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Nicaragua: Bringing Us Together

Marlon Villareyna

Story Teller: Marlon Villareyna
Role: Community Health Promoter, member of PRODECOOP
Date of Recording: April 20, 2013
Location: Community of Santula, Miraflor, Estelí, Nicaragua

My name is Marlon Villareyna, and I am from the community of Santula, located in the northeast part of the Estelí. I am 36 years old and I’ve been involved with Grounds for Health, working directly with women for almost a year.

There are many benefits of Grounds for Health programs. One of the most important things is that talks about the screening test make it possible for women to talk about their bodies. Before, the genitals were like a huge taboo—it was almost prohibitive to speak about “those parts.” And at first I was embarrassed and women were embarrassed. But after building trust, we succeed and now we’re almost finished screening all the women. We’ve now extended the invitation to the community and neighboring communities are now are requesting the test.

The impact has been very positive because previously, there were women here who died from cervical cancer. Now we try to screen women early on to catch the problem at a stage when it can be controlled. We are raising awareness that every woman should get tested, and to not be afraid because our goal is to identify the problem early, when there is still time to treat it.

The most significant result is reducing mortality in women due to cancer. There have been many women who died of cancer in the community and before we didn’t know the cause. We just knew that they spoke of a pain in their womb, or stomach pain. With this project, we are avoiding many children being left without their mom, many families being destroyed, and many women dying from this problem.

Before this project, we knew of a woman in the community who had been diagnosed with advanced cancer. It was sad to watch her die – the severe pain – bleeding like an animal was eating her alive from within. It’s horrible, and it is what we want to avoid. Thank God, none of women screened through the project have been infected.

Marlon Villareyna

Marlon listening intently to another promoter practice.

I’ve spoken a lot with my wife Mayra and children about the importance of the project. We feel like it has united us as a family and improved communication between us, because—even sometimes with families, between partners, between a husband and wife—it’s difficult to talk about our private parts. In our case, this project brought us closer together as a family. Now we can comment on our bodies, our privates like they are any other part of the body part, like my eye, my face, or my mouth. And that has been a great achievement. I think it has been a great achievement for the family, not only with my wife but also with my two children.

We will continue promoting screening. The strategy we’ve used is to promote it through word of mouth. For example, I give a talk to five women before they get the VIA test. Then these women can talk to five other women and increase awareness about health and how to care for your body. And we did a bit about how the genitals are as important as any other body part: “They are mine, this is my body, and I have to look after them and protect them.” This is how we work the talks. So, we will absolutely continue because there are other generations coming up that will need this screening.

One lesson I have learned is that we have to work harder to prevent diseases in order to avoid needing curative health. Disease is preventable. Because sometimes, if we can catch it at an early stage, we can prevent cancer. There is no need for it to develop into cancer. So that’s a lesson I’ve learned. And the other part is that Grounds for Health is about bringing families together. They don’t look for who is to blame for a problem but rather, how to resolve that problem. The project improves communication in the family.

I also just want to say that it really is a very good project, a project that is helping many developing countries and although for many it seems shocking, but saving lives is our responsibility and we have to continue with that work.

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