Category: Youth

unnamed (1) (1)My name is Shaili, and I have been the Development Assistant for WINGS for over a year. I was born and raised in Guatemala, but my journey at WINGS started when I was living in Minnesota and I had just graduated from college. As many college students, I had no clue what to do, but there was one thing I knew for certain; I wanted to back to my country and work at a nonprofit organization that focused on women. I was job searching on the daily, and my uncle recommended an organization that I had sadly never heard about.

I explored WINGS’ website and saw all their efforts and accomplishments and I knew I had to work there. I decided to write to the Executive Director Rodrigo Barillas, who kindly offered me an informational interview via Skype. He then had me meet with one of WINGS’ Board Members Sue Wheeler, who happened to live in the same state I was living in. I got along very well with both Sue and Rodrigo, and soon enough, I was offered a brief internship in WINGS’ M&E Department.

My adventure at WINGS then started; I arrived in Guatemala on October 21st and on the very next day, I was off to Antigua to get trained in. I traveled to several different communities in Coban to interview youth who had somehow been involved in our Youth Program. No matter how many times I have been in rural Guatemala, the reality there always shocks me. I saw what is very common in this country; dirt floors, mud houses, several malnourished children, exhausted mothers, absent fathers, and extremely high level of poverty. I had always felt very frustrated knowing people live in such dire situations, and working at WINGS gave me the satisfaction of knowing that we’re a team of people who all want to improve these communities’ lives.

I came back to Antigua and after going through an application process, I was hired as the Development Assistant for WINGS. I remember how ecstatic I was; I had never wanted a job as much as I wanted this position. It lived up to its expectations; I had the most amazing experience working with hundreds of Guatemalan women and families who were willing to change their lifestyles and rid themselves of myths regarding contraceptive methods. I loved hearing women laugh and chat, little children running around, fearless young women taking control of their reproductive health, and bold men challenging the patriarchal norms of our society.

I also deeply enjoyed working with the staff members of WINGS. These people are brave; they talk about topics that many Guatemalans would refuse to discuss, and they courageously challenge the status quo of this country for the better. I won’t forget every single person’s effort here; our drivers and nurses sometimes left the office at 4:30 AM to carry out a mobile clinic in rural Guatemala, and even though they came back exhausted, they were up and ready for the next task the next day. Within the office, everybody’s passion was evident. Day in and day out, WINGS’ staff worked endlessly doing outreach to communities and youth, crunching numbers so that our budget worked out well, doing research on best practices, monitoring and evaluating our practices, fundraising, and so much more. I have so much respect for this team and the work we do. Again, I used to feel so frustrated about my country’s situation. But now, after working with WINGS, I know that my country’s future is in the best hands possible. On a personal level, this experience and the people around me have shaped my life and future in ways I had never imagined and for that, I will be eternally grateful.

15 Stories 15 Anniversary

To bring our series Fifteen Stories for the 15th Anniversary to an end, we look at some of the challenges, successes and the impact of WINGS’ work over the past 15 years, as well as what the future holds for both WINGS and the Guatemalan people.

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“With considerable help from dedicated and skilled leadership and staff, WINGS has exceeded my wildest dreams. We now have a presence throughout nearly half of Guatemala, particularly in the areas surrounding Coban, Antigua, the south coast and increasingly the western highlands. We’ve had to overcome many challenges – machismo, myths, religious beliefs, fundraising (we receive no funding from either the U.S. or Guatemalan government), among others. But with help from faithful donors and local advocates, we continue to grow.”
– Sue Patterson, WINGS’ Founder

Since its founding in 2001, WINGS has grown to be a nationally recognized and respected leader in reproductive health. We are the only organization in Guatemala dedicating the entirety of our time and resources to providing quality, low-cost reproductive health information and services to rural, mostly indigenous communities. The road has been full of challenges, due to the nature of our work, and that many communities see family planning and reproductive health as taboo. However, we have made huge progress and established meaningful partnerships throughout these past fifteen years.

wings-highlights-15-yearsClick here
to learn more about the highlights of our work in the last 15 years.

 

 

 

 

Increasing Access

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Fifteen years ago, most women would have answered when asked how many children they planned to have, “As many children as God sends me.” Today, more women are aware of the risks of having too many children, especially if they cannot support them financially; also, more women are aware of the reliable birth control options available to them and their right to choose if and how many children to have. Now, it’s more common to hear two or three when asking how many children a woman plans on having. Over the past 15 years, WINGS has educated and counselled more than 200,000 women, men and youth on family planning, as well as prevented over 225,000 unintended pregnancies. The national fertility rate has declined over the years, at 5 children per women two decades ago and now down to 3.1 children per women. However, that still leaves Guatemala with the highest fertility rate in the region. WINGS takes a variety of approaches in our fight to increase information about and access to reproductive health services in Guatemala. We’ve grown throughout the years to cover 13 of the 22 provinces in Guatemala with a network of volunteer family planning promoters, two mobile medical units, 3 stationary clinics, and a network of Youth Leaders.

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Involving Men and Young People

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In Guatemala, it’s very common to see household decisions made by the men in the family. WINGS broke ground in the reproductive health community in Guatemala with our WINGS for Men Program. Launched in 2007, the program aimed to improve access and information to sexual and reproductive health services for men, with the aim that they participate actively and positively in their own sexual and reproductive health and that of their partner. Funded by USAID and ESD (Extending Service Delivery), the program reached men at the community level through small groups where they would talk about reproductive health issues facing both men and women and how to access methods, among other topics. Unfortunately, the WINGS for Men program ended when funding was no longer available, but WINGS has continued to incorporate men and boys in our programs wherever possible.

Our Youth Leader Program trains many young boys, as well as girls, in sexual and reproductive health education. Through a series of workshops, youth learn about gender equality, self-esteem, the importance of setting goals for their future, healthy relationships, and of course the different contraceptive methods available. Our educational activities and services not only consider boys and men to be allies who support the choices of girls and women, but also recognize their specific sexual and reproductive health needs and link them with the information and services they require to make well informed decisions. Through our Youth Leaders, we seek to create a new generation of informed women and men who are shifting gender norms and identities at the community level to achieve greater gender equality.

We also offer affordable vasectomies for men, which is a way for men to take control of their own reproductive lives and become more involved in family planning. Recently we have seen a shift in that men are becoming more positively involved, supporting their partners in their decisions, and also in women feeling more empowered to make their own decisions regarding their life and reproductive health. In the next fifteen years, we will continue to welcome and engage men and boys in our work.

The Ongoing Battle Against Cervical Cancer

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In 2001, WINGS screened 200 women for cervical cancer, a huge accomplishment for the first year. In 2006 we began using a rapid test, visual inspection with acetic acid, and treatment process highly recommended for developing, low resource countries as the testing, results, and treatment were all done in one visit. Since that first year, WINGS has screened over 50,000 women. Still cervical cancer remains the number one cause of cancer-related death in Guatemala. WINGS has conducted thousands of cervical cancer detections and cryotherapy treatments and has helped thousands of women improve their quality of life because we have caught the disease on time. However, the need for this service in Guatemala remains huge – it is estimated that still roughly 60% of Guatemalan women have never had a cervical cancer screening and too many do not realize they are at risk. It is imperative that we continue to educate Guatemalan women about cervical cancer and provide these services so that they can live healthy, long lives without having to worry about a disease that is 100% treatable if caught on time.

Looking to the future

As we are approaching the end of 2016 and WINGS’ 15th Anniversary year comes to a close, we are excited and optimistic about what the next 15 years will bring for WINGS and for Guatemala. And we’re most grateful to have you, our supporters, by our side as we move forward. It is thanks to you that we were able to accomplish so much over the last 15 years, and we ask you to stay with us and continue supporting WINGS now that we need your help more than ever. We are thankful for all your support and ask if you haven’t already, please consider making your year-end tax-deductible donation to WINGS before the year ends – you are the driving force of WINGS’ work in 2017 and the years to come, helping thousands of Guatemalans change their lives through access to quality reproductive health education and services.

Why invest in WINGS?

rodrigo“Every cent that we invest in WINGS and every effort that we give results in better services for our population, more specifically for our women and younger girls. That’s why I invest in WINGS. I think WINGS has a huge advantage over other NGOs and it’s the fact that we provide services at the community level. More people should invest in this type of project.”
– Rodrigo Barillas, WINGS’ Executive Director

During the week culminating on October 11th, the International Day of the Girl Child, we ran a special emergency campaign focused on raising funds to empower girls in Guatemala and give them control of their futures. A generous donor offered to match all donations up to $5,000.

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We received 28 donations through Generosity platform and numerous checks from supporters who wanted to contribute to the campaign.

We are thrilled to share that after adding up all donations we received through Generosity and checks that were posted to us towards the campaign, we have reached a total of $5,097!!!

After adding the matching funds, we raised $10,097 through this emergency campaign – these funds will help WINGS reach many vulnerable girls in Guatemala and help them take control of their futures.

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HUGE thanks to everyone who supported this campaign – you invested in girls in Guatemala and their futures and this is an investment in the society as a whole!

16-year-old Emily is one of 22 young women and men serving as WINGS’ Youth Leaders in and around the Antigua area. Through a variety of activities, informal talks, health fairs, and in-school talks, they provide their peers and youth in their communities with important, accurate information concerning sexual and reproductive health. They also provide referrals to WINGS’ youth-friendly clinic for private counseling and services with our Youth Program Coordinators and team of nurses.

Emily, 16, WINGS Youth Leader

Emily visited our Antigua office the other day and we took the opportunity to ask her a few questions.

Before joining WINGS Youth Program, what was your knowledge of sexual and reproductive health? Did you talk about the topic at school, with your family, with your friends?

I think maybe we were embarrassed. For me talking even a little bit about this with my friends or family, was embarrassing. Also, where I go to school, it is run by nuns. So they don’t talk about these things. But here [at WINGS] we have learned that trust is really important and we need to work on good communication. Learning about these topics helps us feel secure and more confident so we can talk with other people.

Why do you think adolescent pregnancy is so common in Guatemala? Is there a reason young people don’t use contraceptives?

Because people don’t talk about it, there is no guidance. There are also places where people don’t know contraceptive methods exist. There is a lack of trust and information. Maybe as well people lack the resources to buy and use methods.

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What do you hope to change by being part of this program?

Through this program I can guide those close to me, give them information and bring them to the WINGS’ office so they can learn and receive the same guidance I have received. They can learn about the different options available. I can encourage them to seek counseling and services. Also, other youth trust us, we can talk to them about these topics and they feel comfortable, safer, able to ask the questions they have, that they wouldn’t ask an adult. Because we are the same age as our peers, we understand better what they’re thinking and feeling.

What are your plans for the future?

I am just finishing middle school and next year will start my career training. I plan on going on to college. I would like to travel and see different countries. I’d like a job where I learn many skills and where I can also keep helping and volunteering my time.

Anything else you’d like to share about your experience?

My experience, I’ve liked my time with WINGS because I feel more confident and self-aware. There are things I didn’t know before and now I do know. I like going to the different communities with Ana Lucia (Youth Program Coordinator) and providing youth information. I really like doing this work.

Through WINGS’ Youth Program, Emily has had the opportunity to learn about contraception and sexual and reproductive health.Through developing youth leadership and expanding access to information and services, we seek to create a new generation of informed young women and men who are shifting gender norms and advocating for their rights at the community level. Unfortunately, there are still too many young girls in Guatemala, particularly in remote, rural, indigenous communities, who do not have access to this information. As a consequence many become pregnant at an early age and less than 30% get to attend secondary school. 

We want to change this and we’re asking YOU to step in today.

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This is the moment for girls – with your help, we can reach more vulnerable girls and empower them to make their own decisions about their futures, just like Emily. Support our emergency campaign culminating on October 11th, the International Day of the Girl Child. Please hurry – there are only 4 days left!

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Each donation made will be matched by a generous anonymous donor so your impact for girls in Guatemala will double!

The 4th Women Deliver Conference took place in Copenhagen, Denmark, from May 16th to19th, 2016. The world’s largest international conference on girls and women’s health, rights and well-being, this year was attended by over 5,500 young people, world leaders, researchers, advocates and policymakers from 169 countries.Anna and AnaTwo members of the WINGS’ team, Youth Coordinator Ana Lucía Gonzalez and Communications Coordinator Anna Zatonow, had the opportunity to participate in the conference thanks to a scholarship and an invitation from Women Deliver to present WINGS’ documentary, Blessed Fruit of the Womb, which was selected to be screened at the Art and Cinema Corner of the conference. We’re excited to be sharing our experiences with you!

When the World Invests in Girls and Women, Everybody Wins!

The main focus of this year’s conference was making the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) work for girls and women. This broad focus meant the plenaries and activities during the 4 days of the conference revolved around a variety of issues, including expanding women’s life choices through access to family planning, successfully engaging youth, the importance of gathering and collecting data on women and girls, involving men, tackling new challenges (like the Zika virus) and moving from commitment to action for girls and women.

The conference opened with a call to put girls and women at the forefront of development.

When the world

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“We all share a common conviction – that girls and women are the key to building healthy, prosperous and sustainable societies and communities,” Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark said at the opening ceremony. “And the evidence is sound – when we invest in girls and women, society as a whole benefits.”

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On the 2nd day of the conference Melinda Gates stressed the importance of collecting data on the contribution women and girls make to society and the barriers they face in fulfilling their potential.

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On behalf of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Melinda Gates announced committing $80mill to help plug the gaps in data on women and girls that is needed to meet the UN target of achieving gender equality by 2030.

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Later in the afternoon we introduced and screened our documentary to the audience of the Arts and Cinema Corner. We were thrilled to be part of this exciting project and to be able to share WINGS’ story at this historic conference.

The conference offered more than 200 sessions and special events to choose from and with the huge number of inspiring speakers from all over the world, it was at times a challenge to plan our schedules! We had a chance to listen to Tawakkol Karman, Muhammad Yunus, Kate Gilmore, Babatunde Osotimehin, Toyin Saraki, Margaret Chan, to name just a few speakers we were impressed by. Singer and activist Annie Lennox called for men’s involvement in the fight for women’s equality and actress Jessica Biel stressed the importance of removing the stigma around sex and sexuality.

For videos, virtual conferences and inspiring quotes from Women Deliver 2016, go to WD Live.

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Jessica Biel quote, Kate Gilmore

Ana Lucía participates as a Youth Scholar

From 5,000 applicants, our Youth Coordinator Ana Lucía was one of the 700 young people selected for a scholarship from Women Deliver to attend the event. Ana Lucía was incredibly excited to have an opportunity to meet and work with young people from around the world, share experiences and learn from each other. Click on the image below to watch a short video interview with Ana Lucía:

The time to act is NOW.

Women Deliver provided a vital platform for sharing and exchanging ideas, methodologies and solutions. Now is the time to keep the momentum going and put the interrelated challenges faced daily by women and girls at the center of our work. We look forward to developing new ideas and partnerships and implementing what we learned and experienced during the conference in our own programs.

While there is still a long road ahead to implementing the SDGs so they matter most for girls and women, we are excited to translate commitments made at Women Deliver into action!

“I’m so happy! Participating in the conference was a wonderful opportunity to learn from people from many different countries who face the same problems that we face in Guatemala. I can’t wait to use what learned in my work with youth, so that they have more opportunities to make the right choices for their futures.” – Ana Lucía

 

 

When we think of adolescence, we tend to associate it with a period of discovery and change: growing closer to certain friends, becoming interested in different hobbies, hitting puberty, and transitioning from childhood to adulthood. In Guatemala however, the reality for many teenage girls is sadly very different. Due to lack of sexual education, sociocultural norms, and limited access to birth control, 22% of girls in Guatemala give birth before the age of 18, forcing them into adulthood too quickly. Guatemala has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Latin America and the Caribbean and is the only country in Central America where teenage pregnancy is actually on the rise.

Through its Youth Program, WINGS seeks to prevent teenage pregnancies in Guatemala and enable girls and boys to decide about their health and futures. Our program combines youth led sexual education with free sexual and reproductive health services in remote communities.

In a recent mobile clinic in San Francisco Zapotitlán, on the country’s Pacific coast, we met 21-year-old Fabiola.

Fabiola 21, 3 children

Born in San Francisco Zapotitlán, Fabiola is one of seven siblings. Her mother sold vegetables and fruit in the local market to provide for her children. While her mother was working, Fabiola was in charge of the house, taking care of her younger brothers and sisters, despite being a child herself. As in many Guatemalan families, nobody ever told Fabiola about birth control. When she was 18, Fabiola had her first child. She struggled because on top of looking out for her younger siblings, she now had her own baby to take care of. At 19, Fabiola had her second child. Today, Fabiola is 21 years old and has three children. Raising her three children has not been easy: “Being a mother is a beautiful thing, but sometimes I feel like I can barely manage. I can’t afford to provide my children with everything I’d like to give them, and when they get sick, I can’t sleep because I’m worried about their well-being”. 

Days before the mobile clinic, our Field Supervisor Mylin visited women in San Francisco Zapotitlán to talk about their family planning options and encourage them to attend our mobile clinic. Although Fabiola showed up, she was very scared about using birth control. In San Francisco as in many Guatemalan communities, birth control is highly stigmatized. While she was afraid that her community would judge her, Fabiola knew that she could not afford to have more children. After discussing which contraceptive options we could offer her, Fabiola chose the subdermal hormonal implant, which provides up to 5 years of protection. Fabiola said she is grateful to WINGS because now she does not have to worry about becoming pregnant again and she is ready to dedicate all her time to raising her three boys. “WINGS is one of the few organizations that has reached out to women in my community. Many of us do not have enough money to go to a big hospital and pay for expensive services. Once I told the nurses I did not have enough money for the implant, they gave it to me for free!”

Young mothers at WINGS' clinic

Young mothers at WINGS’ clinic

During the mobile clinic, we also met Berta, a 19-year-old girl who carried her 10-month-old baby in her arms. Berta too had never learned about birth control – not even in school where teachers are legally required to provide sexual education. When Berta was 5 years old, her mother passed away. She was raised by her aunts and her father. Her family is very religious, and she was not allowed to ask any questions related to sexuality. She was very surprised when she got pregnant, as was all her family. A friend of her late mother told Berta about the mobile clinic, so Berta came in to get a subdermal hormonal implant. Berta may want to have one other child in the future, but she is happy that she now gets to choose when she is ready for that.

Berta (19) and her 10-month-old son

Berta, 19, with her 10-month-old son

When asked whether she was excited about Mother’s Day, Berta’s face lit up and a huge smile spread across her face. “Yes! You know, once my own mother died, I lost all hope of ever being able to say ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ again. But now, for the first time in my life, people will be saying that to me. Even though I didn’t plan to be a mother this early, I love my son and I want to be the best mother in the world for him.”

GUA MAY 2015 WINGS Santo Tomas, Isabela, 18, with son Andy 1

18-year-old mother Isabela breastfeeds her 1-year-old son Andy at one of WINGS’ mobile clinics

 

This Mother’s Day, you can support women like Fabiola and Berta by donating to WINGS. Give a meaningful gift to a special mom today and save lives!

Visit www.wingsguate.org/mothers-day-2016 to learn more about our Mother’s Day Campaign.

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Use the arrows above to look through the image gallery from WINGS Youth Leaders’ training.

What is the Youth Leaders Program?

WINGS’ Youth Leaders program trains young men and women from ages 14 to 19 so they can provide accurate reproductive health information and service referrals to their peers through community-based activities. Our methodology incorporates the topics of gender equality and power.

Why Youth?

In Guatemala, many children do not finish their education; most only go up to third grade and then start working in order to support their families. Some sell fruits and vegetables in “mercados”, some work with crops in the fields, and others shine shoes for a living. In this environment with scarce opportunities or access to schooling, children grow up knowing little about their own rights and their health. For children who do continue their education in the public school system, the picture does not get much better. Though Guatemalan legislation states that public schools must teach family planning and reproductive health topics, the culture remains very conservative and sexual health is still taboo, hence in most schools, these topics are not even mentioned. Not knowing much about reproductive health or contraception options, many girls become pregnant at 15 or earlier.

Additionally, Guatemala is a very patriarchal society where women’s voices are frequently silenced, especially in rural areas, where traditional gender roles are still very prevalent. Sadly, violence against girls and women is common. There are many pregnancies that happen as a result of rape, sometimes by girls’ own relatives.

At WINGS we believe in promoting equal rights and we know it is imperative for youth to receive an education. Unintended adolescent pregnancies can be avoided through reproductive health education and access to contraceptive methods. By informing youth about their reproductive rights, we can reduce teen pregnancies, increasing girls likelihood to continue their education, and pursue their future goals.

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Why WINGS is off to a GREAT start in 2016!

Just in January, we have already held two Youth Leader training sessions, one in Cobán and the other in our Antigua office. In total, we trained sixty young men and women. Both sessions were a huge success; the adolescents asked great questions, gave important feedback, and were willing to participate in all our fun activities. Even those who were shy at first warmed up to the topics and to their peers. WINGS’ staff taught the youth about the contraceptive methods we offer. To make sure that the youth understood, they got into smaller groups to make presentations about each method, with banners and demonstrations about how to use each. To keep the activities fun and dynamic, we held rallies so that the youth could run outside and play while learning. In addition to talking about contraceptive methods and how to use them, we also talked about reproductive rights, gender equality, and sexual orientation. We are aware that Guatemala is still a very traditional society, so it is important that from a very young age, our youth learn to respect all types of diversity. It was great to see that despite having been brought up in a conservative culture, the youth readily accepted these topics.

New Year, New Methodology!

This past year, we noticed some very important numbers. Out of all the 14-19 year old adolescents we work with, 81% chose short term contraception, while only 19% choose LARCs (long-acting reversible contraception), even though the latter are the most effective.

This year we implemented the LARCs First methodology. We explain all available birth control methods in terms of efficacy: beginning with the most effective (IUD and subdermal implant) and ending with the least effective method (condom). There are numerous misconceptions about LARCs in Guatemala: it is believed that they are only meant to be used by married women or women who have already had children, some think that they can make women infertile,   or that they are permanent methods. For this reason, during our training program we strongly emphasize these contraceptive methods can be used by women regardless of whether they have had kids or not, and that they can be removed after 5 years (in case of the implant) or 10 (IUD), or earlier if the person decides to.

Meet our Youth Leaders!

Our Youth Leaders program is made up of many intelligent, determined youth who bring such positive energy and hope to the work WINGS does.

* Click on the “CC” button to watch with English subtitles

Here is an interview with one of our newest Youth Leaders, Samuel. Samuel talks about why youth are embarrassed to talk about sex, why adolescent pregnancies are so frequent in Guatemala, and what his dreams for the future are.

It is thanks to your support that WINGS Youth Leaders Program became reality. Please continue empowering youth in Guatemala by making a tax-deductible contribution to WINGS.

In January 2015, WINGS launched a pilot of its youth peer education program (#WINGS4YOUTH). 144 young men and women from rural villages in the Alta Verapaz province received training in reproductive health and rights and are now active leaders in their communities.

Last month, with support from our partner organizations, we organized a 3-day leadership camp to celebrate the accomplishments of our bright, young leaders. Through games, team-building activities, and thematic workshops, the 50 attending youth leaders demonstrated their sexual health knowledge, strengthened their leadership skills, and boosted their self-confidence.

During the camp, our youth leaders also had a chance to experience parenting – by looking after electronic babies! The electronically simulated babies which cry when they need to be held, changed, or fed, eventually calm down and coo when their needs are met. Nevertheless, their spontaneous crying day and night was a challenging experience for our youth leaders! Here’s what the parents for one day had to say:

Being a parent

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On the last day of the camp, after having received their ‘diplomas’, our wonderful group of youth leaders posed for a photo:

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We were thrilled to hear how happy the youth leaders are to be part of our program. For many of these young men and women, this has truly been a life-changing experience. They admit that their newly acquired knowledge of sexual and reproductive health and rights has not only impacted how they think about their personal lives, but has also had an important impact on the lives of their peers and community members. They feel proud and empowered to continue helping other young people avoid teenage pregnancies and build a healthier and stronger Guatemala.

To support WINGS’ youth program, please consider making a donation to WINGS.

We are thrilled to share a blog post written for CAMY and WINGS by our Youth Specialist in Cobán, Alta Verapaz, 23-year-old Fidelia Chub. Read on to learn about WINGS’ work with youth and the fight to engage local authorities in protecting young people and their rights.

To support WINGS’ work with youth, make a tax-deductible contribution to our #WINGS4YOUTH year-end campaign and change young lives! 

FIDELIABlog post written by Fidelia Chub, Youth Specialist for WINGS Guatemala ©Photo by WINGS

On October 5th, Emily Barcklow, Central America & Mexico Youth Fund (CAMY) Program Officer and Gloria Diaz Jaso, CAMY Scholarship Recipient, joined WINGS on a visit to San José, a semi- urban community 10 minutes outside Cobán, Alta Verapaz. They were able to attend an informational talk for youth in the community given by Byron de La Cruz, a WINGS’ Youth leader. Byron began volunteering earlier this year as Youth Leader in our project supported by CAMY due to his desire to help his peers avoid teenage pregnancies.

Byron WorkshopByron gives a talk about teenage pregnancy prevention ©Photo by CAMY Fund

By the time we arrived, 11 young women and men had showed up to listen to Byron’s talk. The topic for the workshop was, “Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention, Reproductive Risk and Family Planning.” Byron had asked a local family if he could host the talk in their backyard and they were more than happy to let the youth use the space. During the talk, the youth who arrived were very active and participative, asking questions when they had doubts.

un-asistente-colocando-el-condónCondom use demonstration ©Photo by CAMY Fund

Upon returning to the WINGS office, Emily, Gloria and I talked about several areas of improvement and plans to continue with the current project. Something that we recognized was the diversity of young people in the area because the ones who attended to the talk that day were completely different from the girls from a Tanchí village that CAMY visited in March: the girls from the village were timid and had trouble expressing themselves. We concluded that when you are close to the municipal capital, you have greater opportunities to receive information which makes youth in those areas more active. Thus, it’s necessary to make sure the same information and services exist at the community level to promote development not just for one group, but for all people.

We also talked about other project activities completed in the last few months. For example, in August and September we organized advocacy activities in various municipalities to celebrate International Youth Day and the Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Day.

In August, we also participated in the regional meeting for youth and teenagers called “Advocating for My Rights” in partnership with Plan International, the Network of Youth Organizations of Alta Verapaz (ROJAV), Youth Bureau of Cobán, Paz Jóven, and Social Cooperation Institute (ICOS). Several youth from the participating institutions joined WINGS’ youth leaders in the meeting. This two day event included a rally, artistic activities, and a forum with the local authorities and aspiring congressional deputies, to motivate young people and the invitees.

rallyYouth Rally in Cobán. ©Photo by CAMY Fund

During the meeting, two forums were hosted – the first one with Ministry of Health and Municipal Youth Office representatives, and the second with four deputies participating in the October election. The youth were very engaged and asked the various representatives and aspiring politicians, “what have you done to prevent teenage pregnancies?” and “what will you do to support youth if you are elected to the Congress?” This was a productive space for the youth to advocate for their rights in front of local authorities and future congressional figures.

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©Photo by CAMY Fund

Similarly, during September and October we hosted a roundtable discussion in San Cristobal Verapaz with local authorities. Although we had organized roundtable discussions in Santa Cruz Chisec, the local authorities did not arrive. Seeing the lack of interest from local authorities was extremely discouraging to the youth and teachers participating in the roundtables.

Some of our Youth Leaders expressed disappointment because some local leaders do not have any interest in young people and do not want to invest in youth. We realize how important it is to continue informing and sensitizing young people about the rights and existing laws that protect them. We agreed that next year, we will continue implement advocacy activities to show the authorities that now young people are demanding their rights.

Thanks to Nicole A. Otis and Clara Avila for helping with the translation!

Don’t forget to visit #WINGS4YOUTH campaign page and give a gift that gives back!Slide2 WINGS4Youth

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