience practicing medicine in rural communities in Guatemala, but she also brings a kind and energetic attitude to the clinic. With her support, the Clinic will further its stride toward lasting achievements in improved health for the Palajunoj Valley!
NEW DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
We also welcome our new Development Director Megan Peyton. Ms. Peyton recently finished her service as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala working in over 20 primary schools on a project similar to Primeros Pasos' Healthy Schools program. Before moving to Guatemala, she worked in Austin, Texas with various nonprofits in fundraising, Web design, volunteer management, and communications. We are very happy to have her support to create a more sustainable clinic to serve the Palajunoj Valley for years to come.
2012 INITIATIVE TO REDUCE MALNUTRITION IN THE VALLEY
This year marks the beginning of Primeros Pasos' Nutrition Program aimed at combating the high rates of malnutrition among children in the Palajunoj Valley. Over the last four months the Nutrition Program team has worked hard to launch this important program, starting by identifying 25 malnourished children under 5 years old within the Valley. In March the selected 25 families met for a meeting to discuss the requirements of participating in the program. In April, all of the children received their baseline checkups, which revealed that almost every child (around 90%) had intestinal parasites. As a result, our team plans to increase the emphasis on household hygiene in their biweekly workshops, which also began in April. Every family has now received two months worth of vitamins, nutrient fortified beverage mixes (Incaparina), and medicine to treat their parasites. Thanks to the help of our dental practicum student, Primeros Pasos was also able to secure funding to make sure that each child will receive dental exams and treatment.
2012 SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM EXPANSION
In January, Primeros Pasos began offering secondary education scholarships to eight students from The Palajunoj Valley. With the help of primary school teachers and principals, we began by identifying children with academic potential and limited financial resources. Along with providing funds to cover school costs, our scholars and their parents have been receiving monthly workshops focused on topics such as community leadership, self-esteem, and health. In April, students turned in their report cards. As part of the conditions of their scholarship, all students must maintain a high grade point average to continue receiving support from Primeros Pasos. We are proud to say that the first report cards of the year showed our students progressing in the studies!
WOMEN'S EDUCATION PROGRAM
Our Stairway to Good Health Program, which operates with a three-year curriculum, is currently working at every level to educated and empower women in the Palajunoj Valley. Two groups in Tierra Colorada Alta and Llanos de Pinal have graduated to the final year of their program, which means it's time to start thinking about community projects! The women are interested in a project to address the problem of deforestation. They are thinking about teaming up with the sixth grade students to plant several trees in the schools in the area, helping not only the environment, but also creating an educational experience for the local students. Our team is working hard right now to recruit women in Candelaria for a new group. The Xepache women's group that was started in February continues to have workshops focused on nutrition, hygiene, and first aid. The women from Tierra Colorada Baja are also helping with this new group in Xepache as part of their final community project. In Bella Vista, the women are beginning the community diagnostic for a future project.
CHILDREN'S HEALTH EDUCATION PROGRAM
The Heathy Schools team has tackled the biggest hurdle of the year - Llanos de Pinal, the largest school in the Valley. All classes in this 1,300-student school have come to the clinic to have their yearly checkup and health lessons. In addition to finishing up with these classes, the team also began their outreach component of the program by visiting schools to give specific lessons such as nutrition, child's rights, and trash management.
ALTERNATIVE SPRING BREAK GROUPS
In March we hosted two alternative spring break groups for a week of service and fun! The groups worked on several projects around the clinic including painting, gardening, and signage making. We also had groups go out into the community to complete projects for the schools. Our energetic and enthusiastic volunteers built desks, painted classrooms, and even constructed a hand washing station! We are so fortunate to have the opportunity to share the clinic with these students each year and for the much needed help that they bring.
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Want to get involved? Visit our website at www.primerospasos.org to learn about our volunteer opportunities and more ways to support the efforts of Primeros Pasos!