Monday, September 7, 2009

my capstone in action...from paper to the people

Guatemala has recently emerged from a 36-year civil conflict and before that years of conquest and repression which have contributed to the current state of structural violence. The turmoil, poverty, lack of health care and education, malnutrition and machismo have created a social hierarchy, which places indigenous women at the lowest societal status. Many women and their families also suffer from interfamilial violence and are unable to extricate themselves from the situation because of their status and the reasons that contribute to it. Domestic violence impacts a large percentage of people in Guatemala and one effective step to help disseminate knowledge about ending the abuse is to teach local health professionals peacebuilding skills. Medicine and peacebuilding have an inherent connection and sustainable programs can be initiated teaching conflict transformation to medical professionals, taking advantage of their status and capabilities. Since it is virtually impossible to reach each Guatemalan woman individually, making use of community members such as midwives is a practical method to disperse information. Utilizing an existing network of community midwives in La Democracia, Huehuetenango, Guatemala, a peacebuilding workshop has been designed to build on the local midwives’ skill set, increase their ability to understand conflict and violence and their own and communities’ contribution to it, identify signs of domestic violence, and begin to eradicate it through legal means.

While serving as a PCV in Guatemala and through the masters international program I completed my thesis and graduated (May 2009) with my Masters in Conflict Transformation from SIT Graduate Institute. For my capstone (thesis) I designed a peacebuilding training/workshop for a network of local midwives. First I facilitated training of trainers on August 14, 2009 for the Health Center Staff (5 people), the Public Prosecuter's Office (4 people) and the Municipal Women's Office (2 people) where more theory and in depth discussions took place looking at their own identity and their role in the community, and also detailing each activity of the upcoming workshop, why certain training techniques were used and what the best ways were to communicate with a mainly illiterate group. After the initial training, the health center staff worked closely with me to facilitate the two-day workshop, August 27 & 28, 2009, for the over 75 midwives in attendance. (attached are some photos from the trainings, the numbered ones are from the initial training of trainers and the lettered ones are from the midwife (comadrona) training) All of the trainings were done in Spanish and most of the two-day midwife workshop was also translated into Mam, the local indigenous language of the area.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Major Update...

okay! so this has gotten a little out of hand. i haven't written in almost a year!!! sooo crazy but alas, i am still here in guatemala, living the life of a volunteer. last summer (or winter here as they call the rainy season) was good. had some visitors, the annual fourth of july party and many tirps out into the surrounding communities teaching women's groups about nutruition and self-esteem. then in september i had the opportunity to visit china where my dad and his wife are living (in shanghai) check out my photos at:

in august my friend from grad school, ashley, came for a visit. that was so much fun, she came to my house for a week and came to several women's meetings with me too. every week we here in the women's office go off to the communities to teach women about all sorts of topics.

here is the link to some photos from the aldeas (small communities in the countryside) the last ones are from when ashley was visitng! you can see from this picture how much taller i am than all the women around here...and i wasn't even wearing my platform shoes!!

after getting back from china it was a bit of an adjustment and a slow month of october but on nov 1 the people of guatemala celebrate all saints day. it is a time to remember the dead and adorn their graves, and even have a bbq in the graveyard if you want! most people fly kites to send messages to the heavens, some kites are as big as 5 meters across! i headed to todos santos where they have a famous celebration and drunken horse races to boot!

i was also happy when november rolled around because we had our one year in service anniversary and mid-service conference.this is where all the volunteers from my training class get together and discuss, evaluate and discuss some more our service thus far.

at the end of november jan came to visit, my great friend from college. click here to see the photos from our visit:

we had a great time too! here in the women's office we celebrated the international day of non-violence with a march and workshop where over 400 women attended. it was great that jan was also able to be here for that event! (photos to come on this one)

soon december came and a visit from mom and ron. they spend christmas and new years here with me in guatemala, christmas at my site and we headed north to tikal for new years. it was a great trip overall and they had an unforgettable experience for sure. this was their second visit so the family where i live greeted them with open arms and were so happy to be able to share this special holiday with them, including a 4 hour church service, whew!

in january we continued to plan for the upcoming year with the women's office, the first lady of guatemala came for a visit and we ha lots of work here in the municipality!

the end of january i finally got the oppourtunity to meet my little niece kaia in san diego! i was only able to go for one week but it was such a great trip. i love that little girl so much!!! here is a link to the photos of my trip to san diego visiting kaia and the family!

throughout february through may (this month) we have been travelling to the communities alot, writing and present new workshops and i also finished my capstone paper for grad school!!! whew! i have been quite busy but what a relief to have that done! i will be heading to vermont to present and graduate at the end of this month, woo hoo!!

my brother niels came for a visit during semana santa (easter week) which is a huge celebration here in guatemala. we went to the beach, to lake atitlan and also hiked a volcano. here is a link to those photos:

below is a link to one of the many hikes i have taken on some weekend trips, guatemala is so beautiful and has a multitude of micro climates which you shall see!
we climed the highest volcano in central america, volcan tajamulco and also hiked from todos santos to nebaj, a 25 mile hike in two days!
check out the photos of the nebaj hike:

well! it sounds like i have done a ton of traveling but also had a lot of visitors. overall i have been really busy with work, my capstone and other school work and also getting to know and show off guatemala! what a great year and i will hopefully update this again before 2010!!!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

a little review of what i've been up to!

WOW! okay so it has been sooooo long since my last post and i am so sorry for the delay! things are going well, but slowly here in guatemala. i have switched over in the office to work only with the womens office which will be a good thing. i have done some work shops for womens groups about self esteem and about their citizen rights. i look forward to delving in deeper into many issues soon!
my friend deb from alaska came to visit me in la demo in feb. that was so great, we hung out during the town fair, met lots of people and took in the sites, we even were able to relax by the pool!

so, feb. was the month of visitors and my friend rachel came all the way from vermont to visit me, we hung out, hiked a volcano, we were even able to head out on lake atitlan with a canoe. what a beautiful morning that was! pretty much had a great time catching up and eating yummy foodso after rachel left, i had a little down time in my site to get ready for semana santa, the week of the saints. this is the week before easter and is a huge celebration here in gutemala. there are processions in many towns. they first make these rugs on the streets out of flowers, pine needles, dyed sawdust, you name it and then they process over them. also during semana santa families take a trip together to some other location. i was lucky enough to head to mexico with the family where i am living. we went to some lakes and even though it was cloudy managed to have a great time, bbqued tortillas and all!

near some other lakes, i came across a foto opportunity with some mexican police i wasn't arrested because so far it's illegal to arrest someone for being too cool. ha ha
on our way home from there we stopped on the side of the road for some watermelon and corn on the cobb. yum!!!

in the first couple weeks of april mom and ron came for a visit. that was so great! we started out in antigua and then they headed north west to my site. everyone in la demo loved meeting them and they also loved meeting everyone! after my site we went to the ruins outside of huehuetenango and then stopped in xela for a couple days and then off to lake atitlan. beautiful views from our hotel. the last couple of days were spent in antigua where we had a wonderful last meal together!

Friday, January 25, 2008

my apartment in la democracia

here i am on the porch of my little apartment in la democracia. i have two rooms, one has my kitchen and bathroom and fridge, table chairs etc. the other has my bed, couch and is more of a sitting room. to get the best idea of what its like i am accepting visitors at all times! come on over!

the neighboring kids never hesitate to take me up on my invitation to visitors. they love checking out what the gringa is up to and how i live my life. some of them are also interested in learning english. one little girl keeps asking me how to write certain words and to teach her to write in english but she doesn't know how to write period. too funny!
this is the view from my porch, looking toward the center of town and also toward the surrounding mountains. truly a beautiful spot where i am, on every side there are tall, tree covered mountains.

new years at lake atitlan

headed to panajachel on lake atitlan for new years. it was great, abou 30 of us from our initial training group met there and had a great time dancing in the new year. it is such a beautiful lake and i was so excited to be able to go for a new years swim. i spent new years day with friends, swimming, relaxing and eating delicious food.
these are picturs from one of the sunsets. wow, the weather was warm and the views were gorgeous. you should really come visit!
my friend cynthia, another volunteer, and i on our way to go swimming! que rico!

christmas stateside

so i headed to san diego for christmas, it was really great to be able to spend some time with the family...and to be able to fill them in on my goings on here.

niels and cyndi were so sweet to plan a Thanksgiving dinner for me since i wasnt able to partake in one here in guatemala. how strange they dont celebrate thanksgiving here- ha ha ha.
so the one thing that made it feel like christmas was people putting up some christmas lights on their houses, or around their yards.
the main tradition here is for people to eat tamales on christmas eve night at midnight. yum, tamales! i took a bus south before christmas and there were huge lines of people waiting to send packages on the bus. turns out most of the packages were tamales that people were sending to their relatives in other parts of guatemala. too funny, i rode on a bus with hundreds of tamales below me...people even send them to their family in the states, i guess there are no tamales like mom's tamales.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

you never know...

there are all sorts of clothes shipped down here from the states, but when i saw this one i had to take a picture...another favorite was an old man riding a bike with a t-shirt that said 'proud to be an american'. i even saw one the other day from the summer house in rehoboth beach, de where we used to go during the summers. crazy!
when i lived in my training site for 2 months my site mate and i would go running. you would not beleive how many stares we got - the only thing i could liken it to would be if in the states some guatemalans in traditional dress were running down the street, i am sure they would get some stares...