In the week preceding our May capacitaciones (training sessions), the town of Ollantaytambo bustled in its preparations for the biggest festival of the year, Choquekillka. The Sacred Valley Health office, too, was bustling, but with a different type of energy. After a successful trip to Cusco on Monday, where we purchased the promotoras’ (community health workers) monthly stipends of pasta, lentils, sugar, milk, tuna, bread, and fruit, we spent the rest of the week finalizing the training curriculum and organizing necessary materials.
This month’s training, led by occupational therapist Rose Nichol, focused on prevention and tratamientos caseros (natural home treatments) for back pain. The Sacred Valley is home to countless weavers and porters, not to mention a plethora of agricultural workers, making it a hot spot for back pain. In addition, we presented the new promotora convenio (community health worker contract), which was the culmination of two months of program development. The new convenio highlights our growing relationship with three government-run postas (outpost clinics) and creates additional opportunities and incentives for promotoras to develop as health educators and community leaders.
As is always the case in Patacancha, we began our day with pancito dipped in chocolatada and conversations about each promotora’s work during the previous month. We discussed leg fractures, burns from boiling water, neck wounds, and dog bites. We were pleased to hear of many referencias (referrals) to the local posta, and also to see that the communities were seeking out their promotoras more frequently.
After Rose and Leticia taught some background information about the spinal column, we divided into small groups and began a rotation through four stations. At the first, Stewart and Erin (our new Monitoring & Evaluation intern) taught the basic principles of back pain prevention, including posture and proper lifting technique. At the second station, Rose and Elly (a new Community Coordinator) demonstrated a number of back exercises to be used while working in the chakra (family farm plot). From there, the promotoras moved to the station led by Harriet and Kristina, which focused on beneficial back strengthening exercises for use at home. At the final station, Leticia gave a short lecture on home treatments, including herbal compresses and massage, and taught a few final stretches.
After a break in which we took photos and recorded information for new ID cards, we sat down to a well-deserved lunch. Food (a natural conversation starter) made for an easy transition into discussing our new convenio, which emphasizes each promotora’s community leadership role and incentivizes the promotoras to structure new opportunities to educate community members. We introduced the idea of compensating promotoras for presentations that they make to groups of weavers and porters, as well as to clubs de madres (mothers’ clubs). Invigorated by the idea of earning more incentives by giving useful presentations, the promotoras immediately began discussing groups with which they can share the lesson on treating and preventing back pain.
As the rain fell in Patacancha, the day drew to a close with Community Coordinators and promotoras planning their next reunion and their presentations for the month’s general assemblies.
Note: we apologize if this is a duplicate. Some of our readers received the post yesterday, but others did not!