Farewell Note from Executive Director August Burns

As I sit at my desk on my final day at the helm of Grounds for Health, I will indulge in a few thoughts about what I have learned on this incredible journey.
 
Perhaps first and foremost is the power of community to make lasting change. It is part of the human condition to strive for a better life, and the coffee cooperatives that we have worked with over the past 10 years—17 strong and counting—have taught us what a community can do given the resources.  Breaking the stereotype of machismo, the men in leadership have repeatedly proven themselves to be fierce advocates for women’s access to services. They care deeply about the women in their lives and take great pride in their contribution to the work.
 
Our public/private partnership, in which we partner with coffee farmers, local health systems and our coffee funders, has freed us from the ‘tail wagging the dog’ that tends to happen with grant funding. The generosity of the coffee industry has been essential. In addition, the Fair Trade premium brings the farmers to the table as equal partners in this work and allows them to continue it after the ‘aid’ is gone. Our partnership with coffee has allowed us to take anentrepreneurial approach to a major public health program, innovating, testing and changing course when needed. We are the envy of the global health community for our nimbleness which has consistently allowed us to stay ahead of the curve.
 
Small change can have big impact. While our program prides itself in being lean and nimble—in not arriving with all the answers and deep pockets—its impact far exceeds its size. The value of bringing essential resources, meeting partners as equal contributors and demonstrating success has consistently led to greater impact. Our program has become a demonstration of what is possible, even in the most remote areas.
 
My journey did not begin with Grounds for Health, but rather ends with it after 38 years working for women’s health and rights. I was raised by a role-breaking mother to believe that women are equals to men in all ways. Unfortunately, this is few women’s reality. And yet, my intimate experience, serving literally thousands of women, confirms my mother’s vision: women rise to every challenge and always amaze me with their strength and integrity. If by some magic—because I’m not sure what else will ever do it—we could create the opportunity of equality for all women, we would unleash the full measure of our human potential.
 
Women’s lives are valuable to the strength and health of the community and somehow, our powerful little project brings that value into focus. When women are empowered, men are empowered, communities are empowered, and everyone’s life improves.  That empowerment might come in the form of new knowledge about health, or increased respect as demonstrated by a health care program that focuses on saving women’s lives. In every community Grounds for Health has worked, we have seen this transformation happen.
 
So thank you to everyone who has contributed to making Grounds for Health a success, and please stay with us. As I pass the baton to my able successor, Guy Stallworthy, I know the work will transform and grow to even greater heights. Please join me in welcoming Guy to our team and keep your support coming.
 
Because after all, many hands make light work.
- August 
 

Nicaragua: Multiplying Impact

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Banner hanging over the clinic during a Screen and Treat campaign in San Juan del Rio Coco

In late April, new Program Manager Ariel Irene Delaney traveled to Nicaragua to meet the local team and become acquainted with our current, longest-standing Grounds for Health program. Upon arriving, she was immediately whisked into a meeting with Prodecoop, one of our cooperative partners. Talk about hitting the ground running!

Soon after Ariel’s arrival, Grounds for Health and the cooperative partners hosted a two-day community health promoter training. They trained twenty women from the communities around San Juan del Rio Coco in cervical cancer education and prevention, teaching them ways to engage and mobilize the community as health promoters. It was a busy and exciting two days, made extremely rich by the personal stories shared by the promoters.

One woman spoke of her own experience with breast cancer. She received emotional and financial support from her community when battling her illness, and she is motivated to be a promoter for Grounds for Health as a way to give back and ensure that all women receive the same care and support that she did. The entire room was moved, and the promoters left the training with a surge of energy and momentum.

After two weeks in the field, Ariel and in-country coordinator Barinia Osejo were joined by Program Manager Kyle Engelman, Senior Program Officer Kayla Moore, and Clinical Consultant Erica Liebermann. The team’s first task was to field-test Grounds for Health’s newest curriculum: a two-day Training of Trainers in VIA and Cryotherapy. Erica and Barinia led a dynamic and valuable training to five standout healthcare providers from Madriz. The providers left the training pleased with the theory and practice they learned and eager to put their new training skills and techniques to good use.

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Clinical Consultant Erica Liebermann looks on while the participants practice their training skills for VIA and cryotherapy

The following week, these new trainers delivered a 2-day Clinical Training to 11 providers from Madriz Department. Meanwhile, the Grounds for Health team was joined by a clinical volunteer, Erin Quinn, and together the team supervised the training, supported the trainers, and prepared the logistics for the upcoming campaign.

The Madriz activities ended with a three-day screen-and-treat campaign, where the new providers, trainers, and Grounds for Health staff and volunteer screened 319 women! Of the 35 VIA-positive women who were eligible for cryotherapy, all were treated that same day, and the few women who were ineligible for treatment due to pelvic infection were given antibiotics and scheduled for follow-up appointments.

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The dynamic and energetic group of clinicians – and local trainers! – from the Screen and Treat campaign in San Juan del Rio Coco

It was an extremely successful campaign and a great way to round out the program in Madriz. Grounds for Health feels confident in the capacity and motivation of the providers and the partners, who show a strong commitment to continuing cervical cancer prevention in their region. As everyone said goodbye during the closing ceremony at the end of the week, more than a few tears of happiness and inspiration were shed.

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Ariel (middle) smiles with two providers recently certified to perform VIA in their health centers

Thank You: Farmer Brothers

scaa-reception-1For the third year in a row, the Grounds for Health reception at SCAA, held in April in Seattle, Washington, was generously sponsored by Farmer Brothers. This year the event was held at The Edgewater Hotel overlooking beautiful Puget Sound in downtown Seattle. About 75 people from all walks of the coffee community came to sample local fare, share a drink and catch up on the recent activities at Grounds for Health.

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Kyle Engelman, our Program Manager who heads up the Peru program, spoke about her recent visit and the challenges and rewards of serving women “at the end of the road.” Also sharing insights was Merling Preza, General Manager of Prodecoop in Nicaragua who spoke eloquently about the impact that Grounds for Health has had on her community, her co-op and her immediate family.

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Kyle and Merling

Farmer Brothers, a company that began in 1912, today serves over 60,000 food and beverage establishments across the U.S. Their generous support of Grounds for Health is in keeping with a company policy to invest in coffee-growing families and deliver responsibly sourced coffee. You can learn more about Farmer Brothers’ commitment to sustainability at http://www.farmerbros.com/our-story/sustainability/

Thank you to our friends at Farmer Brothers for another great reception!

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