I (Emily-Kate, an apprentice at Manos Abiertas) wrote this blog in July, while I was in the States for a visit. It’s a bit out of date now, but better late than never.
As I write this, I’m sitting in front of the biggest television I’ve ever seen, watching Power Rangers with Asher, age four. It is close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit outside and too hot to do much of anything. I am very much in America.
Laura and I are currently on a fundraising/family visiting extravaganza on the East Coast. We’re talking to anybody who will listen about Manos Abiertas and meeting with Rotary Clubs and Community Groups. We’re also working on other logistical projects, like getting a non-profit bank account, writing thank-you notes, trying to get the website up in Spanish, etc. The Banker at Wachovia who helped us set up account said he was so impressed with our work that he gave us free highlighters and t-shirts (we gave him lots of brochures!). Never a dull day.
As this is my first official blog post on the new website (!) I should introduce myself and tell a bit about what I’ve been doing with AMA over the last few months. I came to Guatemala in October through Princeton in Latin America (PiLA), a small year-long fellowship program that places recent grads with non-profits in Latin America.
My journey to the clinic was very circuitous, and I’m very glad to have found a home with Manos Abiertas. When I came here in October, I was working with an NGO that focused on sustainable agriculture. The short of it, is that it wasn’t a good fit. I left the job in early February and on February 17th I started working with AMA. My background is in community health and gender studies and I have always wanted to become a midwife. Getting hands on experience and having the chance to work with midwives, has been a wonderful way to see if this is something that I want to do. My year with PiLA ends in August, but I plan on staying in Guatemala through Christmas.
Everyday at the clinic brings something different. Some days all I get to is the email. Other days I assist at births and sit-in on visits. I’ve spent most of the Spring trying to help the clinic become more sustainable. This means diversifying our sources of funding and creating partnerships with different groups. We have a new website, new brochures and postcards. Since February I’ve learned many things. Seemingly most important is that most of the women here in Guatemala need to drink more water. All joking aside, I’ve learned so much from all of the dedicated and strong women who work with Manos Abiertas. From Hannah I’ve learned so much about how to care for patients, how to talk to people. In short, how to be an incredible and strong midwife. Patty and Olga have helped me with Spanish, and taught me a tiny bit of Quiche too. From Sandra and Carmen, I have learned so much about patient visits, prenatal care, as well as how to examine a placenta. I have learned so much, and have a lot more learning to do.
Getting people in the U.S. to care about Manos Abiertas is difficult. Guatemala is far away, and it’s hard for folks to feel contacted to a cause or an issue that is seemingly so far outside of their community. It’s also a generally difficult economic environment in the US right now. That said, I am amazed by the generosity that many people possess. For example, next week my grandmother (Mam) is getting together a group of her friends to learn more about Manos Abiertas. Other friends and family have connected us to people they know that are interested in women’s health in Guatemala.
Laura and I will keep you updated on our fundraising efforts as we speak to move groups and organizations.
Update: Laura and I are now back in Guatemala after more than a month in the States. We were able to speak with several community groups, doctors and midwifes and made some wonderful connections (and raised some money too!). Thank you everyone for your incredible support.