by Noreen Prokuski, CNM
The six of us jump into our 4x4 trucks for a bone-rattling, bumper-car ride inching up the rocky, twisting pathways leading to the hilltop village of Vipecbalam in the western highlands of Guatemala. Our local driver’s hands are confident on the wheel winding us back and forth through the mountain curves. The truck becomes silent as we hang on tight, awed by the scene.
In a few hours we are in the village, and somehow the term “remote” just doesn’t cover it. I think we left remote down the mountain about two hours ago. Lazy arcs of smoke curl up from small tin-roofed huts, only partially visible through the foliage. Sight and sound are muffled by swirls of mountaintop clouds. The women and children of the village surround our trucks, shy and curious.
The humanitarian non-governmental organization Save the Children (STC) organized our December 2011 trip to the Guatemalan Highlands to keep the industrialized world aware of the enormous good STC does in this and other developing nations. They have been working in poor rural areas like these for the last 40 years, helping village women do what women worldwide struggle to do—raise healthy educated children who are on path to achieving their full potential.
Our group was comprised of two popular family-oriented social media bloggers, an AWOHNN nurse, myself, and two STC employees. ACNM Department of Global Outreach and Division of Global Health helped coordinate the STC effort by putting out a call for volunteers via their Web site, listservs, and social media, and I was the lucky volunteer who was chosen!
International humanitarian groups are suffering intensely from the ongoing recession. Most are subsidized by private/corporate donations, and by funds donated by the US federal government. Both sources have largely reduced their donations, with the government considering a 40% reduction to international groups in the coming years. Our government is understandably, “circling the wagons” to protect our interests. It may mean a few more years of belt-tightening for the United States. But for the international community of poor, who already are living with their belts tightly cinched, it might become a life and death decision.
I see our profession as much more than just being “with women” through our clients’ childbearing years. To be “with women” means safeguarding, to the best of our capabilities, women of all cultures and countries, and through them, safeguarding the children of the world so they may lead the kind of lives, and have the opportunities that all mothers crave for their children. If you have enjoyed the multiple satisfactions that our profession brings to us daily, please consider working internationally. See more information about getting started in international health here.
A mother with her children in Guatemala.