Monday, March 31, 2014

Health Education

 Health Education

Mothers in the Llanos de Pinal nutrition group listen as Pop Wuj students Cristina Woodhouse and Melissa Heberlein take the opportunity to educate about the dangers of respiratory illness.
Many Guatemalan families spend a lot of time cooking over or in close contact with an open flame inside the house. Respiratory illnesses contracted from smoke inhalation is currently the second leading cause of death among Guatmemalan children and also poses large threats to adults. While many families may not have the option of using an alternative stove with a chimney, there are steps they can take to protect themselves and their families. The presentation included education about the dangers of burning plastic and how smoke exposure can be decreased by not having your baby on your back or your children playing close to the fire.

A demonstration using dye (smoke) and water bottles (lungs) shows how much more susceptible children's lungs are to the damage caused by smoke.

Another recent health education focus was lead poisoning. Traditional clay Guatemalan cookware often has a lead glaze. The toxic lead contaminates food and can cause a variety of health problems. Some of the effects of lead are a reduced capacity to contentrate, lack of memory, reduced ability to hear, increased anxiety,  hyperactivity, and vertigo. Leads effects on the stomach including abdominal cramps, lose of appetite and ability to taste flavor, nausea, and weight loss. Lack of blood circulation, liver damage, high blood pressure, anemia, cavities, lowered immune system, joint pain, weakness in fingers and muscles are more destructive effects of lead    (, Proyecto Plomo Guatemala).

Melissa explains how washing your hands and cleaning your nails can reduce the amount of lead that enters your body.                  
Children are at a higher risk for lead poisoning because their bodies are still developing. The lead effects can include stunted physical and mental growth as well as behavioral problems such as increased aggressiveness and violence. (, Proyecto Plomo Guatemala).

It is also very important that the women selling fruit and vegetables in the market wash their hands because they are using  pure lead weights to weigh their goods. While an alternative weight is preferable, a plastic bag around the lead would help protect the women and the consumer.

   Pots with toxic lead-based paint

While we can not be sure that all of the glazes on these pots contain lead, it is best to avoid all shiny paints and glazes until Guatemala bans those that are contaminated.

Rudy Giron: &emdash; Clay Pottery for Sale

Pots without lead-based paint

Friday, March 28, 2014

March Nutrition Meetings, 2014

Nutrition Thursdays: March 6th at Buena Vista and La Victoria. March 13th at Llanos del Pinal. 

Every month Pop Wuj Spanish Medical and Social Work students, coordinators and staff work together to prepare and run the nutrition meetings. The nutrition Project began in the fall of 2011 to combat against child malnutrition in the rural communities that surround Xela. Over 80 Mothers and their babies aged 6-24 months attend the montly meetings, where babies are weighed and measured to evalute their progress in the program. Pop Wuj got a new scale for wieghing babies this month!

The nutrition meetings also incorporate an educational component. In March, Pop Wuj Social Work Students gave mothers a presentation on common cuases and effects of lead poisioning and respiratory illnesses. 


Each month the babies in the program receive a monthly supply of nutributter (a fortified penut butter supplement that is formulated to meet dietary deficiencies that lead to malnutrition). Along with the supplement, mothers recieve vitamins and 3 bags of "incaparina" a nutritious drink made of a mixture of corn and soy flour that provides high quality protein.

The babies from the community of Llanos del Pinal recieved a special surprise this month...Toys! Social work students helped Carmencita (Pop Wuj's Guatemalan Social Worker) prepare a toy package to bring to the nutrition meetings from now on. 

Nutrition meetings run for a couple of hours and it's important to keep the children occupied  meanwhile their mothers listen to the educational presentations and wait to meet with the doctors. At the same time, mothers observed how the students, coordinators and staff engaged with the babies demonstrating healthy playing behaviour that will help their motor skill development.  

Social Work student: Melissa playing with a baby
Carmencita playing with a baby

This month we also had many newcomers entering the program, particularly in the community of Buena Vista. When a new baby enters the program, the mother takes part in an intake interview regarding her family's social history. This helps Carmencita and the doctors gain a better understanding on the causes and risks of malnutrition.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Celebrating El Día Mundial del Agua at the Family Support Centre

World Water Day has been observed since 1993, when the United Nations General Assembly declared the 22nd of March as the "World Day for Water."  On March 21st, we recognised this important day at the Family Support Centre with an excursion to the local well and information about the local water system.

Heading off from the Centre to the well which provides water to a large part of Llanos del Pinal,
including the Family Support Centre.
The well is located in the center of Llanos del Pinal and is 132 meters deep.

The children and coordinators walking towards the well

Once we arrived at the well, Don Marcelino kindly explained to us and showed us how the well and the pump function.
Don Marcelino is the father of some of the participants at the Family Support Centre
and works in the Llanos del Pinal water project. 

After this, everyone was interested to further understand the water system in Llanos, so we
headed off on a 20-minute walk with Don Marcelino to view the water tank.

Evelyn, Jessica, Carmen Maria, and Ingrid all ready to start the steep journey up to the water tank

Don Marcelino explaining the water system, from well to tank to homes
The water is pumped up the mountainside (volcano side!) to the water tank.  From here it's distributed to over 1,000 homes in Llanos del Pinal.

The children listening intently to what Don Marcelino has to say

After listening to the explanations of how water is provided to many in Llanos,
we headed back to the Family Support Centre

With everyone admiring the beautiful view along the way

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Celebrating Carnival with Cascarones!

On Tuesday 4th March we celebrated Carnival with cascarones!  The children have been preparing their cascarones for over a week now.

Lining up for the cascarones in anticipation of the action!

Many of the kids had already begun to make and break cascarones so they could 'practice' before the start of Carnival

Coordinators, Spanish students, and teachers were all armed with their own cascarones 

Guayo, Marcelo and Julio getting ready to break their cascarones!

And the cascaron breaking begins!

Jessica, with cascarones in hand, looking for her first victim...

She gets a helping hand from Carmelina to crack it over Angelica's head! 

Leti, who is already covered in pica pica, is set upon by Selvin

Ingrid sets about cleaning up after the fray

The coordinators head home covered in flour and pica pica...luckily escaping the raw egg breaking!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

El Día de Tecun Uman

On Thursday 20th February, as in all of Guatemala, we commemorated the valiant K'iche' Maya ruler - Tecun Uman - at the Family Support Centre.  Carolina and Carmencita read the history behind the battle between Tecun Uman and the Spanish invaders while Marcelo, Guayo, Arturo, and Julio re-enacted the scene.

Carolina preparing for the talk on the history behind the legend of Tecun Uman

Julio preparing to re-enact his part as Tecun Uman

Guayo readying Tecun Uman (Julio) for the battle by ceremonially burning incense around him

Tecun Uman (Julio) ready to take on Pedro de Alvarado (Marcelo) in the battle which actually took place in 1524 not far from Llanos del Pinal.

Tecun Uman was killed by Pedro de Alvarado in the battle but he did not die in vain as the K'iche' Maya still live on to this day.

Pedro de Alvarado (Marcelo) and Tecun Uman (Julio) preparing to do battle for a second time.  The children enjoyed the story and performance so much that they were excited to hear it and watch it again

Amy and Fredy getting in on the action