Written 1996

associacion vivir

Mujer a Mujer:

The Unique Health Services of Associacion Vivir

Located in the town of Tumbaco, approximately thirty minutes from downtown Quito, Associacion Vivir has been empowering Ecuadorians from surrounding barrios through a health program that combines natural medicine and homeopathy with modern techniques. Established in 1987 under the singular efforts of Doctor Mariana Galarza, this alternative health center has been addressing the medical needs of Ecuador's poorest citizens.

Association Vivir not only treats with the immediate illnesses that are confronting its patients, but it also provides them with long term solutions to ongoing nutrition problems. One example that Doctor Galarza uses to explain her work is that when a woman brings her child in with diarrhea, she not only shows the patient what plants can be used as anti-diarrheal medicine, but she also asks the mother what she has been feeding the child, and tells her how she may change the diet to prevent further cases. This natural methodology is not only more accessible to patients, but it also costs much less, allowing Association Vivir to charge as little as 5,000 to 10,000 sucres for diagnosis and treatment (around 2-4 US dollars).

Some of the medicinal foods the association recommends are Quinoa, a high protein grain, Amaranto, a reddish plant used to make a nourishing tea (Kids love it because of it's bright color), and soy (the center has the only soy milk factory in Ecuador).

Ongoing education does not only occur in the Associacion Vivir health center, however. Doctor Mariana Galarza and her staff also travel to different communities and offer classes on everything from the usefulness of nutritional plant life to the application of natural beauty aids (a brilliant lure for tentative mothers). The seminars outline a health formula titled with an appropriate anagram-- MAMA.


Medidas Generales (general health outlook)


Alimentacion (diet/nutritional food intake)


Medicacion (natural and pharmaceutical medicine)


Afecto (the emotional application of affection and love)

As Doctor Galarza phrases it, "MAMA is a program of awakening the people." The classes give mothers the tools to practice a healthier lifestyle for the entire family. At the end of each seminar, the students enact small skits called "Socio-dramas" that apply the knowledge they have just learned. These short role-plays combine fun and practicality in the classroom, but most of all, they reinforce the knowledge that will help Ecuadorian families lead healthier lives.

Doctor Mariana Galarza has taken the hierarchy out of modern medicine. By combining natural and accessible traditional medicine with pharmaceutical science, she avoids alienating her people with the confusing terminology of modern science. As the doctor told us through a grin, she speaks "Mujer a mujer" (woman to woman) with her patients.

Esquel's role in supporting Association Vivir is two-fold. The foundation has provided the health center with grants to build newer facilities and offer more classes to a larger population. Their financial assistance also enables the center to lower the already inexpensive fees of natural medicine. More recently, Proceso, a program within Esquel that forms partnerships with developing businesses, has joined forces with the health center's soy milk factory. Proceso will provide the factory with technical assistance and enough capital to get started, and when the factory is self sufficient, it will be able buy out Proceso's share. Then Proceso will recycle this income by partnering with another project and continuing its influential role.

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Written 1996