| Sep 07, 2010
Children under age of five waiting to be assessed
Another morning of SUNSHINE! Yahoo! Breakfast at 6:30 so we can be on the road by 7 a.m. Speaking of nourishment - today was the day for our health clinic growth monitoring session. One-half of the group went in the morning, over 20 mothers with children under five years of age sat on wooden benches around the perimeter of a dirt floored room. There is no electricity in San Miguel Chamil so the only light was from two open doors. I counted six young mothers with babies nursing under their lace ponchos (the typical costume of women).
Baby getting weighed
There were several volunteers from the village, each assigned a different role, one man's duty was to measure height, another recorded the statistics, another weighed each child on the scale that hung from a beam with a piece of cloth that the child was wrapped in and then hung from the scale. These villagers like to give speeches. Each began with long and elaborate thank you''s for our presence and support. Part of our team fee goes to pay for the project (cement, rebar, all building materials that are needed) and for the project contractor who comes from a village lower down the mountain. These went on for at least 45 minutes with Amalia translating after each person's presentation. We were absolutely amazed at how well a room full of children behaved. These "American Grandmas" are all pretty sure we wouldn't find our broods as quiet and respectful.
Most children are curious and will look at us but there are several that are terrified when they see us - remember that 99 percent of these villagers have never seen a white person. Mike Wenrick visited here last year by himself - that is the extent of their exposure to an American!
Charts showing each child's progress
Charts line the walls with bar graphs showing number of children counted in the village, number present each month for assessment, number who are nourished and the last graph shows those that are not. Seventy-seven percent of these children have suffered from malnutrition which is so critical in the first two years of life.
If they don't get the right balance of food their bodies don't develop correctly. Their brains will never be able to achieve their full potential and their spirits are stunted. It is so critical to reach these families so that they can learn what makes a healthy child. The mothers have charts that show their child's progress (much like the charts our pediatricians keep). If a child is below the line in weight they get a red sad face and then receive a bag of beans & rice to take with them. A counselor talks to them about their child and what they can do to help them improve.
Diarrhea is a chronic problem as sanitation practices are not understood. A volunteer village person explains the importance of hand washing and general good health practices. We are reminded that diarrhea is normal here so they don't understand that it is depleting the system of nutrients. Education and intervention are the keys to change and because Medical Teams International and Food for the Hungry are here partnering together, there is hope for change. The villagers are taking the lead and it is obvious how intent they are in changing the statistics.
These children are so loved but they have lived isolated and uneducated for generations - they have the resources to live healthy lives and with the education being offered to them change will occur. As Mike explained to us it is a long process, we can plant the "seed" but they have to identify their wants and take ownership of the change.
Mike is hoping that stoves will be the next project they decide is important. Respiratory diseases are huge health issues - these villagers live in rooms with open fires that are not ventilated to the outside. Walls are black with smoke so must be their lungs. Again, this need to change will take them identifying the problem and asking for help.
Dana Cress moving rocks
Chris Cusick digging trenches
The men of our team were down working in the trenches so we joined them. The work was hard but we had a great time! Once the men of our team left to see the Health Clinic we moved to the side lines and watched the Guatemalan men. We looked up to find half of them staring at us with their mouths open. Think of never having heard people speaking English. Then have a gaggle of women singing and interrupting each other. There were extra smiles all around when we shared our snacks with them!
Alix Truax with her pack
Digital cameras turned us into the pied pipers of San Miguel Chamil. Once a camera comes out, the photographer is immediately surrounded by hoards of curious children - mostly curious to see their own images. Mirrors are non existent as far as we know. They giggle and laugh and push each other to crowd in to get the best view! There are always women standing in the back ground watching. If we walk to include them with a photo they act just like their children. The giggles are delightful! There is something that touches our hearts very deeply about these beautiful and loving people. Mike Wenrick assures us that Medical Teams International will continue to help this remote village to learn about how to help their children grow to their full potential and to God's design.