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.
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.
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.
For 15 years, WINGS has been guided by a dedicated group of individuals who’ve chosen to support WINGS with their time, knowledge, skills, and financial contributions. WINGS’ Board of Directors, comprised of physicians, international development experts, communications experts and nonprofit professionals, just to name a few, ensures that WINGS is always working towards achieving our mission and vision.
Hear directly from several board members their motivation for supporting WINGS:
“WINGS was founded in response to the expressed wishes of seven courageous Guatemalan women who wanted to take charge of their reproductive lives and better provide for their existing children. That set us on the right path of actively listening to the young people, women and men we serve, to understand their reproductive health wishes and create lasting ways to make them come true. We have remained true to that path, while pushing ourselves toward continuous improvement through honest self-examination. This is a recipe for success, in my view, and the reason I have supported WINGS from the beginning and served on their Board over the last ten years. It is a privilege to be part of this organization!”
– Sue Wheeler, Board Member since 2006, Board President from 2011-2013. Non-profit Leadership and Organizational Coach.
“Having worked in the international reproductive health field for 30 years, with much of that time focused on programs in Latin America, I was drawn to WINGS as an organization where I could contribute my experience and expertise in a meaningful way. WINGS’ approach offers personalized high quality reproductive health care to youth, women, and men in Guatemalan communities where such services are extremely limited or unavailable. As a local organization staffed largely by Guatemalan professionals and trained community members, WINGS’ commitment to its clients is rooted in a shared understanding of the culture and community values. This sets WINGS apart from many other organizations in Guatemala and in other Central American countries.”
– Marilyn Edmunds, Board Member since 2014. Global Health and Fundraising Expert.
“There are so many important issues to address in today’s world and so many deserving organizations. For me, investing in family planning is a way to have an impact in so many different areas – improving maternal and child health, empowerment of women and girls, keeping girls in school, protecting the environment, and contributing to economic development. And investing in WINGS is a sure bet for making progress in all of these areas through its inspirational and dedicated efforts to fulfill the rights of Guatemalan women, men and youth to high-quality and accessible family planning services. By giving WINGS my support, I know that I am helping to build a better world, one satisfied client at a time.”– Lynn Bakamjian, Board Member since 2012, Board President 2014-2016. Global Health Consultant.
“I joined the board four years ago. I have been involved in reproductive rights since my first job out of graduate school with the international division of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Since 1979, I have worked around the world to strengthen the management of local family planning organizations. These organizations, working locally with international funds, provide reproductive health and family planning services to low income families. International donors, however, place restrictions on their funding. They generally have other goals (such as population control, reduction in immigration, political stability) that are sometimes in conflict with the needs of the communities in which these organizations work. WINGS is an exception.
I am proud to be a part of this extraordinary organization. It is run by Guatemalans. It accepts funds only if they support the mission of the organization, precluding large bilateral assistance. WINGS provides quality services in an environment of privacy and deep respect for clients. Nurses and promoters speak the language of their clients.”– Tonia Papke, Board Member since 2013, Board Treasurer 2013-2016. Non-profit Financial Consultant.
Over the past 15 years, WINGS has educated and counseled 216,332 women, men and youth on family planning, screened 50,278 women for cervical cancer, and prevented 1,269 child and 82 maternal deaths. All this is only made possible by the continued support of WINGS’ friends, followers, and donors.
Why do you support WINGS? Leave your answer in the comments section below!