Light on the Pomp, Heavy on the Circumstance

Friday, September 26, 2014

7:30 AM: While drinking my morning coffee I can’t wait to see how today will turn out. We’ve been preparing for this graduation ceremony for weeks now. For our readers just tuning in, on September 26, sixteen promotoras de salud (community health workers) graduated from the core community health worker training program, in which the first group participated for the past two years and the second group for the past year.

8:00 AM: I walk into the SVH/Ayni Wasi* office to find that seven promotoras have beaten me to my morning routine. They are sitting in a circular arrangement of benches listening to Josselyn and Katherine give them a make-up lesson. This will be their final lesson in the series of core community health worker trainings, once they completed this lesson, they’d be all set to graduate later in the day!

9:40 AM: Nine other compañeras—their fellow promotoras—trickle in. The health representatives of twelve rural communities are present. Let the festivities begin!

10:00 AM: Our Program Director, Becca Williams, and President, Miguel Galdo, take the floor to congratulate the promotoras on their work so far with the program. They express their appreciation for the group’s energy, time commitment, and tremendous service to their communities. Miguel turns to the community coordinators and other SVH/Ayni Wasi staff to thank them for dedicating themselves to issues of public health in the Sacred Valley. Miguel and Becca have finished their speeches, and the room is awash with gratitude.

Ayni Wasi President, Miguel Galdo, thanks the promotoras for the improvements they’ve already fostered in their communities and wishes them continued success as community health workers.
Ayni Wasi President, Miguel Galdo, thanks the promotoras for the improvements they’ve already fostered in their communities and wishes them continued success as community health workers.

11:00 AM: The promotoras break off into small groups for a facilitated discussion. They are asked about the most enriching and challenging aspects of being a promotora. Valentina, a promotora from Rayan, stands up to recount this story about her community’s perception of her:

“When I first started the program, a lot of people in my community told me ‘Get out of here, you’re not learning anything. You don’t know what you’re talking about.’ But I continued and now I feel like the community’s sentiment toward me is changing. Now I have a lot more respect from the community and a lot more confidence in myself…I was so proud and I am grateful to Ayni Wasi for giving me the opportunity to learn.”

The other promotoras follow with their own stories about their experiences. I take notes to make sure we can incorporate their feedback in our future programming.

12:00 PM: Finally, we get to the celebration! While the whole group finishes eating lunch and cake, the community coordinators display a montage of photographs taken since the beginning of the Promotora Program. Mary kicks off what a moving ceremony with words for one promotora with whom she’s worked closely: “When I think about Sonia, I think about a woman with many talents.” The other coordinators follow with speeches of their own, present small gifts, and throw confetti.

Promotora Sonia embraces the community coordinators that have supported her during the core-training period, Mary Underwood and Catherine Hansen.
Promotora Sonia embraces the community coordinators that have supported her during the core-training period, Mary Underwood and Catherine Hansen.
Promotoras will now be able to display their Ayni Wasi pride with embroidered mantas, or traditional capes.
Promotoras can now display their Ayni Wasi pride with embroidered mantas, or traditional capes. The  inclusion of the Ministerio de Salud logo illustrates our partnership with local government clinics.

1:00 PM: The whole office is tinseled with multicolored confetti, pica pica.

What better way to congratulate a person on two years of hard work than by mussing their hair a little with confetti?
What better way to congratulate a person on two years of hard work than by mussing their hair a little with confetti?

1:05 PM: All the promotoras have been called to the podium. We go outside for a spirited game of fútbol. The Cycle-1 promotoras play against Cycle-2 promotoras.

1:06 PM: The promotoras reveal their competitive sides. Shoes are flying; hats are lost in the struggle. Frankly, I can barely beat them to the ball, and I have five years of recreational soccer under my belt!

Agility, grace, and aggression on the fútbol field.
Agility, grace, and aggression on the fútbol ground.

2:00 PM: At last, the whistles blows, cementing the Cycle-2 team’s victory.

3:00 PM: The SVH/Ayni Wasi office couldn’t have wished for a more joyful celebration of the two first cycles of the Promotora Program. If you’ve supported the organization, I apologize I only have these photographs to demonstrate the magic of this day. It was a cherry on the top of the last two years, and we never would have made it here without your commitment.

And here’s the team that made the magic happen.
And here’s the team that made the magic happen.

–Written by Courtney Weintraub

* Ayni Wasi is the name under which Sacred Valley Health operates in Peru. Ayni Wasi is a Quechua phrase meaning “House of Reciprocity,” symbolizing the multiple webs of reciprocity in our programming – foreign staff and volunteers work with and learn from our locally-elected promotoras, our promotoras work with and learn from their communities, and our organization collaborates with local representatives of Peru’s Ministry of Health.

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