This is the third in a series of posts about the Feria de Bienestar Familiar - Family Wellness Fair that we organized earlier this month. You might like to check out The Chicken Dance and Las Charlas before you read this story. For the panoramic look at Missions of Healing over the years, put "Mission of Healing" in the search window and you will find a wide variety of healing stories from over the years.
Hygiene - the directors of the health clinics we have visited in El Salvador have consistently emphasized the need for a charla which focuses on washing hands. Depending on who gives the talk, information about proper maintenance of latrines, proper disposal of garbage, water filtration techniques and prevention of parasitic infections can be included in this charla. The physician who was with us in Guazapa did an AMAZING job teaching the children about how to keep their hands and bodies clean. The prize at this station: small bars of soap, little bottles of shampoo and anti-parasite medicine.
Mouth Health - this is the second-most popular charla because the prize at the end consists of toothbrushes for the whole family. With our giant model teeth and foot-long toothbrush, we demonstrate how to brush the teeth, gums and entire mouth. This is a great talk for a beginning Spanish-speaker to give because you can develop a script and memorize it. We often include information about sugars and acids in drinks, especially soda. Although we did not have a charla this year about nutrition, we included nutritional information in several of the other charlas. If we are able to find a nutritionist - a nutrition talk would definitely be a good addition to the fair.
First Aid - we invited the Salvadoran Red Cross to come and give a first aid presentation. Although this only happened in one of our four sites, it is something that we want to continue. The premio at this charla was a bag of bandages. (In our other 3 sites, we gave out the bandages at the hygiene charla).
Mosquitoes - Prevention of Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya - a health promoter with the Salvadoran Lutheran Church gave an excellent talk about mosquito protection. Citizens are consistently asking their local authorities to fumigate their neighborhoods. Not only is this unhealthy, but there are not enough resources to fumigate every neighborhood consistently to kill off developing mosquitoes. The key to prevention is eliminated the larvae. Each family needs to be responsible for its yard and water system, and unless every family in a community is responsible, the larvae cannot be eradicated. For more information on this topic, check out Fighting Chik.
Migration - the Lutheran Church has a strong ministry of accompaniment of families who are forced from their homes due to violence. This charla created a space for families to learn about the danger of attempting to get to the US or other countries. Families who are in danger were able to register their cases. There are thousands of internally displaced families who have had to relocate one or more times within El Salvador due to acts of violence or threats of violence on the part of gang members or law enforcement. This is a complex issue and many families expressed their gratitude for the information shared in this talk which was led by a Salvadoran Lutheran pastor and her team.
Checkers, Chess and Puzzles - somebody donated a Jenga game, which was definitely the most popular. This activity was self-directed. Some might wonder why a games table would be included in a Mission of Healing. For families who live under so many stresses - struggling to get water, struggling to have food for their families, living under the consistent threat of violence, many essentially prisoners in their own homes - an hour or two of relaxation and play is very therapeutic. At the end of the fair we gave away all the games so that the churches can use them in their youth and adult study groups.
Spiritual Healing - we have had a focus on spiritual healing since the beginning. We create a space with candles and music, offering individual prayer time for people with the Salvadoran pastors. This is also the space where we do reflexology (US and Salvadoran reflexologists) and hand or shoulder massage. We offered a stress management activity - making stress balls from balloons. This is an area well-suited for pastors from El Salvador and from the US, and sadly, we have struggled a little bit to keep pastor-involvement at a strong level.
Music - we brought a fantastic musician who is also a teacher. He teamed up with Salvadoran musicians and an energetic translator to provide a very fun, bilingual experience for all ages. A highlight had to be the police officers, in full regalia with their big guns (if you have been to El Salvador, you know what I am describing here), doing "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" with a bunch of school kids. There wasn't a moment of the day without music. Beautiful.
Lab - we offered some basic tests to complement the charlas: pregnancy, glucose, and basic urine. Persons with results of concern were referred to the local Unidad de Salud. In a couple of locations, we had local physicians on site who could guide the process to get patients into the system. We brought a lab tech with us for this station.
Reading Glasses - this is the most popular station. We brought the glasses, and the Salvadoran Lutheran clinic provided a person to run the station. The prize at this station: being able to read the Bible and thread a needle!
Weight & Vaccines - local nurses from the clinics provided this service. It was really wonderful to be able to provide parents with the ability to bring their children's vaccination program up to date.
Mental Health - at two sites we had psychology teams working with group conversation and available for individual consults. The main goal of this charla was to take away the stigma of talking with a psychologist. All of the mental health staff were from the local or regional clinics.
Beauty Salon - free hair cuts and styles for men and women! This was a fun and popular station. We brought ribbons and pony tail holders and clips...and the newly trained beauticians in the local communities did the work. This was a great way to support the entrepreneurship training classes which are being done through the Salvadoran Lutheran Church.
Art - In 3 of our 4 sites we painted murals. The murals were inspired by the communities and were painted on the exterior of the church or church-related buildings. Though the original idea was to plan this experience for older children and adults, the little ones also had fun dipping into the paint. In our 4th site, the regional mental health team ran art activities which involved glue, glitter, paint and lots of creative encouragement.
There is one more charla...and that description will be in my next post.