Gift the gift of EPES this holiday season!

Read about what EPES has been up to this year – your donations are what keeps this work going!

As another holiday season and the end of 2014 approaches, Action for Health in the Americas (AHA) is again seeking your support for the amazing work of Educación Popular en Salud (EPES). I am sure that as you read through the EPES Update, it will become apparent how critical EPES’ work has been not only in Chile but across the globe.

As you read about their work in fighting for stronger tobacco control policies or supporting community rebuilding in Valparaíso, you also may notice that EPES has been fortunate to have the support of larger organizations – such as the ELCA Global Mission, the ACT Alliance and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. What you may not realize is how indispensable the donations that you make through AHA are to the overall sustainability of all EPES’ programs. While the support of these large funders is crucial, the funds are designated to specific projects. The undesignated general funds are essential to maintaining the core work EPES has done for 32 years to support the dignity and empowerment of women and families in Chile’s poorest communities, by training and working with health promoters. Your support is what keeps this work going.

Since AHA was founded almost a decade ago, we’ve annually supported a significant portion of EPES’ operating budget. For 2014, we have a goal of raising at least $100,000 to support EPES – and while your support throughout the year has brought us close to our goal, we still have $35,000 to go.

I and the rest of the AHA board have faith that we can meet this goal by December 31st! A generous board member has agreed to match up to $10,000 for donations received from now until the end of the year, and in our experience, supporters like you recognize how much your donation makes a difference in keeping EPES going, and consistently and generously give your support. We also hope you’ll consider giving the “gift of EPES” this holiday season – make a donation in a loved one’s name and we will gladly send them a holiday card on your behalf.

As always – thank you, thank you, thank you and gracias, gracias, gracias! On behalf of all of us at AHA and EPES, I wish you a joyful Christmas and a peaceful and happy new year.

Christina Mills MD FRCPC
President, Action for Health in the Americas

EPES Dec 2014 Update cover

Announcing the 6th Annual International Training Course on Popular Education in Health in Chile!

EPES Foundation and AHA are pleased to announce the 6th Annual International Training Course on Popular Education in Health!

2015 Training Course Flyer Picture

Sharing 32 Years of Work for Dignity and Justice in Health Course on
Participatory and Community-based Strategies in Health
January 5-16, 2015  
Santiago and Concepción, Chile

The 12-day training course is a mix of classes, conferences, participatory workshops and opportunities to work alongside the community health groups trained by EPES. We invite you to learn-by-doing, promoting and advancing the right to health using the popular education strategies put into practice by EPES over its 32 years of community action for health and dignity.

The multi-disciplinary team of EPES health educators will be joined by inspiring guest instructors: Pastor Lisandro Orlov, Founder and coordinator (1986) HIV/AIDS Ecumenical Pastoral  Buenos Aires, Argentina; Dr. Marisa Matamala, Latin American and Caribbean Women’s Health Network; former coordinator of the Pan American Health Organization´s Equity, Gender and Health reform program.

This year’s special guest is Lisa Russell, Emmy award-winning documentary filmmaker and public health advocate
. After earning a Master’s degree in Public Health, Lisa turned to documentary film to fight for justice in health. Over more than 10 years, Lisa has produced films, campaigns and projects for United Nation agencies and activist groups.

The course (conducted in Spanish) is designed for undergraduate and graduate public health students and professionals, medical and social science students, educators, community organizers, social workers, women’s studies students, church and global mission workers and activists for social justice and development.

Read the flyer for more information, and contact Karen Anderson (epes2015@gmail.com) at EPES for additional details.

EPES looks forward to bringing together people from around the world interested in this unique opportunity to learn and share.

Survivors of Valparaiso firestorm march on Congress to demand decent housing and dignity

Read more about what EPES is doing in the recent EPES Update! To help support the work of EPES – including the recovery in Valparaiso – please give a gift through AHA!

Survivors of Valparaiso firestorm march on Congress to demand decent housing and dignity

By Lezak Shallat, Fundación EPES CHILE

Torrential rains turned the steep streets and ravines of Valparaíso into rivers, and makeshift emergency housing into sieves. On June 11, two months after the firestorm that consumed 3,000 homes and damaged 12,000 more in the Chilean city of Valparaiso, its blackened hills were not ringing with the sounds of hammers; instead, the angry chants of protestors banging pots and pans echoed from hill to hill as the scores of people battled the rain to march down to the gates of the National Congress to demand to decent housing.

Marco Olmedo is clothed in a plastic bag to keep off the rain. His house on Cerro El Litre burned to the ground, and everything in it. Fortunately, he wasn’t there. Unemployed, he had left four days earlier for Argentina to look for work. He saw his neighborhood engulfed in flames on TV news and rushed back to salvage what he could.  He’s living in the makeshift, emergency housing known as “media-aguas” — a one-room, wooden shack with no bathroom. His electricity was only restored today.

Lorena Monroy, President of the Cerro El Litre Neighborhood Council, charges the government with negligence. “It’s impossible that we still are lacking a rapid, definitive and dignified solution.”

“No more emergency shacks in Chile,” demands Mauricio Salazar, director of the Las Cañas Community Center where EPES in focusing its recovery efforts. “They don’t work. That’s our reality.” Salazar denounced “disorganization and rumor” from the authorities in charge of the rebuilding efforts.

“We are here to tell them that we are not going to let them forget about us until we have decent, dignified housing,” he promises, backed by cheers from the crowd. A scuffle with police followed as the protestors momentarily blocked the entrance into Congress, located at the foot of the city’s impoverished hillsides.

Hear Marco, Lorena and Mauricio in their own words.

Health educator Mónica Arancibia, facilitator of the participatory assessment process supported by ACT member Fundación Educación Popular en Salud (EPES), accompanied the marchers and attested to their demands. “In structured conversations, residents are prioritizing their individual and collective needs: weatherproofing the shelters, clean-ups of the communal toilets and showers, a place to wash clothes, garbage pick-up,” she enumerates.

Mónica also cites the contribution of “commitment, support and identity” that EPES is providing. “Like them, I’m a also pobladora (resident of a low-income sector launched in a land takeover on the outskirts of the city). I know what it is like to struggle.”

The EPES-facilitated assessment is shedding light on a host of problems that won’t disappear once the rains stop. “The procedures for assigning and building the emergency housing is sorely lacking in controls,” says Maria Eugenia Calvin, EPES Director of Planning and coordinator of the ACT initiative in Valparaiso. “Boards are missing, nails are missing, the shacks come without locks for the door. The families who are fixing up their homes need skilled builders to oversee the dwindling number of volunteers who have stayed on to help the homeless. But instead of hiring local workmen, the government is bringing in military people to carry out the repairs.”

A great way to honor mothers this year!

Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 11th! EPES, and its new partner, the Hope Foundation for African Women (HFAW), are committed to supporting and empowering the mothers and families in the communities they serve. A donation to AHA this Mother’s Day can honor the mothers, grandmothers and other special women in your life as well as support the mothers of the poorest communities of Chile and Kenya. This year, please consider a donation in honor of someone special – in lieu of or in addition to flowers!

HFAW using the EPES model to empower communities in KenyaYour gift will go even farther if you donate by May 30th, 2014 – a generous EPES supporter, inspired by the work of EPES and HFAW, has committed to matching all Mother’s Day donations up to a total of $10,000! Please spread the word and help us meet this match!

  • You can donate online and specify “Mother’s Day” in the Comments Field.
  • You can donate via check to Action for Health in the Americas and mail to 4 Northcrest Drive, Clifton Park, NY 12065. Note “Mother’s Day” in For line of the check.
  • Online or via check, you may also note the name and email or mailing address of someone you’d like to honor with your donation and AHA will send her a card in her honor.
  • Or, you may print off the card and give directly!

As always, thank you for supporting the great work of EPES in Chile and the spreading of the EPES model across the world!

 

Attending EPES’ Fifth International Training Course

– Guest Post from Action for Health in the Americas (AHA) Board Member Sheila Dauer –

Attending the 5th Escuela Internacional was one of the best experiences of my life! And I owe it to the generosity of Melanie Nelson (fellow AHA Board member), the welcoming warmth of the EPES staff and health promoters and the 7 East African women with whom I attended the course. Melanie made it possible for 6 Kenyans and 1 Ugandan woman to attend the Escuela. I learned so much and am so impressed with the ability of EPES staff and health promoters to communicate how popular education works to women from thousands of miles away and different cultures.

HFAW and EPES participating in a community action to raise awareness about violence against women

See more photos at https://www.facebook.com/fundacion.epes/photos_albums!

Grace Mose is the Founder and Executive Secretary of HFAW (Hope for African Women) and a Professor at Kenyatta University.  She is brilliant and full of joyful energy. She has a team of 6 Kenyan women who are dedicated and truly amazing people.

She and her co-founder, Hellen Njoroge, have been traveling from Nairobi to Abagusii and Maasai villages west and south of that capital city using their own resources and linking with Joyce Amoyi and Nellie Koyo, each of whom lives in a village and is an HFAW volunteer leader.  They are supported by Mary Were, also a professor at Kenyatta University and Lisper Bundi, who just graduated from the School of Social Work at Kenyatta University.

Grace attended the 1st Escuela Internacional in 2010 and was convinced that EPES’ popular education philosophy and methods were a powerful tool for organizing to economically empower women and to raise awareness that their access to health is a human right, as EPES says, and not a privilege. Members of the HFAW team come from the communities in which they work and as a result have more credibility and access than other development teams.

Despite the lack of resources, HFAW have organized income-generating activities for women in both areas – making school bags for children, and beautiful jewelry and tote bags for women. While women work together on their economic projects, HFAW is able to stimulate discussions about lack of health care and specifically the issue of female genital mutilation, which is practiced both in Gusii and Maasai societies. HFAW has succeeded in facilitating the commitment of 27 women not to have their daughters undergo FGM (the World Health Organization has found the most successful abandonment of this practice comes when the community itself makes the decision).

A 7th East African woman at the training was Generous Turinawe from Muko Sub-district in Uganda. Generous is the Executive Director of ACT (Agape Community Transformation). She came to the Escuela through a connection with Melanie Nelson’s family and Melanie also made her trip possible.  ACT currently has 3 programs:  Muko Hope through which almost 100 orphans receive a sponsor and a stable home, the Muko Empowerment program, which brought income generating skills to women for support of their families, and HANDS Muko Agricultural program, which will introduce more productive farming methods through pilot projects in the area.

ACT is supported by 5 Church partners in Midland and other cities in Michigan. But there is so much that needs to be done to work against gender-based violence in the community and for women’s reproductive health care (these communities do not practice FGM). Generous is an important leader in her sub-district. She too wanted to learn the popular education methods for organizing the communities with which she works.

The training involved workshops on participatory community assessments, learn-by-playing techniques, strategic planning and creative evaluation methods. It was amazing and moving see how community health promoters from the El Bosque neighborhood in Santiago were able to teach the Kenyans and Ugandan how to plan a public action – this one aimed at the local street market – to raise awareness about violence against women.

This is one of the main problems the African women aim to end and they were excited to see that women from poor communities like their own know how to pull off such actions. In addition, when we got to the free market, the Africans were amazed to find a market environment that very much resembled those in their own communities.  They gave out fliers, talked to men as well as women and used a megaphone to relay messages of solidarity from Kenya and Uganda to Chile.  They had never thought of having an action in their own markets and were so energized by the experience of carrying it out.  They became determined to organize such actions when they returned home.

Women from the two countries ended the training by producing a detailed action plan to train health promoters and to organize actions in the community.  We all see that popular education can generate awareness in our communities about our problems and can ensure widespread participation in developing solutions. Another important learning for all of us is that popular education is a process of long-term commitment that is needed to ensure that poverty is steadily reduced and that gender equality becomes a permanent part of our societies.

The 5th Escuela was an exciting new project for EPES, which not only organized, hosted and led the 2-week training, but also provided support and technical assistance before, during and after the training.  A great deal of time and resources were devoted to helping organize the team to get to Chile, translating all materials to English, and interpretation during the course. EPES, thanks to Melanie’s contribution, financially supported HFAW to cover expenses to bring the women to Chile. This period is considered Phase I of HFAW’s formation.  Carrying out the Action Plan is Phase II.

EPES continues to mentor the new organization as they carry out the Action Plan they developed during the Escuela. This will include communications via email and skype, possible future visits and other material support.  The women of HFAW face tremendous challenges.

You can help support EPES to continue this tremendous accomplishment and expand their work in the future by donating to AHA now. Thank you for your support!

HFAW’s Upcoming Trip to Chile!

HFAW to Chile Map

Even the best laid plans sometimes need to be changed – and luckily, EPES is used to working in a changing environment. Due to security and programmatic issues, the fifth International Training Course on Popular Education in Health will no longer take place in Kenya – instead, the participants from the Hope Foundation for African Women (HFAW) are coming to Chile! EPES is excited to host the women and show them EPES’ work firsthand, while still sharing the critical strategies and methods for community health and empowerment that HFAW will be able to bring back home with them. Read more about the course here!

EPES’ Upcoming Trip to Kenya

Crossing Continents Image

Action for Health in the Americas is supporting EPES as they move beyond the Americas! In Collaboration with the Foundation for African Woman, EPES is holding its Fifth International Training Course on Popular Education in Health in Kenya, starting in January 2014.

The course – Dignity, Empowerment and Equity: Participatory and Community-Based Strategies for Health – will bring together those working for health and social justice and help spread the EPES methodology throughout the world. Dr. Grace Mose, founder and director of the Foundation for African Women, has been dreaming of bringing EPES to Kenya since she participated in the International Training Course in Chile in 2010.

See the flyer for more information on the upcoming course and visit http://www.epes.cl/category/escuela-internacional/ for information on past courses.

What has EPES been up to in 2013?

What a busy year 2013 has been! Take a look at the most recent EPES Update to learn more, but this past January, EPES graduated its 80th participant in the International Training Course on Popular Health. It seems like only yesterday that the EPES International Training School — developed in order to spread the methods and philosophy of EPES throughout and beyond Chile — was only a great idea. But 2013 marked the fourth year of this innovative activity. On top of that, EPES is hard at work planning its fifth International Training Course — which will take place in Kenya in early 2014. Who could have thought that when the first course was being developed that EPES would soon be crossing borders and physically spreading its methods on a whole new continent?!

Participants from the 2013 EPES International Training Course on Popular Health

Participants from the 2013 EPES International Training Course on Popular Health

Even with this global endeavor, EPES continues its ongoing work and is beginning new activities in Chile. One of the new initiatives should be of interest to AHA’s North American friends since it addresses a critical public health issue that we are well aware of in our communities — obesity. Did you know that as of this year, Chile has the 9th highest obesity rate among all countries in the world, according to the World Health Organization? To tackle this emerging obesity epidemic in the communities it partners with, EPES is implementing a nutrition and cooking workshop for women within the larger framework of gender and society. Given that obesity has continued to rise in other countries and communities despite efforts to counter it, we are very anxious to see if this approach proves more fruitful.

As you can see from the Update, EPES is constantly developing new ways to promote health and dignity in Chile and the world in an ever-changing environment. With the generous support of AHA supporters, this is possible!

Faith and Solidarity in Chile

By Kathryn Lawler

South America Coordinator, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Chile’s earthquake and the tsunami destroyed or severely damaged nearly 200,000 homes. Tens of thousands of families are living in provisional camps like this one




The earthquake and tsunami that struck Chile on February 27, 2010, highlighted deep social inequalities in a country often considered a Latin American development success story.  Land tenancy issues and the lack of affordable housing and dignified work threaten to prolong the stay of approximately 50,000 displaced families living in “temporary” camps of wooden emergency houses with no heat or running water.  As a community worker in one of the camps stated, “the history of temporary, emergency camps in Chile shows that people end up living there long-term because they have no where else to go.”

Such precarious living conditions are a recent memory for Villa Cordillera, a low-income community in Santiago that organized a remarkable campaign to collect food and clothing for earthquake and tsunami survivors.  Less than four years ago, this community was living in Campamento Peñalolén, a shanty-town built over a landfill in Santiago.  In their case, however, the cause of these precarious living conditions was not a natural disaster but rather chronic and structural poverty.  Through a government relocation and low interest mortgage program, 365 families moved to Villa Cordillera in 2006 after 7 years in the camp.  But life continues to be tough.  Residents struggle to make ends meet with minimum wage jobs as garbage collectors, housekeepers, construction workers, and market vendors.  Their own resource scarcity, however, did not keep them from sharing abundantly.




With the truck carrying donations from Villa Cordillera in the background, Soledad Puebla (left) talks with leaders at a camp where the IELCH is providing emergency assistance and pastoral care near the coastal city of Coronel.




Villa Cordillera’s campaign to help earthquake survivors was the inspiration of Soledad Puebla, Director of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chile (IELCH)’s El Sembrador Community and Day Care Center who says:  “We could not just stand there with our arms crossed watching the news reports about the hardship of our brothers and sisters in the south.  We had to step up and act in solidarity as others did for us when we were in a similar situation.”  From their community office, part of which still operates out of the emergency plywood structure from Campamento Peñalolén, Soledad, neighborhood leaders, parents and staff from the day care center amassed the community’s donations.  They walked through the streets with bullhorns, knocked on doors and left boxes to collect donations at local schools.  The campaign closed on May 1 with a street festival of dance, music and community celebration.  Soledad, her husband Tulio, and other communities leaders soon set off on the three hundred mile journey south in a large truck filled with the donated clothing, food, cleaning supplies, toys, and nylon covering for the emergency housing.  Soledad recalls: “When we got to the camps we cried because we remembered our

own history.  We urged camp leaders never to underestimate what they can do when they unite around a common cause.  And what better way to remind ourselves of that message than the success of our community mobilization for this campaign!”