I was born in Tecpán as the youngest of 14 children. I have 7 brothers and 6 sisters. There is a 31 year age gap between me and the oldest sibling. By the time I was born, most of my siblings were already married or starting their careers, so I wouldn’t say I had too many struggles during my own childhood. However, I did stop going to school when I was 19 years old. My boyfriend at the time had died, and it really affected me because we had planned to get married. After that, I never wanted to leave my house, only with my mother at times. Then, two of my siblings got married and left the house, which devastated me more. I was suffering a lot during that time.
When I was almost 30 years old, I decided to go back to school and my family helped support me to study nursing. I was in school for 2 years, then did a 3 month practicum. Afterwards, I started working in an organization that helped provide micro-loans for women to do projects. My main focus has been on educating and empowering women. I worked in 3 organizations before working with Wuqu’ Kawoq – ADIMI for 4 months, AON JAY for 4 years, and ASECSA for 3 years. With all of those organizations, I was working as a women’s health educator and health promoter.
How long have you been working with Wuqu’ Kawoq (WK)?
For 2 years.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I love to listen to romantic music from the 60s and 70s because that’s my era.
What is your favorite place in Guatemala?
I love to walk around Antigua because it is so peaceful and quiet there. I love walking around and looking at the churches and spending some time in the parks, or just walking through the streets.
What is your role in WK?
I am an educator in women’s health and nutrition, so I do a lot of education classes with groups of women and house visits with mothers whose children are malnourished.
Which locations do you work?
All of Altiplanos, which includes Santa Lucia Utitlán, Chutinamit, Nuevo Progreso, Pahaj, Chichimuch, Tecpán, Paquip, Comalapa, and Paya.
Describe a typical week of your work.
On Mondays, I give classes on women’s health in Pahaj. There are 6 topics that I teach, and each class I focus on a different theme. The first class, I will talk to the women about understanding their bodies. Then the following classes, I talk about nutrition during pregnancy, menopause and breast cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, the benefits of family planning, and finally domestic violence. These classes are intended as prevention techniques, so the women are aware and educated about their health and the decisions that they make regarding their health.
Then Tuesdays, I usually give education classes on nutrition during and after pregnancy in Nuevo Progreso. On Wednesdays, I do house visits in various locations – sometimes in Santa Lucia or the Bocacosta or in Panajachel. On Thursdays, I deliver viveres (food and nutrients for malnourished children) in Paquip and give classes about nutrition. On Fridays, I am in the office taking care of administrative duties.
What do you like most about your work?
I love being an educator and teaching people important information that directly affects their health and lifestyle. I especially like working with groups of women in rural areas, because I feel like I understand them. They are my people. Practically all the women in rural areas have little knowledge about their bodies or about STIs. They think it’s an illness and don’t know how to prevent it. Also, I enjoy being able to talk in our language, Kakchikel.
Why do you think it is important to speak Kakchikel in education classes and clinics?
In rural areas where we work, women don’t always have the opportunity to study in school, and no one ever teaches them how to speak in Spanish. Talking with them in a Mayan language puts them more at ease. They aren’t as scared when they’re talking in their own language, and that is important when you are discussing sensitive topics like sex and domestic violence.
What has been one of your favorite moments working with WK?
Getting to know German (a WK staff member and manager of nutrition programs). When I first started working with WK, I noticed that he always looked angry. I was intimidated by him at first. I remember thinking, “Oh no, he is going to be my work partner and we are going to work together all of the time, but he seems so rude.” I asked a co-worker about him and he told me, “His face always looks like that. He’s different once you get to know him.”
I started working with him and getting to know him. Now, we joke around all the time. We work together almost every day doing classes and house visits, so we have a lot of faith and trust in each other.
What has been a challenging part of working with WK?
Using the computer. It’s less challenging now because I can print, scan, and send documents. Before, I didn’t know how to even turn a computer off or on. For my first two jobs, I didn’t really use a computer, but for my third job, they gave me a computer to use and my co-worker taught me how to use it. Still, if someone says to me “Yoli, you don’t need a computer for this,” then I’m happy.
What would you like to say to those who support WK?
I’d like to say thank you for the help you have given us and especially to my people who live in rural areas who do not have access to health care and education. You may not realize this, but the support you have given us has helped us improve people’s lives, and more importantly, it has prevented a lot of illnesses and diseases in those areas.