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August 2016
From Byron Cap Caal:

Entrepreneurship in Tactic, Guatemala

byron-with-staff2_16At the end of May 2015, the principal of the school in my village and I were able to open up a library at the village. The library was open during school hours and was also open in the afternoons for 5 days a week. It functioned for four months, from June to September since after for months we no longer had support to pay the librarian. Every kid that visited the library was required to submit a report on a book they had read the previous day. My main role was getting financial support for the librarian which I was only able to get for four months.

From January to June 2016 I taught English in a village about 4 hours from where I lived. Most of the students I taught did not speak English. They spoke only K’eqchi which is a different Mayan language from mine. Earning $100 a month I taught English to the students while I would have to learn Keqchi from them. Travel was tiring but the experience was wonderful.

In June 2015 I put together a group of people who knew little English and proposed to them to open an English Academy. We put together all the paperwork and by October we had everything to request approval from the department of Education. I had to travel from Tactic to Coban almost twice a week for three months in order to find out what offices we would have to visit in order to get approved. By January we had words from the department of Education that we could start with our program but they would still have to look at our paper works in order to obtain a definite response. We started promoting in January and by February we had two students learning English. By May 2016 we had received our Resolution Number which enabled us to work under authorization of the Education Department of Guatemala. Now we hope to open a library in this academy for kids to come in and read. We have obtained a few books most of them in English but we also have a few in Spanish.

In April 2016 I was invited by Licenciado Jorge Paque to volunteer for a week at a Medical Mission as a translator from English to the Maya Language Pocomchi. In one of the villages visited I had to translate from Spanish to Kekchi. Doctors, most of the time, gave out Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen so sometimes I would advise the people to try medicinal plants which would last longer than the pills they were getting to cover forty days.

Around mid-July, my nephew, who is studying to be a teacher, asked my suggestion for a cheap project in a village. From my previous experience with the Medical Mission I told my nephew to give a talk to these people about health and medicinal plant. I was invited to give the talk and since I have had some experience, while taking care of my mother, on that topic it was not hard to prepare the talk.

September 2016
From Alba Griselda Rojas Xona:


Becoming a Leader

alba-winter-2015-and-2016Before living in the US I was doubtful, fearful and uncertain of the things I was used to doing at that time.  But now, after living in the US and knowing what I do about being a leader, I believe we have to first know what it is and truly believe that we are leaders.

I believe that I am becoming a leader.  I work at a hotel and on my first day I thought that we all earned the same salary. As I got to know my coworkers I found out that it was not the case.  I got to sympathize more with the cook and as I got to know her better, I found out that she was the least paid of all of us.  She was responsible for taking care of the kitchen and make sure that the inventory in the kitchen was all balanced because if it wasn’t, my boss would take money from her salary.  She also had to clean rooms. I advised her that she had the right to earn at least what she deserves by law and ask for a raise because she is a very essential person for the hotel. Even though she was scared, it made me happy that she asked for it.  I also told her to keep going to school.  She is now taking a cooking course so that she can earn her first diploma.  Whenever I have a chance I ask her how school is going.  It makes me very happy that she gets so delighted when she tells me about it.

In Guatemala sexism is still an issue, but I tell my family to at least end that in our home.  My two brothers now wash their own clothes; sometimes they help with dishes and other housekeeping things. My oldest brother unfortunately still believes that there are things that only women should do.  But when I ask him nicely and as a favor he will help.   I tell him that if women can do it, men can do it too.  My siblings wanted to be teachers when they get older but after I told them to define what they truly want to be their thought has changed. My youngest brother is now studying computer science.  He is going to a private school that I am helping to pay for because private schools are expensive.

At school, I am the only woman in our program and whenever we have school activities, some of my classmates say, “Alba will make the food”.  Now that I am taking electronics we sometimes need to bring an iron to make our electronic design, and there is always one classmate that will say, “Alba will bring it”.   I, of course, laugh and love to ask them to give me a reason why I should be the one.  I do have self-respect and feel that I am showing the boys and young men in my daily life that I and other women deserve respect as people.

I know that being a leader can involve much more than what I’ve been doing.  We start being leaders when we are able to deduce the sense of our impact and that impact starts in ourselves. We might find richness in knowing other people and can complement that with ourselves.  But no one else can have the same input or contributions that we have because we are unique and irreplaceable.  That’s what makes us become leaders, to have the courage to lead ourselves and encourage that kind of change in others.

September 2016
From Luis Fernandez:

Addressing a Public Health Crisis in Guatemala

luis-fernandez1Public health crisis Guatemala is currently experiencing a public health[1] crisis. Public health services in Guatemala are divided into three different levels: first, second and third level. The first level is integrated of small institutions that are called: “puestos de salud”[2]. These are in charge of the most basic health assistance. At these places, non-emergency cases are taken care of, like flus, diarrheas, blood glucose control, shots and shots’ control. The second level is able to take care of births and the patients can even stay over because these are bigger and they have beds and rooms available. And the third level is integrated by the national and department´s (state) hospitals. These are able to take care of just about anything. They’re supposed to have all resources to give immediate solution to just about any situation. From a simple flu to a kidney transplant. All three levels have to work together to take care of the whole population. If one of the levels is not capable of managing a specific situation, this is referred to the next level until it reaches the “most” capable (the third level). Unfortunately, at the moment, all three levels are submerged in a worrying crisis. Minor health issues can’t even be handled at the third level. There have been days, in which national hospitals have been closed. This didn’t happen because the people in charge wanted to, but because these institutions are running out of resources. There have been cases, reported by the press and seen by many in which doctors can only see the patients to tell them what to buy or what to do to recover their health. This is happening at the third level! Just imagine what’s happening at the first and most basic. I, as a medicine student and as a future physician, have the privilege to practice and work at the first level; so, I can tell from first row what’s happening. I go to a “puesto de salud” once a week, and along with a doctor in charge, we see several patients. Some come with first-world health issues like diabetes mellitus type 2, hypertension, and even cancer. But, we also see patients who only come because they are suffering of diarrhea, fever or they just want to talk about their issues. These are not the worst cases though. As it happens in all societies, we have a non-privileged group of people who survive in a daily income of less than five dollars. These are the people who suffer the most. With this in mind, together with some friends, we decided to take as a task to go into a dump[3] and specifically at a school at the dump. We suspected these families and kids needed health care and we were right. We are totally capable of completing a physical test, so we came into the school (with previous permission) and class after class we examined the kids, from first to sixth grade. The main purpose of us doing this is to complete their own first health record. And now, based on the main needs and statistical results, we are starting to ask for assistance to big companies we know could donate money or treatments for the kids. Our main worry is the dental cavities, malnutrition, and poor vision. All of these left us very worried, but we hope to find the help we require to take care of, at least, the main needs. Definitely, jumping into the pool of public health in Guatemala is very interesting and complicated at the same time. I hope to be a good doctor and in some or many ways help the needy ones. I’m only in my second year out of the six years of med school but my vision is to be a change factor, one who could create a socioeconomic change for the good of my people.

[1]: All organizations and places that provide health services to the population and whose main purpose is to make health available to anyone.

[2]: Health center ran by the government, sometimes with a doctor on duty or simply an auxiliary nurse.

[3]: A place where many people and whole families work daily recycling and picking up garbage.