It was last Friday, August 26, and her face beamed with pride as she
stood between Schweitzer Fellow Ricardo Sedan and Kennedy Center
Executive Director Kate McDonough to accept her graduation certificate.
âI learned,â she said in Spanish, âto rinse canned beans with water before using them, to remove the extra salt.â
Her classmatesânine other low-income, Spanish-speaking women living
in Charlestown, MAâclapped and cheered as she accepted a certificate
stating that she had completed Proyecto Â¡Salud! and committed herself to living a healthy life.
It was a far cry from the first Salud! sessionâwhen, Sedan says, âI was nervous that nobody would show up!â
When he first began to conceptualize and implement Proyecto Â¡Salud!âa 10-week, bilingual, interactive health education program held at the Kennedy Center in conjunction with the MGH Charlestown HealthCare Centerâ bilingual MGH Institute of Health Professions School of Nursing
student drew on his time spent as a medical interpreter at the
HealthCare Center. He knew that Spanish-speaking residents of
Charlestownâs housing projects faced numerous barriers to good
healthâincluding lack of access to affordable, fresh food and limited
Spanish-language nutrition, cooking, and exercise resources.
So as one of this yearâs 25 Boston Schweitzer Fellows,
Sedan designed a bilingual program focused on making health education
highly accessibleâand highly interactive. On Mondays and Thursdays, he
held a class at the Kennedy Center that included a healthy cooking
lesson; a health education lesson or guest speaker on topics including
blood pressure, stress management, and domestic violence; and at least a
half-hour of physical activity.
âI tried to teach them ways of exercising that they could do easily
on their own,â Sedan says. âOne guest came to teach tai chi and chair
yoga, and my classmate Norma gave merengue lessons.â Additionally, on
Tuesdays, Sedan led a walking club and field tripsâto farmersâ markets,
to the grocery store, to a health fair, and to the local YMCA (where gym
membership is affordable and subsidized).
All along the way, he worked to earn the womenâs trustâconstantly
taking their feedback into account, and calling each of them before
every class to remind them about the dayâs programming.
His efforts paid off. âWord of mouth is spreading,â he says. âJust in
the last couple of classes, weâve had three new recruitsâand there are
at least five who want to join in when we start up the program again in
As the women laugh, dance, and share in a celebratory lunch that theyâve prepared, Sedan smiles.
âItâs become clear that in addition to the lessons on mindful
shopping, and healthy cooking, and other health issues, the women have
really valued the chance to connect with each other as friends and as a
community,â he says. â If one of them wasnât here for a class, another
one would get on the phone and call and say, âWhy arenât you here? Get
Learn more about the Boston Schweitzer Fellows Program (which
trains and supports graduate students like Sedan in partnering with
community agencies to create and carry out service projects that address
unmet health needs) by visiting www.schweitzerfellowship.org/boston.