Hello New Year.
First things first, I must apologize to you for failing to keep up with my resolution of writing more than one blog entry a month. The book isn`t looking too hot either. But January has probably been my busiest month ever. Here are my rambling excuses:
The month started a little weird, meeting new faces at the health center as many new work contracts began while others ended. Although it was a little awkward to continue my work in the New Year without the presence of my old counterpart (yes she was let go on bureaucratic government crap I won`t bother boring you with), it was also interesting not to feel like the new kid and actually being able to show new workers around. In short, life feels well, settled… although I am still looking for a new counterpart.
School is beginning again which means that I had to finish my vacation courses with my two youth groups. As I originally planned, both groups got the chance to do two final projects: paint murals on the environment. Thanks for the help and fundraising of my oh so awesome friend Jen who came to visit from the States, I was able to buy paint to accomplish both murals outside my health center and outside the school of one of my aldeas. How did it really work? Simple: to start the participants were split up in groups two weeks ahead of time and told to think of an idea and message for the murals on the environment. The best idea would get to paint their message and drawing on the murals with the help of everyone else. The outcome of the contest was really amazing, although I was scared that the kids just wouldn`t get it (giving them a blank poster and being told to just make something up isn`t really something they are used to). Day of judging went great and I was really impressed with the creativity and messages of all the group although I was a little bummed about having to pick winners!
We started painting the following week and I think all the kids were very much overwhelmed by the space they had to cover (probably didn`t help that school was starting too). A lot of them were just complaining that they couldn`t paint, draw or didn`t know what to do, but after a little direction from other oh so awesome volunteers that came to help ,they began drawing their murals away and before you knew it, all the kids were working together, just painting away. It truly was a great experience and I loved that these kids got to work on their creativity and their self-esteem, working on something they had never done before. The bad news is that neither murals were done in a day and we had to schedule another day to finish…. Unfortunately, only one person ended up showing up the next day in my casco urbano and only four people in my aldea. I think the kids were probably sick and tired of 101 hours of painting and maybe I did push the kids a little hard, but what is change without a little shoving? So the next meeting I gave them a huge guilt speech and we will be finishing off the health center mural tomorrow. The other mural in my aldea was just finished this last week. This one turned out really nice, with a great message about garbage disposal (the town is littered with garbage).
In general, it really was a great experience although very stressful trying to manage the participation of so many kids working at once on something they had never done before.
So I am finished with the youth groups this year and done with the project and now planning on my next secondary project: recycled bottle project to extend my health center (although I am pushing for the project in my aldea where garbage is a huge problem).
What else, what else… I also work with different NGOs here…. One of them has recently asked me to help them start women`s groups here in my municipalidad, so I am currently working on that, and so far it looks as we have at least two on the ground to start receiving charlas on reproductive and child health. I am really looking forward to have the training sessions started! I`m also beginning to work a lot with the women`s commission here. The commission was started in November after our Mayor was finally convinced to authorize it. Next challenge: trying to get them an office. A Women`s office is pretty standard in every muni of Guatemala, except for mine. It turns out that the mayor is not a big fan of the commission because ``women are not supposed to do things like that`` (and yes I quote). Anyone that knows me can only imagine the fire brewing in me waiting to feud with the muni. So I don`t quite fight, but I pester, a lot. And next Monday I will pester with a meeting with the alcalde to try to get their office.
My reunions with the health promoters are doing well although I have been having a hard time keeping attendance stable. I have them currently split into two smaller groups, which facilitates a lot of the aprendizaje. This month we worked on Respiratory Infections and next month, we will be doing workshops on Disaster prevention and response (was not originally planned but pretty relavent given everything happening in Haiti and the geographical position of Guatemala). Next week I will also be starting my health promoters group in one of my aldea, which I am really excited about too, because health education is virtually non-existent there.
I still do my radio show once a week, although I need to find a new Kiche translator since my counterpart is now gone. Good news is that I just got a bike, and can just ride right to the radio station and back, scarring off all the local inhabitants along the way.
And last but not least I am super excited about a new project that is starting in my department that is aimed to combat malnutrition, which is being administered by the UN and coordinated by a Guatemalan government agency, focusing on nutrition and agriculture education. About 70 percent of Toto suffer from chronic malnutrition and San Andres, like many municipios, is plagued with malnutrition, which has left me overwhelmed at times not knowing where to begin to confront the problem. So as you can imagine, I am super happy that this project has arrived. Right now, I am currently working with them to find the families in my aldeas to participate in the program. I think it`s a really great opportunity and I can`t wait to start the capacitaciones and maybe try out some tire gardens!
The new year also began with new midwifery trainings as always and workshops with health vigilantes working with my NGO that covers the rest of my aldeas. I also got the chance to go visit a domestic violence shelter coordinated by an NGO in Xela, where victims and families stay for 4 to 6 months at a time, until they are rehabilitated back into society. I learned a lot from the visit and the system implemented to help victims rehabilitate and not fall back into the cycle. I`m currently trying to help them with donations of equipment and games to work with the kids living there.
So I guess this is a work entry, but I just thought I`d try to make you understand, New Year, what I have been up to. Other plans for the rest of the new year? Maybe a women`s march in March, starting a library, trying to clean out an oober contaminated river, not driving myself crazy if I can`t get any of these things done and taking time to take care of myself.
That`s it, I guess that`s my new years resolution: helping others to help me take care of myself. I know a bit abstract but I don`t make sense when I`m tired. It`s almost 7PM on a Saturday night, which is close to Peace Corps midnight.