Association of Community Health Educators (AECS)
Brazil is the largest country in South America and is best known for its contrasts. Along with the splendor of the well-known carnival celebrations of Rio de Janeiro, lies the “favelas” (shantytowns) where the majority of Rio’s poorest residents live. Over the years, Brazil has been plagued by political corruption and has had to comply with harsh economic measures prescribed by the international economic system. This has created reductions in the already scarce services for the poor including schools, health care, and jobs.
In 1996, the Association of Community Health Educators, a long-standing partner of Global Ministries, built the first Shanty Town Health Clinic bringing in a new phase of this work. The clinic began with four volunteer doctors for a few hours each week as well as student interns. In June 1999, the addition of the Family Health Program was instituted, prioritizing preventative health care instead of just curative health care. The Shanty Town Health Clinic Family Health Program is pleased to share reports on the following programs:
PHYSICAL THERAPY PROGRAM
One hundred patients have been seen as of the last patient evaluation. These patient evaluations are done once a month. Five patients are scheduled to conclude, as they have reached the end of their treatment process. There is a waiting list of 46 patients. Each month new patients are evaluated and take over the spaces of those that have concluded or left the program.
Currently 50 children participate in the program. The children meet on different days according to their age group. Recent themes include: garbage and the harm it causes; the relationship between parasites and garbage; recycling and the environment. Art is used in its many forms, such as drama, building box scenes, posters, etc., in an attempt to motivate the children and adolescents to develop a sense of citizenship and develop an understanding of illness prevention, while encouraging participation in the betterment of their community. This project is the only one of its kind in the area and there is a waiting list of children wanting to participate.
TRAINING OF COMMUNITY HEALTH EDUCATORS
The networking and training that gave rise to the Association of Community Health Educators (AECS), which has its own non-profit status, continue. At the present time there are six training courses being held with a total of 90 students and four teachers. The training transforms the lives of the women (and the few men) who take the course by helping their self-esteem and recognition of their talents and potentials for action through education, providing knowledge of how to maintain healthy lives at home and in the community, and motivating them to continue to study more and to go on to more professional courses to become nursing assistants, nurses, or teachers.