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/ .
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.
“The kids were so excited to see the doctors, even though some were scared,” says Jenny, one of the children’s health volunteers.
“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/ .
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?
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.]]>
“‘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
Over the course of this year, the parents attend biweekly educational seminars, which include interactive activities about hygiene and health. These classes are well attended with over 90% participation rates, and feedback from the families is positive. Each family receives monthly supplement packets containing nutrient fortified beverage mix, protein-packed meat substitute, and chewable multivitamins. Recently, the families received a cooking workshop from a local chef, where the parents learned to prepare healthy meals, such as chinese rice with the meat substitute and a vegetable stew made with the fortified beverage mix. Each family was given a handmade, highly visual recipe book specifically designed for illiterate adults and new recipes will be added each month.
Progress is monitored through tri-monthly medical check-ups, monthly weigh-ins, and periodic parasite checks. All clinic visits are free in addition to any medication that they may need. The baseline medical exams revealed that almost every child had intestinal parasites. In most cases, children in the area receive enough daily calories, but often lack sufficient nutrients due to parasites and unvaried diets. Over the last few months, there has been noted weight gain in most children; they are looking healthier and parents are reporting higher spirits and energy. The caregivers at the daycares have also seen improved habits in hygiene from the participating families.
With the hopes of making the program more holistic, the nutrition team is performing a full needs assessment during home visits. These have proven invaluable in understanding the issues and challenges that the families face. Primeros Pasos is also in the beginning stages of partnering with various organizations to address basic needs that these families lack, such as water and sanitation.
Many people in the communities are learning about our Nutritional Recuperation Program through word of mouth and we have seen an increase in interest for participation. Primeros Pasos is working hard to improve the program and looking for ways to sustainably expand our reach and breadth in the Valley. To help this program grow, donate today.]]>
With the help of our new doctor, the clinic is now offering our patients new services, testing and materials. Patients can now be tested for HIV, TB and strep throat without having to travel into Xela. Our entire staff also received a workshop on HIV and one person is currently being trained to be an HIV counselor, providing our patients not only with medical care but also social support.
Primeros Pasos is also expanding patient services by partnering with other organizations. The clinic hosted two Medical Campaigns last month, one for vaccines and the other for vision. Our vaccine campaign lasted several days and was facilitated by nursing students from a local nursing program in Xela. The vision campaign was a combined effort with international Cuban physicians and local ophthalmologists. In just one morning, over 100 patients received eye exams and low cost glasses.
Right now Primeros Pasos is visiting some of the most distant communities in the Palajunoj Valley through our Mobile Clinic Program. Our teams of medical professionals and health educators go out into these communities for approximately four to five days and set up temporary medical stations. Many of these patients rarely leave their isolated communities due to lack of transportation and resources. It is only through this outreach that many receive medical attention. Our first mobile clinic of the year saw over 300 patients in the distant community, Las Majadas.
We are excited to share our successes with you! Help support Primeros Pasos expand and serve more people by donating today.]]>
Margarita Pérez joins the Primeros Pasos team as the new Assistant to the Director. Magui is a native of Quetzaltenango and is currently finishing her law degree. She has worked with other NGOs involved in rural development.
Primeros Pasos is very excited to welcome Irma Mazariegos as our Laboratory Technician. Irma comes to us with experience not only from having a private clinic but also with years of laboratory experience in both the private and public health systems.
Our new Medical Director, Dr. Gabriela Alonzo, has worked in rural healthcare for the last eight years, including NGOs providing mobile health services in various parts of the Northwestern Highlands. We are excited to work with her to continue to expand our medical services.
Primeros Pasos welcomes Megan Peyton as our new Development Director. Megan is a former Peace Corps volunteer who served as a Municipal School Health Coordinator in Guatemala. She also has fundraising experience from various nonprofit work, including her time as the operations manager for two major charity bike rides in Austin, Texas.]]>