"I can always do something to help others"

Volunteer

When Blanca started volunteering with the Asociación Demográfica Salvadoreña’s (ADS/Pro-Familia), she committed to her new role with enthusiasm. Her thoughts were about how the women of La Loma village would benefit from being able to access contraceptive methods close to home. 

"Many women walk up to an hour-and-a-half from the villages of the Guazapa Hill to receive family planning services, or to receive counselling," 61-year-old Blanca Edith Mendoza Ramos says proudly.  

Her house is a cosy and special place for the clients. "I have been a Pro-Familia volunteer for 29 years. When I started, I had already had my five children. I was busy at home, but when the Pro-Familia staff explained to me about working in my community, I trusted it was important to support women. I have learned a lot and I continue to do so. I have received training that helps me to be a better person, to have knowledge and to give good advice; I have received many people from Pro-Familia in these years, and always with great responsibility", she says. 

A confidential and cosy place   

To ensure her clients’ confidentiality, Blanca has created a private room with a sofa where she provides counselling and administers injectable contraceptive methods. By creating a private space, Blanca has built up trust in the community and women prefer to go to her for contraception and advice. 

"I am proud to help in my community. I visit clients to see if they have any side effects, when they do not come to receive their method, to know if they are well, or to recruit new clients who are encouraged to use a family planning method, because their families are already very large."

Although the public health facility provides free healthcare, women from other local communities prefer to see Blanca because she is closer and offers confidential personalized care.  

"The Health Unit is not close, so women prefer to plan with me. They come with confidence to apply their method. On their first visit, I ask them a few questions about their health, and if everything is okay, they plan with me. I think that family planning is important for the spacing of the children and that it is not only the use of methods, but also communication with the couple", reflects Blanca. 

Volunteers
Blanca walks with volunteers Maria and Lidia. 

Respect and comfort  

Blanca is often recommended by her clients. María Ofelia, or Felita, as she likes to be called, comments that "a friend from the community recommended that I visit the Blanqui. I already had two children, a four-year-old and an 11-year-old. I still remember with deep sadness the moment I looked for her – it was my last pregnancy, and I lost my daughter. Blanqui received me with affection, respect and comfort. She understood what I was going through, she guided me, and I made the decision to plan until now. I’ve been using the two-month injection for four years." 

Felita says that although she can go to the social security check-up, she prefers to go to Blanca because of the confidence she gives her; “She always takes care of me, and the prices are low, I can pay it, because in other places the contraceptive methods are more expensive.” 

Tackling challenges with sensitivity  

The poverty and patriarchy in these communities present many challenges, including domestic violence, multiple partners, and miscarriage that require a sensitive approach to the provision of healthcare and information. Volunteers like Blanca are supported to deal with these challenges through training provided by the Community-Based Program staff. Volunteers develop skills to use referral systems, coordinate with local institutions, such as the Ministry of Public Health, other NGOs, such as the Feminist Women's Collective, and the Institute for Research, Training and Development of Women (IMU), which provide support for cases of violence or care in cases of miscarriage. 

This approach is integral to the provision of healthcare and support in the communities. The team of volunteers help to reduce violence and femicides in order to improve the quality of life for women and families. 

"People in the community tell me that they are grateful for the care I give them, and I will continue to change what I can to improve people's lives. I will continue to make home visits, give counselling, because it is a need, women need someone that understands them and helps them. Pro-Familia is part of my life, being a volunteer is something special, I have learned a lot, and the most important thing is that I can help others."