One early morning in the community of Chupani, promotora Flora prepares herself for the day. First, she feeds her two young children a warm breakfast of soup and potatoes. She then packs her community health worker essentials: a binder filled with illustrated health protocols and her first aid kit. She dons her official Ayni Wasi Promotora vest and tucks her youngest child, Joni, into the colorful blanket or manta on her back. Finally, she trots outside to begin a round of house visits, or visitas domiciliarias.
As a community health worker, Flora performs house visits for two reasons. The first is to provide educational presentations about health topics that affect her community. The second reason is to check in on her neighbors to screen for common health concerns and answer any questions they may have, whether in response to her presentation or with regards to another health issue.
Silhouetted by the sunshine, Flora cranes her neck and scans the mountainous landscape for signs of neighbors. Today, many of the houses are quiet and stand empty. “I think they may be attending to their potatoes,” she tells us. “The fields would be the best place to find them.”
Across the Sacred Valley, both health education and health access are limited. Most community members in Chupani, including Flora, only have a primary school education. Rather than attending school or classes, most community members instead must tend to their family farms, or chacras, which are the sources of their livelihood. Much of their life is dedicated to planning, planting, and harvesting the season’s crops, or for some, raising their animals for market. To help circumvent this impasse, community health workers bring the classroom to their community in hopes of closing the gap in health knowledge.
Flora’s guess about her neighbors’ whereabouts proves correct. After climbing a few small hills and weaving between empty houses, she discovers a group of women digging potatoes from the earth. In Quechua, Flora introduces herself as an Ayni Wasi promotora and informs the group that, today, she will be presenting about anemia. Her neighbors sit up and pause in their work, eagerly listening to Flora’s discussion of the causes and symptoms of this common health problem.
Within a few minutes, Flora has converted the fields of her community into a classroom, bringing the gift of education to those who need it most.