Monday, June 23, 2014

Population Control

Controlling the population is a controversial topic for many.  Why?•    It touches on religion, especially those who think the reason for sexual relationships is for procreation only.
•    It touches on Rich Nations vs Poor Nations…people in rich nations tell the poor nations they are over populating the earth…poor nations tell rich nations it is all about consumption in which the rich are exploiting all the resources.
•    And it very much also touches on women’s rights to decide when and if they choose to have children.

China has had massive problems with their overpopulation and decided to “fix” it by passing a one child law, which means that the State will support only one child per family except for parents of the under populated different racial groups.  What has this meant?  People with money have more children, and girls are being aborted or left to die at birth…because sons can take better care of the aging parents…and now there are 35 million men with no available female mates.
In poverty stricken countries people still have lots of children to ensure some will reach adulthood…can you even imagine?  In wealthier countries when a child dies before a parent as that being the unnatural way…the wrong way of life but in poor countries many parents have buried their children…it is the norm, not the oddity.

As we noted on Mother's Day, in Nicaragua the birth rate is dropping but teenage pregnancy is higher here than any other country in the Western Hemisphere and we have to ask, Why?  Birth control is available and though the Catholic Church is strong here, religion plays some role but not much.*

What seems to be the largest factor for teen girls is hopelessness.  They see no future, so they look for their future in older men and a baby. 

Iran faced overpopulation and seemed to reduce their population by the most sensible way possible…the government and the religious leaders stressed family planning.   Family planning is free…ALL types of modern family planning.  MEN and women have to go to family planning classes BEFORE they are issued a marriage license.  Women are encouraged to stay in school and that includes graduate school.   Iran…is lauded for getting its population back under control and they did it through education and giving hope.Becca and Jessenia, our health promoter, have started a group of teen girls with donations from the Mother’s Day alternative gift.  They took the group last week to see the movie, Godzilla, and the horror of the afternoon was not the movie but hearing their stories as they traveled and had snacks…one is one of 12 children in a very poor family…one is part of the family that had 2 children to die a few years ago from pneumonia and the mother miscarried from grief because they were “saving” the medicine, thinking they might need it more later.  A movie was a great way to get the group started, to get out, see more, see different possibilities, and have some long-awaited fun.
Free family planning, education for all, and above all hope for women…and girls…if you want to have a world less populated, that is what you work for. 
*The Church does play a heavy role in policy on abortion, which has always been illegal in Nicaragua and in recent years therapeutic abortions (when the mother's life is in danger) have also become illegal.

Monday, June 16, 2014

May Matching A Wild Success!

The response that we got from the May Matching Gift Challenge went far beyond what we had imagined.  Over $120,000!  Thank you to all who gave! This money will give us a boost to begin in earnest needed programs.  The donor who issued the challenge is giving his part in installments, which is also good because it help the work continue.*

Besides the actual cash, these gifts are encouragement to us as well.  Sarah had many of her Spring speaking engagements cancelled due to weather and then we were told not to apply for a grant to help women with cervical cancer, she and I – at least – were bummed.  This feels like an answer to prayer.

I have been in the States with my parents for the last week.  Daddy and I listened to a televised Bible study.  It was on tithing.  The message repeated over and over was “tithe and God will bless you beyond your wildest dreams…maybe not now but later.”  The reality is that if I did not see the poor day in and day out, I might agree with him, because I grew up with Mama teaching me that we were to give 10% to those in need and then we were not to worry because God would take care of our needs….and the Matching Challenge and the response certainly feels like this.

The problem is that I see desperately poor people sharing their meager resources with others.  Taking people into their home and sharing the little food they have is a common occurrence; in fact, poor Nicaraguans do not understand in the U.S., the land of plenty, there can be homeless people…homeless! Because here in Nicaragua, people take in those with nowhere else to go.
The poor know that in order to survive, they have to depend on each other…they have to share.  And they share even though it might mean that the next day they do not have enough to eat.  Unlike the Bible lesson for that day, the poor give more than 10% and they continue to worry because they are not taken care of…they are not blessed beyond their wildest dreams…they remain poor, hungry, desperate.
But I believe that, for whatever it is worth, they are held close to the heart of the Divine and are loved tenderly, deeply and…

The rest of us are called to relieve their pain…it is the right thing…the humane thing to do…and our blessing?  Well, doing the right thing is power in and of itself.

*Next week we will write about plans for this money.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Teaching in Health

Our public health component is a crucial part of our work in the clinic…teaching people how to care for themselves. 
We currently have 32 lay health promoters in Nueva Vida and the  three surrounding rural communities.  Our goal is to up that number to 50, but we are looking for dedicated people because we have much to teach:
  • Young women need to learn that annual visits are crucial…in order to check their health and look for signs of diseases that progress like silent killers.
  • One in 4 women die of complications due to diabetes because 1) they do not know they have diabetes, 2) they do not eat well, 3) they have organ failures because they are not taking the medications consistently, or 4) they get sores and do not treat them immediately.  Teaching poor people how to feed their children well is difficult because they do not have many resources, but will reduce the cases of diabetes in the future.
  • Cervical cancer kills more Nicaraguan women of reproductive age than any other cause of death.  Cervical cancer is easily treatable if detected early.  We have a goal to have a See and Treat program started in the next few months that will allow the doctors to see the cervix clearly and treat any abnormalities right away.
  • Nicaragua has the highest rate of teen pregnancies in the Western Hemisphere, though the overall birth rate has dropped considerably in recent years.  There are many issues around this, and I will write about them in our next blog, but one issue is lack of access to birth control.  Although technically birth control is provided by the government and is free, government clinics do not always have the medications.  We are working with teens who are already mothers, teens who are not yet mothers, and older women who do not want to have more children or any at all.
  • Women who stay at home to raise the children (often because they do not have a choice) are the fastest growing HIV positive population, mainly because the government tests most pregnant women.  We have started HIV testing patients of both sexes in our clinic and are trying to expand our testing of other STIs.  We also give out free condoms.  Teaching about sexual health is important for the health of the teens, parents, and women.
You will note that most of our focus is on women…we have learned that they are the most amenable to learning about their health and the health of their children.  Also most of the care-giving in this country are done by women.  BUT…we hope to include more men and male-specific issues as well.

You can see though how many of these topics need privacy and a free flow of ideas from the students attending the classes…this is hard to do with a space that other patients walk through…which is why we need that third building. -Kathleen