WINGS BLOG

FIFTEEN STORIES

Olivia, 35, had never used a family planning method. My husband didn’t really approve, and people around here say that bad things happen to women who use family planning methods. They say if a woman does not menstruate normally, blood will fill her stomach or go to the lungs and cause cancer.  I was afraid, so I never took birth control pills or got injections.”

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As a result of the misconceptions and cultural barriers when it comes to accessing family planning services, Olivia has 9 children. “They are all still alive, but some of them are still very small.”

Recently, however, one of Olivia’s neighbors explained the benefits of spacing out pregnancies to her and her husband. This made them both more interested in attending an informational talk on family planning when WINGS’ mobile clinic came to town.

“I’ve learned from WINGS that, with each birth, my health is put at risk. I don’t want to die and leave my children without a mother.  And I know I have had too many children already.” Keeping this in mind, Olivia opted  to get a Jadelle sub-dermal implant, which will protect her from unintended pregnancies for five years the day of WINGS’ mobile medical clinic.

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WINGS’ nurse Flori explains the use of Jadelle subdermal implant during a mobile clinic informational talk

Olivia is excited that she will be better able to give her children what they need, without worrying about having to provide for another.  Her top priority is education, but “sending them to school is expensive.  If we can’t afford notebooks, they won’t learn how to write because the teachers do not have extra supplies.  We will try to divide our money to help our children the best we can.”

Olivia was fortunate to be able to attend WINGS’ mobile clinic, learn correct information about spacing pregnancies and choose the birth control method she preferred. However, the unmet need for contraception in rural, indigenous communities in Guatemala remains huge, resulting in the country’s fertility rate being the highest in all of Latin America and the Caribbean. WINGS’ mobile units go out to those communities to make a difference and YOU can help! Your donations allow us to reach year after year more underserved, remote communities and to begin to change the shocking statistics. We need you now more than ever – by supporting our year-end campaign with a tax-deductible donation before December 31st, you will help WINGS’ mobile units reach more than 7,000 women, men and youth in 2017. Please do not wait, act now to make your year-end donation count!

15 Stories 15 Anniversary

Luis has been a WINGS’ driver for the past 6 years. In a recent interview, this is what he shared about driving WINGS’ Mobile Unit:

How long have you been working for WINGS, and how did you start working here?

I have been at WINGS for six years. A friend who was a driver in this organization referred me to the job. I started off doing one shift a week, then the shifts increased. Time passed and at the end of the year I was going out twice a week. Later on, WINGS gave me a job offer and that’s when it all started.

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On a regular day with the mobile clinic, what does your day look like?

Well, they aren’t normal days. It all depends on the time the mobile unit is scheduled to leave in the morning. For example, if we are supposed to leave at 5am, I am already leaving my house at 4am. I make sure everything is okay with the unit before we leave. A trip can be from half an hour to 4 hours long, and this happens before we even have breakfast. Once we get to the mobile clinic location, around 8am, our work day starts. We already know our lunch break is never at an exact time; if we are lucky, we eat at 1pm. If not, maybe at 4pm. On a good day, we’re back at 8 or 9pm, and I get to my house at 10pm. That’s what a work day looks like for me.

What does this job mean to you?

To be a driver at WINGS, it’s not just about showing up and driving. Here, you need extra knowledge and you have to use all your creativity, show support and integrity, and give as much as you can toward the organization. I’ve had so many new experiences here! We support the organization in things that drivers usually don’t. I never thought I’d be in an operating room at a hospital, helping patients through the surgery. If the drivers don’t help, our mobile clinics fall behind. I feel a great deal of satisfaction because I’ve learned a lot and I always want to learn more. It makes me happy to know we’re helping so many women.

In all your years working with WINGS, is there a mobile clinic experience that you can’t forget about?

During my sixth year at WINGS, we went to Agua Dulce in Huehuetenango, a community which shares a border with Mexico. It was a long, long trip. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I’d been working at WINGS for six years and now I’d finally covered the whole country; from Livingston to Huehuetenango. It took me six years to travel through all of Guatemala, from one end to the other. I won’t ever forget the experience because we really reached a community nobody could have ever imagined was there.  

Have you had the chance to share information related to WINGS work with your family?

Yes. I learned about reproductive health during my school years, so I came into WINGS with some ideas. I just hadn’t seen reproductive health up close in our country’s reality. However, back when I was single, I made a choice to not have many children and that if I were to someday get married, it wouldn’t be because my partner was pregnant; I wanted to plan out everything.

I have had the chance to talk about reproductive health with my family, especially with my eldest daughter. But it’s weird for her if her dad talks about it; she is more open when somebody else talks to her.

Surprisingly, the one who understands the importance of family planning the best is my 12 year old daughter. She always says she wants to get a tubal ligation when she’s older because  financial circumstances in Guatemala these days make having a family difficult. I tell her that it’s a big decision to make at 12, but find it interesting that she already thinks about those things.

As a driver, have you seen a great deal of need for mobile clinic services?

Yes, there’s definitely a great need for the mobile clinics. I’ve noticed that sometimes, patients don’t know who is providing the service and they think the government is responsible for it. Government services are available, but language is a barrier, and also the information isn’t always delivered accurately. We need to keep on giving people more information about WINGS and the work we do. The need is there. The challenge is getting our information out there.

Unloading the mobile unit

Unloading the mobile unit to begin setting up our mobile clinic.

In your opinion, how do Guatemalan men view family planning?

Well, even in Antigua, a very progressive city, my male friends don’t understand family planning. It’s like I’m speaking a different language. Nobody likes getting a vasectomy; I tried suggesting it to my brother and it didn’t work. So imagine what happens if I talk to someone who isn’t my family member.

Men make family planning the woman’s responsibility. But then, they also complain if she uses a contraceptive method without him knowing. This is why we need to educate young men starting when they are in school. If not, they blame young girls, teenage girls if they get pregnant, and it shouldn’t be like that. Initiating men into this topic when they are young is important. Trying to change an older person’s mind is difficult. Youth are more open to change.

During your time with WINGS, have you noticed any changes in patients? Are they more interested or more open to the services?

Yes, definitely. In the rural area, I’ve noticed that more people want our services. In the urban area, there are many adolescents who come to our clinics for a contraceptive method, and I think that’s a huge change. Years ago, we’d only see older women getting a method, but that is quickly shifting because younger people are getting more involved. Overall, I think we’re definitely improving and let’s hope it stays that way!

What’s your favorite part of the job?

What motivates me most is when we’re doing a mobile clinic in a new community I haven’t been to. I find myself like a kid with a new toy; I don’t wonder how long it will take to get there, or whether we’re going to eat or not; for me it’s more about the excitement of seeing different communities and people for the first time. I also really like when communities give us a warm welcome; some are very grateful and they even serve us lunch! We don’t forget about those details.

WINGS' Mobile Unit Team

WINGS’ Mobile Unit Team

If you’d like to support Don Luis and our team of nurses in bringing mobile clinics, offering long-acting reversible contraception and cervical cancer screening, to thousands of Guatemalan women in 2017, visit our year end page where you can make a secure, tax deductible online donation.

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