Bertha Smiling.jpg

In 13 Quechua-speaking communities located in the mountains around the Sacred Valley of Peru, it is often unheard of for a woman to have a position of leadership. While this may be the custom within these communities, many women are yearning for experiences outside the traditional role of a homemaker. They want to be leaders within their communities. They want to continue to learn in a formal setting, which, for many, ended after the first grade, if they received a formal education at all.

One of these women is Bertha.

On a clear evening last December, a time when the sun sets later here in the Southern Hemisphere, high up in the primarily Quechua-speaking community of Soccma at around 10,000 feet, Bertha admits to us that before she started working with Sacred Valley Health (SVH), nobody looked up to her. She was quiet, and didn’t have the confidence that she does now. Before SVH, her days consisted of herding the sheep, raising her children and preparing the meals while her husband, Hilario, worked out in the field.

Rewind to Autumn 2013. It’s the day of the assemblea or General Assembly in Soccma, where the community gets together to discuss the goings on of the community. While Bertha went to work with the sheep, Hilario went to the GA. Later that evening, during dinner, Hilario told Bertha about an organization that had come to speak at the assemblea. They were looking for promotoras de salud: community health workers.


Bertha Teaching

Bertha told her husband that she knew nothing of health.

He said it didn’t matter, that this organization, called Ayni Wasi, which means Reciprocity House in Quechua, (the primary language spoken in this region of Peru) would teach them everything they would need to know. They would be returning to Soccma in a week to see if anyone in the community was interested, he said.

Throughout that next week, she thought about it long and hard. While she was out tending to her sheep like she did the day before and the day before that, she realized that this was her chance to become more of a leader in her community, to do more.

After spending as two years a Promotora, Bertha excelled to the position of a Docente in 2015 – the trainer who trains the community health workers. After two more years of working as a Docente, Ayni Wasi saw further potential and offered her the post of community coordinator. Now, she works in the office, helps to implement our Women’s Health program, and earns a salary.

Bertha has said that now she is a working woman, a woman of confidence. 


Throughout the month of December, we will be featuring articles, videos, and photographs showcasing the women who are driving this change within their communities.

We encourage you to join our #EducateAndEmpower Campaign if you would like to make a contribution to make sure these women can continue their life-saving, woman-empowering work. We welcome you to do so by way of our Generosity ( or PayPal ( Help us empower women in the Sacred Valley of Peru to educate themselves and their neighbors on important health topics.  

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