Safe Motherhood just finished a course in Guatemala for the tenth year, teaching safe birthing practices in rural Guatemala. Our Canadian team this year was made up of Ruth Brighouse (MD), Kristine Zylstra Moore and Annette Borkent. We were joined by our Guatemalan teammates, Cenaida Juarez, Gloria Cutuj, Gloria Mejía and Aura Xatá.
We spent both of our weeks in Panajachel, a town on Lago Atitlán. We taught a total of 46 students including 16 traditional midwives, 14 first aid attendants, and 16 nursing students mostly from the surrounding areas. Six were from towns as far away as 3-7 hours by bus. All were very eager to learn the essentials in becoming more knowledgeable in safe birthing.
All of our students could speak Spanish, which made the teaching go much more quickly. This left more time for our discussions of family planning, emergency planning, as well as human rights, women’s rights and how to promote good self esteem in pregnant women. We also discussed the importance of good nutrition. This topic is of immense importance as statistically, Guatemala is 4th place worldwide for levels of malnutrition and is the worst in this regard in all of Latin America! They also recognized that racism and discrimination were continuing problems and human rights were regularly violated in the present health care system. We hope to see more cooperation at the ground level over the coming years.
Each student had the opportunity to bring in a pregnant woman to have a prenatal assessment done in conjunction with their traditional midwife and Ruth. These patients then also received a packet of clothing for their baby as well as prenatal vitamins, folic acid and iron.
Each week during our closing circle, we heard many people express their gratitude for the course. Many of them eloquently shared that this was the first time they had received any hands- on training and how useful this was for them. After doing many demonstrations and role playing situations, they felt quite confident that they had learned the information.
We are in the midst of trying to have our course recognized officially by the federal govt. of Guatemala to make it possible to spread the course further afield and increase the ease of getting supplies into the country. Thank you so much for your continuing and gracious support for this project. Our project is making a real difference in the lives of many people in Guatemala! We are always grateful for donations so that we can continue our work.