It has been an eventful week for the children in our after-school program. We repeated their reading and math tests this week and the results have been astonishing! The children who attended regularly improved their reading scores as much as two grade levels in just 7 months! And math scores often doubled! And remember that these are children who live in homes with no electricity and often, just a dirt floor. That is sometimes hard for me to grasp when I see them laughing and playing with each other and industriously working on the computers.
Perhaps more importantly, they now have hope. I met individually with each child to talk with them about how their great success demonstrates that they have the same opportunity to achieve greatness as anyone else in this world. Time will tell.....As they grow up, I hope you will all continue to join with us in prayer and support of these beautiful children!
To celebrate the little victories, we spent a day going to the "beach"! Many of them had never even seen a lake before and they were somewhat speechless as we first approached it. There was non-stop giggling and happiness throughout the day. Even when it rained, we ran and screamed! Oh...if only every day could be like that!
By the way, please note their cute little bathing suits - all supplied by people like you......thank you!!!!
Lisa Roddis arrived last night after a long day's travel. In her usual fashion, she jumped right in this morning and quickly set up a cytotech lab in a room in a fire station!
We sometimes do our cervical cancer screening in distant villages. That often means that we have to set up shop in places that are not quite clinics! But without complaint, Lisa had everything set up in minutes and she was ready to go! With her here, we are able to give the patients their results immediately which also means we can treat them immediately if necessary.
On the right, is Mayra. Mayra is a nurse who has been working with us for several months and she is currently applying for cytotech school in Guatemala City which will start Feb 1. She will be done in less than a year and it our hope that she will then work with us full time. It is extremely hard to find a cytotech here in the Petén so this will be surely be an answered prayer if she can complete the program.
Whenever we have an American cytotech with us, they have already been teaching Mayra and Lisa is doing that now. Thus far, we have depended on the incredible cytotechs from Promedica in Toledo who have so generously donated their time over all these years. Finding Guatemalans who can do this work is really something that is necessary for long-term sustainability.
A HUGE thank you to Lisa for so generously sharing her time and talents with the poorest of Guatemala. Without people like her, our efforts to curb the epidemic of cervical cancer here would not be possible.
Here is one of the "classes" in our after-school program. They all come from situations that none of us could imagine but they all laugh and dream no different than our own children. They so very eagerly arrived in class yesterday. We have 2 teachers there so one took the computer group and the other worked with the children on reinforcing their math. Another little group learned candle-making - what a busy, excited group they all were!
They so very eagerly read their books and learn their math on the computer programs that we have on the internet program we use. I'll try and include a video of them in a separate post. Internet here is a bit slow!
Since their school year comes to an end at the end of October, we talked yesterday about the year - about what was good about our program (EVERYTHING!, they said) and what could be improved....their only suggestion was that they could come more often!! We talked about studying at home a bit more but it gets dark here at 6PM and they don't have electricity. Sometimes when I see their eagerness, enthusiasm and yes, their very clean clothes, it is always shocking when I realize that they live in little shacks with dirt floors shared by 10-15 people. I used to make so many assumptions about people in poverty - the more I know them, the more I realize their dreams are no different than those of our own children - perhaps even bigger....
One girl (about age 14) got a little teary because she said she didn't know if her father would let her come back. He says that girls just get pregnant and there is no use in them wasting their time in school. Oh, if he could only realize that it is inspiring children to stay in school that keeps them from being pregnant... We're hoping to be able to talk with him.
On a different note, we just got word that the government hospital workers are refusing to see patients in a protest against the fact that they have almost no equipment and medications. There are huge protests outside the hospital. Orfe is going to call the social workers there to see if we can help. It's always amazing to me how the world turns their backs (yes, by our silence) to these things.
I sat there today in our clinic somewhat astounded that I was even astounded by what I heard. The story is so old that it sounds almost boring. Is there a point where no matter how awful something is, we can become complacent because we hear it so often?
One more woman with cervical cancer. And her story was EXACTLY the same as all the others. The world likes to tell us that women get this cancer because women are just too ignorant to get pap smears. But that is not at all what I hear in Guatemala. Margarita's story was not one of ignorance but one of tremendous neglect and abuse of women.
Just like so many others, Margarita actually did have a pap 2 years ago. After a great effort to get the result, she was told she had "inflammation". This is the result they give when they really can't figure out what they're doing and they somehow want to blame it on the "inflamed mess" inside the woman's cervix. It's as though just in case there is a cancer, they want everyone to know that it wasn't the "system's" fault - it was the woman's fault for having some nonsensical "inflammation"!!
Then, last year, Margarita started having some slight bleeding. Worried, she went to three different places for another pap smear. And guess what she was told???? "Please return when your spotting stops because we can't do a pap when you are bleeding!!"
And now, despite all her efforts to NOT be ignorant and to do the right thing, she now has a cancer that is practically incurable in this country. One more family without a mom.
I could see the helpless anger in her face as she tearfully told us the story. Trying to control my own rage, I wondered how a person controls themselves when they may have to face an untimely death because of a broken and corrupt system.
She told us that she heard we were "good" and so she came to us for that reason. Yes, maybe we're "good" but it wasn't enough for this woman. I pray there will be a day that we won't have to hear this story over and over.