Primeros Pasos aspira mejorar la calidad de vida de las comunidades rurales del Valle Palajunoj de Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, a través de programas de educación de la salud integrados y acceso a servicios médicos.
In Guatemala and much of Latin America, women are primary caregivers, tasked with feeding and caring for their families and looking out for their health.
In 2011, the World Economic Forum ranked Guatemala 112 out of 135 countries in terms of gender equality. Women often struggle to obtain levels of education comparable to that of their male counterparts, and as a result their families suffer.
To directly combat this pressing issue, Primeros Pasos founded the women’s health education project, Stairway to Good Health, in 2007.
The goal of Stairway to Good Health is to “empower and encourage women to make conscious, informed decisions about their individual health and the health of their family and community.”
Activities begin by discussing hygiene practices and healthy habits, and as confidence is built, later progress to discussions on more taboo topics like menopause and its effects.
Activities are participative and welcoming, and aim to encourage education in the women which can then be taken back to their families and communities.
Thus far, the project has been successful with many positive responses.
“When I go to the clinic with my kids, they always give me good service,” one participant noted. “The Program is a great benefit for me and my family, and the educators teach us lots of things that we didn’t know… they teach us to have self-esteem. God bless the good-hearted people that support the clinic and this benefit for me and my family.”
Another participant mentioned “I have four children. The program Stairway to Good Health is a great help for my family because we have scare economic resouces… I hope that the Program continues giving us this service because we need it; we need the training as well as the health care for my kids and my husband. I hope that the Program continues because it is a great service to my family. Thank you.”
Currently, Primeros Pasos works with six separate groups of women throughout the communities of the Palajunoj Valley. Three year-long modules comprise the curriculum of the program, which educates women about family health and personal development.
Family planning and community participation are two important topics addressed in the program, and in the final year women are able to become health educators and start new health focus groups, or they can plan and educate a project to educate their communities. Women with good attendance are entitled to free medical and dental services in the clinic for herself and her family.
The Stairway to Good Health project will continue to empower women to raise healthy families and be confident, active members of their communities.
To support programs like these, consider making a financial contribution to Primeros Pasos at http://www.primerospasos.org/donate/ .
The Primeros Pasos clinic is the sole source of health care for many Guatemalans in the Palajunoj Valley. Still, there are many communities in the valley that are so remote that traveling to the clinic is nearly impossible. To reach these communities, Primeros Pasos operates mobile clinics throughout the region at least four times a year.
Last week the staff conducted one such clinic at the Bella Vista primary school, located about a 45-minute drive from the Xela city center. The mobile staff, consisting of three Guatemalan medical students and our children’s health educator Magui, spent two days testing for parasites and other common illnesses, examining eyes, ears, and throats, taking the heights and weights of the children, and handing out medicines with specific instructions to take home to parents.
“Almost all of the children, maybe even all of them had parasites. It seemed like most had never had their height and weight taken, since they didn’t know how to step on scales or stand against the measuring tape.”
27% of the country’s rural population does not have access to clean sanitation facilities, contributing to the spread of afflictions such as diarrhea and E. Coli, which when left untreated can be fatal. At the Bella Vista school, Primeros Pasos has installed a hand washing station to help eliminate the spread of these preventable illnesses. Other mobile clinics operated by Primeros Pasos include dental check-ups and health education workshops.
Another volunteer, Sheena, mentioned that the children at Bella Vista “really seemed to use and enjoy the hand washing stations.” She also stated that given how difficult it is to get out to the sites of the mobile clinic, it’s “easy to see” why it’s difficult to impossible for residents of the valley to get to a doctor.
She mentioned that many older women from the area who were feeling sick came in to see the doctors after the sessions with students were finished, illustrating the importance of the rare opportunity to receive medical care.
To find out how you can make a difference in the lives of children like those at the Bella Vista School, visit us at http://www.primerospasos.org/donate/ .
In 2012 we started our Nutritional Recuperation Program that helped 26 malnourished children recuperate their normal height and weight. We also taught their families about important health topics, ensuring that the children would continue to grow and live a healthy life.
This year we’ll expand the program by working in some of the most remote communities in the Palajunoj Valley with a group of 20 low income pregnant mothers and 30 chronically malnourished children under two years. However, to be able to continue our work we need your help!
For 2013 we’re partnering with One Day’s Wages in order to raise the money we need. One Day’s Wages has agreed to support the project with $8,000 if we manage to raise $2,000. This 80/20 match scheme is the largest portion One Day’s Wages has ever awarded, which proves their belief in the importance of our project.
The 80/20 match scheme means that every dollar you give us has an actual effect of 5 dollars. Help us and the children of the Palajunoj Valley by making a small contribution to our program. Or maybe you can even spare one day’s wage?
Our partners in the states, The Inter-American Health Alliance, are looking for new board members. If you are interested, please see the note at the bottom on how to contact IAHA. And please spread the word to any friends, colleagues or family who might be interested!
Founded in 2004, IAHA through a rights-based, inclusive approach to healthcare fosters cross-sector collaboration and provides financial and technical support to establish self-sustaining Guatemala-based community health projects serving neglected populations. IAHA’s principle program in 2013 is Primeros Pasos, a rural health clinic located in the Palajunoj Valley in the department of Quetzaltenango (www.primerospasos.org). With an emphasis on providing access to integrated, culturally and linguistically-appropriate preventative health care, Primeros Pasos delivers vital education and direct services to more than 8,000 individuals annually. IAHA is going through a phase of restructuring, is investing in organizational development and is in the process of recruiting new Board Members who are committed to leading our organization into the future.
Board Member Role:
IAHA Board Members serve as ambassadors, helping to fulfill the organization’s mission and uphold its values. As the ultimate leaders of the organization, all members are tasked with providing strategic governance.
Board Member Responsibilities:
Leadership, Governance and Oversight
IAHA Board Members will consider IAHA a philanthropic priority and make annual gifts that reflect that priority. IAHA expects to have all Board Members make an annual contribution of at least $1,000. This can be achieved through a personal donation and/or through other means such as special events, presentations, grant writing support, networking, among others. Ample support will be provided by fellow Board Members and program staff to ensure fundraising goals are met.
IAHA’s Board Members serve a four-year term. Board meetings will be held quarterly and committee meetings will be held monthly. Board members are required to attend/participate in all Board meetings. In addition, Board Members are encouraged to visit IAHA’s program in Guatemala on an annual basis and will ideally recruit others to join them in order to grow the organization’s base of support.
In addition to a belief in our mission, selected Board Members will have achieved leadership stature in business, government, philanthropy, or the nonprofit sector. Her/his accomplishments will allow her/him to attract other well-qualified, high-performing Board Members and other resources for the organization. Ideal candidates will have the following qualifications:
Service on IAHA’s Board of Directors is without remuneration. IAHA-related expenses incurred (e.g. travel, supplies, etc.) are considered in-kind donations and are therefore tax-deductible.
If you are interested in applying for the position of IAHA Board Member, please submit your CV and a cover letter detailing your qualifications and interest to Josie Silverman, IAHA Board Development Consultant at email@example.com. To learn more about IAHA, we invite you to visit our website at www.interamericanhealth.org.Read More
I started volunteering with the Primeros Pasos and the Nutritional Recuperation Program in October. The Nutritional Recuperation Program works with chronically malnourished children and their families in the Palajunoj Valley through medical treatment and health education. At the beginning of working with the nutrition program, my artistic and crafting skills were put to the test when Cindy, the nutritionist, asked me to make fruit and vegetable crowns for the kids in the program. Later that week, the clinic hosted a celebration for the kids and mothers of the program for el Día del Niño (Children’s Day). The kids showed their knowledge of what fruits and vegetables they knew by guessing what each crown was and then looked incredibly cute playing outside the clinic wearing them. Later, my artistic skills were once again put to the test when I made visuals for an activity for one of the educational seminars that the mothers in the program attend. What I had not realized before working with the nutrition program was the importance of incorporating visual materials within an educational curriculum, especially when working with communities such as those in the Palajunoj Valley. Guatemala has the lowest literacy rate in Central America, with large disparities between indigenous and non-indigenous communities and between men and women. Many of the moms in the Nutritional Recuperation Program cannot read, so incorporating visual materials is both important and necessary. Creating an educational program and curriculum without relying on written word was a challenge I hadn’t thought about before working with the Nutrition Program.Read More
“Thank God that there is a clinic with free medicine that is close to the communities in the Valley. It is a great help to us here. There are many children in Candelaria that need to be seen by a doctor. When kids in my class are sick, I tell their mothers that they need to go to the the Primeros Pasos Clinic.”
-Lucía, Teacher from Candelaria
“‘Zanahoria! Manzana! Aguacate!’ Kids scream out a flurry of fruits and vegetables, practically falling out of their seats to raise their hands to volunteer for the activity I am leading with other volunteers from Primeros Pasos on nutrition in this 3rd grade classroom. In my first week at Primeros Pasos, such was the environment I was thrown into as a Children’s Health Educator: fast-paced, demanding, and rewarding.”
-Olivia, Children’s Health Education Volunteer
(Learn how you can volunteer for Primeros Pasos!)
“I am the second of five brothers, and my older brother had to leave school only after completing the 9th grade to help my dad with household expenses. My dad works in the field and last year he lost his crop by the tropical storm- we were left with nothing. I thought of working instead of studying, it pained me to cause my dad so much expenses. However, soon after Primeros Pasos gave me a scholarship. Now I can study calmly knowing that the money is there for me. I have a high average in school now and I’m also being trained on various topics each month as part of the program. I am very grateful for Primeros Pasos.”
-Fernando, Primeros Pasos Scholarship Recipient
“I am the mother of 11 children. I raise them with my husband, and we have strong faith in God. He helps us to move forward against the lack of resources, work and opportunities that make it difficult to support all of our children. My youngest sons is making progress thanks to the Nutrition Program at Primeros Pasos. His energy and spirits are on the rise.”
-Paula, Nutritional Recuperation Participant
“Before coming to the EBS group, I did not have any experience in community events. But after learning the importance of women’s participation in the community, I have integrated with other groups to learn different things and share what I have learned in EBS. Thanks to Primeros Pasos for giving women the opportunity to learn about new and productive topics, even if at some point we thought we could not learn. What we have learned is absolutely useful to us as women.”
-Louisa, Women’s Health Education Program (EBS) Participant