In the highlands of Guatemala where Manuela lives, most conversation about the COVID-19 vaccine is fueled by rumors. Some people claim the vaccine will leave you with only two years left of your life and others claim it robs women of their ability to have children. But Manuela knows the rumors are false. As a Friendship Bridge client and Health for Life participant, she received numerous phone calls during the height of the pandemic from our facilitators who taught her how the virus spreads and what safety precautions she and her family needed to take. “Friendship Bridge called me many times repeating the health measures against COVID-19,” Manuela said. “This has helped me not to forget to wear my face mask, to wash my hands constantly, and to maintain social distance. I use these tips in practice every day.”
In August, she met in person with other Friendship Bridge clients during her monthly Trust Bank (group loan repayment) meeting, where she learned that the vaccine was safe and it would help prevent her from getting sick. Just a week after her training, she got her first COVID-19 vaccination shot. “Nobody forced me to get vaccinated,” she said. “I did it because I wanted to and because I want to stay longer with my family. Currently, the disease is attacking stronger and that is why we must take care of ourselves.”
For millions of indigenous women like Manuela, inadequate healthcare and misinformation about preventable diseases affect their daily realities. Misconceptions and lack of access to culturally appropriate services can limit their potential and prevent them from building a better future for themselves and their families. Our Health for Life program is designed specifically to counter the healthcare challenges that rural, indigenous women face in Guatemala so they can take ownership of their health and make educated decisions.
To address COVID-19, Friendship Bridge is teaching all clients about the importance of getting the vaccine during their monthly Non-Formal Education sessions. We are handing out flyers that address commonly asked questions and we provide a specific phone number that allows women to reach a staff member at Friendship Bridge who can address their doubts. If clients are interested in being vaccinated, Friendship Bridge can help with the registration. And we are so proud to announce that 92% of our staff in Guatemala have received at least their first vaccine since we were designated as front-line workers.
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After a year of operating under constraints such as lockdowns, travel restrictions, and reduced capacities, Friendship Bridge is experiencing a 27% increase in participation in our domiciliary Health for Life program clinics, and fields more questions than ever regarding preventive health services. Additionally, misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine has become widespread and access is unattainable for individuals with literacy limitations and lack of internet access, both necessary for registering for a vaccine on the government website in Guatemala.
With the re-opening of markets and the beginning of a tiered vaccination effort in Guatemala, Friendship Bridge is aiming to not only regain full nurse and health program capacity in 4 of our branches but also to help facilitate a rebound for our clients by providing COVID-19 vaccine education and registration assistance.
Your support will allow us to continue this important work in rural areas of Guatemala as we prepare to expand our services to reach an even greater number of women with our products and services. All funds will support us in reaching more women like Manuela with COVID-19 vaccine education programs and support with registering and receiving a vaccine. Every gift provides potentially life-saving services, just like the ones Manuela received.