One important community connection that ProSalud made in 2013 is with Alma, one of ProSalud’s most active San Sebastián Promoters. When ProSalud first launched in the neighborhood, Alma was not interested in becoming involved. Her brother had been killed a little while earlier in a carjacking and she had been in a deep depression ever since. She was full of anger and resentment towards everyone around her, knowing that his killers (who were never apprehended) could well be people from her own community.
When first asked to participate in the project, Alma told the ProSalud staff, “No, I’m no good for things like that.” However, little by little, she became more involved. As she started to participate more actively, she began slowly to come out of her depression. Now, Alma is the first Promoter to arrive at every workshop. A consistent participant at every ProSalud event, Alma now approaches the staff to ask what she can do and how she can help. She has even donated space in her home to serve as ProSalud’s warehouse in the San Sebastián neighborhood. As Alma told the ProSalud staff, “I like working with you! It helps keep me from feeling depressed!”
As part of a holistic health strategy, ProSalud supports the formation of women’s community exercise clubs among project participants. During 2013, one of the exercise club participants began to bring her 14 year old son, Alfredo, with her to the groups. Alfredo has muscular dystrophy as well as a cognitive disorder. Although he is receiving medical treatment, the muscular dystrophy caused his legs to progressively lose more and more of their function over time.
When he joined the group, Alfredo was unable to pick up or carry objects or even walk without assistance. However, by getting an hour of exercise three times a week, his mobility has increased significantly. Whereas before he could barely walk without help, Alfredo is now able to walk quite well and can even run a little. The strength and dexterity in his hands have improved so much that his school placed him in a vocational training course, a program he lacked the capacity to participate in before. His mother even credits the social support Alfredo receives from the ProSalud exercise club, as a key factor in helping him deal with the recent death of his father.
Eva first learned about ProSalud by attending a community workshop. Eva’s family lives in San José Palmas, in a small, three-room cinderblock home roofed with corrugated fiberglass. When the youngest of her three children, Efraín, was seven, he began to have problems with his legs. After a battery of tests, specialists and hospitals, Efraín was diagnosed with a degenerative sensory-motor disease. His disease is characterized by progressive weakness in the muscles and diminished reflexes.
Over time, this disease has taken a severe toll on Efraín’s quality of life. By the time he turned 20, Efraín was virtually paralyzed. He was unable to move his legs or neck at all and had severely limited mobility in his hands and arms. Barely able to put food on the table and pay for their other two children’s schooling, Efraín’s parents were unable to afford treatment for his condition, which is expensive and hard to come by. Additionally, since the family doesn’t own a car, Efraín was effectively trapped in his home for several years. He was simply too large and too heavy for his mother to carry while trying to negotiate the inaccessible public transportation options available in San José Palmas.
When Eva joined ProSalud, she confided how helpless she felt at being unable to get treatment for her son. ProSalud helped Eva to get Efraín set up with treatment and physical therapy at a clinic where they provide him with transportation to and from his appointments. After 7 months of treatment, Efraín has made definite progress. Now he can move his legs a little bit and can hold his head up. Efraín also received one of the wheelchairs that ProSalud donated this year, which has helped considerably with his mobility. When ProSalud staff visited Eva’s family recently, she said “You will always be in my heart. Thank you so much for all of your support, which has helped me deal with the pain I feel at seeing my son’s condition. Seeing him able to move now when he couldn’t before encourages me so much!”
In 2013, roughly 1,500 people from 310 families involved in different Family Clubs and an exercise club in Chimalhuacán were impacted through Project ProSalud. Each of these Family Clubs has its own Community Health Promoter, who participates in ongoing training and mentoring by ProSalud staff.
In 2013 we also signed working agreements and collaborated with public health institutions. Thanks to these agreements, 1,770 people were directly referred to existing public or private health services, including cancer screenings, dental services and vaccinations. The impact of these collaborations has been gratifying; for example, 64% of those vaccinated who were surveyed reported being sick less often. In collaboration with the municipal health authorities, ProSalud also launched a massive parasite treatment campaign in which 30,000 people participated. 82% of those treated for parasites who were surveyed reported having less stomach problems.
Lastly, 360 malnourished children participated in ProSalud’s nutrition program in 2013, where they received nutritional supplements in order to optimize their growth, and 100 people with disabilities received donated wheelchairs.
Rocio, one of our ACJU participants, explained how being a part of ACJU led to her becoming involved in our youth ministries: “In addition to developing my character, participating in ACJU made me question, ‘What am I missing?’ And I realized that missing piece was spiritual. When I became involved in ACJU 7 years ago, I was going through a very rough time in my life, to the point where I was thinking about suicide. When I became part of ACJU, I realized that things weren’t as bad as I thought they were; that they could be different. That motivated me to change my attitude towards life and how I could be a part of it.”
“As a youth, I found that path by getting involved in Comunidades de Shalom, where I was able to develop a relationship with God even though I am young. I met friends who are true friends, because they are brothers and sisters in Christ. And I feel like my youth can serve as an example for past and future generations, like it says in I Timothy 4:12, ‘Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.’ And that has led me to develop the fullness of my character: I have become kinder, stronger, and more decisive, but always humble, not just looking out for myself but rather trying to see how I can benefit those around me.” Rocio, a successful graduate of our vocational training school, is now one of the principal leaders in our Comunidades de Shalom youth Bible study, “Jóvenes en Acción.”
Although we only began working in San Sebastián in July of 2013, our work has been very fruitful so far. In only a few months, ProSalud established two Family Clubs impacting 144 people from 36 families. More than 800 individuals received medical and dental services during three medical campaigns in this area and we directly administered de-worming medication to 5,000 students at 10 different local schools.
We also helped to create connections within the community, forming support networks with formal institutions and laying the foundation to achieve greater social cohesion and increased citizen participation in 2014.
In 2013 ACJU Callejero, our street outreach initiative, launched our first Vocational Training Center offering four-month long courses in electrical installation and hairstyling. These courses are certified by the Industrial Employment Training Center (CECATI) which is accredited by the Secretary of Public Education (SEP). We held two course cycles during the year, helping 50 youth graduate and receive their federally recognized certificate. Participating youth also attended character development workshops and participated for two days in a community service campaign.
ACJU Callejero also dealt with the topic of human trafficking in 2013.
Trafficking has become a severe problem in the Chimalhuacán municipality, affecting youth of both genders. That is why ACJU held a youth camp, in collaboration with the U.S.-based organization iEmpathize, entitled “We Are One.” 111 youth participated in this 3 day event and, through role-plays, workshops and group activities, learned about the importance of having respect for life and received training as Anti-Trafficking Community Promoters.