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.

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

Viva la escuela EPES

We are still glowing from the experience of our first International Training Course on Popular Education in Health! What an intense and incredible two weeks we had. From the positive feedback and praise we received, it seems the course went beyond everyone’s expectations. I believe now more deeply than ever that EPES has an important and strategic role to play in training new generations of community health workers, church workers and activists. There is such a hunger for understanding how to do popular education, how to generate spaces for participation and empowerment and how to address the underlying causes of poor health. We have gained so much experience in these 28 years!

THANK YOU ALL for promoting the escuela, supporting a student, participating in a conference call to help us plan the initial course ideas and all of the other ways in which our circle of friends supported this new initiative.

From the more theoretical presentations of Ron Labonté on the social determinants of health to working with the community health teams to design and carry-out a community action in the local market to dancing the cha la la to evaluate a session to learning about mainstreaming gender in health planning and walking the camineta del poder to learning EPES´ model of training to playing and evaluating many of EPES educational games to being challenged by Pastor Lisandro Orlov to think about the role of faith communities in the struggle for health and dignity to visiting the Park for Peace to designing their own individual projects based on the experience and learning during the program….the escuela was an intense and engaging experience.  We taught our methodologies by having the participants experience them and they loved it. The graduation ceremony was similar to how we graduate health promoters with cards read out loud with descriptions of each person written by their classmates….the ´lagrimometro´ (tear-meter) as we call it at EPES was off the charts.

We had 20 participants aged 23 to 50 from 8 countries –Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia, Kenya, Peru, Chile, Canada and the United States.  They are all linked on the EPES Escuela 2010 facebook and a listserve that we created together to share news and stay connected.  We heard ideas and requests for EPES Honduras…EPES Kenya….the need for ongoing support for community health groups and enthusiasm to send their friends and colleagues to next years´course.

EPES Traing January 2010

EPES Training January 2010

We have received many notes of appreciation and enthusiasm from participants but let me share this one to give you a sense of the feedback:

I want to first tell you how informative, dynamic, and inspirational the EPES school was.  I have attended many workshops about popular education, public health, community organizing and nothing comes close to my experience with EPES.

The EPES staff is really on another level that I have never seen before.  So brilliant, amazing facilitators, and so humble, really blew my mind. I could go on and on, but I hope you get my gist, I really loved my time I spent with you.      Josh

We are profoundly grateful for the opportunity to launch the escuela and we are confident and hopeful that there will be many more in the future.