We recently completed our first campaign in Peru, and one thing is already clear: Peru is a standout country for our programs. Rich in coffee and one of the first countries to nationally adopt the Single Visit Approach to cervical cancer prevention, Peru is poised to make quick, meaningful strides in improving the health of women in rural communities.
Our journey to Peru started three years ago with an invitation by Lenin Tocta, the general manager of Cooperativa La Prosperidad. He learned about Grounds for Health at a Let’s Talk Coffee Conference in 2008 and immediately decided that our programs would benefit his community. Now, after months and years of preparation, his astute vision is being realized.
Globally, the issue of prevention is a thorny one to manage. In places where life is hard and resources are few, the demands of daily life often trump long-term planning and prevention.
So how do we reach women who live in remote communities, far from basic services? How do we motivate and inspire them to invest today in their health for tomorrow?
Grounds for Health’s answer has been through promoting community leadership and mobilization. The community is our main partner and the key to our success.
Once again, I had the chance to see this firsthand. In three short months, our team on the ground—a Peruvian nurse as coordinator, a nurse-technico as community outreach educator, and a Grounds for Health program assistant—learned the ropes, visited communities, made their work plans and helped select and train our first group of community health promoters.
Our co-op partners had constructed a new office/training space for the project, and we were ready to roll. The local Ministry of Health was eager to work, and 12 new trainees had been selected.
We were in business.
I arrived just in time for our first clinical training to begin. One week later we graduated our first class of providers in spanking new skills of VIA and cryotherapy, placed two cryo units in key health centers and voila, we had a functioning program.
During our campaign we screened 237 women with VIA, 27 of whom had a positive result. We treated every single one of those women with cryotherapy. Linking screening with treatment is essential to ensuring these programs succeed.
What’s more, just over half (121) of all the women screened were from outside the coffee co-ops CAC La Prosperidad and CENFROCAFE, and 61% reported that they had heard from a community health promoters. This tells us that that the program is reaching into the greater community and is having an impact on the lives of not just coffee farmers, but their friends and neighbors.
Peru is proof of what is possible with the tools we have RIGHT NOW. Thanks to an invite from coffee cooperatives that are prepared to invest in their communities and a government that’s behind the Single Visit Approach, our programs have moved along quicker than we ever could have imagined. This first campaign will quickly grow to encompass surrounding areas and continue to reach women well beyond the world of coffee. Our model is effective, sustainable and replicable, and Peru has hit the ground running.
Peru is a beautiful country—a land of magnificent lost cities of the Inca, outstanding vistas, and incredible people. Peruvians take great pride in their country and their communities. We are excited to have such dedicated and motivated partners and we can’t wait to share the amazing progress.