Cecilia Cuaresma, Facilitator 

Cecilia Cuaresma (first from the right) with brigadistas from her community.

I have been a community health brigadista since I was 15 years old… After participating to help with health problems in my neighbourhood and seeing the data about how many children become ill from dengue fever I decided to become involved in the pilot project as a SEPA brigadista [during the Managua pilot study, between 2004 and 2007]. During this time I acquired much knowledge, and grew in love for my neighbours and desire to serve the community. I learned about the Aedes life cycle, as well as how to conduct a household dialogue visit, socialise evidence, take action for its control in my own home and help the households I visited do it as well.

As a facilitator, I consider that the most important change has been that I am more humanitarian, due to my direct contact with brigade leaders and community members, since in SEPA we talk not only about dengue, but also about our own problems. This makes one more sensitive, since when a brigadista has a problem I feel that it is also my own. In some cases, I have had to offer words of encouragement, comfort and optimism, and felt happy about lending them a friendly and helping hand. I have learned that if we don’t live to serve our lives are not of much use.

Another of the most important changes is our perseverance, since things don’t always turn out as one imagined or hoped they would (for example, carrying out visits every Friday). Sometimes the brigadistas have had other activities and the visits don’t take place on the expected day; now I understand the importance of perseverance, and that we shouldn’t lose heart when things don’t turn out well; we have to keep going.

I have also learned that things don’t depend only on me, but that we are a team of brigadistas, leaders and community members. In this process I have realised that SEPA is a collective responsibility and that to achieve a green path we have to carry on until the end. What matters isn’t how many times we fall, but getting up to see the fruits of our work and realising that the effort is worthwhile.

In our neighbourhood, the most important change brought on by the project is the participation of children, and not just their participation but also the trust that the neighbourhood and its leadership have put in them, since they have shown they have the knowledge and capacity to prevent dengue in their community.

I consider that one of the achievements of the neighbourhood is the fact that, through the household visits, we have put into practice the knowledge shared by the brigadistas, and it is satisfying to know that residents now talk about dengue in their community… Another element is that the community members have accepted the project in their neighbourhood with open doors, since they see a benefit for their neighbourhood and a better alternative in the fight against dengue.