Thursday, February 04, 2016

Guatemala Project Briefs

February 3, 2016

VISIT COUNTDOWN, February / March Delegation and team work
Leaving Tucson February 22 --
Coordinator Ila, and retired RN Lahna Chaffee
Leaving Tucson February 23 -- RN Dorothy Chao of Tucson Samaritans, and writer / St. Michael’s Vestry member Reed Karaim.
Meeting us in Guatemala
 -- The Rev. John R. Smith and spouse Terri Smith.
Return to the U.S. -- Reed returns March 2, Lahna is with the Project until March and then with friends, and Dorothy and Ila return March 10, after whirlwind visits to multiple locations.

GOOD NEWS from Guatemala and the Equipo de Salud

DepoProvera order
 -- Using Project grant money, health leader Domingo Alvarez arranged the at-cost purchase, through the NGO Wings / "Alas," of 200 units of the 3-month injection preferred by many rural women and no longer consistently available through the Health Ministry. That’s 200 women who will be able to continue family planning for another 3 months, particularly important as the Zika virus enters the region (see "Zika" below). More Depo is needed. Equipo de Salud estimates last year were that, for all 22 CPR communities, 383 women were using this method and would want to continue. Once we see how this distribution fares, we will order more if necessary, again using Fowler Fund and Arizona Diocesan Millennium Development Committee grant monies.

Cooperation on the order, and costs
 -- A member of St. Alban’s, the tiny English-language Episcopal mission Fr. Smith shepherds in Antigua, first suggested we contact Alas ("Wings" in Spanish). This non-governmental organization focusing on family planning does not work in the areas where we go but agreed to special order at their low cost (about $3.33 per unit). We asked if it would be all right to make a small charge, so there would be money with the local health workers to buy more needed medicines. ALAS administrators indicated that they never give away medicines and ask Q15 from patients (around $2 for 3 months’ protection), exactly the sum the Equipo de Salud was mentioning. People are very poor, but this is not unreasonable, especially considering the health and monetary costs of pregnancy. And people value what they pay for.

The attachment includes a photo of a vinyl sign the Equipo de Salud and we designed for use last year in our "giras" (circuits), made in Guatemala City through Domingo’s contacts for a big $7. Consults and our tests, free. Medicines and supplies from the U.S., free. Medicines the Project buys in Guatemala, reduced price, with funds staying in the community to support the little local "clinics" (one visitor said better to call them "health huts," as they aren’t clinics as we know them).

St. Alban’s plans to host
one or more of the Equipo de Salud before we arrive, so they can begin to know the Project, the communities, and the needs. Thank you, St. Alban’s.

Welcome to Magdalena Chavez
, Community Tesorito, who replaces Berta Sic? as liaison in the capital and her community, where her father Gabriel has long been an active health promoter. Magdalena has nurse training (like an LPN) but no regular work. When I talked by telephone with Domingo and her last Saturday, she was learning from Domingo how to maintain fiscal accountability for Project expenditures of money -- not simple, given individual receipting for uses for emergency transportation and for small payments to upwards of 25 rural health workers.

When in town, Berta still stays at the house in Mixco where CPR offices are located, but now that she has a "real" job in social services, she is frequently in other parts of the country. We miss her.

ON ORDER for the February - March visit: Fourteen otoscopes (for checking ears, but with other uses) from Cascade Health Care Products, Portland, Oregon, a midwifery supply that gives us a sweet discount. We’ll keep one for team use and distribute the others to health promoters, who were begging for this basic tool last summer. We’ll also order more hemoglobin test cards, pregnancy tests, prenatal and children’s vitamins. Cheryl Meyers, who takes our orders at Cascade, has her own small education project in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. To learn about that, go to, or on Facebook, Kawangware Kids.

ABOUT ZIKA: The CPR-Sierra communities where Chikungunya arrived with fury last year are also at risk for Zika, which may well cause severe birth anomalies like microencephaly. Primarily, these are El Triunfo on the Pacific coastal plain, and Tesorito, in the "Boca Costa." I asked Magdalena Chavez if Zika had arrived in Tesorito, and she said yes, but with a qualifying lift of her voice, appropriate since a firm diagnosis requires lab work. Chikungunya (in terms of joint pain, something like classic dengue on steroids) was a major problem last year, so one can expect Zika and attendant worries about birth defects. Thank climate change. Danger will be greater after late May, when the rainy season starts.

Why all the attention in the popular media? Word Health Organization [WHO] predicts a global epidemic. Hesperian Foundation has rushed out a brief teaching sheet on Zika in English and in Spanish, which I forwarded to Domingo. We’ll also take copies to use during the visit. If you want to check it out, go to and click on the appropriate link. Worth reading.

Teams for June and July, 2.5 to 3.5 weeks, moderate to very strenuous, depending upon communities. E-mail if you are interested, and we will share information as it develops, plus application and lots of detail. Expect meetings re definitive plans after mid-March. Health professionals, generalists, and really flexible people, respectful of indigenous cultures, most welcome. Spanish helps.