Engineers AND Health Promoters in Action

Posted on: September 3, 2020

Aleine Heredia Pena, Health Promoter for FIEA Bolivia

Not all of the Engineers in Action team members are engineers. One of the most important non-engineering roles in EIA is that of Health Promoter, a professional on our team who provides information and training about health and sanitation issues to schools, families and communities.

Aleine Heredia Pena, the FIEA Health Educator in Bolivia brings more than 15 years of experience to her work. She finds great satisfaction in getting to know the variety of landscapes, cultures and traditions of her country and the many friendships she’s developed in her travels.

The Health Promoter combines their knowledge of the ways in which people can improve and manage their health with the skills of an educator, coach, trainer and mentor. And on top of all that, Aleine adds, “the most important thing is to be empathetic. Put yourself in the shoes of others to understand them better.”

As they encourage others to learn, Health Promoters often find themselves learning, too. For Aleine this has included learning indigenous languages and dialects and navigating the cultures and customs that are unique to each region and community. Promoters must be flexible, too and ready to respond to unexpected issues that arise during projects. “An interesting experience was working with leaders who were appointed by rural communities very distant from urban centers. In carrying out my monitoring work, I noticed that the participants were not completing reports, so to help them with this part of the project, I had to provide instruction to increase their reading and writing skills.”

In her time with FEIA, Aleine has supported UMCOR projects by providing training in WASH and water treatment issues in homes and schools and supporting project planning through information gathering and assessment with communities and community groups. Her favorite moments on the job have been sharing with EIA volunteers and students who come to Bolivia to carry out implementations of water and sanitation projects and, the personal satisfaction of observing the changes in attitudes and habits in the students, families and communities she has worked with.

Aliene lives in Oruro, the folkloric city of Bolivia where the typical dish is Charquecan, which is made of dehydrated llama meat!  To relax and energize for each new day Aliene likes “to listen to instrumental music especially on saxophone, watch the sun rise, and Zumba.”  Aliene and her Agronomist husband Remberto have two daughters,  Claudia, a Business Administrator and Mariela, who is studying Chemical Engineering. Their family also includes Shado, the dog and Tato, the soft and silent kitten. When asked what is required to be a great Health Promoter, Aliene offers this advice: “Guide and convince, never impose. Have leadership concepts. Provide all participants with the same opportunity to intervene, motivating everyone to do so.”