Barbara Grannell, Executive Director of A Promise of Health
Poor places in the world desperately need healthcare. Homeopathy can easily and correctly fill that need without an immense financial investment. It was this fundamental realization 16 years ago that propelled Barbara and Bill Grannell into action. Together they co-founded A Promise of Health in 2001. This is a unique story about homeopathy in action, taking place in the indigenous rural communities of southern Mexico. After years of proven success, it can serve as a model for other locations worldwide. It takes place every day in a small Zapotec village called Ayoquezco de Aldama. Located in rural Oaxaca, Mexico, Ayoquezco de Aldama is the hub for 14 smaller, surrounding villages. All are located about a 1½ hour drive south of the capital, Oaxaca City, yet these villages are a world apart from the big city and its tourism.
Barbara Grannell Bill Grannell
For years, people who lived in this region grew tobacco. But after the local factory closed down and the agrochemicals used to grow tobacco had ruined the land for other crops, most of the male population was forced to look for work outside the community. As a result, around 65% of the population of Ayoquezco migrated to northern Mexico and the U.S. They left behind women, their children, families too timid to leave and those that called Ayoquezco home and didn’t want to leave despite economic hardships.
This is a story about a dedicated woman doctor (herself a Mixteca Indian) treating her patients with homeopathy under a healthcare program developed by A Promise of Health, a small U.S. charity that has been providing homeopathic healthcare in Mexico’s rural indigenous communities for 15 years. It is an organization that has heard all of the tired old promises of Mexico’s politicos and seen first-hand the absence of meaningful healthcare in the rural villages. For years, Mexico’s government has talked and talked about bringing healthcare to rural, out-of-the –way places. But the bare reality is that these under-served indigenous people, who possess no political power, have little to no help of any kind.
Indigenous people all across Mexico have historically been the have-nots. Conditions today are no different. In Oaxaca, indigenous people live in the poorest regions. In the 1930’s and 1940’s, the Mexican Federal Government promised a doctor and healthcare for every village. It then constructed Casas de Salud, Houses of Health, all across the country. Their plan was to fill them with doctors. It never happened. Today, many of these buildings stand empty, run down, still waiting for the promise.
The states of Oaxaca, Chiapas, Yucatan and Guerrero are among the least developed in the country. These states coincidently hold the highest numbers of indigenous population. These communities suffer particularly from poverty causing them to be marginalized from society. Studies have shown that ethnicity is an important cause for inequality in income distribution, access to basic health care services and education. In turn, this explains the significant difference in earnings between indigenous and non-indigenous people. According to the World Bank, about three-quarters of indigenous peoples in Oaxaca are poor and the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous groups is growing.
Money sent home by migrants has become stagnant as a result of a poor U.S. economy. Subsequently, in Oaxaca today, 75 percent of the indigenous population lives in poverty and 39 percent of these live in conditions of extreme poverty. Communities like Ayoquezco de Aldama are not likely to see any economic improvement soon.
Given the conditions of poverty and the lack of any real and affordable healthcare, what is to be done?
The Mexican government’s pronouncements of a new and better healthcare system is a hollow promise that never reaches these rural indigenous areas. Charities offering an allopathic solution cannot afford the costs nor supply the medications required of such a program. Individual private physicians steer clear of these small communities knowing full well they have more opportunities for greater income in Mexico’s large urban areas.
The fact is, if the goal is to provide safe, low cost yet effective healthcare that can be made available to this group of consumers, HOMEOPATHY is the only health science that makes sense.
Is such a program acceptable to the rural indigenous communities? The answer is a resounding YES. Mexico has a rich history of homeopathy (more than 100 years) and has played a pioneering role in the successful rise of homeopathy worldwide. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s homeopathy flourished throughout Mexico. Schools of Homeopathic Medicine and Homeopathic hospitals thrived, some of them in existence today. Laboratories producing homeopathic medicine were established and some continue today including world famous Laboratorios de Propulsora, the manufacturer of Similia Homeopathic medicine. Early homeopathic pioneers recognized the benefit of homeopathy for everyone, especially the poor and marginalized. Homeopathic clinics popped up at that time in rural Yucatan, Chiapas, and Oaxaca. Though the clinics have long disappeared, the people who benefited from homeopathic medicine did not forget.
There can only be one rational conclusion. Rural Oaxaca and all of southern Mexico needs the basic foundation of Homeopathy for safe, effective, low cost everyday health care. Conditions demand it and Mexico’s history supports it!
That is how and why it all started…
A Promise of Health launched its first homeopathic program in Mexico in July, 2001, in the small village of Huhi, a rural Maya pueblo in southwestern Yucatan. With the help of a highly skilled, generous homeopathic doctor from Merida (the capital city) and 2 boxes of various homeopathic remedies, our organization opened a Saturday clinic. The doctor, who was contemplating retirement and only worked part time, had always wanted to help the indigenous Maya, but he didn’t speak the native language or have a clue how to do it. Thankfully, the professional backgrounds of Barbara and Bill as veteran “on the ground” organizers with political savvy, were just what the doctor ordered!
A Promise of Health’s first day was a harbinger of what was to come! Early that first morning after 2 weeks of village sound trucks, flyers and many knocks on doors, a long line of people stretched out of the makeshift clinic into the street and each Saturday thereafter the clinic was crowded with patients. Because of the rush, it was only a short time before the program added a day. At the end of the second year A Promise of Health served 5 villages and drew patients from many more.
A Promise of Health is a small but resilient US based charity. It has been 16 years since the couple first believed it was possible to bring homeopathic healthcare to Mexico’s rural indigenous villages in a safe, effective and affordable manner. Little did they know in 2001 (the launch date) that their projects were destined to touch tens of thousands of lives for the better and today continue to offer that promise.
The promise simply stated is this, “In many parts of the world, simple good health, with Homeopathy as a foundation, can be a commodity in which everyone can share.”
It wasn’t long before A Promise of Health had added 5 more homeopathic doctors and was serving 25 Maya communities in rural Yucatan. Over the next 7 years, the organization’s doctors treated more than 65,000 patients and dispensed over 100,000 high quality homeopathic medicines made in Mexico! During this time the doctors lived in the rural communities they served, traveling each day to outlying villages in a model created by A Promise of Health. In Yucatan, Promise of Health doctors treated anything that came along, which ended up being approximately 92 categories for chronic and acute illnesses, both physical and mental.
A Promise of Health Clinic in Ayoquezco, Oaxaca, Mexico
As it turned out, in this first of its kind, highly successful homeopathic program in rural Mexico, indigenous people showed a natural understanding and acceptance for Homeopathy. For the most part, they trusted the process. An added advantage beyond its effectiveness to cure was that homeopathic medicine was affordable to purchase and unlike allopathic medicine, had no side effects. A Promise of Health’s tried and true model became a near perfect fit for the enormous problem and challenge of desperately needed every day healthcare, a problem that has been systemic in rural indigenous Mexico for generations.
By December, 2008, A Promise of Health thought its work was possibly done. It had been intensive, hard, mental and physical work. It necessitated Barbara and Bill practically living full time in Merida for 7 years with constant travel to villages to insure program viability. They also traveled to Mexico City to procure homeopathic medicine and interview doctors from its medical schools. During that time, the Grannells lived in Merida in a small 100 year old rock house that they had purchased and rebuilt. It was originally intended as a winter retreat/art studio for Bill. But, from the beginning, it became the volunteer headquarters for A Promise of Health. The couple was blessed and challenged far beyond anything they ever imagined. After 7 years of constant focused attention, it was time for someone else or a local organization, to take responsibility and move the idea forward. What became of that dream is another story altogether. As it turned out, there was little time for rest and lengthy reflection. The time had not yet come for A Promise of Health to stop working. After hearing of our pioneering work in Yucatan, a loud cry for help was coming from one of Mexico’s poorest states, Oaxaca.