“Free,” said the loan officer on the other line of the phone. Sandra had just asked how much a medical appointment would cost her. “You will not be charged for the health services. And the nurse will come to your home.” Sandra was surprised and delighted. She had been a client of Friendship Bridge since 2015 but was new to the Health for Life program. For years, she and her Trust Bank met once every month in Chinique, a rural area of the Department of Quiche in Guatemala. During these meetings, a Friendship Bridge loan officer travels to her community to teach her and her group about a variety of important topics, from money and business management to women’s rights and health. The loan officer also provides loans to the women, allowing Sandra to grow her business and provide food and necessities for her husband and three children.
Last year, Sandra’s loan officer announced to the group that as a benefit of being a Friendship Bridge client, they were eligible to participate in the Friendship Bridge Health for Life program. At the time, Sandra was too busy to take part. But a few months later, right at the start of the COVID-19 crisis, her loan officer called her to check-in and explained again about the health services available to her.
When she heard that these health services would be provided to her at no cost, she automatically felt motivated to try it. She became even more compelled to participate when she learned that the appointment would be safe and could take place in her home. Due to COVID-19, the nurses in the Friendship Bridge Health for Life program have updated the operations of in-home mobile clinic visits. To keep everyone safe, they are now making pre-screening phone calls and putting new safety protocols in place for home visits.
“Thanks to the glucose test, I know that my blood sugar is a little high and if I don’t take care of myself, diabetes can develop. I thank the nurse and Friendship Bridge for considering us and caring about our health.” – Sandra
Sandra was looking forward to prioritizing her health in a safe way. For millions of indigenous women in Guatemala, access to healthcare is inadequate and the most common diseases are preventable, such as hypertension, diabetes, and cervical cancer. “I am happy with this flexibility because it will allow me to be treated with privacy and special care in my own home,” she said. When the nurse visited Sandra’s home, she spoke in Sandra’s native Maya language to explain the range of benefits available through the Health for Life program. For the first time, she heard accurate information about COVID-19 and the necessary precautions she and her family needed to take. The nurse asked questions and started a new patient record for her. Diabetes is common in Sandra’s family, so her attention was drawn to the results of the blood sugar test. Her test results were high and the nurse recommended a healthy balanced diet. She reviewed the importance of daily exercise and advised Sandra to drink purified water more often.
“I am very grateful to Friendship Bridge for coming to my house to take these tests, which I never imagined would be useful,” Sandra said. “Now I have to take better care of myself because, thanks to the glucose test, I know that my blood sugar is a little high and if I don’t take care of myself, diabetes can develop. I thank the nurse and Friendship Bridge for considering us and caring about our health.”
Lives like Sandra’s are forever changed after taking part in our Health for Life program, showing that even in the midst of a global pandemic, Friendship Bridge has continued to meet the needs of our clients. The women we serve are facing unimaginable hardship and right now, their need for healthcare and reliable information about COVID-19 is extreme. In 2020, our goal is to reach even more clients with in-home mobile clinic visits and expanded telehealth services. Will you donate now to help us continue providing women like Sandra with important health services?
Since 2015, over 9,500 women in Guatemala have received health education and services in our Health for Life program. In partnership with Maya Health Alliance, we provide culturally sensitive services using mobile clinics that travel to the villages where our clients live. Each clinic is staffed by highly-trained, female medical staff fluent in the indigenous languages our clients speak. This year, the pandemic has forced us to redesign our delivery of services. This year’s Health for Life Campaign will provide support for in-home mobile clinic visits, telehealth services via the phone, and a healthcare phone hotline for our clients.