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Women outside the hospital. Photo: Anna-Claire Bevan

For much of Guatemala’s monolingual Mayan population, the ability to access medical attention is often impeded by their inability to speak Spanish. The right to adequate health care without discrimination is enshrined in their country’s constitution; however, since hospitals work only in Spanish, indigenous people are often marginalized and restricted from obtaining basic treatment due to the language they do — or don’t — speak

In the town of Sayaxché, Petén, close to the border with Mexico, 72 percent of the surrounding communities speak Q´echi´, but there are no Q´echi´ doctors at the hospital. In 2012, a study conducted by a local NGO proved that the State of Guatemala had violated the right to health of Q´echi´ patients by neglecting its responsibility to offer them hospital attention respectful of language and culture.

The report showed there was limited access to information or services in Q´echi´, waiting time was longer for Q´echi´ women and there was a lack of cultural understanding between Q´echi´ patients and doctors, which put lives at risk.

Sick patients preferred to stay at home rather than be subjected to long waits and poor treatment from doctors they didn’t understand; while midwives, an important part of Mayan culture, were forbidden from accompanying their patients into the maternity ward if they didn’t speak Spanish. This caused many pregnant women to opt for home deliveries, which increased the likelihood of maternal mortalities.

As a result of the study, the local Community Health Commission, which had been campaigning for years for Sayaxché Hospital to cater to the monolingual Q´echi´ community, took their fight to the Ministry of Health and organized a small protest outside the hospital.

Finally, three years after the Commission’s initial complaint, a new director was instated, bilingual signs were installed, six translators were hired, more Q´echi staff were employed and midwives were allowed to accompany their patients onto the maternity ward — regardless of what language they spoke.

Up until last year, Alejandrina Chen was the only translator at the hospital: charged with facilitating all communication between doctors and Q´echi´-speaking patients across all departments. Now she has been joined by a team of six and says it has transformed the hospital for the surrounding communities.

“The people who came from villages that weren’t able to speak Spanish would go back home because they couldn’t communicate with the doctors. Now the majority of patients from the villages are served correctly because we are here helping them. Before, they were afraid to come,” says Chen.

Women and children wait to access hospital health services through a translator. Photo: Anna-Claire Bevan

Women and children wait to access hospital health services through a translator. Photo: Anna-Claire Bevan

On average, each month 900 monolingual Q´echi´ benefit from the translators’ services, and demand from the Q´echi´ population is growing as word spreads of the bilingual treatment on offer.

“When there are no translators it’s difficult because we don’t understand the doctors. When there are translators it’s easy because we can talk to them,” says Miguel Caal Pop, an agricultural worker, through a translator.

In addition to assisting conversations between doctors and patients, the translators also ease the language barrier by explaining prescriptions, outlining the course of treatment and accompanying patients to purchase medicine.

Isabel Choc Choc has visited Sayaxché Hospital on numerous occasions. She says she keeps coming back because of the service she receives.

“If there weren’t any translators here I would have had to bring someone from my family, but as I don’t have to I feel happy,” she says. “They explain things to you so that you’re informed.”

Locals say the hospital used to be like a private clinic, but the integration of Q´echi´ has been so successful over the past year that it now feels like a national hospital, and there are plans to implement similar services in two other municipalities in Petén.

“The hiring of Maya Q’eqchi’ translators at Sayaxché Public Hospital represents a significant improvement in the health service for the population of this municipality, but especially for indigenous women,” says Laura Hurtado, Country Director for ActionAid Guatemala, which supported Sayaxché´s local Community Health Commission. “ActionAid Guatemala will continue collaborating on the empowerment of excluded people who live in poverty, in order for them to know their rights, assume them as their own and demand that the state fulfills them.”

In the age of technological domination, students from creative disciplines could be forgiven for questioning their choice of industry. While numerous attempts have been made to emphasise the civilising role of arts and culture to society, today’s graduates require more robust evidence; what better confirmation than examples of employment opportunities?

Never has there been a better, more exciting time to pursue a career within the creative industries. In the US, creative industries led by Hollywood have added approximately $504 billion to the country’s GDP, which represents at least 3.2% of US goods and services. Across the Atlantic, the UK’s creative sector, described by the Culture Secretary as an “economic powerhouse”, has expanded by 8.6% since 2011.

A common misconception among prospective students who perceive technology and the arts to be distinct, opposing fields is that employment opportunities are born solely of scientific or technological qualifications. This could not be further from the truth. Digital technology has not killed creativity, but has aided its regeneration.

The internet has proved invaluable to the music industry in recent years. Blame (or praise, depending on one’s perspective) for the discovery of Justin Bieber can be laid definitively at the door of YouTube; internationally acclaimed pianist Valentina Lisitsa rose to fame in a similar way. The advancement of technology is aiding the development of the music industry by providing more advanced means of discovering and kick-starting the careers of budding musicians.

Digital media is also affecting the destruction of boundaries between audience and performer within the musical sphere: the aforementioned Lisitsa, renowned for her progressive approach to her own art, added an intriguingly interactive dimension to her appearance in the 2014 Bristol Proms by encouraging members of the audience to tweet, film, Instagram and even play the piano themselves during her performance. No longer is music the pursuit of the elite who have money to spare for school peripatetic music lessons; today’s industry is entirely more accessible, diverse and, aided by the internet, international.

Ruby Wood, a graduate from Leeds College of Music and singer with the globally acclaimed Submotion Orchestra, has watched and experienced the transformation of the creative industry from within since her graduation in 2008. Wood comments that “opportunities for creativity are developing alongside technology, which is leading to the emergence of a huge number of exciting new jobs. Today, artists from all genres have many more options; they could focus on film, soundtracks, technical production or even advertising.”

Recognition of the creative industries’ breadth is hugely important. With openings in areas ranging from film and digital advertising to fashion design and architecture, graduates are capable of making professional impact on a global scale. A key example of the capacity of creativity to convey meaning to an international audience is evident at Heathrow airport’s new Terminal 2, which became home to ‘Slipstream’, Richard Wilson’s 77-ton, riveted aluminium sculpture based on a model Spitfire, earlier this year. Not only does this piece of creative innovation continue to impress tourists; it also adds lustre to Britain’s creative image overseas.

The prospects for those pursuing careers within the creative industries are not only numerous but also prolific. Prospective students need not fear the prospect of battling for opportunities or employment; the discipline, expansive in itself, continues to enjoy the same rapid growth and transformation as technology. The creative industries have not died, but have been reborn, and offer today’s graduates more fascinating, rewarding options than ever before.

Further information regarding institutions in the UK, US and Australia which offer qualifications in the creative arts can be found below.

LEEDS COLLEGE OF MUSIC – LEEDS, UK
An internationally acclaimed institution renowned for its energetic student population, Leeds College of Music (LCoM) is a superb option for those keen to carve their own pathway through the music industry. The College, a member of Conservatoires UK (CUKAS) hosting approximately 1,000 students, is the only UK conservatoire to offer specialist programmes in classical, jazz and popular music in addition to in-depth study of music production at both Further and Higher Education levels. Students are promised a uniquely dynamic, collaborative learning experience. Read the full profile here.

GRIFFITH FILM SCHOOL, GRIFFITH UNIVERSITY – AUSTRALIA
Ranked among the top 4% of the world’s universities in the recent QS World University Rankings, Griffith University is recognised as one of the most innovative tertiary institutions in Australia and among the most influential universities in the Asia-Pacific region. An impressive multi-campus institution with internationally acclaimed teaching and research resources, the university offers more than 300 degrees and is home to over 43,000 students from 131 countries. Since its establishment in 2004, Griffith Film School (GFS) has rapidly gained the status of one the most respected film and screen media production institutions in the country and is recognised for its dedication to preparing the next generation of film-makers, animators and game designers for careers in the international media industry. Read the full profile here.

PLYMOUTH COLLEGE OF ART – UK
Defining itself as a laboratory for artistic experiment with matchless commitment to student support, Plymouth College of Art promises its attendees a combination of high quality tuition and myriad opportunities to gain valuable experience within industry. Both traditional and visionary in its approach, the College prides itself on its maintenance of a balance between focus upon established arts such as print or analogue photography and progressive, digital techniques. Despite offering a number of the most highly-respected digital courses and equipment in the UK, Plymouth College of Art continues to adapt and improve its more conventional courses. From Foundation Degrees and Diplomas to postgraduate qualifications, students have access to an extensive range of flexible course options, all of which provide the skills and expertise fundamental to a career within industry. Read the full profile here.

FACULTY OF ARTS, UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNE – AUSTRALIA
Rated as the number 1 university in Australia and number 34 in the world in the 2013-4 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the University of Melbourne is a public-spirited institution which strives to make a significant contribution to society, particularly in the fields of research, tuition and engagement with wider society. The University’s Faculty of Arts, a stimulating hub of innovation and creativity, comprises five schools which offer course options to cater for all interests. Ranging from the Asia Institute to the School of Culture and Communication, the Faculty of Arts’ innovative Schools offer their students course options as diverse as literary and cultural studies, cinema and performance and Australian indigenous studies.

COLLEGE OF CREATIVE ARTS, WEST VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY – USA
West Virginia University, consistently ranking among the top 100 Public Universities in the USA, prides itself on its status as a pioneering, tireless and progressive institution. A leader in the fields of innovation and engagement, West Virginia University’s College of the Creative Arts advocates the arts as a medium through which the diversity of human experience can be explored and understood. The College comprises Schools of Art and Design, Theatre and Dance and Music, each of which offers students professionally accredited courses taught by experienced members of staff. The combination of dedicated tutors, one-to-one classes and extensive performance and exhibition opportunities results in a dynamic learning environment in which students are able to excel. Read the full profile here.

FACULTY OF ARTS, MOUNT ROYAL UNIVERSITY – CANADA
An institution recognised for its welcoming atmosphere and supportive environment, Mount Royal is keen to encourage its students to feel at home within the university community. Its achievement of a delicate balance between a thriving, 12,000-strong student body and small class groups ensures that each student receives tuition of a consistently exemplary quality. Mount Royal’s Faculty of Arts provides its students with the opportunity to gain both subject-specific and transferrable skills, thus supporting their progress into industry. Course options range from History and Philosophy to Interior Design, Sociology and Anthropology and Women’s studies, allowing students to lay the foundations for their entry to a discipline of their choice.