La Escuela de la Montaña

un proyecto de la asociación Pa Le Qanil

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Carla's Story

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Carla's from Nueva Esperanza came to the school to give a confrerence.
Carla was born on a coffee plantation near Colomba, which went bankrupt in 2001. Carla's parents organized with the other workers to fight for wages owed. They had not received any pay for six months. By this stage many families had ran out of food and were struggling to gather herbs and river crabs to eat. Tragically, the plantation owner, seeing himself deeply in debt and unable to see a way around it, killed himself. His children blamed the workers for the suicide, because in the struggle to get their pay they had denounced the owner to the labour tribunal. Because Carla's parents were both leaders in the struggle, they began to receive death threats for forming a union and keeping the struggle going.

Despite the death threats and constant fears that their children would be left orphaned, Carla and Fausto's parents were able to keep going and eventually negotiated a settlement in which the families received land as compensation. By this stage Carla and her family had moved to a new community, because the primary school on the plantation had closed and she and her younger brother Fausto wanted to keep studying. Carla became a Noche Cultural facilitator while still in primary school because the family had no money for their kids to study, even at primary level. Carla went on to middle school and then began to work with a government health programme as a community health monitor.

Carla: "I began working in health as a health monitor and was getting Q50 a month from the government. Our work was to weigh the children and tell people in Nueva Esperanza when the government vaccination days were. I really liked this work and so when the Dispensario Santo Hermano Pedro started working here [Catholic Church run clinic] in 2005 sister Miriam invited me to come and take part in their training programme. A doctor called Hugo Cottom gave us classes, there were 28 of us who joined the programme. Sister Miriam applied for international funding for a bigger project. The idea was to set up health houses in each community where we could see patients and sell low cost medicine. We received more training to be health technicians and did work experience in  the hospital in Coatepeque. For me it was difficult to continue training and do the work experience because we went every day to the hospital and by that stage I had had my son. My mother looked after him so that I could continue studying. Sister Miriam insisted that I and the other technicians continue the training and I liked it. WhCarla de Nueva Esperanzaen this project came to an end I continued working in health [voluntarily] because I like helping people who need it.

"In 2008 Sister Miriam began to try to help us to get into a nursing school so that we could become auxiliary nurses and work with the government health programme, in case the international funding for the project was not renewed. It was really hard to get accepted into the schools- many health technicians hadn't studied at middle school and were rejected by the nursing schools. Just 3 of us health technicians were accepted into a nursing school. Apart from that, several schools refused to allow us to enroll.  Because two of us were mothers, there was discrimination against us. They told us that they only accepted single, childless women aged 18-30.  Eventually we managed to persuade one school to let us enroll (in January 2011) but we had to get a letter of recommendation first.

"We looked into the costs of studying auxiliary nursing, and saw it was really expensive. One of us is a single mother, one is single and I had my husband but he would drink too much and so we felt we would not be able to do it. We had to borrow the Q800 for our enrollment fee. We started studying but we couldn't cover all of the costs. Apart from the  monthly tuition fees we had to buy nurses uniforms and other materials, and pay our bus fare to Xela.

"I did my work experience in a public hospital in Quiche. It was a very humble hospital, they needed people there to do work experience and there was no discrimination against me there. In October we took our final exams, it was hard but I passed.

I was so happy to finally graduate as an auxiliary nurse, it had been a real struggle to get this far and there were times I thought I would never be able to realize my dream. After graduating I continued working in the health house in Nueva Esperanza, and early this year I got a job working with an NGO that works with the government funded extension of health care programme.* [a programme to provide basic health services for women and children in rural communities such as vaccinations, check ups for pregnant mothers and infants, etc]. I have been working there for around 8 months [in September], at times I said to myself I'm going to quit because its too hard, often I have to walk to remote communities because there is no tranport, I visit pregnant women, assist births, vaccinate children, its a really nice job but a big sacrifice. Its a joy for me to be able to help other people, they have a poor quality of life because the government doesn´t do enough to for them, there is too much poverty, the government provides little medicine and there is very little support for these communities. There is really bad malnutrition but the government doesn't give the family any support, we just fill out a report sheet on the family. Its really nice working in these communities, with good experiences, sharing with [and supporting] the families who are suffering.

I am still working now and I want to thank Juliette and all here listening to me [in the conference].

I am so happy I was able to make my dream a  reality and I am happy to serve the communities and people who really need it, and I thank God for this opportunity."