In 1996, the first health clinic was built near Rio de Janeiro by the Association of Community Health Educators (AECS). The clinic began with four volunteer doctors for a few hours each week as well as student interns. In June 1999, the Family Health Program was instituted, prioritizing preventative health care instead of just curative health care. The Association of Community Health Educators is proud of the fact that in the 17 years of their existence, so many of the former students in this program have changed the lives of so many.
At the beginning of 2019 ACES worked to restructure some of its programs under a new umbrella program named UNIFICAR. This program relies on a multidisciplinary team of professionals made up of pediatricians, psychologists, psychiatrists, educational psychologists, educators, nutritionists, as well as professionals in music, theater, dance, and sport.
The UNIFICAR team organized a course for elder caregivers that ran from April through August of 2019. Eighteen community members received training and were prepared to work as caregivers to the elderly. These courses were taught by a multi-disciplinary team made up of a nurse, psychologist, physiotherapist, speech therapist, social worker, theologian, pedagogue and dental professional.
AECS also created a community library in 2019. The library was named in honor and memory of Agostinho (Gus) de Souza, husband of retired Global Ministries mission co-worker Barbara de Souza. AECS had this to say about the library: The honoree of this library is our dear friend Agostinho de Souza, husband of our mentor and friend Barbara de Souza. Agostinho was a great partner and was a lover of reading. With his death in September 2019, the AECS board, and the professionals and partners of the UNIFICAR project, decided to pay this great tribute. On November 9, 2019 the community library was inaugurated the Augustine, “Gus” de Souza Library.
The physical therapy practice typically saw more than 100 people per month and was operating Monday through Friday. However, when a partnership with a local nonprofit, which paid the physical therapist salaries, ended in August, the availability had to be reduced, so patients are being assisted by physical therapists two days a week.
During 2019 about 100 children were involved in monthly workshops on ballet, theater, music, and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. These activities are developed with the input of the students and scaled to meet the age of the participant students. Through partnerships, AECS also offers classes on cooking and financial education, as well as vocational courses in English and computer science.
In 2020 AECS hopes to continue the UNIFICAR project by offering more workshops such as in storytelling, poetry, writing, and beginning reading classes. It is hoped that through this work AECS can help promote the healthy growth of children.