From the field: Jessica Oliveira on Saving Mothers in Guatemala

Saving Mothers Guatemala Program Director Jessica Oliveira recently returned from Guatemala. Here are some reflections on her experience:

So things keep going better each day here. We are building great connections and receiving lots of support for our programs. I am falling in love more and more everyday with these beautiful people in this beautiful place. We had some great meetings with the director of the small local hospital we work with as well as the other two clinics providing care to women and their children.

I also got to meet with my favorite group of women: the comadronas (traditional Mayan birth attendants) of San Juan La Laguna. They were all warm hugs and smiles! These women have close to nothing yet they possess more wisdom, love and compassion than anyone I have ever known. I was able to sit with them and do what we women do best — exchange ideas and stories!

We brought them much-needed supplies for their births as well as some gifts for them and their families. We proposed our new program in which we will send certified trained midwives to stay at the homes or in the village of these local women to learn from each other and allow us to continue to provide needed resources and education. This new program will launch in January 2012 and I hope to receive lots of support from our midwifery community!

During the month of October we had an obstetrical/gynecologic resident, Alexis Tran, volunteering at the local hospital. She has been able to provide emergency procedures, saving mothers and their babies from preventable deaths that have been occuring in the area because of a lack of obstetrical care. Alexis also conducted our first family planning survey in the area of San Juan and had such a positive, unexpected turnout! Her experience left me in tears and I hope it touches you in the same way.

Saving Mothers partnered with the comodronas to learn about the reproductive health needs of the women in San Juan La Laguna. Over 200 women came together by word of mouth to be surveyed. The energy, the passion, and the welcome of the town to our interest and presence was overwhelming. That night the principal comodrona, Elena said to me, “This is a special day.”

It is an unusual happening for the women of this indigenous community to be so open on these health topics. I was happy to see contrast juxtaposed: multiple generations of indigenous women coming together; Mayan women clad in their traje indigena holding printed surveys and answering questions with a Bic pen. So little make them joyful. They smile easily, softening faces weathered by long months in the sun. And again and again, they answer questions always with a hope in their heart.

The support we are receiving is tremendous and we have managed to make wonderful connections with locals as well as other foreigners interested in helping improve maternal and womens health in the area. Like most parts of the world, the women are an intricate part in growth and sustainability of the communities as well as the last ones carrying on their traditions and culture. I feel blessed to have this opportunity to continue to build with these women and create positive changes in their lives and communities. Thank you all for your support and please check out our website and become a member.

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