Serving over 30,000 people in seven departments, WINGS recently celebrated over a decade of achievements in the fields of family planning, reproductive health and improving the lives of Guatemalan families.
With the theme “It All Begins With Family Planning …,” WINGS’ 10th anniversary launch party in March brought 150 guests to Mesón Panza Verde in La Antigua Guatemala, where they met WINGS board members and staff and watched WINGS’ new nine-minute film about family planning.
“One of my inspirations is trying to help the women of Guatemala. They do hold up half the world,” said retired U.S. Foreign Service Officer Sue Patterson, who founded WINGS over 10 years ago. “I have a passion for helping women get better control of their lives.”
The organization’s history dates to 1999 when Patterson, a 25-year diplomat who served in Chile, Iran, Guatemala and Italy, received a request from a friend to fund voluntary tubal ligations for seven women— each of whom had at least eight children.
Reaching out to friends, Patterson, who lives in Antigua, raised the needed $4,000 and put the wheels in motion for a permanent organization that would provide reproductive health and family planning services in Guatemala.
In 2001, WINGS achieved U.S. 501(c)(3) non-profit status, hired its first full-time staff member to provide reproductive health education and began providing Pap smears to detect cervical cancer.
After providing screenings to 200 women in the first year, WINGS today reaches more than 30,000 women, men and youth in Guatemala. Its budget has gone from the initial $4,000 to over $1 million.
“WINGS really started off doing one thing—family planning in the communities,” said Janeen Simon, WINGS’ executive director. “We now have five programs to give people information to make informed choices so they can have healthier, happier families.
“Without Sue we wouldn’t be here today,” Simon continued. “She’s been an incredible inspiration to us.”