Saturday, August 27, 2011

Poco a Poco

Today's blog post comes to you from Emily, another member of the MPIG 2011-2012 team.
For the past few weeks, Cameron and I have been leading health classes in personal hygiene, dental health, and nutrition in two schools in Chaq: Central and Cooperativa. If you want to get technical, I guess I have to say Cameron has been leading them and I have been interjecting with broken Spanish. I prefer the universal language of hand gesturing. But as we like to say I’ll learn poco a poco. We taught the dental health class to two classes in Cooperativa this morning and had a blast. Using one very large mouth, an oversized toothbrush and floss, the kids got to demonstrate proper brushing and flossing techniques.

After that we worked on identifying the good and bad foods for the health of one’s teeth. Finally, to “scare them straight” we pull out the hardboiled eggs. One is kept nice and pristine to represent a person who brushes and flosses regularly. The others aren’t so lucky. They have been soaked in either vinegar, Coke, or Tang. The vinegar egg reeked and was very brittle. Kids were pulling out pieces of paper so they didn’t have to touch it. The coke egg had turned a lovely shade of putrid brown. Unfortunately, the Tang egg was a bit unrealistic. It looked like a purple Easter egg. We told them their teeth would look like that if they eat or drank too much sugar. Might need to switch juices for next time.
While these classes have been great and the children really seem to be both enjoying it and learning a lot, I hope we can develop better relations with community members and create more sustainable programs. Because of course, Cameron and I won’t always be here to teach them that their teeth will turn into Easter eggs if they drink any sugar.
For a few weeks now, Cameron and I having been working on meeting with the people who provide healthcare in Chaq. We’ve come to realize that this is easier said than done. The comodrona, or midwife, has proved the most elusive. As typical for many comodronas, Candelaria sees patients in several communities and travels to their houses. We stopped by last week and were lucky enough to meet with her husband, Francisco. We had a long conversation and learned a lot about his children, who are doing great by the way, but not as much about his wife or healthcare in the community. However, we did manage to learn about an alleged meeting that Canderlaria is leading at her house tomorrow. Her husband suggested that we present to the hundred women that are coming. We never actually established what the meeting was about, but I think it has something to do with health. Fingers crossed, that this meeting will take place tomorrow, that she will actually be there, and that we can listen in but maybe skip the presentation.
Rosa, who runs a clinic out of her house, has been much easier to get in contact with. Young women, who work with Rosa, are trained and paid by the Guatemalan government to teach classes about health to pregnant women and to track children’s weight over their first six years. Besides these groups, the rest of the community does not receive health check-ups or preventative care.

Last Wednesday, Cameron and I helped out with the baby weighing, a monthly event for children one to six years of age. The women were nice enough to basically let us step in and take over their jobs of weighing the kids and recording weights. It was a very interesting experience to see how all the records were kept. I was in charge of yelling out the children’s names to call them to the front and then recording their weights. I’m sorry to say I butchered more than a few of the Mayan names. As fun as it was to ogle the fat, little babies it was also obvious that our services weren’t actually needed. I’m very grateful to Rosa and the other women for allowing us to participate. But after seeing how we took over people’s jobs just to help out its clear to me that they have everything under control in the baby-weighing/ pregnancy education department.
So it seems that our best option may be Candelaria, if we can ever find her that is… Stay tuned to find out if this meeting actually happens tomorrow. Whenever it does, I have a feeling that we’ll finally be able to make some progress. I look forward to hearing what Candelaria thinks we could do to benefit the community. These health professionals are clearly the most knowledgeable. They will have the best understanding of what areas could use improvement and how to best implement these improvements. So that’s my mission for the foreseeable future. Also since we are so new to the community I think that these experiences have helped to familiarize people with us. Hopefully, Cameron and I will become known as those gringos always asking about health! Regardless, I know we’ll get there poco a poco.


  1. Keep up the conversations about life and family and continue to attend their special events. All great you do will be built upon a strong foundation of personal relationship building, even before any professional relationship building.

  2. Thanks for the advice, Craig! Good thing it's holiday season in Chaq-- all the community festivities you could ask for.

  3. It seems clear that these program directors love their work and are warmly embracing the people in the community. Thanks for sharing these blogs!

  4. Of course, Laurie! We appreciate your support!