The Guadalajara Reporter wrote an article in March about CEDEJO services. Click here to view the original article on GR or read it below.
Lakeside’s female health care center, outreach program motoring forward
Published: 23 March 2016
Written by Dale Hoyt Palfrey
“Just imagine, we have found women who have given birth to as many as 15 children and never had a pap smear test,” says Silvia Flores, the director of the non-profit Centro de Desarrollo de Jocotepec (Cedejo) who heads the highly effective health care outreach program launched last year in a dozen lakeshore communities.
Four days a week, Flores and her team of assistants board a well-equipped “clinic on wheels” and head out to destinations stretched between the towns of Mezcala and El Chante. The van parks at village plazas or outside government-run DIF (Family Development Agency) centers to offer free services, such as blood pressure and pulmonary oxygen saturation checks, examinations for early detection of diabetes, breast and cervical cancer and guidance on family planning.
Some test results are available on the spot. Clinical findings of the Papanikolaou exams, paid for by Cedejo, are delivered to patients within 22 days. Every other week, women who show symptoms requiring further medical analysis are transported in the van to Guadalajara’s Ramon Garibay Hospital for ultrasound exams provided for a modest charge of 50 pesos each.
The mobile unit operates under the auspices of Health Outreach for Women, a program sustained by an anonymous benefactor.
Flores attributes the success and high response to this program to the network of volunteer women who have taken charge of publicizing the mobile unit visiting schedule among the populace.
Though Flores never toots her own horn, her dynamic personality and steadfast dedication to aiding the underprivileged are unquestionable parts of the equation. A native of Durango, where she earned her title as a registered nurse at the Universidad Juarez, she settled in the north shore village of San Pedro Tesistan in 1974. Based there, Flores embarked on an initiative to provide basic first aid attention to locals, later extending services to San Cristobal Zapotilan and El Molino.
She opened Jocotepec's Development Center in 1982 to focus on female health issues, including birth control and prenatal care, and assist in childbirth as a registered mid-wife. She closed that facility in 2002 to concentrate work at the Ajijic branch started up in 1991.
Over the years CEDEJO and Flores shifted their aims to a broader scope that now includes orientation on the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, marital relations and gender issues, as well as birth control and family planning, for both men and women. Beyond the center's doors, she has led numerous conferences on those themes at local schools and churches.
An irrepressible activist in her field of expertise, Flores continues exploring new avenues as an advocate for women's rights, responsible sexual conduct and healthy families.
In 2013-2014, CEDEJO set in motion the pilot project for a workshop series called Mujeres: Poder y Vida (Women: Power of Life), first implemented in Chapala's impoverished Tepehua neighborhood. The program is designed to address problems of poverty, marginalization, gender equality, domestic violence and limited economic opportunities that directly impact the lives of women in the north shore region.
The Chapala Sunrise Rotary Club decided to take the project under its wing for its continuation and growth during 2016 and 2017. (Look for full details on the chapalarotary.org website).
CEDEJO's latest educational enterprise is the start-up of a program on the prevention of teenage pregnancies directed at male and female adolescents. A pilot program is being supported by Karuna Gomez Mont and Aurora Michel, who were behind the promising Lake Chapala aquaculture project fostered by the non-profit group Luz de Malla.
With all these humanitarian efforts and accomplishments under her belt, it's not surprising that Flores has been singled out for numerous public honors. She took away Lakeside Awards trophies for Project of the Year in 1989, Woman of the Year in 1989 and Pioneer of the Year in 2005. She has also received recognition from the Chapala and Jocotepec governments for services to the community and a hero award from the Giraffe Project that salutes individuals who stick out their necks for good causes. And during the 1996 celebration of its 50th anniversary, the United Nations put Flores in the limelight with a certificate of appreciation for her "Continuation to Common Unity".
Despite recurrent financial struggles, CEDEJO remains on solid footing thanks to Flores' unwavering commitment, a devoted team of co-workers and volunteers and a strong board of director under the leadership of current president Darlene MacLeod.
Learn more about CEDEJO programs and activities at www.CEDEJO.org and its Facebook page.
Join CEDEJO on May 22nd, 10:30 a.m. at the Lake Chapala Society's Open Circle.
Sylvia will share stories about her efforts to help women and families of the most marginalized Lakeside communities. In the 80s she created a team of leaders who worked to empower these communities. She will tell us how her institution addresses the most important problems like breast and cervical cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, unplanned pregnancy and domestic violence.
Sylvia Flores is a registered nurse and midwife, founder of Centro de Desarollo Jocotepec A.C (www.cedejo.ORG), a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the quality of life for Lake Chapala families with limited resources through promoting the health and well-being of the family. Since 1984 Sylvia has presented lectures and conferences in the United States, Egypt, Cuba, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Guatemala, as well as throughout Mexico.
Open Circle's Website: opencircleajijic.org
Two reminders from the Open Circle Steering Committee:
1. We are asking attendees to leave pets at home, with the exception of service dogs.
2. Please bring your own coffee mugs.
Open Circle begins each Sunday morning at 10:00 in the garden at Lake Chapala Society for a social time including coffee, tea and sandwich bites. The presentation begins at 10:30.
CEDEJO was pleased to find a comprehensive article about CEDEJO Director, Sylvia Flores, and her activist history featured in the Guadalajara Reporter this week. Reporter Dale Hoyt Palfrey also discusses volunteer efforts to help the clinic stay afloat. Check it out the article below or online.
Details Published on Friday, 24 January 2014 10:12 Written by Dale Hoyt Palfrey
Distinguished by her dynamic and perpetually cheerful personality, Silvia Flores stands out as the lakeside area’s trailblazer in the fields of family planning, reproductive health care and sex education.
A registered nurse and practicing midwife with more than 500 deliveries under her belt, Flores is the founder and driving force of the non-profit Centro de Desarrollo Jocotepec, A.C. (CEDEJO), currently headquartered in central Ajijic with an outreach clinic operating two days of the week at Chapala’s Tepehua Community Center.
Her long history of compassionate community service to local women and families goes back four decades when she began providing maternal care and health counseling to low-income residents in the south shore village of San Pedro Tesistan. Extending her work to other rural communities eventually led to the 1986 establishment of CEDEJO, based in Jocotepec until 1991 when she relocated to Ajijic.
Over the years she came to be recognized as a pioneer in sexual education who was welcomed into the classrooms at many local schools and even pre-marital orientation seminars offered by the area’s Roman Catholic churches.
Along the way she trained dozens of other lakeside women interested in following her footsteps in promoting pre-natal care, the prevention of cervical and breast cancer and sexually transmitted diseases, and the once widely taboo topic of contraception.
Meanwhile, Flores gained status as a leading national voice on family planning and women’s issues. She has organized community workshops and contributed to countless national and international conferences on population, development and advocacy, appearing as a guest lecturer for events in the United States, Egypt, Cuba, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Guatemala, as well as her home country.
In 1996 she received a certificate of appreciation for her work and “Contribution to Common Unity” issued by the United Nations. On the local front she has racked up numerous accolades, earning public recognition for her contribution to reproductive rights of women and Community Awards trophies for Project of the Year (1986), Lifetime Achievement (1991), Woman of the Year (1995) and Pioneer of the Year (2005).
Flores has the added distinction of being the sole survivor of the first generation of volunteers at the Mexican National Chili Cookoff. She’ll be on hand for the 36th edition of the event, coming up February 14 through 16, in her customary spot as head of the hot dog and chili bowl stand.
Despite her boundless energy and multiple achievements, Flores has not always enjoyed smooth sailing in her journey as an activist. The very survival of CEDEJO has been threatened as grants and funding opportunities have gradually dried up over time.
Fortunately, the CEDEJO program has found a new and enthusiastic advocate in the person of Sheila Poettgen. The Vermont native and her life partner Kai arrived in Ajijic nearly a year and a half ago, immediately recognizing a congenial community to take an extended break from a round-the-world cycling adventure. They promptly developed close ties with various local activists. Inspired by the commemoration of International Women’s Day last March Poettgen decided to honor women around the world who help to empower others by pitching in as a CEDEJO volunteer and program booster. She offered her talents to design fresh promotional materials for the center, develop a Facebook page, slick website (www.CentroDeDesarrolloJocotepec.com) and train staff on keeping them up-to-date, and most significantly initiate some creative fund-raising schemes to keep the project going on more a solid financial foundation.
Last August she started a blog (www.gofundme.com/save-health-clinic) with the goal of raising 12,000 dollars to sustain CEDEJO programs for a full year. In December she posted the announcement of a Match Challenge, aimed at collecting 24,000 pesos by January, 31. CEDEJO supporter Judith Frugier and a group of Canadian friends made a time sensitive pledge to contribute a total of 12,000 pesos to double all donations received by the deadline. This week Poettgen reported the challenge was fulfilled 12 days ahead of the target date. The ante was immediately raised by an additional 4,000 pesos for donations coming in by the end of the month.
Persons wishing to jump on the bandwagon are encouraged to drop off donations directly at the Ajijic Clinic, Ocampo 45-A, open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 7 p.m., or follow one of the alternate avenues available on either the Centro’s website or Poettgen’s campaign blog.
An article about CEDEJO's 2013-2014 Fundraising Campaign appears in the January issue of the "Ojo del Lago" this month. Check it out online or read the article below.
Hooray For Cedejo!
This past year, for International Women’s Day and in honor of all the women around the world who help to empower others, I volunteered to create a website for CEDEJO and to update their very outdated brochure from 1986. I wanted to use current photos of the inspirational Director, registered nurse and midwife, Sylvia Flores, and other volunteers in action so I asked for permission to visit the clinics in order to photograph their work.
Upon visiting the clinics I was greatly affected by how important the work of CEDEJO is to the community. Women of all ages lined up outside the free clinic offered through the Tepehua Community Center in order to gain access to health services they would not otherwise be able to afford.
A woman in her mid-thirties, who arrived with two children and a third on the way, received a pre-natal examination and consultation. A 15 year old inquired about her choices for preventing pregnancy. She already had one child at home and was struggling to make ends meet. Another woman stopped in for a breast examination, concerned about a lump she had recently discovered.
For many of these women, it was the first time in their lives that they were able to receive gynecological care. I saw the relief in their faces as nurses responded to their health concerns and I watched them leave with smiles of gratitude.
So when I learned that the organization that had provided financial support for the clinic for the last two years was unable to continue funding due to restrictions beyond their control and that, without another funding source, the clinic would be forced to close by the end of August 2013, I was heartbroken.
Cervical and breast cancer is the leading cause of death for local women between the ages of 35 and 60 and the clinic provides the most vulnerable women in our community preventative services. Their work helps the community make great strides forward in relation to women’s health and empowerment. CEDEJO is too important to this generation and the next to give up on it now, which is why I decided I needed to do more.
I have started a fundraising campaign in an attempt to raise the money needed to keep the doors of the clinic open for another year. Thankfully, over the last three months, we’ve raised 19% of the total fundraising goal, allowing the clinic to remain open through the end of November. However, the clinic’s fate is precarious and, now more than ever, it needs the Lakeside community’s help.
One generous donor has offered to match any individual donation of 5,000 pesos or more. If you’re moved by the clinic’s work and are able to contribute any amount to this campaign (every little bit helps) or you’d like to review details of how funds will be used, please visit www.gofundme.com/save-health-clinic. To find out more about CEDEJO’s inspirational work, visit their website.
Sheila Poettgen is an activist, artist, minimalist, author, and supporter of sustainable living. She travels around the world by bicycle, works as a freelance website designer, teaches English as a second language, house & pet sits, and volunteers with organizations that promote social justice and women's empowerment.