For many, the mother is the heart of the family. She’s often the one who kisses scraped knees, soothes fevers and offers a shoulder to cry on. The importance of a mother’s role was on the minds of Unbound staff members in Santa Barbara, Honduras, when they realized mothers in rural areas were not receiving adequate health care.
“Most of the time we focus all of our efforts on the benefits for the sponsored children,” said Katy Molina Hernandez, a program coordinator for Unbound in Honduras. “While this is important, these boys and girls also depend on their mothers, who deserve to be taken care of.
“Thinking on that, we proposed to have a medical campaign that could include lectures of how to prevent and detect cervical cancer.”
Medical care is more readily available in urban settings. This includes access to basic checkups, such as gynecological exams for women. With funds donated to Unbound to support health, the Santa Barbara staff organized a medical campaign in 2011 to provide women in rural areas with better access to health care. In one community, Pap tests were provided to more than 800 mothers and sponsored elders. Pap tests (or Pap smears) are used to detect cervical cancer in its early stage when it can be cured.
“This whole process took around three months,” Hernandez said. “It consisted of training the staff, organizing roundtables with the mothers, performing the Pap smears and getting the results and the treatment to cover 27 communities.”
Pap tests are the most common method to screen for cervical cancer, which, according to the World Health Organization, is the second most common type of cancer among women worldwide. More than 90 percent of cervical cancer deaths occur in women living in low- and middle-income countries because of poor access to screenings and treatment.
Elvira could have been one of those deaths. A mother of six, she lives with her husband, Miguel, in a rural Honduran community. Her youngest daughter, 15-year-old Escarleth, is sponsored through Unbound, which meant Elvira was able to participate in the 2011 medical campaign. It was not without trepidation, however.
“When we were invited to know about the Pap smear, I was not sure about doing it,” Elvira shared. “I was aware that women need that test to be performed, but I was scared,” she added, because of misconceptions about risks of the test.
Despite her fear, Elvira listened to the nurses’ presentation and was encouraged by her fellow mothers and her husband to have the test. Getting that Pap test likely saved her life. The results showed she had an early stage of cervical cancer. Elvira received the treatment she needed and is doing well today.
“My friends from the mothers group supported me a lot,” Elvira shared. “… You don’t know life’s value until these things happen.”
Donations to Unbound’s Health program make medical initiatives like the one that saved Elvira’s life possible.