Wednesday, May 20, 2009

of Birth and Death

I suppose it’s time for an update. I would like to change the tone a little bit and get off of the contaminated water subject before unleashing the wrath of the most unconditionally dedicated sister/sister-in-law on the planet.

Before reporting on our project, I would like to take a moment to remember my Grandma Fluckiger, who passed away yesterday morning. She passed with all of her children present at her bedside. I am sorry that I am unable to attend the funeral but would like my family to know that I am with them in spirit. There is something to be said for Fluckiger funerals. Not that any funeral is a good time, but Fluckiger funerals are a great celebration of life as well as mourning the dead. They are painfully honest and candid. There is no pretense. No obligation to "look sad." People still laugh if something is funny and freely alternate between tears and laughter without the guilt of not keeping up appearances. I will miss it. I wish I could be there with everybody telling funny stories about grandma, of which there is no shortage, and remembering that she was simultaneously one of the most quirky and most classy ladies I have had the pleasure of coming to know in my short 31 years. That said, to the family members who are grieving, you have my sympathy as you would my shoulder. To those who are laughing, know that I share in those memories with delight and fond rememberance.

There is really not too much to report on right now other than further progress with our project: “Familias Mejoradas con charlas listas.” I thought that I would place a sample of some of the work we are doing for this project. Let me explain a few things, that you might more fully grasp the reality and scope of this project. It, as we have said before, is a series of 11 lessons around maternal and child health before, during, and after pregnancy. In these “charlas” we cover the following themes:

Órganos Reproductivos (reproductive organs)

El Embarazo (pregnancy)

El Parto y el Puerperio (birth and the first 40 days after)

Planificación Familiar (family planning, or birth control methods)

Mortalidad Materna (maternal mortality)

Lactancia Materna (breast feeding)

Infecciones de Transmisión Sexual—ITS (STD’s including HIV/AIDS)

Violencia Intrafamiliar (family violence)

Nutricón (Nutrition)

Higiene Personal (personal hygiene)

Casas Maternas (maternity houses, for promotional purposes)

Each of these 11 charlas are designed to be printed 1 meter by 1½ meters on vinyl banners which will hang on the walls of every Casa Materna in the country (about 70 now with 14 more planned). Each one is designed to be understood by “campesinas” (or women from the sticks) who can’t read or by the midwives who can’t read. Thus, practically every individual sentence is illustrated. And not just illustrated to accompany text, but rather, illustrated to stand on its own. To speak for itself. This obviously carries its own challenges considering the cultural differences which carry over into visual aid recognition, or symbolism. (For example, does a thumbs up sign imply something good here or does it mean diarrhea? We have to consider these things.)

Since each banner is not just a poster of a theme, but a complete lesson on that theme, each has between twenty-five and eighty individual illustrations. This may sound insignificant if imagining gathering eighty illustrations to represent something. However, to avoid involving international copyright laws (or a pronounced lack thereof) we decided to create each illustration originally, so that we own all of the images. That means that after days of writing the charla, then meeting with a team that we have assembled of doctors, nurses, midwife trainers, maternal health specialists and other health professionals to comb over each and every letter for accuracy and currency in both language and information—(not to mention cultural appropriateness)—that we have to sit down and plan each image. Then draw and paint each illustration on the computer at a high enough resolution to print at 1 x 1½ meters. We have finished 5 of them. We are halfway through the sixth one now and hope to be done with the design phase by the end of July. Each charla has about 150 hours of design work involved. Then we go through another review process with the team.

After they are printed, comes the second stage of the project: training. We will have a training for one person from every Casa Materna in the country to learn to use the materials, learn to teach how to use the materials, and to take them back to their respective Casa Materna. All of that being said, I would like to share with you some of the original illustrations we have created for this project as well as a couple of (low resolution) overviews of the some of the finished charlas.

Here we see the completed Pregnancy charla. Keep in mind that these will be 1 by 1 1/2 meters so naturally you won´t be able to read any of it. I am not sure which other charlas I can place on here because they may be a bit too graphic. Maybe just a detail picture from one.

This is an image from the Parto Y Puerperio charla. The image depicts a woman breathing deeply to relieve some of the pain associated with contractions. It also shows that she is breathing for two.

I hope this message finds you all well and enjoying the coming of Summer as we dip into the blasted rainy season, which will last almost till the end of our service. 10 months to go!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Thoughts on Sustainability

So, I have some comments about my last entry. Especificamente, the part about how poor people are here. YES, it is extremely sad how little people have, this is the second poorest country in this hemisphere, so it should be no surpise right? I wanted to say that, though I get frustrated at now being able to help people out with all the things they need right at the moment, we have to remember that throwing money at poor people, does not solve poverty. It makes us feel less guilty for all the things we have, and teaches them to wait for someone to give them money. Now, Im speaking of poverty as a whole, and im definatly not saying that some people dont REALLY need money in the moment, but speaking about our service here. We live in a little community, and EVERY SINGLE PERSON HERE needs money in a bad way. So our problem lies first in that though we would like to give money to people, it would run out in about 2 seconds and then we would have nothing left to give. We have to focus on doing things here that will keep giving long after we are gone. The problem is that we will never see the fruits of our labor, so when Im visiting my friends houses and they have so many needs, it feels like im a very stingy person.. and maybe I am, but I do believe that what we are doing here will benefit them in a different way.
I think what is really important is that as humans we
¨Learn to live simply, that others may simply live¨
This has long been a favorite ¨dicho¨ of mine, and it I think it holds very true. By learning that we dont need to buy and buy and buy, that really one or two knives is as good as a whole set, or that extra pair of shoes isnt necessary, can affect the world in ways you dont know. By having extra money that you can use in order to better others (in sustainable ways) of course, or better your education or give others education or experiences, we could really make a difference.
As for the comment about baptism in river. ... I dont think whoever ¨anonymous¨ was understands how contamination is a vicious cycle. You use the river when you HAVE no other choice. As for the people who contaminate it, or the people who need to drink it, or baptize in it. There are no other choices. When you live here, you just learn to close your eyes and go. There is no, water testing , there is no million rules. And sometimes it turns out allright.