Written by Emily Barcklow D’Amica, CAMY Fund Program Officer
On my recent trip to Guatemala I had the opportunity to see first-hand the work of ALAS/WINGS, one of the CAMY Fund’s grantees. Early in the morning on Wednesday, March 11, 2015 Michele Frix, SIF’s Director of Programs, and I headed off to Cobán in the northern state of Alta Verapaz.
We reached the city (population: 144,461) in the afternoon and headed to the WINGS office to meet their team. We knew Fidelia Chub, the project leader for the CAMY Fund, but had not yet met her colleagues: Kimberly Morales, Director of Programs, Dominga Torres Morales, who is a Peer Educator along with Fidelia, and Ana Iczep, who is a Health Promoter with the organization. The next day, Michele and I joined Kimberly and Fidelia on a visit to the nearby community of Tanchi in order to meet with some potential youth leaders and their mothers. Cobán’s streets quickly gave way as we bounced along a lush-green gravel road. The meeting was held inside the home of a WINGS health promoter, Doña Olga Chocoj, in a large room where she can meet privately with women and men from the community seeking out family planning methods. Four young women between the ages of 16 and 20 had been recruited by Doña Olga to participate in WINGS’ youth network. They were accompanied by two of their mothers who were there to learn more and give permission for them to participate in the network’s first training the following week. Fidelia spoke to the mothers and young women in their native Q’eqchi’, though the young women also spoke Spanish. She shared with them about WINGS’ mission, the upcoming training for peer educators, as well as the expectations for these youth leaders in their communities. The young women had been selected because they are all role models in their communities and are interested in working with their peers to increase their access to reproductive health services and reduce teen pregnancy.
The young women timidly, but enthusiastically, shared about their interest in joining the network and participating in the upcoming training in Coban. They all had previous experience as peer educators with another local NGO that works to improve maternal health and promote girls’ empowerment.
While the rest of us ate sweet tamales and café prepared by our hostess, Fidelia carried out her standard supervisory visit in Q’eqchi’ with Doña Olga in order to review the monthly clinical records of community members who had sought out family planning services and refill her stock of contraceptive methods.
At the end of the visit we said goodbye to Doña Olga and the young women and their mothers, wishing them well at the upcoming training. Both Michele and I were deeply impressed by the level of organization and professionalism that Fidelia demonstrated. She seemed equally comfortable speaking with the young women who are only a couple of years younger than her, as with their mothers and Doña Olga. It was clear to us that Fidelia is not only a valuable member of the WINGS team, but also a recognized leader within her community.
On Friday, March 13, Michele and I met with the WINGS team in their Antigua office. We spoke with the organization’s Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator, Bernarda Jimenez, also a former iLeap Fellow, as well as Shilpa Kothari, the organization’s Development Director. We appreciated learning about the past several years of WINGS’ work, how their organization has grown and developed, and their plans for the future.
The post-script to this entry is that a week later, back in Mexico City, Fidelia asked me to participate by Skype in the inauguration at the youth leaders training. The training was a great success, with 134 young people present from 61 communities in the municipalities of Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Carcha, Cobán and Chisec.
Congratulations to Fidelia and the WINGS team for their commitment to empowering young people through education, in Alta Verapaz and throughout Guatemala!