Triangle Nonprofit Completes First Global Volunteer Trip Since Pandemic Halted Travel in 2020
Posted: April 14, 2022

WakeMed Labor and Delivery nurses traveled to Guatemala to teach and train female, community workers who treat expectant mothers without access to healthcare

Raleigh-based Curamericas Global has just returned from its first volunteer trip in two years. The COVID-19 pandemic halted the global health nonprofit’s service trips in March 2020. From April 1st through 11th, a group of WakeMed Labor & Delivery nurses embarked on the life-changing trip to provide maternal health care to expectant mothers and their families, as well as training to community health workers in the western highlands of Guatemala.

“Our partners at the Triangle’s area hospitals are among the top providers of care in the country,” said Andrew Herrera, Executive Director of Curamericas Global. “When the pandemic erupted in 2020, all of our international volunteer trips ceased – meaning our Casa Materna staff and our partners at WakeMed were unable to work and learn alongside one another.”

Curamericas Global has been working in dozens of remote communities across Guatemala for more than two decades – helping to provide life-saving care to pregnant mothers and their families, who are often more than a day’s walk away from their nearest hospital. In partnership with the Guatemalan Ministry of Health, Curamericas supports community-owned and operated Casa Maternas, or birthing homes, where volunteer nurses often travel to provide training and education to local healthcare workers.

Along with training community health workers, the seven NC nurses also made visits to homes within the communities, speaking with mothers about the importance of breastfeeding, vaccines and vitamins. They worked side-by-side with the local workers, treating patients who check-in at the Casa Materna.

“This is the third volunteer trip my WakeMed unit has participated in, but I haven’t been able to attend until this year,” said Cristina Ward, a Registered Obstetric Nurse with WakeMed. “After the hardships these rural communities have faced throughout the pandemic, I knew that it was time for me to take the leap.”

Ward has worked at WakeMed for nearly 15 years – caring for patients during some of the most exciting and challenging moments of their lives. For Ward, the challenges faced by Guatemalan mothers in labor made her decision to join the volunteer trip an easy one. The daughter of a Guatemalan immigrant, Ward is looking forward to the opportunity to connect with her father’s heritage and serve marginalized communities in a region that is often overlooked

“My passion for the health of women and children – especially for people of color and marginalized communities – is so personal,” said Ward. “It’s so important for groups like Curamericas to work to ensure that these communities have the resources and the care that they deserve.”

Ward and her fellow L&D nurses have been collecting medical supplies and other resources for almost two years while waiting for the opportunity to travel to Guatemala. They brought multiple suitcases filled with supplies to the Casa Materna, more than seven hours from major cities – where access is difficult. 

The WakeMed nurses served remote Guatemalan communities for five days before returning home to the Triangle – even getting the chance to witness a birth staffed by local midwives.

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