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Health team provides education to Angolan citizens

Health team provides education to Angolan citizens

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Health team provides education to Angolan citizens

Feb. 3, 2006    News media contact: Tita Parham* 
800-282-8011    Orlando {0437}

An e-Review Feature
By Jenna De Marco**

ANGOLA — Marcia Rovena de Oliveira (right) a doctor, gathers information from students participating in a training session to learn about basic health care. Some traveled hundreds of miles to attend. Photo by Eluzinete "Lu" Pereira Garcia, Photo #06-303.

Basic health care that many Americans might take for granted is still years from arriving in Angola, a third-world country ravaged by a modern-day civil war.

A team of three women from Brazil traveled to Angola last November to change that and begin providing health education to some of that country's citizens. The trip was part of a partnership that began in 2003 between the Florida Conference and the East Angola Conference of The United Methodist Church.

"The people at the General Board of Global Missions (GBGM) were excited to have a three-continent connection, and I think this is the first time that has ever happened," said Melba Whitaker, spouse of Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker and a member of a three-person team that traveled to Angola in 2003 on a fact-gathering and relationship-building trip that helped lay the groundwork for the Florida Conference's efforts in Angola.

The leader of the November trip to Angola was Eluzinete "Lu" Pereira Garcia, a GBGM missionary based in Brazil. Whitaker first met Garcia in 2002 when she traveled to Brazil with other clergy spouses to learn about the United Methodist missions and health care programs there. Garcia served as the group's interpreter and guide.

"When we began to get involved with Angola, their glaring need was for some type of community-based health program," Whitaker said, adding it was "a natural" to connect Garcia and people in Angola because of their common language — Portuguese is spoken in both Brazil and Angola — and Garcia's work.

Garcia's responsibilities in Brazil include coordinating and promoting Comprehensive Community-Based Primary Health Care, a primary health-care program in partnership with CIEMAL, the Council of Evangelical Methodist Churches in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Marcia Rovena de Oliveira, a doctor, and Lucia Leiga, an educator, traveled with Garcia to the capitol city of Luanda in the West Angola Conference Nov. 14-19 and Malange in the East Angola Conference Nov. 21-25.

In both locations, the women conducted workshops for Comprehensive Community Based Primary Health Care. Attendees included students, health promoters, homemakers, church leaders, educators, nurses, doctors, pastors, business people and farmers. Some traveled hundreds of miles to attend.

"Bishop Gaspar (Domingos) and wife, Lucrecia, and Bishop (José) Quipungo and wife, Laurinda, gave us a very warm welcome," Garcia wrote in her report about the trip. "The brothers and sisters who attended the workshops also received us with lots of enthusiasm."

The workshops covered such topics as how individuals can help care for themselves and their communities.

"The backbone of what they learn is how to work together," Whitaker said. "You start very much at the core of things, giving women, and sometimes men, the self-esteem that they can do something."

Examples of the types of topics the health program emphasizes include digging wells away from latrines, boiling water before drinking it, obtaining water upstream from bathing areas, protecting from dehydration and malaria, gardening, and starting small businesses.

"It's providing them with the basic information on what they can do to literally save lives," Whitaker said.

ANGOLA — Lucia Leiga, an educator, leads a workshop on ways residents can help care for themselves and their communities. Topics included digging wells away from latrines, boiling water before drinking it, obtaining water upstream from bathing areas, protecting from dehydration and malaria, gardening, and starting small businesses. Photo by Eluzinete "Lu" Pereira Garcia, Photo #06-304.

In her report about the trip Garcia said several objectives were accomplished. They emphasized the importance of holistic health, motivated churches and communities about health issues, and increased the number of communities with a holistic and self-sustaining health program. She said more work needs to be done to improve self-esteem, sexual and reproductive health, and HIV-AIDS awareness.

"We had the opportunity to get to know and feel the reality of Angola," Garcia wrote. "We now have a better idea of what the priorities for a health training program are. We are available and eager to continue this process. The seed was sowed, and we now need to fertilize it so that we all can have a beautiful harvest."

The workshops provided critical information for attendees, according to evaluations completed after the program.

"I learned so many new things about relationships, self-esteem, communication and infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS," one woman wrote. "As I return to my community, I am going to share what I learned, in a practical way, with other women of my church."

"This training has helped me to realize that I am a valuable person not only for the society, but for myself, too," another attendee wrote.

Bishop José Quipungo spoke with Whitaker via telephone after the event, telling her the turnout was excellent and the caring spirit of the people in Brazil and America meant a lot to the citizens in his country. His wife, Dr. Laurinda Quipongo, also appreciated the additional training, according to Whitaker.

Dr. Quipungo will soon be traveling to Jamkhed, India, where she will receive specific training for community-based health programs. GBGM will be covering those expenses. Garcia and her team were also trained in India, according to Icel Rodriguez, assistant director of the mission and justice ministries of the Florida Conference Connectional Ministries office. Rodriguez also serves as staff liaison for the Florida-East Angola Conference Partnership.

"We are looking forward to having Bishop Quipungo's wife go to India to get the same training that Lu Garcia had," Rodriguez said.

The Florida Conference spent $21,000 on the November trip, which covered the expense of sending the team, according to Rodriguez. Funding came from offerings gathered at the 2005 Florida Annual Conference Event. GBGM contributed funds for workshop expenses and transporting attendees in the West Angola Conference.

"I am hoping that we have whetted their appetite in Angola for this and that the program will continue to grow. It will need a lot of nurture and care," Whitaker said.


This article relates to East Angola-Florida Conference Partnership.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a freelance writer based in Viera, Fla.