Health promoters graduate just at the right time
Health Promotor courses with Give Ye Them to Eat in Puebla, Mexico, focus on interactive learning techniques to ensure the lessons are received and understood. PHOTO: MARIAN HARTMAN
By Nan McCurdy
December 6, 2021 | Mexico
By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Luke 1:78-79 NRSV
The light of God takes many forms at the Give Ye Them to Eat (GYTTE) center in Puebla, Mexico. As we prepare again to receive the light of Jesus in the short, dark days of the year, we also remember the many ways God has accompanied us along the way, at times lighting a flame that spreads beyond GYTTE into small villages and up winding paths into the mountains in the state of Puebla and other states of the Southeast Methodist Conference of Mexico.
We see light dawning in many of GTTYE’s programs as people learn ecological ways to grow nutritional foods, draw clean water from the earth and build dry composting toilets, wood-saving stoves and earthquake resistant dwellings with natural materials.
We also see the light growing as women learn about how their bodies function in order to promote health as well as recognize and help prevent disease in their communities.
This year, 11 women graduated as Health Promotors from our community health program. Graduation means the women have successfully completed three courses taken over 18 months, each course covering about 25 topics. We offered the third advanced course this past September. The women should have graduated a year ago, but COVID-19 has changed life for all of us. One woman, Elvira from Oaxaca, graduated nearly 20 years after her second course. She is a successful leader and specializes in encouraging villagers to give up drinking sodas and start saving. Another woman, Faviola had a huge goiter removed when she should have taken her Advanced course. She was thrilled to finally graduate.
The Indigenous people in Mexico are generally relegated to remote areas. We are very pleased that five Indigenous women, from both Totonac and Nahuatl tribes and who still speak these languages, will be better prepared to serve their villages in promoting health. Among the graduates was Ocotlan, a Nahuatl woman from a village in the mountains of Cuetzalan, seven hours from Puebla. She is a leader and a specialist in natural medicine who taught natural medicine in the first course.
These courses were taught in a participative fashion. Topics covered were: reproductive systems, menstruation, pregnancy, delivery, the post-partum period, family planning, prevention of sexually transmitted illnesses, HIV-AIDS, breast and cervical-uterine cancers, prevention of gender violence, heart disease, taking pulse and blood pressure, menopause, andropause, prostate cancer and more.
One of the ways the women process what they learn is through presenting social dramas. It’s easy to see what they have learned, and the dramas are both tender and funny. We keep boxes of men’s and women’s clothes and they “play” their parts.
Along with using their knowledge from the three courses with family, neighbors, churches and friends to monitor high blood pressure, or diabetes, or care for a cut, wound or burn or give an injection, the women also teach different health classes.
It was really an honor to be with the women for a week in their learning process. Yes, we see God’s light surrounding us in many ways. We await the dawn of Christ, coming to us again as Zechariah predicted, guiding our feet into the way of peace.
Gracious God we thank you for the light you send to lead us in the ways of peace. May we offer our knowledge and experience freely to others who seek to build peaceful and healthy communities, so that more people may experience the abundance of life Christ offers every day.
Nan McCurdy and Miguel Mairena are a missionary couple serving with Give Ye Them to Eat in Puebla, Mexico. McCurdy served the people of Nicaragua as a missionary from 1985 to 2014 and she and Miguel worked for 20 years with women and youth through the Women and Community Association in San Francisco Libre prior to their assignment with GYTTE.