5 Facts About Sacred Valley Health

  1. Sacred Valley Health has two official names

In the United States, our organization is a nonprofit known as “Sacred Valley Health”. In Ollantaytambo, Peru, we go by the name “Ayni Wasi.” This is a Quechua phrase that translates to “House of Reciprocity.”

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Docente,  Beatriz, in her community of Kelccanka.
  1. Sacred Valley Health becomes more sustainable as it grows

In the Sacred Valley of Peru, there has always been a need for improved health access. Initially, Sacred Valley Health was a small team of medical professionals who traveled across the valley to provide basic health services to isolated communities. While these mobile clinics provided relief in the short term, they did not solve long-term health access issues that many communities face. SVH has ceased its mobile clinic operations and now focuses on teaching a preventative public health curriculum. This has proven to be a more sustainable and successful model because it builds and retains a community’s health knowledge. Community health workers known as promotoras de salud are elected by their neighbors to train with SVH and learn how to properly teach health concepts through public presentations. Promotoras also learn how to provide first aid services and give basic health advice when needed.

  1. The promotoras that we work with live on the same land as their ancestors

Sacred Valley inhabitants can proudly trace their heritage to pre-colonial indigenous tribes, including the Incas. Our promotoras live in remote villages that are scattered throughout the region. These communities are often small, yet tightly knit, and each community member serves an important role. In general, the communities have an agricultural economy, although many members also work with local tourism industries. In addition to being community health workers, some of our promotoras or their family members also participate in weaving cooperatives or serve as guides that help travelers along the Inca Trail.

  1. Quechua is the language of choice 

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    Escolástica converses with promotoras in Quechua.

The Cusco region of Peru still adheres to its roots, and one of the best indicators of its cultural fortitude is through Quechua, a High Andean language that has been around as long as the valley has been inhabited. Old “cusqueña” Quechua, or Quechua that is spoken in the Cusco region, has merged with some Spanish to create a modern dialect. In the larger towns of the Sacred Valley, such as Ollantaytambo and Urubamba, bilingualism abounds. However, a great number of people still rely on Quechua for communication. SVH uses Spanish to Quechua interpreters during training sessions so that every promotora can understand the information.

  1. A picture is worth one thousand words

While some of SVH promotoras are able to read and write, many have received minimal education. Some promotoras struggle with low levels of literacy. Despite this challenge, promotoras are able to learn complex health information through culturally relevant images, which are drawn and compiled by the SVH staff. These visuals cover common health conditions and treatments, as well as preventative care. Read more about how promotoras achieve better health literacy here.

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Visual aids allow promotoras to learn new information about health.
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