Community Health Agent in Suruacá

By Leslie Stroud-Romero

Djalma Lima Suruacá Health AgentOn a trip to Suruacá in the Brazilian Amazon, Bob Bortner sat down with Djalma Lima, one of the key members of that small community. Djalma truly understands and supports CEN's mission, and his response to the information CEN has brought to Suruacá exemplifies the culture of learning we are encouraging. As mentioned in the article Information is Power in Suruacá, Djalma came away from one of the meetings CEN held saying, "We don't really need you, do we?" This can-do attitude permeates his role in the community.

"We need connections with the world. People have to think; they have to do."

The following are some of Djalma's thoughts on how Suruacá is changing thanks to CEN's programs and the hard work of the local communities.

One of the biggest changes since the project started has been "an evolution of the communication in the community," Djalma told Bob. It has facilitated communication with Maguary (another community CEN has worked with in the Amazon River basin), the United States, São Paulo, and more. "When the telecenter was first installed, people had big ideas," he said. Now some of these big ideas have been materialized into authentic successes.

Education is a Tool!

One of the obstacles in the community is the lack of training for young people to develop more technical skills and prepare for higher-level work. The computers in Suruacá, which are now staffed with a team of monitors, have been essential to helping youth gain this technical training and getting them comfortable with the types of equipment and skills needed outside of their small community. According to Djalma, the existence of the telecenter has increased the "curiosity of the children for the computer" and has consequentially encouraged them to read.

Health Care Prevention
Suruaca Bia with old manThe computers are not just being utilized by the youth for education and technical training. The computer centers, said Djalma, "bring good things in relation to health care." One example is CRIS, a community health organization. People in Suruacá are now able to go to the telecenter and prepare documents and proposals from the community to send to the Ministry of Health. Leaders in the community are using health information from the Internet to teach others, said Djalma.

"It helps people research illnesses and other information for community workshops and education. Last year we did a workshop for the school and we used the telecenter to research the topic. ... This year we plan on doing more community workshops on other topics."

This initiative not only reduces reliance on others but proves to the community that they have the skills needed to solve their own problems and educate themselves.

Moving Forward

The community "has many types of dream(s)," said Djalma. These dreams are closer to being achieved because of the skills they have learned, but they still have a long way to go. "We have many youth with various talents. They are woodworkers; … there are youth that enjoy working with music, with violin(s), guitar(s). … We have a women's group that works with handicrafts and also works with juice, sweets, fruit pulps, and jams." Djalma is afraid that the community is losing these talents right now because it does not know how to put them to use. The skills to access and effectively use the available information are essential to advancing the work of motivated people like Djalma and others in his community. CEN wants to continue to provide the connection with the wider world and ensure that use of information is maximized to improve the economic stability and well-being of communities like Suruacá.