Advent International for PIH: Reach the Beach

by Partners In Health (PIH)
Advent International for PIH: Reach the Beach
Advent International for PIH: Reach the Beach
Advent International for PIH: Reach the Beach
Advent International for PIH: Reach the Beach
Photo by Cecille Joan Avila / Partners In Health
Photo by Cecille Joan Avila / Partners In Health

Above: A native Tzeltal speaker, Petrona (left), 68, tells CES community health worker Maribel about side effects from her hypertension.


Thank you so much for donating to Partners In Health and our Reach the Beach fundraiser to benefit our work in Chiapas, Mexico. Your generous support of the runners who participated in September’s Reach the Beach relay in New Hampshire not only provided health care to people in need, but also the motivation to endure the intense, 200-mile-long challenge!

Partners In Health and its sister organization, Companeros en Salud (PIH/CES), work directly with local doctors, nurses and community members to improve health outcomes in one of Mexico’s most marginalized, isolated communities. Here in Chiapas, half the population lives under the poverty line; infectious and non-communicable diseases alike are highly prevalent; public clinics are hard-to-reach and ill-equipped; and a cycle of poverty and disease affects everyone.

Your generous contributions make it possible for CES to provide high-quality medical services to the people of Chiapas who otherwise have no reliable source of care. Donations to our Reach the Beach fundraiser helped fund the work of CES community health workers (CHW) like Maribel, Chiapas’ only trilingual health worker. Perez conducts home visits and translates between doctors and patients, removing language barriers that made clinics inaccessible to many Chiapas residents. Below is an interview with Maribel, and a link to her full story.


Did your Tzeltal-speaking patients come to the clinic before you started as a CHW?

Once I was talking with a patient and I asked her how she got her medication before I started visiting her. She said she wanted to go to the clinic, but she wouldn’t be able to understand the doctor, and he wouldn’t be able to understand her. And her husband works, so he couldn’t go with her. So she just didn’t go.

That’s where I feel like I’m helping a lot, or at least I have helped her. She hasn’t missed a treatment or gone without pills. She’s been really well.

What are the major health concerns in Plan de la Libertad?

The most common illnesses are stomach pains, fever, coughs, and flus—especially for children during the rainy season. There’s a lot of chronic disease. For example, here in the community there’s diabetes, asthma, hypertension, and depression. Then there are other illnesses I didn’t know about before I became a CHW, such as schizophrenia and epilepsy.

Do people practice traditional medicine here?

Yes, that’s what they tell me. But the truth is that I don’t know if it has any effect. For high blood pressure, for example, they drink tea made from the boiled leaves of a lime tree. There’s no proof that it works. For the flu, some people drink tea made from bougainvillea leaves and chamomile, boiled together with cinnamon. That’s what we prepare sometimes too. Tea with honey is good when you feel really congested.

Are there any traditional medicines that you discourage?

Sometimes people come from outside the community offering natural remedies saying, “This is really good. This will cure you!” A little while ago, a woman who said she was a naturalist was offering some remedy for diabetes and hypertension, and many said that it was good, that the results were worth it, so they stopped taking their medication. But a little while later, no one was cured. Now they are on the clinic’s medication again.

Has your job helped you in any way?

It makes me happy, because through this job I’ve met people I never thought I’d meet. And it’s helped me a lot because I feel fulfilled. Before I went from my kitchen, to my house, to the school and nowhere else. But with this job, I go to visit my patients. I get some exercise. I get out of my home. I forget about my own housework for a little while. When I’m out for a walk, I meet people along the road and I laugh with them.

What do you enjoy most about being a CHW?

I enjoy helping people who don’t speak Spanish.

Have you applied any lessons to your own health?

Several times we’ve had the chance to take psychoeducation courses with CES doctors. I’d experienced many things since the time I was a child up until just a little while ago. All of the advice and training Companeros En Salud doctors gave me, it’s helped me a lot.

Do you think the CHW program benefits communities?

This program should expand to other communities, because there are places where people don’t have family or anyone, but they need medication. Because they don’t have a CHW or aren’t aware of their health, they don’t get treatment. That’s what I would say, that there should be more of this, that the program should continue growing.


Thank you again for your support!


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Team 8 celebrating their finish
Team 8 celebrating their finish

On September 18th and 19th, over 150 runners and drivers from Advent International, Partners In Health, O2X, Lululemon, Goldman Sachs, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and Weil Gotshal took part in the 200 mile Reach the Beach Relay race from Bretton Woods, NH to Hampton Beach, NH, all in support of PIH’s work in Chiapas, Mexico.   There was beautiful scenery, abundant sunshine and loads of enthusiasm along the way, which helped to make the event a huge success. 

Thank you so much for supporting all of us in this effort, helping PIH to continue advancing our work to improve health care in one of the extremely vulnerable communities where we work: Chiapas, Mexico.

One of the greatest health concerns in the rural, mountainous area of Chiapas is malnutrition.  Protein-rich and fatty foods such as meat and dairy products are hard to come by and expensive, partly because refrigeration is scarce to non-existent. Additionally, small neighborhood shops are more prone to stock items with long shelf lives, such as prepackaged cookies and soda. Cultural practices do not always align with good nutrition either. When children are weaned, they are often given caldo de frijol, or bean broth, which has the flavor of beans, but none of their nutritional benefits.  Children’s health in Chiapas reflects this nutritional deficit-- Mexico’s 2012 National Health Survey found that 44 percent of children in the region suffer from chronic malnutrition—six times the national average. It’s a grave concern for Companeros En Salud’s (PIH’s sister organization in Mexico) doctors, nurses, and community health workers. They know, and see firsthand, that chronically malnourished children are at an immediate disadvantage.  Not only is their growth stunted, but their brains fail to develop at a proper pace, making it more difficult for them to learn and concentrate. They’re also more likely to get sick than well-nourished children.

Previous programs to address malnutrition focused on educational workshops to provide proper nutrition information to families with malnourished children, but it quickly became apparent that education alone was not working.   To address the ongoing problem, CES formed a partnership with Heiffer International to improve access to nutritious food, reverse childhood malnutrition and spark the local economy.  The plan is to provide 14 hens and one rooster to each family with a chronically malnourished child under 5.   In the short term, chickens will provide families with a daily source of protein through the eggs they produced and, on special occasions, a meat dinner. Whatever the families don’t eat, they can sell for extra income. The long-term goal is to improve local diets and the economy by “Passing on the Gift.” Chickens shouldreproduce to the point of doubling their flocks and those extra chickens will then be passed along to family, friends, or neighbors in surrounding CES communities who could use the extra source of food or income.

Halfway into the pilot, at least 14 of the 68 children have grown enough to rise out of chronic malnourishment. There’s been a 15 percent reduction in the number of families who experience moderate-to-severe food shortages. And during especially lean months of the year, families at least have eggs to eat for protein, and they can sell a chicken or eggs to buy other essential goods. These are small victories, but with your support, CES will be able to extend the program to all 10 CES communities, to reach as many as 600 children over a three-year period.

Thank you again for your support, and enjoy the photos! 

Team 3, cheering on their runner
Team 3, cheering on their runner
Dr. Carrasco (right), CES community program coord.
Dr. Carrasco (right), CES community program coord.
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Organization Information

Partners In Health (PIH)

Location: Boston, MA - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @PIH
Project Leader:
Laura Soucy
Annual Giving Coordinator
Boston , Massachusetts United States

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