Youth health promoters at a recent training workshop in Carabayllo, Peru


Youth health promoter tutoring a younger student

By Elaine Weisman

The group of promotores juveniles (youth health promoters) is composed of local adolescents between the ages of 13 and 20 who receive special training from SES’s Child Health team to mentor young children. The teens, many of whom participated in SES programs in primary school, help supervise SES-crafted education programs in participating public schools as well as in after school activities and homework help at the Lois and Thomas White Community Center.

In addition to their time with the children, the youth promoters attend meetings to debrief the week, help organize community fund-raising activities, and bring up other issues of concern within the community or among peers. As teenagers in situations of poverty are often faced with the responsibilities of adulthood at an early age—feeding and supporting their families, taking care of younger family members, etc.—they are also exposed to adult pressures of drug and alcohol use, sexual exploration, and gang membership.  By arming youth promoters with the information and support networks they need to confront these kinds of situations, SES hopes to foster a sense of social responsibility that will sculpt their role in the community.

Once a month SES staff also runs workshops designed to build trust and communication skills between youth health promoters and their parents. As support and relations are a major indicator of the overall health of the family, especially for communities battling poverty and disease, these workshops were designed to help create a dialogue between parents and children, and to give participants the skills to resolve problems verbally instead of physically. Lighthearted skits, often caricatures of home life, consistently lead to both boisterous laughter and heated debates.

Keeping the lines of communication open between teens and their families, peers and community builds confidence and self esteem among youth health promoters in Carabayllo and leads to higher academic achievement as well as a strong sense of collectivity. Though materially they have very little, the promotores juveniles are prepared to offer plenty.

[posted September 2008]