Long time no write... am finishing up my month here in Xela... LOVED it. Made some great friends and had the opportunity to talk to some local NGOs, see some of the education workshops many have going, visit several clinic, see some of the surrounding villages (a totally wild animal market one Friday- the market not the animals being wild), watch a performance group as they taught kids in a nearby school a new more creative way of thinking, and a performance put on by a local group that that shook up quite a few of the accepted beliefs surrounding gender roles. Also have gone on some fantastic hikes... one where me and 2 roommates- after bushwacking through a corn field- came across a Mayan alter with what look like some Mayan ruins and stone carvings... only in Guatemala.
Needless to say the last few weeks have been a blast and have given me some insights in to the multitude of projects and organizations in Xela some working more effectively than others. One I got the chance to observe in action is a group APROFAM- the international branch of Planned Parenthood. They have a clinic here in xela where they offer very cheap family planning methods and clinic consults. The clinic also has a space for adolescents where they can go spend time get free exams and again, nearly free, family planning meds. The clinic also has a branch of educators that go from school to school offering sex ed talks, something that the schools are not required to give and some schools are quite hesitant to allow... religion has a strong hold in this country. I sat in on several of these talks and got the chance to see how subjects are broached and what focuses are deemed culturally appropriate... focuses on sexual violence, cleanliness and bodily changes where primary and only with a few of the sessions was the educator allowed to talk about condoms... and even then it was in terms of STD prevention... for family planning only the natural counting method was really discussed although the educator made a point every time she could to tell kids female fertility in Guate was (something like) from 12 to 46 years making them calculate how many babies they could end up having if they weren't careful... emphasis on being responsible and frequent mention of the clinic in Xela.
One surprising topic was sexuality and gender which the educator brought up only with a smaller group of older students, her approach to presentation was very much focused on group participation in those instances making the topic a difficult one to bring up in the larger class settings- I was impressed as these are very controversial and hidden concepts in Guate.
From the educator I learned about the high rates of sexual and physical abuse in many of the rural areas and how difficult it is to bring in discussion of family planning when the topics discussed are dictated by the school principles. The clinic and the services it provides are well needed here- I really like the joint emphasis on education and prevention as well as clinical treatment.
I also had the chance to visit an organization that has a health clinic just outside of the city proper. The organization makes roaming clinic trips and also has a health education program affiliated. Like most NGOs here the funding like the volunteers is foreign. Came away with an interesting opinion on this clinic...
Spoke to some other NGOs finding out about the work they do and their reasons for selecting specific target focuses and interventions... Have a very diverse set of opinions and approaches and each with its own pile of difficulties... nothing is fast and easy.
Very brief summary of a fantastic month here, am sad to be leaving but at the same time am eager to see more of Guatemala. Plan to go to the famous Lago Atitaln- according to my guide book a energy gyer... hmm we'll see- for a few days and then head way the way out there to the very indigenous highland mountains to see what I come across... may have some peace corp contacts thanks to a roommate but really just want to see what types of projects there are way out and how they work.
Again I'm going with stream of consciousness, sorry if I make little or no sense! Can't believe I'm almost through August, where did the time go!?