One of the most important traditions in the communities we serve is the general assembly. Most communities have one every month and each family is required to send a representative or else pay a fine. At these assemblies, the community as a whole discusses important issues like irrigation planning and greenhouses. These meetings represent something powerful and endearing in the local culture: community is everything. Everyone is invested in the health of the community, and supports their neighbors’ well being. For example, Sunday’s Kamicancha Assembly was postponed so that everyone could pitch in to farm the fields of two community members with cancer.
General assemblies are the perfect place to present our work to a community. After launching our promotora program with six communities last year, we are currently planning an expansion to six more. The first step is to find communities that want what we offer. We seek out the community’s president and request permission to present at the general assembly. If he or she agrees, we speak to the assembly about our goal of health promotion and explain what a promotora does. We then ask the community members if they want to participate in the program. If they vote to work with us, we go into more detail about the responsibilities and leadership role of a promotora. Many times the community leaders call for volunteers and then the community elects a promotora on the spot. Sometimes the communities ask for a few days to consider the contracts and discuss them with people who weren’t at the assembly.
This past Sunday, SVH staff and volunteers attended four different general assemblies. We split into groups (one of which included a nurse from the Chilca Posta) and journeyed to the communities of Piscacucho, T’stayoc, Kamicancha, and Palomar. The Kamicancha Assembly was postponed, as I mentioned earlier, and Palomar had its promotora election meeting after we left. However, the other two communities elected promotoras right away. This means that we can begin baseline assessments in those communities and customize our training curriculum to their needs. The work is just starting, but it is an invigorating place to be!
Finally, there is no place I would rather be than in front of a general assembly, blushing to be the subject of a vigorous standing ovation intended for our program as a whole. It is worth remembering how wonderful it is to represent a good thing.
– Written by Stewart Decker