January 31st, 2010 - HANDS participates in health mission
January 31st 2010, HANDS took part in the first Health Fair in Santa María de Jesus, Sacatepequez in cooperation with Guatemala Sana, an organization founded by Guatemalan vice-president Dr. Rafael Espada. Guatemala Sana focuses in improving the quality of health, nutrition, education and the environment for rural children. People from different parts of the country served in the event, including HANDS volunteers.
Santa María de Jesus is a village located approximately an hour and a half from Guate-mala City and half an hour from Antigua Guatemala. The population is of 54,000 people, most of them indigenous. The village was divided in groups, each of which was able to assist on a different day. Approximately 9,000 people assisted the fair, which lasted for three days.
Staff members wanted parents show responsibility and an interest in their children’s health education, permitting children to attend only when accompanied by an adult. However, they were forced to remove this rule as numerous children, in groups and individually, showed up without any adult companion. In lack of a guardian to represent them, many children assisted with their siblings, cousins, and even neighbors.
The event consisted in stations in which low-income children, adults and families received education about the importance of hygiene in the prevention of diseases. The event focused particularly in teaching and showing attendants that keeping their hands and feet clean should translate into a daily habit and will translate into lower incidence of sickness. After learning this, they received and flyers that summarized the information taught during the fair. These were written in Spanish and kaqchikel, the local language, and were mainly given to the children —since they are more likely to know how to read than their parents given the town´s high illiteracy rate.
During the last station, people were also given a pair of shoes to protect children´s and adults´ feet when working in the field. They only received their pair of shoes after taking a de-parasitic pill, which was given to them on location. The staff members of Guatemala Sana and the volunteers participating in the event, were optimistic about creating a change in the population’s hygiene, since 80% of the villagers have parasites. This is partly because of the insufficient water supply as well as the lack of resources.
HANDS staff and volunteers participated on the third day of the fair, documenting information on the people who assisted, as well as the shoes that were given out and the medication taken by each. HANDS´ volunteer members spent most of their time talking to children and adults about the importance of hygiene and explained to them the infor-mation presented in the flier. They also assisted in measuring each person’s shoe size, giving people their shoes and pill. Our volunteers supported Guatemala Sana´s goal to increase the number of people attended during the third and last day of the day, objective that was accomplished thanks to the hard work of our volunteers.
At the end of the day, participants felt happy and satisfied with the contribution they made to the community, making the exhaustion completely worthwhile.