by Corinne Yank, GoPhil Communications Manager

Updates and Reflections from ASSADE in Guatemala

In Guatemala, COVID-19 cases and deaths are still rising and strict lockdown restrictions continue to threaten peoples’ livelihoods.

ASSADE was one of the first GoPhil partners to receive COVID-19 crisis support from the Rapid Response Fund back in April. Their direct focus on community health meant that they were quickly forced into crisis mode, working around the clock to help prevent the spread of the virus, provide essential health services, adjust their service models, and mobilize emergency medical and food support, among other lifesaving activities.

Julio Letona Chávez at ASSADE shared the following updates, insights, and reflections about what has been happening at ASSADE these last few weeks: 

“When the COVID-19 threat started, we decided to close the dental clinic for safety measures, in order to preserve the functioning of all the rest of the ASSADE services. The idea of continuing dental services was not an option back then, so we had to restructure our work-frame. Nevertheless, as the other diseases and needs of communities continue happening the dental was a service that the community continued looking for. It took a long time to establish an adequate framework, to invest in changes in security measures, and to establish a new appointment model for users, which wasn’t easy. The first week the dental clinic reopened, we saw 25 community members and while evaluating all the guidelines, measures, and protocols implemented. In the second week, it was possible to serve 40 community members while improving the system. Finally, the reopening of the dental clinic during COVID-19 is official.”

Mae Ardón, GoPhil Guatemala Programs Assistant, notes: “Reopening the dental clinic and some women’s health services has been on ASSADE’s minds for awhile now. The reopening is a huge accomplishment. All GoPhil partners in Guatemala have dealt with an enormous amount of emotional stress and anxiety during this pandemic, and ASSADE’s commitment to community health and wellness during these uncertain times is remarkable.”

Julio went on to share that, “Among all the ASSADE activities we also wish to highlight the work of Yeny (pictured below), ASSADE’s Eco-Community Advocate, who helps us to strengthen the first level of care. She feels very useful during this time because of her important role in the face of the crisis as she promotes wellness in the communities. Yeny is in charge of family awareness. She goes from house to house to share preventative manuals ASSADE developed (so far there have been two versions) and she also accompanies deliveries of hygiene equipment, medication, and food kits to the villages.”

“Last week the President announced the construction of a Hospital* to attend the patients with COVID-19 in this region. Considering this procedure of creating more buildings in different areas while the regular structure of the Ministry of Public Health is collapsed is hard to believe. We continue feeling mistrust of Public Health System from the communities we serve, and we are convinced that small daily acts are what build trust with these communities. Perhaps COVID-19 can represent a milestone for Mayan communities; perhaps as a country, we will finally understand the value of health and respect the knowledge in these communities,” shared Julio.

* Julio is referring to the “building” one of highly-promoted (by the government’s PR team) COVID hospitals which are really temporary structures lacking resources. Patients and medical staff have come forward and publicly denounced the lack of medicine, supplies, equipment, etc. (More info…) Trusting that the government is investing in these ‘hospitals’ is hard to believe with this information, especially in places like Chimaltenango, where national hospitals were in bad shape long before the pandemic began.

“Overall, the last couple of months have been hard; with each passing day the situation appears to be getting worse, and we confront new difficulties and challenges. The emotional stress is increasing, and our concerns about maintaining the functioning of the health care center continue, but importantly our faith and the love of doing what we do support us to continue the struggle during this crisis. It is amazing how in the middle of this mist-like uncertainty, our passion and hearts only grow stronger.”
• Julio Letona Chávez, ASSADE •

For the GoPhil team, Julio’s wise words resonate strongly with how we’ve been feeling lately. Despite many challenges and hardships in recent months, we sense that the heart of this incredible GoPhil community has only grown stronger and more compassionate.

We are overwhelmingly grateful to all who have supported the GoPhil Rapid Response Fund. Your solidarity provides us with the hope that we will have more positive updates to share with you soon!