Qhalis Save Lives and Step Into Leadership Roles: DESEA Perú
by Michelle McMullen, Mary's Pence Volunteer
|DESEA meets to select new qhalis for their community.|
DESEA Peru believes that in indigenous Andean communities, sustainable change in family health and nutrition can be most effectively brought about by women. They developed a plan in 2008 to train illiterate indigenous women as community health workers (referred to as 'qhalis' from the Quechua word meaning 'healthy'). In 2011, DESEA Peru applied for a Ministry Grant to support their efforts to select five new qhalis, and begin their training in their communities. The qhalis are trained in providing healthcare monitoring, education and treatment.
In the project area, in 2009, there were three under-5 child deaths, and Calca Province reported the highest maternal mortality rate in the country. Since initiation of DESEA's full community health approach of trained health workers, nursing clinics and biosand water filter installation, there have been NO maternal, infant or under-5 child mortalities from preventable illnesses.
As women in these remote communities are given an opportunity to learn, in a format that is understandable and meets their learning needs, they are rising to become the leaders of their communities. The qhalis are becoming frequent speakers at community meetings, which, in the past, have been entirely dominated by men. Their messages encourage women to take a more responsible and active approach in their children's health; for the men to provide responsibly for their families; and for the community as a whole to improve environmental health conditions. Community members are listening to the messages of the qhalis, and change is beginning to occur.
The effect is being felt beyond the project.
Women, such as Juana Puclla Puma, are stepping up to be advocates for their community. Juana Puclla Puma was selected to be the first-ever, female president of her community. She challenged municipal government officials who wanted to force women to have children in the local hospitals where conditions were poor. Through her confident and insightful comments at a public community meeting, she influenced changes in hospital birthing centres and hospital birthing is increasing. As well, the DESEA qhalis have an extensive prenatal monitoring program, which provides education and support for pregnant women, and is also helping to increase hospital birthing and decrease maternal mortality.
Let us celebrate the courage of DESEA Peru to develop and carryout a creative and effective response to health needs in their community. Donor support has allowed Mary's Pence to renew their ministry grant this year to finish the training program. We pray for their continued success.
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|Matters of Justice|
Migration: Chosen When There are Few Choices
by Pat Rogucki, Mary's Pence Board Member
Juanita shares her story of migrating to the U.S. with Pat in Louisville.
In November of 2012, Mary's Pence had a booth and sponsored a panel at Call To Action in Louisville, KY. In addition to the work, we were treated to illustrious and learned speakers, some well seasoned on the theological journey and others bringing new ideas. Their microphone delivery from well written papers was impressive and inspiring. However, for me, the highlight was a Monday night trip to the Catholic Worker, in downtown Louisville, where we met a diminutive indigenous woman from rural Guatemala. Juanita was a member of La Casita Center, a network of women's groups engaged in education, advocacy, wellness and mutual support in support of the health and well being of the local Hispanic/Latino community.
Juanita spoke eloquently from the heart, without paper or microphone, as she recounted her story. She was a poor single mother who had worked on a farm until the owner finally sold the parcel where she had worked. She sought other ways to support her family, but found none. This is not unusual. The history of Latin America is one of exploitation of the land's resources and its native labor force (for more information see Eduardo Galeano - Open Veins of Latin America). Military dictatorships and rule by the wealthy had little interest in creating jobs in order to have a ready supply of cheap labor for coffee, cotton, fruit, and vegetable farms.
Thus, Juanita made the decision to endure the rigors of the dangerous journey North and leave her children in the care of family. Juanita was not able to cross the border successfully and returned home. With the help of family, she made a second attempt and eventually was able to send for her children. Juanita is most grateful for the Catholic Worker where she is presently employed. Her oldest son had walked over with her on this dark night and would accompany her home. He is nineteen and a sophomore in high school. Juanita is determined to have him graduate.
Women in Santa Cruz del Quiche started a bakery with their loan from the ESPERA program.
In 1987, Mary's Pence came into being, followed by our ESPERA program, in 2008. If ESPERA had been available when Juanita was looking for work to support her family, maybe she would not have had to leave Guatemala. Some of her "sisters" in rural Santa Cruz del Quiche, are benefitting from having access to credit through ESPERA to start small businesses. They are becoming economically empowered and can make their own decisions and a better life for their children. This is a small solution to the big economic problem that looms over Latin America, but it works.
Pat is a member of Sisters for Christian Community and spends each summer in El Salvador in a poor parish in San Salvador, the capital. Pat has a big heart and great love for the women of Latin America. She shows it by her many years of solidarity with them, here in the U.S. and in Latin America. She frequently travels with Gilda Larios, Mary's Pence ESPERA Facilitator.
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|Mary's Pence News|
Thank You from Guatemala!
Please click above for a brief "Gracias" from the Mary's Pence ESPERA Encuentro participants
Representatives of ESPERA networks gathered in Guatemala. Your support makes their work possible!
Mary's Pence will be in Atlanta for Pax Christi, June 14 - 16
Mary's Pence will be present at the Pax Christi USA Conference
in Atlanta and have an exhibit booth. If you are attending please come visit us there. We look forward to seeing you! Conference Information:
Location - Sheraton Gateway Hotel, 1900 Sullivan Road, Atlanta, GA
Dates - Friday June 14 to Sunday June 16
Exhibit Hours - Friday 3 - 11; Sat 8-4; Sat 8:30 - 10; Sun 8-10:30
To learn more about the conference visit http://paxchristiusa.org/programs/national-conference-2013/
Forward this Email to a Friend
If you were moved by the story of DESEA or Juanita, please share their stories. If you appreciate the systemic change brought about by our Ministry Grants and ESPERA program let others know. Share your enthusiasm by forwarding this email to one friend. Mary's Pence has many loyal supporters, and we would like to widen the circle. Blessings!
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on Facebook for more photos and stories from ESPERA participants and Ministry Grantees.
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Mary's Pence - Who Are We?
We are a small organization with a big vision. We want women in the Americas living in poverty to have a say and a hand in how poverty can be alleviated and social equity achieved. Therefore we invest in local women who are creating models to increase women's economic status and improve their status in their community. We look for models that foster women working together, to learn from each other, support each other, and explore new ideas. We fund women in North, Central and South America.
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I am Willing
By Holly Near
I am open and I am willing
To be hopeless would seem so strange
It dishonors those who go before us
So lift me up to the light of change
There is hurting in my family
There is sorrow in my town
There is panic in the nation
There is wailing the whole world round
May the children see more clearly
May the elders be more wise
May the winds of change caress us
Even though it burns our eyes
Give me a mighty oak to hold my confusion
Give me a desert to hold my fears
Give me a sunset to hold my wonder
Give me an ocean to hold my tears
I first heard this song at a Pax Christi meeting in Minnesota, during Mary's Pence 25th anniversary year, so it was very meaningful. This past month I had a chance to hear Holly sing it in concert with Gilda (ESPERA Facilitator) and Luisa, a new board member from Cuernavaca, Mexico. The experience was a blessing.