On their own initiative, the participants from one of the most well-established ProSalud Family Clubs have organized a weekly crafting club amongst themselves. Before joining ProSalud, even though these women were neighbors, none of them really knew each other. However, as a result of interacting in their Family Club, the group has formed strong friendships which have increased their social cohesion both in and outside of ProSalud. At the crafting club, which sprang out of the women’s desire to create more opportunities for social interaction, each person shares her personal talents and abilities. For example, if one person knows how to embroidery, she will give the others a list of materials to buy and then teach the others how to embroidery.
However, the major impact on the group participants has not been the new abilities they have learned. Instead, the group has taken on the quality of an informal emotional support group. As they ostensibly come together to make crafts, participants relax, laugh, share what is going on their lives, get things off their chest and receive emotional support from the others.
In the last few months, gruposVIDA has been excited to see the impact the groups have been having, not only on the participants, but on the people in their lives. For example one participant, Laura, shared how her daughter-in-law had come to her asking for more information on what gruposVIDA was about. She had seen the participant manual in Laura’s house and wanted to share information about emotional healing with her mother, who was dealing with some very painful issues. After Laura’s daughter-in-law spoke with her mother, the woman came to talk to Laura herself. Laura commented that she was excited to share the knowledge she has acquired in gruposVIDA: “It was so good for me! I used the things that I have learned when I was explaining my story to her, so that it would also help her to start opening up and dealing with her pain.”
Other participants have also commented that they have been sharing what they learned with other women and encouraging people who are going through difficult times. This is an exciting development for gruposVIDA because it is exactly what we hope to see as a result of this initiative. By helping direct participants heal emotionally, they in turn use the wisdom they have learned to reach out to others who are hurting.
Before joining gruposVIDA, Marta could not even look at herself in the mirror. Born with a cleft palate, Marta received surgery as a child which gave her full functionality in her lips and mouth. However, she was left with scars which made her the target of bullying and ridicule all throughout school. At 16, Marta became pregnant by a man who appeared to offer her the affection she was looking for. However, over time the relationship turned abusive. He would repeatedly tell her how ugly she was and that no-one would ever love her.
When Marta joined gruposVIDA, she began to learn about her own self-worth. She learned that didn’t need the approval of others to feel valuable; that she could love herself. Today, Martha looks like an entirely new person. Not only does she now take an interest in her appearance, but her face has been transformed with a smile of happiness. As Martha said “I am so grateful for gruposVIDA for coming into my life, because now I can look at myself in the mirror without being ashamed.”
gruposVIDA is an initiative to help hurting people deal with emotional pain and trauma in their lives by inviting them to participate in small, self-help groups. These facilitated recovery and support groups allow people to work through the emotional and psycho-spiritual pain in their lives within a safe environment. The gruposVIDA support groups utilize a carefully designed curriculum. Before new participants begin, the project coordinator conducts entry questionnaires and interviews with each person in order to learn their personal histories. This allows the coordinator to place each prospective participant in the most appropriate group. In Chimalhuacán during the past year, 18 women were regularly involved in 4 small groups. 68 children ages 6-12 with a variety of emotional issues also participated in weekly gruposVIDA encounter meetings for children.
In addition, 61 members of two local churches participated in a gruposVIDA “soul clinic,” which consistedof 12 two-hour sessions on inner healing.
31 leaders from 5 local churches also participated in a 2-day “Train the Trainer” event designed to teach them how to facilitate their own gruposVIDA. As a result of this training, new gruposVIDA have been launched in three of these churches.