Frist Global Health Leaders: Taylor Matherly – Weeks 3 & 4 in Quetzaltenango

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve continued my engagement with Primeros Pasos’ Nutrition Recuperation Program. In addition to administering the surveys developed during my first two weeks here, I’ve also begun leading “charlas” (chats) alongside Primeros Pasos’ nutrition outreach coordinator, Monica. These charlas are designed specifically for mothers of school-aged children who have been identified as being either malnourished, underweight, stunted, or overweight. Charlas are held monthly in each target community, of which there are four in total. 

The first nutrition recuperation charla took place this past Wednesday in the target community of La Candelaria. We began by taking the height and weight measurements of each mother in attendance. Mothers of children under six years of age were surveyed while waiting in line. This proved more difficult than immediately imagined as most children look months or even years younger than they actually are due to stunting and malnutrition. It was incredibly important that we surveyed all eligible mothers, as these surveys are the source of baseline data for the nutrition recuperation program. The topics covered in this survey correspond directly to the topics to be covered in each charla over the next calendar year.

Last week, I teamed up with a volunteer doctor from The Netherlands, Dr. May de Wild, to investigate child-rearing practices and trends in the rural communities served by Primeros Pasos. As my focus in both education and public health is in early childhood development, I was eager to get to work on this project that will be helpful in the future for Primeros Pasos as they expand their work with mothers and children. Dr. de Wild has spent the last month visiting the communities to recruit mothers to participate in the focus groups. Last week we worked together to develop a focus group guide and coordinate all other logistics such as creating and printing consent forms, finding and purchasing healthy snacks for participants, choosing a quiet location for the group meetings, and obtaining a recorder (all of which presented their own set of challenges). 

Yesterday morning, Dr. de Wild and I hosted the focus group, along with the support of Primeros Pasos’ nutrition outreach coordinator and another volunteer experienced in focus group facilitations. All in all, it was a success. We were able to obtain a wide range of responses from mothers of all ages on topics such as the main challenges to child-rearing; disciplinary practices; the effects of parents’ alcoholism, drug-use, and unemployment on children’s well-being; domestic violence; division of labor within the home; and childcare support. 

One last project that I’ve been engaged with over the past couple of weeks has been marketing and fundraising. In particular, Primeros Pasos has teamed up with a company called EcoFiltro to provide clean water to schools and community households within their catchment area. Since this time last week, we’ve gotten over halfway to reaching our target of assisting 155 families in purchasing a filter for their home. EcoFiltro Xela has pledged to donate a filter to every school served by Primeros Pasos once this goal has been reached. 

Finally, on a celebratory note, Primeros Pasos and Kasa Kiwi (the wonderful hostel where I have been staying throughout my time in Xela) have teamed up to throw a Fourth of July Fundraiser complete with American BBQ, sparklers, live music, and a DJ! Pictures to follow in my next blog.

Thanks for reading! See you in a couple of weeks,

Taylor (scroll down for some pictures!)

The white and blue building to the right is owned by a local family in the community of Las Majadas who were kind enough to lend it to us to use to host our monthly charlas and focus groups. 

It just wouldn’t be right if I didn’t post a picture of my World Cup viewing setup. A local café bought this TV especially to stream the games!

No electricity, no problem! I’m always able to find a task to do during power outages; such as painting the outside of the Primeros Pasos clinic to make it more recognizable to first-time patients! 

Just your average daily commute. To get from Xela to the clinic and to the rural communities, we travel by “chicken bus”; aka repurposed (and colorful!) school busses from the US. 

In the community of Las Majadas, explaining to mothers the importance of children still being fed lunch at home, regardless of whether or not their child’s school is part of the government “refacción” program. Though the refacciónis only a small healthy snack provided to school children, many mothers understand it as being sufficient enough to serve as their child’s lunch.