The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Accompany & empower

Lutherans learn this from the Popular Education in Health in Latin America

Like a "process of conversion." That's how Lutherans described two weeks in January spent learning popular education theory and practice on the streets of Santiago, Chile.

Taught by ELCA partner Educación Popular en Salud (Popular Education in Health or EPES), the 2011 International Training Course brought participants from Chile, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Haiti and the U.S. for a hands-on course in community health work.

"Participants come to learn educational techniques and leave inspired by a new vision of dignity, participation and inclusiveness," said Lisandro Orlov, one of the course's key presenters and a Lutheran pastor from Argentina.

Orlov, regional coordinator of the Lutheran World Federation HIV/AIDS campaign, said that in the past two years, EPES has trained eight of the Lutheran community workers with whom he serves.

 During a January training course in
During a January training course in Chile, Lutherans listen to Elizabeth Alberto. Her family lives in Gente de Mar, a resettlement camp near Penco, Chile, a fishing community devastated by the 2010 earthquake and tsunami. The Albertos now make their living selling seaweed. EPES work with the community includes a children's program that uses storytelling, games and team sports.

This year the annual course focused on "Dignity, Empowerment and Equity" and EPES' experiences of providing psychosocial and material support in the wake of Chile's Feb. 27, 2010, earthquake.

Thanks to funding from the ELCA and the LWF, participants included Lutherans who work with church programs related to HIV/AIDS prevention in Peru, migrant education in the U.S., resettlement camps in Guatemala, earthquake victims in southern Chile and battered women in Santiago.

The Lutheran church in Latin America "believes in the power of accompaniment," said ELCA missionary Karen Anderson, founder of EPES and director of the International Training Course. "We complement this by exploring and imparting strategies for empowerment."

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Embracing diversity