EPES celebrates its 40th Anniversary between Memory and Thanksgiving

EPES celebrates its 40th Anniversary between Memory and Thanksgiving

Fundación EPES (Educación Popular en Salud), one of our Partners in Chile, celebrated its 40th Anniversary in November of this year. Since 1982 EPES has promoted community organization and mobilization around the right to health and dignified life through participatory strategies of Popular Education. The EPES team of educators and trainers works in vulnerable communities to organize the economic, political, and socially disenfranchised and marginalized (primarily women), persons living with HIV/AIDS, and victims of family violence. EPES seeks to inform and promote a more dignified life for individuals in vulnerable situations through community training and guidance. EPES works in advocacy and support for community health groups to seek enforcement of their rights and works with local churches to provide health information to the public.

The leadership of EPES received a delegation of friends from the United States and Canada who traveled to Chile to celebrate its 40th Anniversary. They met with the team and communities with which they work in Santiago and Concepción.  EPES had the chance to share its current work, review the post-pandemic and plebiscite context, and engage the group as we think about its future.

To recognize the context in which EPES was born in 1982, on Saturday, November 19, the delegation visited the Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Santiago. There they were able to observe images of the 1973 coup, the human rights abuses of torture, murders, disappearances, internal displacement, and exile in a challenging period in Chile´s recent history. They also learned about the processes of resistance, social mobilization, and protest that arose from community organizations and social movements during the dictatorship, of which EPES was a part.

On Sunday, November 20, the group visited Valparaíso, located about 120 km (75 mi) northwest of Santiago. EPES works on that region with organized youth at the Las Cañas Community Center to address the consequences of the devastating fire of 2014, which destroyed 3,000 houses and left 16,000 people homeless. The Las Cañas Community Center members are currently involved in carrying out an old project, the construction of a cultural center, and an amphitheater to house the cultural activities of the population of Las Cañas hill and neighboring hills.

During the visit to Valparaíso, the delegation met and talked with the couple formed by Camila Jorquera and Mauricio Salazar, founders and leaders of the Las Cañas Community Center. They recounted their agonizing experience of losing their 1.9-month-old daughter Amelia due to the negligence of the health system. This young and courageous couple has worked to generate alliances that have allowed them to sustain public mobilization for years. They transformed their grief into public action. Now, they press for better health, specifically for the construction and endowment of adequate personnel for a Health Center in Cerro Las Cañas. Global Ministries had the opportunity to contribute to disaster relief in Cerro Las Cañas and pastoral accompaniment for the Jorquera Salazar family during the loss of Amelia and its subsequent healing process.

One of the most emotional moments experienced this week within the framework of the 40th Anniversary of Fundación EPES was the Thanksgiving Meeting held on Thursday, November 24, with the participation of health monitors, the said international delegation of friends from the United States and Canada, representatives of churches in the country, and colleagues from various social organizations. After the welcome by Karen Anderson, Rosario Castillo, and Sonia Covarrubias, the rite of thanks was introduced to move on to the blessing and cleaning of the space by the hands of women incense burners. The circular dance and the Bible reading paved the way for the group to talk about their feelings around the Anniversary of EPES and its meaning in their lives. In plenary, they were invited to put candles, flowers, or other offerings on the central altar and to share the reflections that arose in the groups. The space had among its purposes to thank all the people who have accompanied us in these four decades of work for justice, dignity, and health.

Global Ministries congratulates Fundación EPES on its 40th Anniversary and invites churches in the U.S. and Canada to join our Partner on this exciting moment of its ministry in Chile. You can provide financial support to its work through our donation page. https://www.globalministries.org/donation_page/