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 is currently seeking grants or sponsorship to continue their very important women's empowerment programs.
Due to existing problems in rural communities in the Rivera of Chapala (such as poverty, marginalization of women, domestic violence & women's lack of access to economic resources and information about reproductive rights) CEDEJO has created the “Women: Power of Life” program, which seeks to support the empowerment & development of women in these communities. The program offers specialized training which supports women's health & well-being, promotes equality and gender rights, and gives women resources for them to improve their personal growth and economic development.
Core Topics of Program include:
$180,000 MXN (15,000 MXN/month) covers 9 months of workshops for 1 group of 15-25 women! Click here to make a donation or Contact Us for more details.
I am overwhelmed and excited to share with you the experience we recently had in México distributing the kits that CEDEJO received from Lethbridge South Team, an Alberta DfG team in Canada.
Our organization´s mission is to improve the quality of life of families of the ribera of Chapala in Jalisco, México, through providing health services for women as well as education for sexual and reproductive health. We were honored to receive 250 kits brought to us by our friend Rebecca Pohl, who traveled all the way from Canada along with her husband Allan with their truck to bring to us the DfG kits as well as other help for the marginalized communities in this area.
A dear Canadian friend we have in common, Darlene MacLeod, told them about CEDEJO and about the work we do with women and girls in the Lake Chapala area. They had the kits and they wwere planning to drive all the way here to give them out, so it was a perfect connection.
When we heard about the kits and the possibility that we could hand them to women who needed this kind of information and tools, we got really enthusiastic. We explored their website and thought about how we could best serve this amazing, worldwide project.
After considering all the possibilities, we determined that we would invite another organization to collaborate with us on this project. This organization, called Comunión de Corazón A.C http://www.comuniondecorazon.org/, appreciated from the beginning the possibility to take the kits to the Huichol women who live in a remote region of the Sierra Madre mountain range in the states of Nayarit, Jalisco, Zacatecas and Durango. The Huichol or Wixáritari are Native Mexicans that struggle to preserve their traditions and ancient peoples’ ways of living.
We planned the trip with anticipation; the Huichol leaders were informed and started to organize the women in the communities. Meanwhile, I (from the CEDEJO´s team) took the DfG Ambassador of Women's Health Certification to be prepared to take the kits and present proper and vast information to them.
Finally, on Friday, the 9th of October, 5 people (3 of us representing both organizations and 2 collaborators) took off to the Sierra Madre. It was a long trip and we arrived safely. On the next day, at 11 am, approximately 100 women showed up to La Laguna, the small locality where the gathering was held up. This was a success, considering that Huichol people don´t own cars and travel very long distances in the mountain to get to the different communities. The gathering looked beautiful: grandmothers, mothers, daughters, and babies. We sat down in a circle in the open. Because of their ways, men didn´t go away, but they stepped away to a prudent range and never interrupted. Women felt free to be and express themselves at all time.
It was an hour and a half session before we started handling the kits. It was very important to consider the bridging techniques suggested by Days for Girls as we didn't even share the same language. We had to use a translator; a very intelligent young woman who did the job amazingly well. We had to start with the basics and ask them how women regard their bodies and the women's cycles. At first they were shy and wouldn't talk too much. To help the conversation along, I started sharing my own testimony, as well as the stories of the women who have shared their experiences in the circles of women I've worked with. Then we started to hear about their own experience... they started to open themselves; laughing, commenting and all the time, being really appreciative and tuned in with what was happening.
When we got to the part when we opened one kit to go over its parts, their general response was full of surprise: oohs and aahs with a lot of smiles. With no trouble, they embraced the idea that the kit is washable and reusable, as most of what they use is. Also they recognized the importance to maintain hygienic conditions to prevent diseases, as they have no access at all to public health clinics and they are commonly affected by all kinds of infections and sickness. Unfortunately we couldn't address the part that shows how to build a tippy tap, but the group is committed to continue to work with them and go back in a couple of months to do this and reach for more Huichol women.
They were very organized and calm when we got to handing out the kits to them. It all went in a very pleasant and harmonious way. Smiles of gratitude on their faces; the grandmothers stood aside and were also very happy. It was absolutely beautiful. That day we gave out 180 kits, as some women continued to arrive throughout the presentation.
Also, we decided we didn't want to come back with the kits that remained (about 70) so a group of women was formed with Alicia, the women who helped with the translation, and will be responsible for taking care of the kits and handing them to women who come to them. This will be done only if they receive the information. But we suggested to motivate the women to attend the next reunion when we come back to share the information again.
Many beautiful things happened. A very young girl came to me with a big smile and held my hand for a moment. Alicia told me that this girl had asked her to thank us for giving her this information, since she had gotten her period and was confused about it. She wanted to share her new knowledge with her friends, too.
Many women wanted to know if we would continue to visit and talk with them about women´s health issues. They also asked if we could reach those who couldn’t attend then. We made a commitment to follow up and plan the next trip.
After we finished handing out the kits, we joined together and thanked everybody with a cheer and after that we started giving out some more things that Comunión de Corazón A.C brought to them. It was a great moment, because then the men, the grandmothers and the children got gifts, too. It turned into a community celebration.
The “Maracame” (the shamanic leader with spiritual and social authority) and his family prepared food for us, took us to eat, and to have a wonderful time with young musicians playing traditional Huichol music. They also offered us significant gifts which made us feel privileged and overjoyed. The celebration lasted all day.
On Sunday, we came back to Guadalajara feeling fulfilled and greatly inspired by this experience. Certainly, both organizations will continue to work together to bring Days for Girls sustainable solutions for women's health to others in need.
In the name of all of us and on behalf of all the Huichol women who now have a better way to live with their periods, thank you Days for Girls!
With all my appreciation,
Hana Figueroa of CEDEJO, A.C.