Friday, July 31, 2015

Pop Wuj Tackles Malnutrition

Puede encontrar la traducción a español abajo.

Guest blog by Sarah Phoenix, a current Pop Wuj Social Work Spanish student.

Malnutrition is a pervasive problem in many Guatemalan communities, and infant malnutrition especially can lead to serious lifelong problems. Because prenatal nutrition is often lacking, many Guatemalan babies are born already malnourished.

Since 2011, Pop Wuj’s nutrition program has worked to both prevent and treat infant and toddler malnutrition in three rural communities near Xela. Pop Wuj and Timmy GlobalHealth are collaborating on the challenging task of finding new and better ways to help young children who are already experiencing the effects of malnutrition.  Mani+ is proving helpful for malnourished children up to three years old. Another supplement, Nutributter, works to prevent malnutrition in babies who are at risk. 

Photo by Jeff Leventhal

Photo by Jeff Leventhal

The program works with malnourished babies up to three years old, and provides prenatal vitamins to their mothers and vitamins to their older siblings up to 12 years of age.  Depending on their situation, some babies remain in the program until they turn three years old. 

Last week, the Pop Wuj nutrition program made its monthly visit to La Victoria—one of the three communities served by the program.

Monthly meetings begin with weighing and measuring each baby in order to track his or her growth. Pop Wuj staff and Pop Wuj Social Work students conduct intake interviews with any new mothers and babies in order to understand each family’s economic, health, and living situations. Babies can qualify for program participation based on their height- or weight-for-age, or based on various socioeconomic risk factors for malnutrition.

Dra. Carmen Rosa measuring a baby's head circumference
Photo by Sarah Phoenix
Last week three new sets of mothers and babies joined the group of about 30 families in attendance in La Victoria.

As part of the monthly meetings, mothers participate in a short lecture on health or nutrition. Last week, Pop Wuj’s nurse, Luby, gave an educational talk on the importance of seeking medical attention before trying to treat sick babies at home. This is especially important because of the easy access to various medicines at local Guatemalan pharmacies.  Luby stressed the dangers of giving babies antibiotics or other drugs without first consulting a doctor at a local clinic.

Throughout the morning, toddlers and older siblings played outside and on the floor, while smaller babies watched with wide eyes from their mother's backs. 

Photo by Sarah Phoenix

Photo by Jeff Leventhal

After Luby and the social work students passed out the nutritional supplements to the mothers of the healthy babies, the two doctors in the program had appointments with the sick babies. Babies who lack adequate nutrition often suffer from chronic colds and infections, so “sick baby appointments” are an important part of each month’s meeting.

This week, the nutrition program heads to Llanos del Pinal and then to Buena Vista the following week.

Pop Wuj Ataca a Desnutrición

Desde 2011, el programa de nutrición de Pop Wuj ha trabajado para prevenir y tratar la desnutrición infantil en tres comunidades rurales cerca de Xela. Pop Wuj y Timmy Global Health están colaborando en la difícil tarea de encontrar nuevas y mejores formas de ayudar a los niños pequeños que ya están experimentando los efectos de la desnutrición. Maní+ está resultando útil para los niños desnutridos hasta tres años de edad. Otro suplemento, Nutributter, trabaja para prevenir la desnutrición en los bebés que están en riesgo.

La semana pasada, el programa de nutrición Pop Wuj hizo su visita mensual a La Victoria, una de las tres comunidades atendidas por el programa.

Las reuniones mensuales comienzan con pesar y medir cada bebé con el fin de realizar un seguimiento de su crecimiento. El personal de Pop Wuj y sus estudiantes de Trabajo Social realizan entrevistas de admisión con nuevas madres y los bebés con el fin de comprender las situaciones económicas, de salud, y de vida de cada familia. Los bebés entran al programa en base de su altura, peso para la edad, o en base de varios factores de riesgo socioeconómicos de la desnutrición.

La desnutrición es un problema común en muchas comunidades guatemaltecas, y la desnutrición infantil en particular puede provocar graves problemas de largo plazo. Debido a que la nutrición prenatal es a menudo insuficiente, muchos bebés guatemaltecos nacen ya desnutridos.

El programa trabaja con bebes desnutridos hasta tres años de edad. También se proporciona las vitaminas prenatales a sus madres y vitaminas para sus hermanos menores de 12 años de edad. Dependiendo de su situación, algunos bebés permanecen en el programa hasta que cumplan tres años de edad.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Monthly Scholarship Meetings Continue

Text and photos by Amy Scheuren

Guatemalan students have just passed the mid-year point of the 2015 school year and have received their second quarter report cards.  At Pop Wuj we continue to meet each month with scholarship families.  We are collecting report cards and monitoring progress.

In San Juan Ostuncalco we had planned to discuss family dynamics in July, however the topic of family planning as related to immigration came up organically so we went with it and will continue the discussion during the August meeting.

At the Llanos del Pinal scholarship meeting/Family Support Center mother's meeting we discussed family dynamics and parenting, breaking the mothers into small groups to discuss the topic and specific questions.

Also during the mother's meeting, we recognized the families that collected the most plastic recycling during the month of June.  Each month we recognize our most profilic recyclers at the Family Support Center.

August scholarship meetings will be held starting next week when we visit the rural communities again.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Safe Stove Family Interviews in Llanos del Pinal

Text and photos by Amy Scheuren 

On Tuesday July 21, 2015 we began interviews for the next group of Safe Stove Project families.  Carmencita, Carmelina, Amy, and Sarah, a current Pop Wuj Social Work Spanish student traveled to Llanos del Pinal to interview three potential stove families.

17-year-old Karina in her kitchen

Karina's 24-year-old sister-in-law, Maria Marleny, in her kitchen

What struck me most about the three families was that they were all young families.  Each family included a young mother and father with a young child, often temporarily living in their parents' or in-laws' homes.

Pop Wuj continues to reach out to families with small children because babies and small children are more likely to be in the kitchen with their mothers and therefore be exposed to more smoke.  The risk of accidental burns is also higher.

Elsa's son often plays near the fire
Little Jairo helps his mother harvest radishes in their "front yard"

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Pop Wuj and the Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Guest blog by Kelly Dent, a current Pop Wuj Social Work Spanish student.
Photos by Amy Scheuren

"A real humanist can be identified more by his trust in the people, which engages him in their struggles, than by a thousand actions in their favor without that trust. Trusting the people is the indispensible precondition for revolutionary change.” – Paulo Freire

I read Paulo Freire’s book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, before coming to Guatemala. I found myself glued to the pages as I reflected on my inherited privilege and elitism, and my role in the war against oppression. I then arrived to Pop Wuj only to find the same messages shared with me during my cultural orientation here. This made me incredibly excited to work with an organization that had a philosophy of work with the people here and not for the people here. 

For example, when helping with a reforestation project the other day, I learned that the group (of mostly women) that we met with to plant the tress, existed for many years before Pop Wuj joined. Pop Wuj aids through volunteer support, relationship, dialogue and financial resources, but the group already existed. Pop Wuj did not join the group explaining how they should change things to make it better. They joined the group asking how they can help and support what the indigenous folks are already doing for themselves. This is the philosophy of Paulo Freire's book. 

Meeting with the scholarship families before planting the trees

Carrying the seedlings to the planting site

What does it look like to live in complete solidarity with the oppressed and be a part of their revolution? What more can we do? Much more I’m sure. It's a process of committing ourselves to solidarity with the oppressed and a constant process of humbling and re-examining myself in the process. This is the process that I see Pop Wuj living out and it is a privilege to witness.

“The more radical a person is, the more fully he or she enters into reality so that, knowing it better, he or she can better transform it. This individual is not afraid to confront, to listen, or to see the world unveiled. This person is not afraid to meet the people or to enter into dialogue with them. This person does not consider himself or herself the proprietor of history or of all people, or the liberator of the oppressed; but he or she does commit himself or herself, within history to fight at their side” (pg. 39).
According to Paulo Freire (pp 89-92), there are four very important concepts that are integral in the process of obtaining inner freedom and aligning with the oppressed to create change:

- Dialogue cannot exist in the absence of a profound love for the world and for people
- Love is an act of courage, not of fear. Love is a commitment to others

- Dialogue is broken if the parties (or one of them) lack humility
- How can I dialogue if I always project ignorance onto others and never perceive my own?
- How can I dialogue if I consider myself a member of the in-group, of “pure” men and women, the owners of truth and knowledge?
- How can I dialogue if I am closed to - and even offended by - the contribution of others?
- How can I dialogue if I am afraid of being displaced, the mere possibility causing me torment and weakness?

- Faith in their power to make and remake, to create and re-create, faith in their vocation to be more fully human (which is not the privilege of an elite, but the birthright of all)
- The dialogical man believes in others even before he meets them face-to-face
- This becomes a horizontal relationship of which mutual trust between the dialoguers is the logical consequence

- If dialoguers expect nothing to come of their efforts, their encounter will be empty and sterile, bureaucratic and tedious

- True dialogue cannot exist unless the dialoguers engage in critical thinking – which perceived reality as process, as transformation, rather than as a static entity

Being a part of Pop Wuj's projects is an opportunity to see these philosophies and concepts lived out in real time with the oppressed indigenous population in Guatemala. I highly recommend reading the Pedagogy of the Oppressed before arriving to enhance your understanding of these concepts and the great work of this organization. 

Even the youngest among us carried seedlings and planted trees!
Planting the seedlings

Friday, July 17, 2015

Todos Son Estrellas

Guest blog by Lisa Castagnola, a current Pop Wuj Social Work Spanish student who is focusing her work at the Family Support Center.

At Pop Wuj we believe that all of the children are stars and we work to support their bright and healthy futures. In addition to homework help and a nutritious meal each day, the Family Support Center offers various enrichment activities. Some activities are larger annual day-long activities and some are smaller afternoon activities run by social work volunteers. 

The project illustrated below is a self-esteem building activity, in which each child put their name in the middle of a star surrounded by five positive attributes or characteristics about themselves.  

Check our what our 'medianos' are thinking!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Pacas, Clinics, and Scholarships!

In June we visited Chirijquiac for a mobile clinic, scholarship meeting, and paca (thrift store).  Students in the Medical Spanish Program and our staff doctors saw a total of 23 patients.

Luby, the Pop Wuj nurse, in the pharmacy

Pop Wuj students conducting triage

In addition we held a scholarship meeting with the families of the 13 scholarship students in Chirijquiac.  Second quarter report cards should be available for the July meeting.

Throughout the year, Pop Wuj receives many clothing donations which we distribute to families as needed.  In addition, we also open a "paca" (thrift store) several times per year during scholarship meetings or other project meetings.  We charge Q1 per item and it functions like a store on a first come-first served to avoid conflict.  The benefits of the paca go directly back into the scholarship fund.

We also opened a paca after the Xela scholarshp meeting at Pop Wuj in June. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

New 2015 Scholarship Students in Xeabaj

Text and Photos by Amy Scheuren

Pop Wuj maintains a scholarship group in Xeabaj that includes 40 students.  The students range from primary school to high school.  This year, we welcomed eight new students to the Xeabaj scholarship group and one returning student.  Taking advantage of the mid-year school break, we invited the students and their families to Pop Wuj last week.

The eight new scholarship students in Xeabaj

Carmencita talked to the group about the rules and expectations in the scholarship group and then we held individual interviews with the students and their parents.

Carmencita and I used K'iche'/Spanish translators for the meeting and the individual interviews as most of the families in Xeabaj only speak K'iche'.

Lorenzo, translating to K'iche'

Carmencita interviewing a student and his mother

Because Xeabaj is so isolated and difficult to travel to, we will hold the next scholarship meeting with them in August.  All families will be expected to attend the meeting.

The new students and their families

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Reforestation with Stove Families and the Family Support Center

Text and photos (except as noted) by Amy Scheuren

Guatemalan schools have their mid-year break at the end of June.  Taking advantage of the school, we scheduled our Llanos del Pinal reforestation day for Thursday June 25, 2015. 

On Wednesday Pop Wuj Spanish students helped pick up 300 seedlings in anticipation of an early start on the reforestation day.  We purchased a mix of alder birch, cypress, encino (oak), and eucalyptus seedlings to plant on three pieces of land in and around Llanos del Pinal

Counting and loading the seedlings
Photo by Oscar Rodriguez
300 seedlings

On Thursday morning, Pop Wuj students, volunteers, and staff headed to Llanos del Pinal and met the children and youth of the Family Support Center as well as some of the Safe Stove Project families.  We divided into three groups and planted trees on three different pieces of land.  We always plant on private land, owned by the family members in the communities in which we work. 

Looking for a good spot to plant

A freshly planted cypress seedling

I traveled with the oldest group of Family Support Center participants to a piece of mountainous land in Chuicaracoj, high above Llanos del Pinal.

Angelica, planting a tree

After we planted our seedlings and ate a snack, we headed back down the mountainside.  On the walk back (which took about an hour and half!) we collected a LOT of plastic bottles.  We even found extra costales (sacks) to carry all of the plastic.  There is no trash collection in rural Guatemala and recycling is even less common.  We collected the plastic and will later take it to a private recycler in Xela.

Walking back and collecting plastic

Brandon and Angelica even asked when we could take another hike and collect more plastic!