Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Las Charlas

Charla means "talk" - as in, "let's have a little talk about..."

This year's Misión de Sanación Integral Feria de Bienestar Familiar Micro-Region Norte  (yes, that is the real title:  Holistic Mission of Healing Family Wellness Fair in the Northern Micro-Region) was organized around las charlas.  The Salvadoran Lutheran Church, our synod of the ELCA, local Unidades de Salud (health clinics), local mayor's offices and groups such as the Red Cross joined together to put on 4 fairs in 4 Salvadoran communities with between 20 and 25 charlas or educational talks at each fair.  The restructuring of the Mission of Healing from brigada medica (medical brigade) to educational fair has been slow and steady.  This was the year we eliminated the medical exams and the pharmacy.

So, what did we do and how did it go?  I have received many inquiries about this year's fair, so hopefully I can provide a few helpful descriptions of our charlas.  

As the international team put together the plans for the charlas, the team considered the following:

  • How would the local health clinic be involved and what health issues were the most significant in the local community and region?  How could the fair support the work of the local clinic health promoters and educators?
  • What gifts, talents and resources did the local community, the local health clinic, the Lutheran Church and the US team have to offer?
  • What alliances needed to be made with local government to promote the fair and to secure needed items such as tables, chairs and canopies.  
  • What coordination with local police and regional police was needed to ensure safety for all?
  • How would the fair be aligned with the ministries and core values of the church and enhance the work of the church in the community?
The team decided to offer medical exams and medications only if the local Unidad de Salud wished to do so and would also provide the doctors and other medical personnel needed to conduct exams.  In the end, the clinics provided personnel to help teach  

After more than a year of planning, we settled on having the following charlas and areas of attention:

Welcome Table - each person received a participation ticket, a bag, and the to give an offering to help with fair costs (suggested $1).  Each charla station had an ink pad and stamp. Participants received stamps on their card as they moved through the stations.  Most stations gave out printed education material and many charlas included premios or small prizes.

Mama and Baby - prenatal care and care for infants.  The premio  at this station was a pregnancy test if needed, and prenatal vitamins.  As far as I know, we learned of one new baby on its way.

Breast Care - a US team member specializes in this area of health, so she did a charla complete with model breasts so women could test their skill at finding hidden lumps.  The prize was a breast exam if desired.  Women who discovered a lump in their breasts were referred to the local clinic for follow-up.  This was the protocol for anyone who learned of a health concern through the charlas.

HIV, Sexually Transmitted Illness and Teen Pregnancy - we have been giving little brown paper bags with condoms to adults young and old for years, and over the past few years, the HIV education team from the Salvadoran Lutheran Church has developed an excellent interactive talk.  The team has an adapted charla for young children which focuses on protecting their bodies.  Each child gets a small story book.

Healthy Heart - one of our US nurses took this on and developed a wonderful charla about hearth health and blood pressure.  Participants could have their blood pressure taken.  The prizes were red bracelets or red heart pins from the American Heart Association,  We found a few folks with dangerously high BP, and several others who needed attention.

Diabetes - This continues to a topic of great importance.  I am not sure how many new diabetes patients were identified during the fair - but there were several each day, including children and entire families.  We used a fantastic poster which shows the sugar levels in a variety of common beverages - information that always surprises people! One of the US nurses did this charla with a premio of a glucose check for those who wanted it or had history or indications that called for a check.  We also had special socks for people who had had toes or feet amputated - a sad consequence of diabetes which is all too common in El Salvador.

Natural Medicine - the wisdom of the grandmothers often supersedes this charla done by the Salvadoran team members.  This talk includes tasting the tea or the blended drink made from the plant-of-the-year, and receiving a seed or seedling.  

to be continued tomorrow...

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