Tecpán was once the capital of Guatemala and the city itself has hospitals. But the 40,000 inhabitants living in the 28 rural communities within its municipal jurisdiction did not even have a health centre.
The population was aware of this need, but they did not think it was possible to do anything about it. The Ministry of Health had told them that it would only build health centres in cities. Another barrier was the joint negotiation required between the 28
affected communities, because everyone wanted their own health centre.
‘We have talked about health for 25 years, but nothing had been done. Do we have to wait another 30, 40 or 100 years?’ said pastor Joel Socop Cumez. ‘We believe in God and in our community; that is why we organised ourselves to meet this need.
‘One of our biggest problems was maternal deaths and diseases in children. It was around these problems that we started to join ideas.’
Members of churches and communities did not see their access to health as a right.
So evangelical pastors worked together with the people and the local COCODE (Community Councils of Development) to influence the public authorities of the capital. After much discussion, the Community of Paquiq was chosen as the site for the health centre because of its ‘strategic location in comparison with the other villages and hamlets’.
In 2011, Tearfund's partner organisation, Asociación Vida, began to plan advocacy actions and trained and empowered the evangelical leaders of Técpan. These advocacy strategies included marches to Guatemala City and meetings with friends of political leaders to connect them with the Minister of Health. They were persistent in their demands and, almost a year after the start of their campaign, the Ministry of Health gave permission for the construction of a new health centre.
The perseverance and insistence of the community and its church leaders had borne good fruit. However, although the health centre came with a budget for equipment and three nurses, it did not provide for doctors and ambulances.