Dr. Walter Estrada and Patty Ramírez joined other community leaders and advocates from around the world in Santiago and Concepción, Chile for the 10th Annual International School on Popular Education in Health. Popularly known as Escuela, the International School hosted an 11-day training course where participants learned how to form community health promotion groups, worked with local organizations, and reflected on factors that ensure a sustainable future for organizations working in health.

More than 20 people from 10 different countries attended the 2019 training. Dr. Walter and Patty greatly enjoyed meeting the other participants from Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania, the U.S., and Nicaragua among others. “From the moment we arrived in Chile, we received a warm reception from both the organizers and the other participants in the course. The atmosphere was very pleasant and one of camaraderie even though we didn’t all speak the same language,” they remarked.

Over 11-days, Escuela included a variety of courses, lectures, and activities all aimed at promoting popular education in health, a concept grounded in notions of class, political struggle, and social transformation. The use of the word popular in this context comes from the Spanish translation of educacíon popular meaning ‘of the people,’ referring more specifically the unemployed and working class. “Health is not simply having no disease, but also knowing the different factors in our society that can affect health such as a poor disposal of garbage, drug addiction, and alcoholism,” said Patty.

The basic principles of the EPES (Educación Popular en Salud) strategy start from the basis that health is the result of interrelated social, economic, cultural, and political forces. “As professionals, we are human resources that use our skills and knowledge to strengthen the capacity of the local people and groups to face their problems effectively,” Dr. Walter and Patty explained.

In different workshops, participants conducted a collective mapping of critical socio-environmental conflicts in Latin America, learned to read processed food product labels, discovered tools to carry out community work, and designed action plans that applied the lessons learned at Escuela to their own communities. Dr. Walter and Patty shared that all of the lessons were extremely valuable, but they especially appreciated the course on food safety. “The food safety course had the biggest impact on us. In the course we learned the aspects of a healthy diet and we hope to apply this knowledge to train nutrition promoters to help the Common Hope families we serve,” they explained.

The participants also spent time with community health teams in Santiago and Concepción learning about post-disaster recovery, promoting different health-related topics, and promoting community action. Dr. Walter and Patty had the opportunity to present Common Hope’s work to the other participants, which they greatly enjoyed.

To summarize their experience, Dr. Walter and Patty said that this training gave them the opportunity to acquire new knowledge on health and useful techniques to work with the communities we serve. “Through this experience we had the opportunity to meet exceptional people with the same objective as us– to serve our communities better and learn new knowledge in order to do so,” said Patty.

“The knowledge we acquired is already being implemented in our plans, and we hope to share it with our peers to benefit the children, families, and the communities Common Hope serves,” added Dr. Walter.

Dr. Walter and Patty would like to express their deepest gratitude Melanie Nelson, who generously sponsored their trip and participation in this valuable training. “We do not have words to express our gratitude for such a great opportunity.” ¡Muchas gracias, Melanie!