A Community Lesson

Setting off up the mountain at 7 am, we were excited to attend the monthly general assembly in Patacancha late last week, the first to be held since this community appointed a new president and government. At a previous meeting with the vice president, we had secured a spot for representing Sacred Valley Health/Ayni Wasi and the promotora program to the new president and community. Not only had he gladly arranged this, but he enthusiastically suggested that the promotoras demonstrate some of their new skills to the assembly attendees! This is something we are hoping to do in all communities in order to present their knowledge, build confidence, and ultimately teach the communities health  practices.

We arrived to a drizzly, grey morning, brightened by a sea of welcoming smiles, orange ponchos, embroidered shawls, colourful hats and curious children!

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Starting training young…

Community members piled into a grand wooden hall, sitting on chairs and overflowing onto the floor to face the committee. Although (supposedly) first to present, we watched from the back, joined by Victoria and her baby, for about 2 hours before Miguel, our Peruvian president, stood to introduce SVH and commence the presentation. It was worth the wait!

SVH Coordinators' Jackie, Jenny and Kristin watch on as the assembly unfolds, scrambled over by the occasional child
Jackie, Jenny and Kristin watch on as the assembly unfolds, scrambled over by the occasional child

Gabriel, our male promotora in Patacancha, leapt enthusiastically to the front, beckoning his friend up to act as a ‘dummy’ for the Heimlich Maneuver. Expertly addressing the assembly, he explained all steps, clearly demonstrating how to position your leg between the person, the shape your hand should make, the correct technique and what to do if the person becomes unconscious! It was amazing to see him so confident and proud, teaching the community skills and knowledge they will be able to use in emergency situations. And it was exciting for us to see that our trainings were serving some purpose in Patacancha!

Gabriel mid-demonstration, eagerly watched by the president as he stands behind
Gabriel mid-demonstration, eagerly watched by the president as he stands behind

Victoria, innately shy with a smile and character like a ray of sunshine, stepped forward to demonstrate CPR on our dummy, “Adam”. Leticia held the microphone next to her as she knelt on the floor, initially giggling and re-positioning her hat as it toppled forward. She was a natural presenter! Capturing the assembly members’ full attention, she shook the dummy, calling out ‘Tia, Tia!’ (Aunty, Aunty), triggering laughter from all.

Victoria tends to her ‘Tia’
Victoria tends to her ‘Tia’

Despite the giggles, Victoria kept focus on the seriousness of this lesson, talking the crowd through the steps they should take if they encounter an unconscious person, how to take a pulse, and how to start doing CPR. Expertly bringing ‘Tia’ back to life, she placed the dummy in the position of security, explaining why she did so (to avoid choking on vomit).

It was incredible to see how empowered and respected this shy young woman was in the community, and how confidently she taught this community the basics of CPR – potentially a life-saving exercise – which they now all know about! Seeing the community so inspired and enthused, we are that much more confident that our promotoras will carry on teaching, passing their knowledge from training with SVH on to educate and benefit all in their communities.

Written by SVH Community Coordinator Rose Nichol

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