EPES Recognizes AHA Board Member Melanie Nelson

AHA is excited to share the below press release from EPES highlighting the extraordinary support of AHA Board Member Melanie Nelson and her key role in making the upcoming EPES International Training Course on Popular Education in Health a reality. Thank you Melanie for your support and being a model for the rest of the board and all supporters of EPES!

Fundación EPES
Press Contact: Isabel Díaz Medina
Communications Coordinator
Telephone: (56-2) 25486021
                        For Immediate Release
Press Release
Key Contribution from Melanie Nelson Fosters Health Rights
on Two Continents

Santiago, Chile. A circle of solidarity encompassing three continents was completed this month with the significant contribution from Minnesota native Melanie Nelson to enable Latin American and African women to come together for their right to health.

The long-standing collaboration between Melanie Nelson, founder and CEO of the Owatonna-based Learning ZoneXpress, and the Educación Popular en Salud (EPES) Foundation of Chile stretched across the planet to embrace the African continent, when Nelson donated $25,000 to support EPES’ capacity-building initiative with the Hope Foundation for African Women (HFAW) of Kenya. The donation will make it possible for six women from HFAW to travel to Chile to participate in EPES fifth International School for Popular Health from January 13 to the 24th.

Since 2010, EPES has organized an annual international training program, sharing preventive health strategies with community health educators from thirteen Latin American countries, as well as the United States and Canada. The upcoming course, entitled “Dignity, Empowerment and Equity: Course on Participatory and Community-Based Strategies for Health,” will be the first held exclusively to support an African organization.

Hope Foundation for African Women (HFAW) directed by Dr. Grace Mose, empowers vulnerable women based on the belief that every individual has the ability to change one’s own life and the lives of one’s immediate community. The partnership between HFAW and EPES aims to adapt methodology honed in EPES’ 31 years working with Chilean women to mobilize marginalized African women of the rural Kisii and Maasai communities. After their return from the training in Chile, HFAW will lead a six-month pilot program to train community health promoters in Kisii using the EPES model.

Karen Anderson, EPES founder and director of the Internacional Training Program, praised Melanie Nelson’s vision and called her contribution a decisive element in the organization of the fifth International Training Course on Popular Health, co-funded by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.“Without Melanie’s support, we wouldn’t be able to share the strategies and experience of EPES so widely,” said Anderson.

Learning ZoneXpress, founded by Melanie Nelson in 1997, is a business based in Owatonna, Minnesota, that develops and distributes educational resource products that promote nutrition, child development, financial literacy and life management skills.

Melanie Nelson’s innovative work earned acclaim from Ernst & Young, which in 2007 and in 2012 named her a finalist in its prestigious Entrepreneur of the Year award. In 2008 the American Association of Family and Consumer Services recognized her as its Entrepreneur of the Year  and,  this year,  Learning ZoneXpress made the 2013 Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing private companies The United Way of Owatonna has applauded Melanie Nelson’s generosity and the EPES Foundation of Chile has honored her as its “most enthusiastic supporter.”

Melanie is a member of the board of Action for Health in the Americas (AHA), the North American counterpart to EPES, and an active member of Trinity Lutheran Church in Owatonna, Minnesota.

For more information about the work of EPES see www.epes.cl.  For more information on AHA and to find out how North American friends can support the work of EPES, visit www.actionforhealth.org.

Almost four years later…

Our first blog post focused on the immediate post-earthquake work EPES was engaging in in and around Concepcion, Chile.  Who would have thought that it would take over three and a half years (the earthquake occurred February 27, 2013) for the residents of the seaside villages – whose homes were destroyed by the tsunami – to finally move back to permanent homes??? While it has been a long journey, it has been one that has highlighted the power of community action. Finally, the families who have been living in emergency camps and temporary housing recently moved to their brand new homes:

Residents moving to new homes



In the photo you can see the houses and a group of people as they walked up the first day to see their new houses. In early December, EPES is having a celebration to commemorate their almost four years living in the emergency camps and their work together to defend the health and dignity of their families and community. EPES will continue working with the Health and Environment Committees as they face the new challenges of living in their new community with over 400 families from different emergency camps.


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.

Give the Gift of EPES

Give an EPES Gift this Holiday Season

This holiday season, give friends and family the gift of an EPES project. Make a donation
and your loved one will receive a card thanking them for the donation made in his or her
honor. He or she will be delighted that their gift helped to train a Chilean woman to teach
her community proper nutrition, created a mural – or whichever project you choose!

EPES Featured 2013 Projects
(Total Cost in US$ – donations can completely or partially support a project)

1.  Printing of 500 pamphlets about importance of breast cancer screening ($60)

2. One day-long training session on a key health topic with 20 community health
promoters ($100)

3. Creation of a mural in a poor community that will raise awareness about good
nutrition, violence against women, HIV/AIDS, and other vital topics ($100)

4. Training program to prepare 20 community health and nutrition promoters
(12 sessions at $400 each = $4,800)

5. Scholarship for one woman to participate in nutrition promoter training ($250)

6. Scholarship to participate in 2013 EPES International Training School ($1,000 for
one Chilean student; $2,200 for one international student)

7. Two-week training in Kenya with the Hope African Women’s Foundation to train
community health promoters in rural Kenya ($15,000)

8. EPES General Fund (which supports the above as well as many other activities!)

To make a donation by regular mail:

1. Print out  this Mail-in Donation Form.

2.Choose record the amount you would like to donate and which featured 2013 EPES project your donation will support (wholly or in part!) on the donation form
– If no project is selected, your donation will support the EPES general fund.

3. Provide the name of the person you are honoring.

4. Mail your donation enclosing the Donation form to AHA

5. Print out this Honor Card

6.  fill out the gift card and send it to the person(s) you are honoring

To donate online* go to the AHA electronic donation page HERE

1. Choose a donation amount.

2. Use the “Comments” section on the donation page to specify the project (from the list above) and honoree name & address.

3. Email this e-card to the person you are honoring

Delegation from AHA Board Visits Chile

The Action for Health in the America's Board of directors visited Chile in March 2011

In March 2011, a delegation of the Action for Health in the Americas (AHA) board of directors spent four days in Santiago and Concepción visiting EPES and seeing the work they are doing.  The delegation was made up of Sheila Dauer (New York) Melanie Nelson (Minnesota) Meghan Ochal (Washington, DC) and Dale Young (Miami), who are four of the 11 US-based members of AHA.

The most important part of our short visit (from March 23 to 27t), was the chance to see firsthand the wonderful work of EPES, especially its earthquake/tsunami recovery work, and to make a soul connection with EPES staff and those they work with.

EPES continues to work tirelessly in Santiago with health monitors. At the same time, it works intensively in Concepción with hundreds of families who lost everything in the tsunami that followed the February 2010 earthquake.  It was thrilling to meet women who have become leaders in rebuilding their communities and livelihoods.  They use EPES’ fundamental philosophy of finding ways to improve the situation through their own knowledge, ideas and efforts. Where they need more information, they are participating in workshops to add techniques and skills to their repertoire of products from the sea. But it was clear to us that full recovery is many years away.

The AHA delegation in Chile

The trip also gave the four of us the opportunity to meet and interact with each other and to spend valuable time with the EPES board and the staffs in Santiago and Concepción.  We forged strong bonds that will help us communicate, collaborate and go forward, both within AHA, and between AHA and EPES

Seeing the work for ourselves and brainstorming together has given us plenty of ideas for how AHA can continue to (and increase) its support for EPES over the next few years.  Our discussions of immediate options for fundraising and exciting ideas for celebrating the 30th anniversary of EPES in Chile and the U.S. in 2012 have energized us for the future! Stay tuned for more details.

A Letter from Lautaro Lopez, EPES Concepcion Director

Lautaro Lopez on the beach near Penco

Dear Friends of EPES, A year after the earthquake and tsunami that changed lives in southern Chile forever, once more I wish to express our gratitude for

your support, prayers and for keeping us company as we walk this difficult road to material and spiritual reconstruction of our communities. We have had twelve months of intense work, supporting families of the Penco coastal zone. We have helped these families improve their emergency housing and we have trained women in the emergency camps on health, first aid, and prevention of respiratory and digestive infections. Families who lost everything also appreciate the extensive psycho-emotional reparation work that EPES conducted with women, adolescents, and children in six municipalities of our region.

This year has witnessed much support for new organizations on issues of such importance as community leadership and mediation born in the wake of the emergency. We have made headway but many obstacles lie ahead. Rebuilding houses has been exceedingly slow, communities are not consulted as to their opinions and interests, natural and political aftershocks continue, while the lack of dignified housing is exacerbated by the lack of steady employment. On February 26, the Citizen Movement for Reconstruction with Justice and Dignity rallied in Concepción – with the participation of more than 400 earthquake victims — to express their indignation. It was heartening to see other communities hold vigils, candlelight services and other commemorative activities in

memory of missing family members, on February 27, the anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami. In Chile, the new school year has just begun. Many schools still need repair; children must spend yet another year in emergency housing or with relatives; communities continue to adapt to life without running water in their sharing outdoor bathrooms, and with no definitive date for permanent housing. In the year to come EPES will continue to work with the Penco emergency camps. We will provide support to more than 100 families, winterize their temporary dwellings, support their health and

environmental committees, strengthen leadership and build mediation capacity to improve quality of life. We deeply appreciate your ongoing interest and support which has been essential to helping so many women, children and families begin rebuilding their lives. We couldn´t do it without you! With fond regards and in gratitude, Dr. Lautaro Lopez Director, EPES Concepción Fundación EPES

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!”

Update on Work in the Campamento in Penco, Chile

By Scott Duffus

I just returned from a week and a half in Chile where I spend time at the campamento in Penco.  It was a privilege to see EPES’ community building work in action!   If you are interested in more details about my time there take a look at my blog, (there are 9 posts starting on May 20th).   I remember Karen Anderson telling me that the coldest she has ever been was in Santiago in winter.    I believe her now.  It is cold in Concepción in May and the middle of winter does not come till July.

The temporary housing called Mediaguas, which were provided by the government are small and come with no windows or doors;  no provisions for heat, water, or insulation;  they have roofs that leak, and the siding is what I would loosely describe as board and batten but the wood must have been green when they were assembled because the siding boards warp so that there are gaps which let in the wind and water.  Here is a video of one of Sandra Mora, one of the community leaders in the Campamento and her observations about her new “home.”

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFdJ9c0nWv4&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0]

EPES did a community assessment to determine what needed most by the community and who needed it.  They determined that better roofing material was vital, as were insulation panels.  EPES purchased corrugated galvanized panels and nails with rubber washers for roofs. I installed a couple of those new roofs myself, but there were plenty of others who were doing that work in the campamento.  It really wasn’t about getting a guy from Minnesota to do some work in Chile– it is about EPES being able to provide the community with the right resources to solve their own problems.  The insulation which EPES is providing is another example of a well thought out plan.  When I got there there were plenty of piles of 1″ polystyrene foam around, and I was thinking “Hmmm– this might not be the best option unless it is covered” (polystyrene is flammable).  The insulation that EPES is providing is pre-attached to flame retardant panels.

Here is another video of Sandra a few weeks later when some of the weatherization has been done on her home:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwES7gKc_j8&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0]