Family life and child care in general demand the full-time attention of many of the mothers in our community. Often, the time we need for personal care and recreation are relegated to the end of our to-do lists.
Enlace Chicago’s community health team, conscious of family dynamics and the important role a mother plays in family life, decided to put into action a plan for community mothers to create a time during the day to share in a group walk through the neighborhood.
Ilda Hernandez, Community Health Worker for Enlace Chicago, explains that the idea of walking groups grew out of existing resources in the community. “We had mothers, Promotoras de Salud, in the schools. Many mothers do not exercise for reasons of time, money, or lack of company. There are many benefits associated with walking, such as [lowering] blood pressure, higher motivation, getting to know the neighbors, etc. The health promoters, through their work in the schools and in the library, organized groups and times to go walking through La Villita,” Ilda explained to us.
Adriana Martinez is one of the Little Village Promotoras de Vida Saludable that works at Eli Whitney Elementary School and the Toman Branch of the Chicago Public Library. “It fills me with satisfaction to be able to help the people with resources and information that exist for the people of this community. And through these resources, they are helped to cover some of their needs.” Adriana started formally as a Promotora de Salud just over a year ago, and during the course of the year, she has not only provided information, but also facilitated support groups within the community.
“When the Health Team came to us with the idea to start the walking groups, I began to meet with participants of the support group one-on-one, to invite them to the walking group and let them know about some of the benefits,” says Adriana. “We were meeting consistently at least one day a week, after we dropped off our children at school. Around 9-9:30 am we would walk over to Piotrowski Park. In general, we were walking between a mile or a mile and a half. If the weather allowed, sometimes we walked more than one day a week.”
Margarita Marquez is another of Promotora de Vida Saludable who provides information and resources at Good Shepherd Parish and at the Little Village Branch of the Chicago Public Library. Margarita tells us that her walking group was getting together one day a week at around 5:30 pm. “We were doing it in the afternoon, so that the children would have time to go home, do their homework, and then come along with their mothers.”
Margarita’s group left from 32nd street and Harding, walking toward Joseph E. Gary School, at 31st and Lawndale. “When we arrived at the school, the kids could play, and we, the mothers, would do our walk around the park.” The benefits associated with the walking group were immediately apparent. The possibility of doing exercise and conversing at the same time about the topics of everyday life, helped the participants to relieve stress. For some of the participants, the group meant something more concrete, even allowing them to take fewer medications.
The response to the walking groups was positive among the participants. Many of them hope to take up the activities again in September, and to continue as long as the weather in Chicago permits.