Update on the worst fires in Chilean history

Dear Friends of EPES and AHA,

Thank you for your words of support and concern about the devastating fires in Chile. As of yesterday, the government informed that there are 148 fires reported: 64 have been controlled, 75 actively being fought and 9 have been extinguished. There are 6,162 people whose homes have been affected by the fires and 1,151 completely destroyed. Tragically, eleven people have been killed : two firefighters, two police, three brigadistas and four civilians.

EPES has been working with communities in Penco to protect their homes and we have been developing a long-term project that we are submitting to ACT Churches Acting Together to try to develop a community based prevention program in both Cerro Las Cañas in Valparaiso and in Penco.

Below is a letter written by Lautaro a few days ago (translated to English) that I think helps explain the origins of the fire and what needs to be done in the future.  I am attaching some of the photos our staff in Concepción took when they were visiting Penco.

Gracias for your ongoing support,


Karen Anderson

fires in Concepcion 4Lautaro - fires in concepcion  fires in concepcion 2 fires in concepcion 1

Dear Friends of EPES,

Once again Chile is affected by a tragedy of environmental and human origins. This latest disaster that affects Chileans can be traced to serious problems associated to climate change, the voracity of forestry companies and the lack of local, regional and central governmental planning.

At present, seven regions (Coquimbo, Valparaiso, Metropolitan, O’Higgins, Maule, Biobio and Araucania) are affected by intense forest fires that have destroyed residential areas. The National Forestry Service has confirmed that 893,436 acres, consisting of 56 fires now under control, 65 still being fought and one that was extinguished. Locally, in Concepción, 10,131 acres have burned, with the worst damage affecting the rural area of Florida, where small villages have been destroyed.

Several factors are responsible for this tragedy. First of all, climate-related situations such as unusually high temperatures this summer season, low humidity and windy conditions have played a role here. Secondly, factors of human origin also play a part: powerful forestry corporations’ extensive plantations of Oregon pine and eucalyptus, both of which are highly combustible trees, that are planted close to residential areas without firebreaks, as well as the drought, which is exacerbated by these fast-growing tree plantations. In addition, the fires have been intense due to the shortage of material and human resources to adequately fight the advancing flames.

Once the fires come under control, the measures that must be taken to prevent the repetition of this tragedy are clear and key: distance the forestry plantations from residential areas, regulate plantation distribution and location; reforest with native trees, place water storage reserves in remote places, allocate adequate technical and human resources, fire prevention education for the population, and strengthen centralized coordination of resources to deploy in emergencies.

In Concepción the major areas affected by the fires have been Palomares, Tomé (the rural zone), Florida (rural and urban zones), Chaimávida, Penco (La Greda district of Villa Montahue), Chiguayante, Hualqui, Quilacoya, and Talcamávida.

EPES has ample experience in managing emergency situations. During the earthquake and subsequent tsunami of February 2010, EPES implemented a wide-ranging community support program in Penco. Now the same people who had settled into new houses after losing everything seven years were threatened by another disaster. But, all the neighbors came together – creating firebreaks, cutting trees and hosing down the area – and saved their community.

The entire area of Penco is surrounded by plantations of highly inflammable eucalyptus trees. So far our support consists of providing them with face masks and water, which are priorities at this time. We will continue to support the community’s organization and health to ensure safer conditions and prevention on the medium and long term.

Dr. Lautaro López Stefoni

Coordinator EPES Concepción Center

January 27, 2017

The December 2016 EPES Update is here!

Just released – the December 2016 EPES Update! While EPES has undertaken many activities and advocacy efforts this past year, this Update specifically highlights EPES’ impressive work in dec2016updatecoverfighting the emerging obesity epidemic in Chile. This work ranges from healthy nutrition workshops to train women in the El Bosque community of Santiago as local nutritional health promoters to international advocacy and presentations at the World Nutrition Congress.

As always, AHA and EPES are incredibly grateful for the support of our North American friends. If you would like to make a donation this holiday season so that EPES’ work in nutrition and so many other areas can continue in 2017, you may do so online or by sending a check made out to “Action for Health in the Americas” to:
Action For Heath in the Americas
4 Northcrest Drive
Clifton Park, NY 12065

We wish you a joyful Christmas and a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year!

ELCA Delegation Led by Bishop Elizabeth Eaton Visits EPES

This past weekend, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s (ELCA) Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton visited EPES and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chile (IELCH). She was accompanied by the Executive Director of Global Mission, Rev. Dr. Rafael Malpica, and the Director for Latin America and the Carribbean, Rev. Dr. Raquel Rodriquez.

ELCA DelegationEPES was honored to have them visit and be able to thank the ELCA for their long-term support of EPES. Read more about the visit here!


#ChileTuesday is back – Join us!

chiletuesday-2016-bannerHappy November AHA and EPES supporters!

We’re so excited to share with you that our 2nd annual #ChileTuesday campaign is back!

Now through Giving Tuesday (Nov. 29), we invite you to fundraise or donate to EPES in the spirit of giving.

We promise, fundraising is easier than you think. We’ve designed a fundraising page and emails for you. All you have to do is sign up and send your page link to your family and friends. The ChileTuesday 2016 Fundraiser Guide includes step-by-step instructions to get started.

Start fundraising today!



#ChileTuesday will fund training for Chilean women, healthcare workers and grassroots activists to become health leaders in their families, their communities and beyond.

Together we can bring health, dignity and justice to the people of Chile. Please help us make this campaign a success by signing up today!


The EPES December 2015 Update is here!

EPES Update December 2015

Dear Friends of EPES and AHA:

We hope you like the new format of the EPES Update! This version is more streamlined and has fewer “pieces” for you to keep track of—allowing you to focus on the amazing accomplishments and ongoing efforts of EPES and, hopefully, reminding you of how far your donations can go.

This past year has highlighted how valuable EPES’ work can be:

  • Leveraging their community-level disaster response and recovery capacity to work with victims of the September 2015 earthquake and tsunami—even while rebuilding from the April 2014 fire that devastated the poorest neighborhoods of Valparaíso continues.
  • Planning for the seventh International Training Course on Participatory and Community Strategies for Health—which will be held in January. Interest and participation in this annual course continue to grow every year. In the first six courses, there have been 110 participants from 15 countries. EPES’ training model is being replicated in many places in Latin America and all the way to Kenya!
  • Becoming a strong voice in Chile for health as a human right and mobilizing many organizations, communities and individuals to fight for this right.

In 2015, AHA has also sought to revamp our role as EPES’ advocates in North America. You’ll read about the exciting new #ChileTuesday campaign in this Update, but we’re also working to improve our website and provide more updates electronically—please share your email address with us if you haven’t done so already (either by noting it on the mailed donation form or when you make an online donation). We welcome your ideas for how AHA can continue to be a strong voice for EPES in 2016 and beyond!

As always, muchas gracias for your ongoing commitment to the work of EPES. In this world where there is so much suffering and need, we know that there are demands on your compassion (and pocketbook). Have a happy holiday season and a healthy and peaceful New Year!

Christina Mills MD FRCPC

President, Action for Health in the Americas

Click here to read about all the great work EPES has been up to in 2015!

Join our #ChileTuesday Campaign!

#ChileTuesday Banner

Dear Friend of AHA and EPES,

We have Thanksgiving for giving thanks. We have Black Friday for getting deals. Now, we have #GivingTuesday for giving back.

This December 1st, help Educación Popular en Salud (EPES) turn #GivingTuesday into #ChileTuesday by supporting their programs to help women and their families through collective action on health, social and environmental issues.

Our Goal: 2X the Impact

A generous donor has offered to match every donation up to $30,000 through December 1st. Every dollar you raise or donate to EPES will be doubled!

If we reach our goal, EPES will receive $60,000—that’s enough to train 12,000 community health leaders in low-income communities throughout Chile.

Get Involved!

Join our #ChileTuesday campaign by creating a personal fundraising page to support EPES and the people of Chile.

Create your fundraising page now >

Get creative with your fundraising efforts and host a Chilean wine tasting or dinner party! Grab a few bottles, invite your closest friends and ask for a small contribution towards your fundraising goal.

Here’s how to get started:

1. Choose a fundraising page title, such as “Alex’s #ChileTuesday Fundraiser”.
2. Add your picture and customize the description text.
3. Share with family and friends via email and your social media!

No time for an event? Simply reach out to your friends and family and tell them why community health programs in Chile are important to you, and watch the support roll in!

Alternatively, you can donate directly to the campaign > 

All donations are tax deductible, and thanks to our generous match, every gift up to our $30,000 goal will be doubled.

Together we can bring health, dignity and justice to the people of Chile!

If you have questions, please respond to this email and we will happily help.

Thank you so much for your continued support!

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

Karen Anderson
Founder, Educación Popular en Salud

Action for Health in the Americas


Action for Health in the Americas (AHA) is the North American counterpart of Educación Popular En Salud (EPES) based in Chile. EPES has been supporting sustainable community-based public health initiatives among the poor in Chile since 1982.

We believe in the power of people to promote their own healthy communities, given the proper financial, educational and technical support.

In awe of EPES…plus the May 2015 Update is here!


May2015UpdateCoverHello friends of EPES and AHA!

Most of you haven’t heard from me before, but I thought I’d give Chris, our Board President, a break from writing a letter this time. As I was proofreading this EPES Update – specifically the article about EPES turning 33 – I got to thinking how absolutely amazing EPES is and felt the need to share those thoughts. While I’ve always known EPES is a year older than me, for some reason I was struck by the fact that I’m 32 and EPES is 33. It could be that now, as responsibilities in my life and career pile up, I can better appreciate what an incredible feat it is for these four women to have founded a grassroots organization in very challenging circumstances, grown it to what it is today, and still be so committed 33 years later. I’m in awe of them and all the others who have become a part of EPES since 1982.

I feel incredibly lucky to have met Karen 9 years ago and been introduced to the work of EPES, which led to me helping with the development of Action for Health in the Americas and later serving on the board. Since those of us on the board are volunteers, other responsibilities sometimes keep us from doing more, but something keeps us connected and committed to EPES even a continent away. I know the same goes for all of you. As AHA board secretary I keep the records for donations and know that many of you donate to EPES year after year (often multiple times a year) and see that your support is critical to EPES’s continued operations in Chile and has allowed us to spread their model beyond Chile.

If you’ve known EPES for a while – as most of you have – you can see how much has been accomplished when you read through this Update. I remember helping to write one of the first grant applications for the work EPES would do with tobacco control in Chile, and now EPES is presenting its accomplishments at a prominent international conference. The International Training Course now has over 110 graduates from 15 countries. And Llareta just celebrated its 30th anniversary.

Truly an inspiration to me, and hopefully, to all of you as well.

Thank you for your continued support!

Meghan Ochal

Secretary, Action for Health in the Americas Board


Happy New Year!

AHA and EPES would like to wish you all a happy 2015!

As has happened for the past five years, EPES is jumping right in and starting the year with one of its biggest undertParticipant Mapakings – the annual International Training Course in Popular Education in Health. Now in its sixth year, participants are arriving in Santiago this weekend – and will spend the next two weeks immersed in hands-on learning about community-based strategies for health that they can bring back to their own communities near and far. These participants will join the 90 graduates from 15 countries who have already gone forth from the first five trainings to spread the EPES model.

This year, EPES is excited to welcome Emmy award winninSpecial Guest Lisa Russellg documentary filmmaker and public health advocate Lisa Russell as a special guest instructor, who will highlight her film Poder! and discuss how video production can be an exercise in women’s empowerment and involving creative communities in chronicling the fight for dignity and health.

You can read more about the planned course content, the faculty, and experiences of past students here; AHA looks forward to sharing the outcomes of the course in the coming weeks!