DEVELOPMENT REPORT - Health Care Training for Native Villages

By Marilyn Christiano

This is the VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT.

Many countries have a continuing need to provide health care in distant villages. The Medical Mission Sisters is an international organization that helps with this. It began seventy-five years ago. The Roman Catholic workers help provide health care training for people who are not served by modern hospitals, doctors and medicines.

Isabel Harmon has been a Medical Mission Sister for fifty years, many of them in Africa. She is living in Oaxaca, Mexico, now. Sister Isabel helps with a training program in the city of Oaxaca for representatives from villages of native people. It teaches these health care promoters how to help themselves and others in the villages improve their health.

Sister Isabel spends about three days a week, much of the year, traveling to the distant villages by bus, mule and foot. There she continues the training.

For example, she teaches people how to make vitamins their bodies need to be healthy. Their villages are too high in the mountains to grow vegetables that usually provide these vitamins. So she teaches people to cook a common plant, garlic, that has been smashed. Then the yellow part of eggs is added and the mixture is dried in the sun. Next, the nuts, almonds and pecans, are smashed and added. The mixture then is put into small vitamin capsules that can be swallowed. People take one each day with their usual diet of tortillas and beans.

During the training program, the health care promoters are taught traditional native healing methods. Such knowledge as the medical use of common plants is often lost when local medicine men and women die. For example, basil is used in many countries to add taste to foods. But traditionally the leaves of the plant have been used to help heal sore throats, ear problems, muscle pain, headache and stomach pain. For stomach pain, the leaves are cooked in water and the liquid drunk. For an earache, the oil from the leaves is dropped in the ear.

Sister Isabel has helped produce a book that describes common plants in the Oaxaca area and explains how they can be used for healing. She hopes the idea of developing a guide book of medical plants will spread so people in many countries can improve their own medical care.

This VOA Special English DEVELOPMENT REPORT was written by Marilyn Christiano.

Voice of America Special English