Las Amigas (The Friends) is a diverse group of women and men from the rural highlands who have taken on the role of health promoter in their communities. The program educates Las Amigas about a wide range of topics but generally focuses on preventing illness and promoting health and hygiene. With an emphasis on “learner as teacher,” Las Amigas are equipped with the knowledge and tools to share what they have learned with others so they can empower people to prevent serious disease by changing the conditions which cause it and detect/treat illness in its earliest stage.
The Las Amigas program consists of three, week-long training sessions. During the first session, students learn about basic sanitation, germ theory, personal hygiene, dental hygiene, disinfecting fruits and vegetables, nutrition, fever and oral rehydration.
In the second session, the course teaches about first aid and receive a first aid kit. Students learn about common remedies and some “old wive’s tales” are debunked. Additionally, students learn how to administer intramuscular injections and the Heimlich maneuver. This session includes an emphasis on public speaking and small group learning.
The third session focuses on study of the female body, male and female reproductive organs, family planning, pregnancy, labor and delivery, menopause, breast cancer, sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) and self-esteem.
“Las Amigas” was started in April of 2003 by Margie Groshong, an RN from Eugene, Oregon. The first class consisted of 12 Mayan women. The program now has over 70 graduates who have helped numerous people in the communities they serve. Many of the Guatemalan employees of Salud y Paz are Las Amigas graduates.
Testimonies from Las Amigas:
“One of my sister-in-laws was choking and the first thing that I did was give her ‘compressions.’ After, what she swallowed came out.”
“My first aid kit was a great help to me because I was able to clean some wounds with the other materials such as the cotton, alcohol, etc,…I gave Tylenol for pain.”
“I have meetings with women from my community in my home. I have taught personal hygiene, eating a well-balanced meal and about malnourished children.”