Thursday, March 24, 2016

Timmy Global Health Brigade March 2016

Text and photos by Robyn Nielsen unless otherwise noted

Last week Pop Wuj welcomed the Indiana University Timmy Global Health brigade with much excitement and anticipation. Nearly 40 individuals ranging from undergrads to long time practicing physicians arrived in Xela on Sunday with medical supplies and an obvious display of enthusiasm.

Timmy Global Health is a USA based nonprofit that works to expand healthcare access to underprivileged communities and empowers volunteers to become better global citizens while understanding global health issues at a deeper level. Here in Guatemala, Pop Wuj partners with Timmy Global Health and receives monetary support in order to maintain year-round care for all of the patients that rely on Pop Wuj's free and low-cost health services. Timmy Global Health sends five volunteer groups to Pop Wuj a year where medical professionals, student volunteers, and community volunteers combine their skills and knowledge to serve rural communities around Xela with mobile clinics. Many of the individuals who we serve would otherwise not have access to health care without these brigades.

Unlike many other short-term medical volunteer programs, Timmy Global Health and Pop Wuj work with communities to ensure long-term health solutions including a referral day after the brigade leaves where patients with referrals receive the additional care that they need with transportation provided.

This much anticipated week filled with hard work, PB&J sandwiches and hand sanitizer started off a little something like this:

Day 1 started bright and early in Llanos del Pinal in Ixcanul Noj, the community center that is also home to the Family Support Center. After a group introduction and special welcome led by Pop Wuj's director, Carmencita, everyone went to their designated stations and got straight to work.

Carmen and brigade leader Shanti leading the first group meeting
Collectively, brigade members, local doctors, Pop Wuj interns, and Pop Wuj medical Spanish students shared the many roles that allowed the clinics to function as smoothly as they did including: registering patients, taking histories, checking vitals, evaluating patients, working in the pharmacy, distributing and explaining meds to patients, public health education, applying fluoride treatment to children's teeth, administering eye exams, and translating.

Pharmacy team in action

A view of doctors and med students in consults and the dentist at work
Timmy student applying a flouride treatment to a child while coloring
Although it was the first day, people adapted quickly to their roles and after the last patient left with their medications, high fives were shared celebrating the end of a very successful first day.

Patients waiting for consult in Llanos del Pinal
That day we saw a total of 72 patients (47 women and 24 men).

Day 2 started early with a 7am departure for our 1.5 hour journey to rural Xeabaj. The vans were loaded with everything needed to set up what was basically a small hospital and we were off.

Dr. Brett going above and beyond to set up the wires needed for the clinic
Upon arrival, we began set up at the local elementary school. Community leader Lorenzo, gave a powerful welcome to the brigade and a short history of why our services and efforts were so essential in his community. In 2005, Hurricane Stan displaced the entire community and since then they have slowly been rebuilding with limited resources .

The Xeabaj School where we set up clinic

Xeabaj is comprised of a K'iche' community where the vast majority of our patients first language was K'iche'. We used translators in order to insure the best care for the patients and we couldn't have done our jobs without the help of the translators.

Sean acting out how to use an inhaler to a young patient
In Xeabaj we saw a total of 61 patients (52 women, 9 men). The sun was hot and shining throughout the day, students took time to play basketball and soccer with waiting children and we ended the day as the clouds began to roll in around us.

Our caravan loaded up and ready to go home

Day 3 in Pujujil. Pujujil is roughly two hours outside of Xela in the department of Solola. The time spent in the mini bus, zooming around curvey roads and beautiful scenery gave us a chance to converse and reflect on the week thus far.

A small glimpse of beautiful Pujujil
When we arrived in the town, we were welcomed by several community leaders. One of the head leaders announced to the small community that we had arrived over a microphone system that echoed into the hills. Our makeshift clinic began setting up in the towns empty church, using pews for waiting areas and hanging up tarps and sheets for consult rooms.

Setting up in Pujujil

Some of us walked down to the nearby school, La Escuela Oficial Rural Mixta Caserio El Adelanto in Pujujil and provided parasite treatments to 346 kids.

Students at the school (photo by Shanti Aguilar-Cardenas)
Becky giving a parasite treatment to a student (photo by Shanti Aguilar-Cardenas)
Students lined up, ready for the parasite pill (photo by Shanti Aguilar-Cardenas)
Once the school let out, the majority of school children came to the clinic, curious of what was going on. We handed out coloring sheets (which turned into utter chaos) and played soccer and tag with them in street during lunch breaks or down times.

After seeing 61 patients (38 women, 16 men), the vans pulled out with children and community members waving us goodbye.

Day 4 in Buena Vista. We arrived around 8:30 am and gathered for another short meeting and welcome led by Doña Ana, the midwife who runs the hospital where we set up the clinic. She introduced the staff and the local translators and thanked us for our efforts. This time we were in a Mam community and, as in Xeabaj, we used translators to bridge the language gap.

 Ali, a Pop Wuj Medical Spanish student, with one of the women of the community. 
Pop Wuj students and Timmy students ready for registration
Sneaky birds eye view of the clinic and waiting patients

By the end of the day we had seen 70 patients (56 women, 14 men) and returned to Pop Wuj eager for the highly talked about dinner that had been prepared all day by Pop Wuj staff member, Carmenlina.

That night, more than 50 chairs were set up in the main Pop Wuj sala for the whole team as we munched on burritos made with fresh ingredients, said our thank yous and goodbyes and shared stories from the week.

Pop Wuj sala turns into a 5-star restaurant for the night
A full house!

The final day of the brigade, day 5, wrapped up here at Pop Wuj. Unlike normal Pop Wuj clinics which are usually held in the clinic on the first floor of Pop Wuj, we opened up the entire school in order to serve 81 patients (61 women, 20 men). Rooms that usually held Spanish classes were filled with blood pressure machines and doctor consults. It was comfortable to be at our second home and special to share the space with others.

The Timmy pharmacy team in the Pop Wuj pharmacy
5 for the 5th day!
Team Timmy in the Pop Wuj house

The team finished early around 3:30, headed back to the hotel and loaded into the vans for the journey back to Antigua.

From a more personal perspective, I found what was suppose to be somewhat of a daunting, busy week to be extremely fulfilling and inspiring. The gratitude that we received from patients after their visits made the long hours well worth it. The motivation that I saw in the young students was incredible and day after day they displayed more energy than the day before. While sitting in on a consult with Dr. Brett and a scribing undergrad student, she leaned over to me and said, "This is why I want to be a doctor." Although it was only a week, I saw a definite spark in students, an ignited passion for global health, and watched as they transformed throughout the week. What students take away from an experience like this is unsurpassable. Speaking with the doctors and brigade staff reignited my own motivation for a future in health work and I learned a tremendous amount from working in the clinic alongside my peers.

Thank you Timmy Global Health and everyone that was involved in such a transformative week!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rethink

Text by Amalyah Leader
Photos by Elizabeth Barnes except as noted

After months of collecting and organizing our recycling on the Pop Wuj roof, we finally hauled it over to the recycling center.

The costales (bags) were filled with recycling collected from the school, students, or teachers' homes, and students from the Family Support Center. With the help of two Pop Wuj students, we carried all the costales down from the roof and onto the street. Seeing all the costales laid out in front of the building, it was an impressive display.

Photo by Amy Scheuren

Photo by Amy Scheuren
As soon as the truck driver showed up we threw the bags onto the truck and then off we went up the road to Cantel. 

Photo  by Amy Scheuren
Getting to ride in the back of the truck seemed like a nice opportunity to take a nap.  :)

After arriving to the recycling center we weighed all of our materials, separating plastic, glass, carbboard, metal, and aluminum cans.

We recycled a total of:
184 lbs of plastic
75 lbs of glass
6 lbs of aluminum
8 lbs of other metal (tin)
12 lbs of cardboard

Weighing the glass

Do you know how long each type of waste takes to decompose?

Paper: 2-6 months
Fabric: 6 to 12 months
Cigarettes: 5 years
Candy gum: 5 years
Wood: 13 year
Metal: 450 years
Nylon: more than 30 years
Aluminum Cans: 300 to 500 years
Plastic: 800 years
Glass: 1 millon years
Tires: Unknown/indefinite

It's important to make choices and educate ourselves about where our waste goes, how much we use, and what we do with it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Tu Puedes Hacer Todo: Celebrating International Women's Day

Text by Amalyah Leader, Photos by Allison Smith

On March 3rd, at the Family Support Center we celebrated International Women's Day! The day was full of puppet making, theater shows, and learning about strong Guatemalan women. Usually the older kids work on their homework in the afternoon, but four of them had finished early and so we quickly roped them in to helping us out with the little ones. Having already prepared a short script and a few puppets, our four new actors gathered together outside the classroom to rehearse. After going over the script once, we practiced speaking in loud voices and using our puppets as we talked.

Next, all of the little ones gathered together to watch the show. The older kids performed for the younger ones the story of a little girl who wanted to be the ruler of the forest of Llanos del Pinal but was saddened by her friends who told her that she couldn't because she was a girl. In the end the girl was comforted by her mother's wise words that told her, "Tu puedes hacer todo" or "You can do anything." The older kids definitely rose to the challenge of acting in front of their peers and were quickly contracted to perform it once again for the rest of the older children. They performed once again to much applause.

After the puppet show, the little ones made their own puppets.
Later, we combined both the older and middle groups together and paired them up. After introducing International Women's Day to them and explaining its importance we passed out little papers with different famous Guatemalan women and a small biography of each. The older kids worked with the younger ones who couldn't read to explain what the autobiography meant. The purpose of this activity was to expose them to women in their country who took or are taking initiative and leadership in their communities and to show them that women can do all sorts of things with their lives. They then created their own "autobiography" answering the questions such as: What is your favorite thing about your community/country? What would you like to change? What is an action you can take to make that change? In this way, the kids connected their lives to these women who took actions in their communities.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Get Your Nerd On

Texts and photos by Robyn Nielsen unless otherwise noted

Nearly four weeks ago I was given a fairly simple task. All I had to do was update outdated statistics on a brochure for the Safe Stove Project. As an intern, I was prepared for small tasks such as this, and as a college grad, I was used to going into databases to find articles and statistics. All easy stuff right? Yeah, it would have been if the information that I stumbled upon wasn't so interesting. However, a task that should have taken me a few hours, took me a few weeks (sorry boss). Here's why:

The old Stove Project brochure
A typical unsafe stove (photo by unknown)
First, I found myself being completely absorbed by nearly every article that I clicked on. Articles about the dangers of burning biomass fuels in developing countries, particularly in Guatemala and the grave impacts breathing in these fumes have, primarily on women and the children who are traditionally strapped to their mothers' backs while they tend to the indoor fires. As if breathing in toxic fumes isn't enough, the likelihood of small children falling into open fires can lead to severe infections and deformations. The collection of firewood is both time consuming, particularly for women and girls, and is devastating to the environment.
A mother and her child cooking over an unsafe stove (Photo by unknown)

Journal after journal, statistic after statistic, I kept getting side tracked and sucked into the scholarly
words that gave context to all that I have see while working with the safe stove program. Most notably, I began to fully understand the gravity of the work that I have been doing while building stoves for families for the past six weeks. Who knew updating a brochure could reignite so much passion for a cause.

I could keep spitting facts at you, or if you want to get your nerd on like me, check out some of these cool articles that explain why we have been doing the Safe Stove Program since 1992.
A family and their finished safe stove (photo by unknown)

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Week Two: Una Gran Variedad de Actividades!

Text and Photos by Adam Wohlman

Having just completed my second week here at Pop Wuj, I’ve now been exposed to a bit of everything and have learned quite a bit more about the Asociación’s various projects and how they function. For example, last Wednesday I accompanied a small group back out to Llanos where we successfully completed the construction of yet another Safe Stove, while on Thursday I attended the Nutrition Clinic in Buena Vista, and on Friday I was back in Llanos del Pinal for a joint Mother’s/Scholarship meeting.

A few notes about each experience:

·       STOVES – It was great to see the end result of several weeks of work by Pop Wuj staff, students, and interns. However, the definite highlight was seeing just how happy the recipient family was with the final product. They must’ve stared and smiled at the stove for about 10 minutes after we finished working, and we were all especially grateful for the juice and snacks they provided as a token of thanks.

·    NUTRITION – This was my first experience with the Nutrition Program and it was cool to see everyone in action. The group consisted of five Medical Spanish students, Dr. Herman and Dr. Mirza, Luby, and two interns (Robyn and myself). While Luby, the doctors, and the students measured and weighed babies, provided consultations, and dispensed medication and nutritional supplements, Robyn and I delivered a short presentation on how to maintain a healthy, balanced diet through the consumption of easily accessible, local food items. I also sat in on a few consultations and was able to help translate when needed.

   SCHOLARSHIPS – Though I’ll be working primarily in scholarships, this was my first real introduction to the program, and I attended this meeting more as a spectator to get a feel for the format and introduce myself to the group. The meeting also doubled as a Mother’s Meeting for the mothers of students currently attending the Family Support Center in Llanos del Pinal.  I look forward to getting to know all of the participants over the next several months!

Medical Spanish students, Ellie and Carmel, at the Nutrition Meeting in Buena Vista.

General Projects Coordinator, Robyn, preparing to cut a hole in the roof of the kitchen for the stove's chimney.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Books & Tornado Bottles: "Average Days" at the Family Support Center

Text and photos by Elizabeth Barnes

On the blog we tend to focus on special days at the Family Support Center—most recently el Día de la Mujer, el Día de Tecún Umán, and el Día de Cariño. These events usually take place on Thursday afternoons, when Pop Wuj students join us out in Llanos del Pinal to spend time with the kids.

But of course the kids and their teachers spend Monday through Friday at the FSC. And as much as we love celebrating holidays with them, the social and academic support that kids get on "average days" is what makes the FSC a successful, worthwhile project. Have a look at photos from a few average days in 2016!

Getting homework done is always the first order of business. Our newest intern, Adam, helps Santos with his class of 1st through 3rd graders while a few older kids who have finished their work play Uno.
Gustavo talks Wilson through an assignment. Individualized homework help from our excellent teachers is one of the biggest benefits of the FSC—last year all the FSC kids passed their grades and continued their education, which is nothing to take for granted in a rural community like Llanos del Pinal.
Pop Wuj students and teachers stake out sunny spots to read with FSC kids who have finished their homework. Kids who can read are expected to do so for 20 minutes each day, and Pop Wuj students who come out to the FSC often choose to join them.
Nora, a student in the Pop Wuj Spanish for Teachers Program, reads with Damaris, a fourth grader who's new to the FSC this year. Damaris is a strong reader who tends to plow through a half a book before handing it over to a volunteer rather than alternating reading pages out loud, as most kids do. 
With Santos' help, los chiquitos (the little ones,) read a few board books from our extensive collection. (Yosvin on the left doesn't seem to mind that his upside down.)
Of course after finishing homework and reading we play! Amy, Santos, and his class wait for Samuelito to choose a "ganso" in "pato, pato, ganso."
Long-term volunteer Dawn brought a parachute from the U.S.! Bouncing the beach balls was a huge hit, although we had to give up on the classic colors game ("Everyone on a blue section, cross under the parachute and switch spots!") after three attempts to repeat the directions still ended in all the kids running under the parachute and staying there, giggling.
Dawn also brought materials to make a tornado in a bottle! Five seconds after this photo was taken, when Dawn asked who wanted to try swirling the water next, every single hand hit the air. 
Brenda and Ilcy get started on a second tornado bottle as Moises looks on. We love when volunteers bring cool activities to do with the kids!
Yadira was very pleased when she finally got a turn with the tornado bottle.
Whether you have an extracurricular activity you'd like to do with the kids or you'd just like to settle down in the backyard to read Jorge El Curioso, we encourage all our volunteers to join us for an "average day" at the FSC.