As I celebrate 25 years as a missioner, I celebrate with a grateful heart the development of this wonderful project that brings health to people of all classes, race, nationality, sex and age.
I co-created the second organization (NGO) know as Afya, a Women’s Holistic Healing Center that begun working with poor women in the poor communities in the periphery of a North Eastern City of Brazil known as Joao Pessoa. At Afya I taught the women how to use the healing methods that are within their own capacity to heal their physical, emotional and spiritual being. Some of these methods are; herbal medicines grown in their own back yards, therapeutic massage, reflexology, reiki, the use of mud therapy, somatic experiencing for trauma healing, family constellation, and balanced/natural diets.
Afya begun in the year 2000 and it has developed in a very interesting manner.
It started serving only poor women from the neighborhood, however, as time went on those who were healed at Afya they told their stories to others that had the same needs, and more people came from other parts of the city, regions/state, other parts of Brazil and even other parts of the world. Also we started receiving other people from the working classes who needed Holistic healing and the women from the community who were first healed are the ones attending those who continue coming.
Afya Women Healing center became a Healing Center for all!
Many women from the neighborhood who came for healing were able to change their situations of pain and suffering for themselves and for their family. Then their husbands, who probably were their source of brokenness, saw that their wives were doing well and asked them if they could take them to this place which gave them life again. A number of women came and ask asked us if they could bring their husbands to Afya for healing. Since these women have experienced healing they also wanted to see everyone else in their family healed as well. Some of them had their grown up sons involved with drugs and wished to bring them to Afya for healing. We had to talk about this serious issue in order to make a decision of opening up Afya for all. It came to my mind that; “A half of the world population in the world is Women, and the other half is the product/offspring of the women”. With this phrase we decided to change the statues of Afya from only attending women to “Transformed Women attending the community/Society/planet earth with Holistic healing means.
Afya begun with a team of 5 women and now, 15 years later we have 20 women attending as team members. For the first 6 years, Afya relied on grants from different organizations including Maryknoll Sister’s Project Funding. Eventually, in the last 7 to 9 years, Afya has been in the process of creating a cooperative which helps women to be self sustained. Now we have the cooperative COOPAFA within Afya as an NGO. Through COOPAFYA, women divide up among themselves the earnings of every month as they attend the community.
The word Afya means Health in my native Swahili language spoken in Tanzania. So, I am very happy to have found Afya in Brazilian people with the roots in my own country.