Manos Abiertas—one of the only women-centered, culturally and linguistically-sensitive birthing and women’s health care centers in Guatemala—was founded by Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) in 2008 as a response to the urgent need for comprehensive health care services for vulnerable Guatemalan women. Recognizing the importance of local collaboration for long-term sustainability and impact, PPFA approached Hannah Freiwald, a professional midwife with over 15 years experience working within Guatemala, and asked her to lead the project. Accepting the position, Hannah worked with her Guatemalan team to develop the project into 2 full-scale clinics that have grown to serve 2,000 women and their family members. With a focus on providing excellent health care services to women living in poor, mostly rural areas of Guatemala, over 70% of Manos Abiertas’ clientele work in the agricultural sector and are of indigenous Mayan decent.
The first clinic opened in 2008, Asociacion Manos Abiertas I (AMA I), was strategically placed in Ciudad Vieja, Sacatepéquez; a highly underserved area, despite its close proximity to Antigua (an internationally-acclaimed tourist destination). Ciudad Vieja is serviced by most major bus lines and as such is more easily accessed by women living in remote areas of the country. It also provides a convenient home-base for staff who travel to rural areas to provide mobile clinical services to women unable to leave their communities. In 2010, a second clinic, Asociacion Manos Abiertas II (AMA II), was opened in Zone 11 of Guatemala City to serve a more urban population. In 2012, after running AMA II for two years, the clinic was closed in order to focus resources on AMA I and to increase rural outreach efforts. While there is still a strong need for women's health services in Guatemala City, increasing access for Guatemala's rural population, and ensuring the sustainability of AMA I, remains the focus.