Thursday, October 1, 2015

Day 3. The doorway to Heaven

Lots more pictures can be found at

The main purpose of this Ride for Mothers and Babies is to raise awareness and support for a program CAUSE Canada is implementing to address unacceptably high levels of maternal and newborn child mortality in Guatemala and Honduras. We were therefore very keen to get a feel for the issues and CAUSE Canada's approach to addressing them.   

Bev Carrick, Executive Director CAUSE
Canada with health promotors and mayor
of Todos Santos

Clinic patient
Good advice...wash your hands!
Mom's happy. Baby...not so much
En route to today's ride start point we visited one of the over 40 maternal newborn child health clinics in Guatemala that will play a big part in the CAUSE Canada program. In this region there are six primary clinics. Each primary clinic has 7-12 smaller satellite clinics. The system has challenges.
Challenge 1: There is only one auxiliary nurse and one assistant per region. At best there is only one visit per satellite clinic per month.
Challenge 2: Even the primary clinics are under equipped. The only visible equipment in the primary clinic we saw today was a single scale for weighing babies...and a few chairs.
Challenge 3: The government provides an enriched powder supplement for mothers attending the clinics...but there is not enough to go around.
Challenge 4: To be entitled to a supplement ration, the child has to be demonstrably malnourished. But by the time the child is malnourished however, significant permanent developmental issues have already impacted the child.
While the health promoters we saw in action today were clearly dedicated and doing what the could with what they had, they in fact need more equipment, more, better trained staff, more supplement supply and need to address maternal child health before the child is at risk. These are key elements of the CAUSE model that will be implemented with Canadian government and your support.

Why the malnourishment? The reasons outlined by Bev Carrick as we traveled in the truck together: it is a very poor region that is cold, remote and has inadequate supplies of fresh water. Babies die of hypothermia, dehydration, low caloric-low nutrition diets (the only crop that can grow in this area is potatoes). And they die from birthing complications because they are diagnosed too late, don't have money (or enough time) to travel to major cities when complications arise. If my own twins were born in this wife and both kids would not have survived. There is much that can and will be done through the CAUSE Canada program and It is a privilege to partner with them.

Ross at the Gates of Heaven
Andrew with head in clouds
Stubborn as a Bernie
Speaking of privileges: today's route was a spectacular trail that starts at a place called La Puerto de Cielo (gateway to heaven). The dirt trail begins at 12,000 feet and drops to 7000 feet before rising and returning to Todos Santos at 8,000 feet. The difficult 40 km route is surrounded by cloud-shrouded mountains, comprised of steep technical downhills and steep technical uphill segments. This must be one of the most beautiful mountain bike trails on the planet. The fact that we were drenched by pouring rain for half the distance did only a little to dampen the appreciation for this wonderful masterpiece of nature. Checkout the pictures posted to the Old Guys in Action Facebook page for stunning images of the scenery, the region's gracious inhabitants, and us soggy passers by. 
Very proud of his farm

So colourful!
Hand slap game...gets 'em every time!

What's next? The team splits up for a few days. The cyclists make their way back to HueHue and from there to Panajachel, Antigua and the Pacific coast. Bev Carrick and Ann Potvin move on to the Comitancillo region, another focal area of the maternal newborn child health project. You'll be hearing from both groups in the coming days.


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