Starting healthcare workshops at Choloma
New beginnings are never easy! Our Sisters at Choloma look back on the activities of their first year there.
“As the first year in our new mission at Choloma comes to an end, Health Promoters have been chosen and are beginning to be trained; some Health Committees are forming. Our little ‘casa’ is open to receive people, and we are about to select a couple of women to begin training for the HIV/AIDS Home Care program.”
"It is so simple to say, but for us it was a real milestone in beginning here. Our first workshop on healthcare was the result of many encounters with new people and new places.
"We expected 36 participants. That was already a surprise. In the end, 46 men and women turned up. They came from 21 of the 24 communities in our large, sprawling parish. It was hard to find space for all in Casa Visitación, which is a small house.
"Some were simple folk who lived in the mountains with little education. Others were well-educated and working professionally in the city. In common, they shared faith, a desire to do something for their community, interest in health, and generosity - and they are all working among the poor here in Honduras."
"Some women traveled from the mountain communities. That meant leaving on horseback at four o’clock in the morning, then taking three buses after they got down to the foot of the mountain. That is commitment!
"In a country which is heavily reliant on very expensive western medicine, we chose the theme of disease prevention for this first workshop. We began by giving an explanation of health as it relates to the whole person.
"Participants were invited to form small groups in each community to liaise with us. These groups would become our pathway into each community. They committed themselves to a yearlong program of workshops to empower them as Health Promoters.
"In the middle of it, our Bishop and our parish priest surprised us with a visit. The Bishop took time to animate the group and that was very meaningful for the participants and for us as well."
Eager to Learn
"These people are eager for education. For future workshops they chose topics like domestic violence, HIV/AIDS, psychology of adolescents, addiction, and pastoral care of the sick.
"The first Honduran member of our Healthcare Team is Guadalupe Guzman. Participants were delighted with the way he presented his sessions, and we thanked God for his gift of music, which added greatly to the animation and enjoyment of the day.
"At the closing session of the workshop, each person was blessed with oil on their hands. They called on God to be with them as they undertake this new health ministry in their communities.
"As the people left to return to their homes, we realized that after all the trips we had made to the communities and our early struggles to express ourselves in their language at meetings and liturgies, it had all come together very well on this day of beginning. A lot has yet to be done to help the groups to consolidate and to keep them interested but a beginning has been made."
"Since that first workshop, we have revisited all the communities to meet the potential Health Promoters in their homes. Such surprises we have had! In one small and very poor community, there are 20 people who want to become part of a Health Committee and begin projects in their community. In another, 10 women had already formed their Committee, asking us to come and meet them. We felt this was very encouraging. Even though we have been so encouraged by some groups, in others little has happened.
"The problems are overwhelming. The anxieties we hear from families and individuals would break your heart. It is matter of one encounter at a time, listening to the experience of each day, to our own hearts and to each other.
"How hard are the lives of so many of these women! As we walk the streets here, there is so little beauty, just dust and garbage everywhere. Then we are surprised by a small home where the woman of the house has tried to plant flowers to create something beautiful. It is those moments that keep us going.
"Responding to the needs of these women, Rosalinda has begun giving reflexology in Casa Visitación on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On the other days, she works in the Parish clinic as a support to another doctor, Dr. Karla, a very committed Honduran woman, who gives of her skills to these poor communities. She is delighted to have Rosalinda’s help and to know that we are trying to work on the side of disease prevention. The first patients are coming for reflexology. It is so new for them and so rare to have almost a whole hour that is dedicated only for them, to hear their story and offer some relief of pain.
"Meanwhile, Renée and Joanne have been traveling to the different communities to animate and encourage our fledgling Health Promoters.
"We could feel frustration and a sense of hopelessness. We could ask, "Will anything ever change here – all this grinding poverty for so many of our people?"
"We know that the process of empowerment is a very slow one. We realize that each small success is like a precious jewel to be handled carefully and with appreciation.
"So it is in that spirit of accepting reality, but still being open to be surprised by people and their inherent capacity to reach for life, that we continue in this process of creating a Pastoral de Salud here in our parish."