Alabama Honduras Medical Educational Network
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Thursday, December 11, 2014

ASI-Yorito - "The Program Is Working"

The following is an in-depth report of the most-recent ASI-Yorito workshop from Janet Espinosa. Janet is the Peace Corps veteran who actually brought an exploratory committee from Yorito to the first ASI workshop in Cusuna. After three years of training, here is what she discovered.

     What a joy it was for me to see the progress made by the ASI, the participation of the Promotores de Salud, and the empowerment that is a measure of success of the program in Yorito, Yoro, Honduras.  It was a weekend of learning and participation as well as one of recognition.

                From the leadership of Chief Promoter Fanny Aviles, Jovel, and the rest of the committee, it was evident that they can plan and deliver quality programs.  A local doctor led the sessions on HIV/AIDS or VIH/SIDA starting with group discussion of a family situation from the packet SIFAT provided.  She had extensive knowledge of the subject but also patience typical of the culture that allowed each group to report their feelings, insights and opinions even if ideas had already been presented – that is inclusion and empowerment that many of us from the land of efficiency forget about.  The doctor was able to let the health promoters know that the basic test for HIV is required of all couples wanting to marry in Honduras and also given to all women (and still too many teens) who are pregnant from the municipality of Yorito. She provided factual information and answered all questions.  All participants went home with the packet for review and further study, as well as to use with others in the community.

                Using thermometers donated by members of Gilroy Presbyterian Church in California, everyone participated in a hands-on session for reading thermometers and interpreting results.  I expected that there would be many not familiar with Fahrenheit since the rest of the world uses Centigrade, but I was surprised that so many participants had never taken a temperature or even read an outside thermometer.  In a very basic way, you can tell if someone has a fever by touching their skin.  I always touched the forehead, but in Honduras they touched the neck. The interest in more accuracy was evident.  Participants used quick result temple thermometers as well as thermometers for oral/rectal/armpit administration, all of which now have a noise alert when time is complete.  “Of course they do” you say, but here that was a surprise to most.  They read off outdoor thermometers that showed parallel Fahrenheit/Centigrade values as well as personal thermometers that gave digital results.  For those showing Fahrenheit, the health promoters also now can do conversion with a formula chart.

                On Saturday, the focus turned to health and nutrition with an emphasis on young children.  The presenter used power point presentations, printed material, and charts to explain concepts.  The printed brochures were colorful and easy to understand.  They could be duplicated for use in the various communities, but then we run into the problem of money.  The only negative part of the whole day was that merienda (snack) arrived quite late in the morning and people needed a break.  An emphasis was put on breast feeding infants exclusively for the first six months and then introducing pureed foods one at a time while continuing breast feeding until age two.  It is nice to see that women here feel free to breast feed their infants wherever, including in the middle of the meetings. We in the USA could learn from the Hondurans!  In a participatory session both men and women prepared pureed food and measured the correct amounts for various ages.  The measuring containers were distributed to the various community health care volunteers.  The presenter has promised to come back and work more in individual communities.

                During sign-in and breaks on both days, participants were able to examine and read medical books in Spanish that were brought from California and cover a variety of topics.  The group has decided to have a bookshelf made for 20 of the books that will be kept for community and student use in the library at ISP, the local junior/senior high.  An additional 12 books will be kept at the local maternity clinic where staff and clients can read about pregnancy, birth, and care of infants.

                A brief session was held to get participants thinking about the project that their region will do as part of the third year of the program.  It was agreed that all need to learn about water filters, and it was suggested that perhaps funding could be found for half the cost of the filter if the community collected the first half.  Tying ideas to the nutrition presentation individual and community gardens were suggested and several individuals were in favor of this.  Other suggestions included monthly workshops for teens on self-esteem, monitoring of blood pressure, and feeding programs similar to what is offered in Pacayal and Yorito.  I think there were more, but all that is important is that they are thinking about what they might be able to accomplish within their own communities.

                Probably the highlight of the weekend was the presentation of certificates.  Byron had emailed us the basic form which we adjusted for the printer here, and we also added the AHMEN logo to balance the form.  Recognition is very important and the committee presented each to much applause and photos of course.  The certificates have been collected for safe keeping until Byron and Tom Camp can sign them in January.  Because the first two years of the program took three years (2012-13-14) to complete, the group will probably lose most of the 10 high school participants who just graduated and will be off to university.  Travel, time, expense and studies will not allow them to participate in four weekends during 2015.

                The local committee in Yorito has done an outstanding job and have been empowered to organize and run their training sessions.  Isn’t that the goal?  There are many local resources that they can call upon.  The participants pay for each workshop and the local government sometimes helps with food for one day, but the group continues to need outside assistance with ink for the printer, copies to be made and other workshop needs.  The committee needs to have copies of the modules early (like now) so that they can select the best presenters for each weekend.  If Byron or representatives of AHMEN can be present, that is an added bonus but in most cases not absolutely necessary. The committee needs to set its own dates and the rest of us need to see if we can help when they need us.  For the coming year I would suggest a workshop on water filters and others on technology.  Internet is now more widely available in Yorito (but not the surrounding small towns) but less than 10 participants use email.  Computers are available in the library and sessions on how to search for information are important.
                The program is working and people are empowered. 

As Janet notes, your support is necessary for these types of community development programs to continue. ASI-Yorito, ASI-Jutiapa, ASI-Cusuna, and the ASI-La Moskitia (on the horizon) are getting the job done on a shoestring budget but can do so much more with your help! Visit www.honduranmissions.com today to learn how to donate to the AHMEN-SIFAT Initiative, AHMEN's Community Empowerment Program. To learn how to volunteer with the health promoters, contact me today!

Together, we are the difference!

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