Mission Minute – Jovencitas Sanas 2023

Apr 27, 2023

The long-awaited Jovencitas Sanas program was a great success! We held the program at each of the middle schools in the villages of Yulaxac, Victorias Chancolín, and Santa Elena. There was a fourth session scheduled for April 28 at San Francisco Momonlac, but we received word the day before that the teachers throughout the district had been summoned to Barillas for a mandatory meeting, so they had to cancel. They are rescheduled for a later date.

Seventy-two girls participated in the program, 24 in each community. The team consisted of six trainers—one head trainer, one secondary trainer, and four assistants (one for each table).

Topics included understanding how your body works, menstruation and its management, your body as a temple, family planning, nutrition, physical and sexual abuse, creating your own path, self-esteem, stress and anxiety relief, and consent. There were fun and engaging activities for each topic.

In each school, the teacher told us that reproductive education had been introduced in Natural Science class, but our course was much more in depth. In all three villages, teachers were grateful for the time, effort, and course content to further expand on what the girls had already learned.

The very best part of this program was that, after the first day, the Guatemalan trainers took over the entire program and made it their own. It was impressive to see how they put their heads together and modified it. The improvements were spot on, and the second and third days were fine-tuned to perfection. I have no reservations whatsoever about the Guatemalan team teaching the program going forward.

Catarina Ramos was an exceptional leader. She connected very well with the girls and added a lot of humor to the presentation. Dorely Sebastián was energetic and confident as a teacher. Of course, Francisco Fernández (our Executive Director) is a master. He is engaging and made the everyone laugh. The students were receptive to all the topics. Short videos incorporated into the program were a novelty for the girls and complemented the lectures. Good discussion afterward showed that the students fully understood the subject matter. Hands-on activities and physical movement were particularly appealing to the students. We even introduced basic yoga poses to enthusiastic future yoginis!

In addition to the educational content, each participant received a gift bag containing a water bottle, menstrual kit, monthly cycle bracelet, a 90-day supply of multivitamins with iron from Blessings International, a recipe book featuring readily accessible, nutritious foods, a mirror, an herbal teabag and a lavender sachet for stress relief, a notebook, and a set of colored pencils. The girls were most grateful for their gifts.

It was HOT. Temperatures reached 99° every day. There was little or no ventilation at any of the schools. In spite of the heat, the girls and their teachers were cooperative and engaged.

A regular school day for the children is 8:00 to 12:30. Our course was 8:00 to 4:00. It was a long day for them with a lot of information covered. After careful analysis, it was suggested that in the future, perhaps it would work better if each of the themes was covered in a one-hour class after school, for eight consecutive weeks. Content will stay the same. We are investigating the logistics and feasibility of this.

A BIG thank you to all of our donors, and to the Rochester Rotary Club and District 6380 for financially supporting Jovencitas Sanas. It was a successful first step in addressing the problem of teenage pregnancy in the hinterlands of northeast Guatemala.