Friday, August 28, 2015

Another Successful Medical Brigade with Timmy Global Health

Text by Amy Scheuren
Photos by Ashley Aue except as noted

Last week Pop Wuj hosted the Boston College Timmy Global Health brigade.  The group arrived in Xela on Sunday afternoon, ready for orientation and a brief cultural competency lecture.

On Monday morning, everyone met at Pop Wuj at 7am to pack up and head out to Llanos del Pinal for Day 1 of the brigade.  We saw a total of 72 patients, men, women, young, and old, on the first day.

A patient receives a fluoride treament

Children play and color while their parents receive medical care

A patient with her new reading/sewing glasses
We averaged 75 patients per day all week, including mobile clinics in Xeabaj II, a K'iche' community; Pujujil, a Kachiquel community; and San Juan Buena Vista, a Mam community.

Lining up for registration in Xeabaj II

Registration line in Xeabaj II

Kids and doctors playing basketball while the parents registered
Dra. Carmen Rosa with a patient

Waiting for their consult

Filling prescriptions in pharmacy

Explaining medications with a K'ich'e-Spanish translator
Staff and volunteers taking advantage of the long bus ride back to Xela!

Finally on Friday, the Timmy brigade stayed in Xela and saw 75 patients at the Pop Wuj Clinic.

The line at Pop Wuj on Friday morning, photo by Amy Scheuren

Timmy volunteers at the eye glass station, photo by Amy Scheuren
Throughout the week Timmy and Pop Wuj doctors made referrals for patients to go to the hospital, join the nutrition program, have lab work done, and/or see specialists.  Of the 67 patients that were referred for an additional service, we are expecting about 50 to come back to the Pop Wuj Clinic to be taken to various other clinics and labs around Xela for their needed care. 

Gracias a Timmy, the Boston College chapter of Timmy Global Health, and the Pop Wuj staff and students for making this another successful brigade!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Feliz Cumple Chicos!

Text and photos by Amy Scheuren

On Thursday August 13, we celebrated the birthdays of 14 children and youth at the Family Support Center.  We have three birthday parties each year and the August party includes children with birthdays in June, July, August, and September.

We enjoyed two piñatas, four cakes, gifts for the birthday kids, and gift bags for all of the children and youth.  All in all, it was a great afternoon in Llanos del Pinal.

Brandon, one of the birthday kids, putting icing on the cakes

The little kids piñata is Oscar approved!

The mad scramble for candy and peanuts

Sometimes it's tough to get the candy out of the wrapper!
Our next birthday party will be held in November during school vacation.

To support the Family Support Center, please donate via Foundation Todos Juntos.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Social Work Spanish at Pop Wuj: One Student's Experience

Lisa Castagnola participated in the Pop Wuj Social Work Spanish Program in July, 2015.  Lisa is a masters-level social worker at a school in New York City.  Thank you Lisa for sharing your experience with the Pop Wuj blog!

Last year, after five years in community mental health, I transitioned to being a school social worker. Volunteering in Guatemala in a specialized social work program was the best possible way I could have spent my first summer off.   Studying Spanish, working with children and families, raising my cultural awareness, meeting new like-minded people, and soaking in all the beauty of Guatemala was truly a perfect summer adventure.

I spent the month of July improving my Spanish skills in one-to-one classes, building safe stoves alongside the families who would be using them, and working in an after-school program in a rural nearby town.  Pop Wuj, a well-established Spanish school located in the city of Xela, has a unique twist on teaching Spanish to foreigners that is well aligned with the social work perspective.  The school was established with the primary mission of working to meet the many unmet social needs of Xela and the surrounding areas. Teaching Spanish was used as a means of funding community development programs. 

Lisa working with the 4th and 5th graders at the Family Support Center

Lisa and Ilcy on the playground at the Family Support Center
One thing I appreciated about Pop Wuj and their programs is that families served were integrated into the programs. For example, several mothers are now employed by the Centro de Apoyo Familiar (Family Support Center), which houses a before- and after-school program.  I also appreciated that historically Pop Wuj partnered with programs that were already established by the people themselves, versus imposing services from the outsider perspective. 

Recess at the Family Support Center
Pop Wuj places extra emphasis on cultural competency for the medical and social work students who work in their medical clinic, nutrition program, and in the social work program.  During the cultural competency lectures, we were encouraged to reflect on the question, “Why are you here?” We were challenged to figure out for ourselves what compelled us to leave the comforts of our lives in the U.S. to volunteer in Guatemala. After my experience at Pop Wuj and in Guatemala, my answer is a simple on: Why wouldn’t I spend my time in a beautiful country with its beautiful people sharing some of my talents as a social worker and contribute to the better good? That is why I became a social worker in the first place, because I wanted to help and serve and for my everyday work to have meaning. And as is often the case with volunteer work, whatever I gave in my time in Guatemala came back to me ten-fold by what I gained.

Lisa, on a roof working on the chimney for a Safe Stove

The chimney!

A finished Safe Stove in Llanos del Pinal

Pop Wuj and what it stands for is the best embodiment I have encountered of the famous quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” It was an honor to be a small part of the change Pop Wuj is creating in Guatemala.

Pop Wuj is always in need of social workers of all experience levels and Spanish abilities. I encourage you to take your social work skills international and “Be The Change” well beyond our boarders. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

2014 Foundation Todos Juntos Annual Report

Some of the 2014 Pop Wuj Scholarship Program high school graduates

Foundation Todos Juntos, a small US non-profit organization founded by former Pop Wuj students, has published its 2014 Annual Report on its website.  Check it out along with other publications, including the 2012 and 2013 Annual Reports, previous newsletters, and brochures for the Pop Wuj projects. 

Foundation Todos Juntos supports various health, educational, social, and environmental projects in the Western Highlands of Guatemala, including many of Pop Wuj's projects.

Visit the Foundation Todos Juntos website to support the projects today!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Recycling Again!

On Wednesday August 12th Pop Wuj students, staff, and volunteers helped to recycle an overflowing truckload of various recycable materials. The high season at Pop Wuj resulted in the collection of a LOT of plastic.  I hadn't realized just how much we had collected since our last recycling day in May, but as always, we loaded everything in one trip.

First, many Pop Wuj students showed up at 7am on Wednesday morning to help me prep and re-pack the plastic.  An hour later we had all of the recycling down to street level, waiting for the truck.

We loaded (overloaded?) the truck and made it about a block before we lost the first bag to a left turn.  We reloaded and set out again for Recip, the recycling center on the road to the coast.

At Recip we unloaded and weighed all of the plastic, glass, aluminum, and tin resulting in a Q104 profit!

In total we recycled:
  • 397 lbs of plastic, collected from Pop Wuj, the kids at the Family Support Center, and the safe stove families in Llanos del Pinal
  • 25 lbs of glass, collected from the Pop Wuj students and teachers
  • 6 lbs of tin, collected from the Pop Wuj students and teachers
  • 7 lbs of aluminum, collected from the Pop Wuj students and teachers
It was fanastic to have a group of volunteers to help prep the materials and carry everything down two flights of stairs.  Gracias estudiantes! Special thanks to Wilder for loading the recycling and for the use of his truck!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Trabajo en Equipo, Teamwork!

Guest blog and photos by Lisa Castagnola, former Pop Wuj Social Work Spanish Student

In every culture and in every country, it's important that children develop the skills that will serve them and equip them for success well into adulthood. Two examples of such skills are the ability to communicate effectively and work collaboratively. The group activity pictured here, which was facilitated by one of our social work volunteers at our Family Support Center, may look simple (and it is) but the skills required are much more complicated than what meets the eye.

Each child was given a string and all strings are attached to the same rubber band. Being allowed to only use one hand to pull the string the children worked together to pull and contract the rubber band in order to capture and release the bottom end of the red cups, with the goal being to stack them in the shape of a pyramid. To successfully achieve the pyramid, this activity requires verbal communication, cooperation, and  collaborative problem solving by all children involved. Additionally, as cups inevitably fall (sometimes over and over again) causing frustrations to rise, the opportunity arises to coach children through and build frustration tolerance and grit.

In spite of passing frustrations as cups came tumbling down, all the children who participated persevered and worked together to achieve success. In fact, the children asked to repeat the activity several days in a row. Just look at the smiles of these determined children when they successfully built a pyramid of cups as a team.