Monday, August 24, 2015

Nahara Saballos Redefining Health in Rural Nicaragua

As a long-term volunteer interested in health, I have been seeking a new definition to healthy and what it means to be a healthy person in the context of Nicaragua. My site, Fundación Somos Así Por La Paz Y La Vida, has provided a holistic definition for health where everyone, including women, children, people living with disabilities, and people who identify as LGBT, has the right to maintain a healthy body, mind, home, and environment. As part of the foundation’s mission, we have decided to collaborate with ProNica to lead Alternatives to Violence workshops for health promoters from five municipalities of the department of Matagalpa. For Dorothy Granada, the president of the Fundación and an American who has dedicated the last thirty years to improving health in the campo, this series of workshops symbolizes the great progress that has been made since her arrival during the Contra War.
Violence in Nicaragua has to be contextualized in the nation’s long history of war, which most of the adult population has witnessed. The effects of war – aggression, suffering, and being witnesses and victims of violence – remain and are perpetuated within the household. Healing is a process, one which we hope to facilitate by deescalating violent situations and ending the cycle of violence in homes. Health promoters are the foundation of our work as they are the first to encounter domestic violence during their regular visits with pregnant women and the community health talks they lead. Domestic violence, which can be both physical and psychological, has a tremendous effect on the health of communities. For example, some of the situations described while we defined violence and non-violence during the AVP workshops were tales of women being denied the rights to prenatal care or safe deliveries outside of the home by their husbands. Moreover, this form of violence is witnessed by younger generations and repeated over again. Therefore, violence is not something that remains within the four walls of a household; it affects the health system and future generations of Nicaraguans.
This past week, we were able to work with ProNica to hold our first session of AVP workshops for health promoters from La Dalia, Rancho Grande, and Waslala. This two-day workshop led by ProNica staff, Harold and Milton, combined Quaker principles from the original AVP workshops, modified to the circumstances of the campo. In the workshops, we discussed and practiced teamwork, essential listening skills, valuing each individual’s feelings, and deescalating situations where violence can occur.
Moreover, the workshops emphasized using the “poder transformador,” a power that not only comes from within, but is also used to empower health promoters to feel sure of their own decisions made under the pressure of a violent situation. One promoter mentioned to us at the end of the workshop that this “poder transformador” was helpful in reassuring him and his colleagues of the valuable work they are doing for their communities, work that is not compensated by us nor the Ministry of Health.

As a volunteer with ProNica, I am so grateful to have participated in a workshop combining health with a traditional Quaker program that has now been used all over the world. As I said before, it takes tremendous progress to reach nonviolence in communities. I hope that we can continue working towards nonviolence and healthy communities by including health promoters from other municipalities in AVP workshops in the near future.

Closing the AVP workshop with our group of promoters.
Our team of health promoters!

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