It’s incredible to think how our world has faced the COVID-19 pandemic for roughly half a year now. With these changes, nonprofits have adapted quickly based on limited resources while still serving people in immediate need.
As a provider of medical care to new mothers in a local Guatemalan community, Casa Materna is one of those nonprofits. Casa Materna helps women who would otherwise lack the appropriate healthcare and emotional support during their pregnancies and childbirths. I had the pleasure of catching up with Jaclyn Karasik, who has helped elevate the organization’s outreach.
Casa Materna’s Origin
Several years ago, Emergency Medicine physician Dr. Erica Melroy visited the town of San Juan La Laguna on a mission trip. There, she realized the profound lack of quality prenatal care and birthing services necessary for the women. After Dr. Melroy learned of a clinic model in northwest Guatemala, she decided to replicate that same model in San Juan. Thanks to Dr. Melroy’s partnership with Dr. Jessica Oliveira, the two women opened Casa Materna’s doors in 2016 to San Juan La Laguna and its surrounding region.
How the Clinic Works
Other medical clinics in San Juan La Laguna do not provide maternal health services and fair treatment that every woman deserves. Casa Materna saw the need for a birthing clinic that would respect mothers’ medical needs in a culturally sensitive environment. Midwives in Guatemala, or comadronas, remain a traditionally marginalized group and often cannot enter labor rooms, while in reality they play a critical role. To address this issue, Casa Materna hired a local staff of midwives and nurses. With this approach, they have carried out their belief to deliver sanitary and emotionally supportive births to local women.
Addressing Community Needs During a Pandemic
Casa Materna was worried that women would stop coming to the clinic out of fear of the coronavirus. “Access to health services are being threatened so much from COVID-19,” Karasik states. “We see here in the U.S. how people don’t go into the hospital because of the pandemic. That applies to other places of the world where people are scared and facilities are closing. People don’t realize how a clinic in Guatemala helps us all live healthier lives.”
As it turns out, however, the clinic has seen an increase in patient numbers. Some of this comes from the closing of surrounding clinics, while those that remain open provide limited service. Additionally, mothers seek emotional support more than ever during these uncertain times. For that reason, giving birth with a comadrona remains highly significant. While it hasn’t been easy to stay open during the coronavirus, Casa Materna continues to recognize how essential its services remain, and keep its doors open.
Right now, Casa Materna is working to implement a new structure of postpartum visits to these women’s homes, as they had typically done before the pandemic as a means to check in and address any potential complications. “We aim to re-think the protocols to check in after birth to make sure there aren’t any complications,” Karasik explained. “Fortunately we now have a little more information about how to protect again the virus, how it spreads, and more accurate safety precautions.”
Development with 48in48
Supporting an organization as young as Casa Materna, Karasik mentioned how the coursework preparation for 48in48’s website build really helped them. “It inspired us to rethink our language and mission statement,” she said, “and helped to really think through our communication materials and revise them again.” More specifically, Karasik appreciated that 48in48 didn’t just hand over a website without any explanation, but allowed for an ongoing dialogue and growing process. “48in48 provided us some tools that help us update the website – they not only gave something to us, but they really empowered our organization in the process.”
How You Can Help
Casa Materna plans to hold a virtual fundraising event this fall! If you would like to get involved, you can email their On-Ground Director of Operations, Gabriela Maldonado at [email protected].
You can also sign up to volunteer for 48in48 to help out nonprofits like Casa Materna. Get involved today!