Dear friends of EPES,
Forty years—can you believe it!
EPES was born when Chile was in the depths of the Pinochet dictatorship, and we didn’t know then whether EPES would survive one year, never mind forty. Defying the odds (few, if any, small nongovernmental organizations survive from that time), EPES has continued to work tirelessly for health and justice over the succeeding four decades. Along with information about recent activities, this Update provides a snapshot of EPES’ achievements so far. I think you’ll agree that it is a remarkable story of dedication and solidarity.
Among recent activities, you’ll read about EPES’ work in nutrition, migrant health, mental health, human rights (including the right to be free from gender-based violence), and more. I think the four-decade snapshot gives useful context and helps explain how they are able to achieve both breadth and depth in their programming. I am always amazed at how much EPES is able to accomplish with such a small staff—EPES truly is the Little Engine that Could!
But, like so many millions around the world, EPES staff and allies have been hit hard by COVID. Most recently, we mourn the death of Mónica Jeannette, a beloved leader of the Llareta Health Group, one of the earliest health promoter teams trained by EPES. Two of EPES’ senior staff are on sick leave right now, which places an additional burden on the rest of the staff.
Nonetheless, this is a year of hope for Chile, with a newly elected government that is vastly more representative of the people than any since the military coup in 1973, and the Constitutional Assembly preparing to release a new constitution to go to referendum in September—if approved, it will replace the one imposed by Pinochet, which enshrined neoliberalism and ensured the immiseration of the majority of the population. Just imagine how much more EPES can accomplish when no longer obstructed by a system based in institutionalized injustice.
Of course, none of this would be possible without your generous support—and I hope we can count on your continued solidarity. I hope, too, that you will be able to join us in Chile November 19–26 to celebrate EPES’ four decades of work for health and dignity, and to help launch another decade of commitment to social justice.
In solidarity and peace,
Christina Mills MD FRCPC
President, Action for Health in the Americas