2016 Update – San Juan Argueta

We had another amazing time in Guatemala training further comadronas, (a.k.a. traditional birth attendants) as well as volunteer firemen/ paramedics and nurses. We spent 2 weeks in a small town called San Juan Argueta in the Department of Sololá. This town serves approx. 8,000 people including those from the surrounding hamlets and villages. It is situated in the highlands of central Guatemala, just off the Pan American highway. Although there is a public Health Unit and a volunteer ambulance service in town, they are very poorly equipped. The National Hospital, although only 45 min. away, also lacks necessary medications and equipment and often also the necessary trained personnel. There are times when there is no surgeon available, should a woman require a Caesarean section.  Last year there were 2 maternal deaths in this area, accenting the importance of further training. Our course gives the students the knowledge and skills to assess pregnant women during their pregnancy to help prevent complications from arising as well as skills needed should an emergency arise during the birth.

Our first week, we trained 28 eager students, 24 being comadronas, some with a lot of experience, 1 aspiring comadrona, as well as a second year nursing student and 2 educators from health units. Once again, it was remarkable to see the students so intrigued by what they were learning. In spite of some having had some previous training, their desire to learn was palpable! We frequently heard that this was the first time they had experienced a “hands-on” type course. Most of the class spoke K’iche’, the Mayan language of the area, so we leaned heavily on Gloria to do a lot of the teaching and translating as this is one of the languages she is fluent in! We are so blessed to continue having Gloria and Cenaida remain as the Guatemalan component of our team.

Our second week, we trained 12 nurses’ aides, 3 registered nurses, 13 volunteer paramedics and 3 others aspiring to become volunteer paramedics.  We covered everything we teach the comadronas, and then also more advanced training regarding the emergencies they may be called on to assist. We had some very good discussions about mutual respect, the varying roles of each group and the need to support one another and prevent discrimination and blame from occurring in emergency situations.

The courses were very well received and during our final talking circles (at the end of each week-long course) we heard from many, how valuable the training had been, how they found the “hands-on” format to be very useful, and how they felt very grateful for the opportunity to participate in our course. We had a wonderful graduation ceremony to celebrate the students completing the course and each student received their diploma and manual, as well as a kit of supplies to help them during their next number of births.

Our team has already been asked to bring our course to another remote area, in an area NE of Guatemala City, as well as the large municipality next to San Juan Argueta. We hope to be back in Guatemala for training in these areas next year. In the coming year our Guatemalan teammates will be going back to areas where we have trained, to collect data to see what impact the training has had on the statistics regarding births, on the practice of the comadronas, as well as the relationship with health centre staff.

The Ministry of Health continues to give us their complete approval and hope that we will be able to reach many other remote areas of Guatemala in the coming years. This will include the concept of having a registry of trained comadronas, at a national level, with the hope of training all comadronas within Guatemala with our comprehensive hands-on course. Many more areas of Guatemala are still in need of training.

Thank you all, once again, for your much-appreciated support (financial and otherwise) of this project, helping many Guatemalans learn safe birthing skills and saving lives of moms and babies!

This year we took some photos of those participating in our course with their message to you.  Their thanks, in various languages, are truly heart-felt!