Over the past year, I worked alongside ProNica, volunteering for Fundacion Somos Asi Por La Paz Y La Vida (We are Here for Peace and Life), a holistic health organization created to train health promoters in basic skills to save lives in their rural communities. As a long-term volunteer, I partook in projects ranging from training health promoters, supporting administrative roles, and assisting in the accompaniment of victims of violence. Now that I have left Nicaragua and have had a month to reflect on all of the exhilarating and educational experiences, I realize the essence of my volunteer work was that of a support person, enabling health promoters to give their all to their jobs.
Working directly with health promoters was a humbling experience. All sixty of the promoters with FUNSAPV are dedicated people who chose to give their valuable time to be trained so they could impart health talks. By bringing knowledge into their communities, promoters reduce high-risk pregnancies, domestic violence, and STDs. In addition, health promoters confront common health concerns such as their community’s access to potable water, clean homes, and nutrition. In remote communities, where the nearest health post could be a two hour walk away, the work health promoters do is invaluable.
Health promoters, however, do not receive any compensation for their time. Many of the promoters I worked with struggled to provide for their own families and often relied on seasonal farming as their main source of income. Despite this challenge, all of the promoters I met were deeply committed to the cause. During my time in Nicaragua, I met promoters such as Jose Antonio, who started working as a young adult during the Contra War, carrying coolers full of vaccines into the mountains. I met women like Doña Anastazia, who albeit a tiny, delicate woman, had twenty years of experience as a midwife. Lastly, there is the next generation health promoters like Jarvin, a seventeen year old splitting his time between school, trainings, and agricultural work.
The people who are truly changing Nicaragua are the health promoters. They hold the knowledge of what is needed most in their communities and are taking matters into their own hands to create change. It is humbling to see such commitment, sacrifice, and passion for the wellbeing of their families and friends. These characteristics highlight for me the essence of Nicaragua, a country that has overcome and continues to overcome challenges.