One of Naco Wellness Initiative’s key principles in all efforts is to share basic, empowering health and wellness information, not easily accessible in Naco, and to share it in Spanish. For many, doctor visits and Internet connections are unaffordable or unavailable.

This 6-week workshop is for adults living with chronic diseases such as heart disease, arthritis, depression, asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema. The focus is on developing personal strategies for self-management of these conditions.

Participants learn the causes, signs, and management of the conditions, and how diet, exercise, support, and self-care can help ease symptoms. Such information, crucial when prescription drugs may be too expensive or difficult to get, is not readily available in Naco.

“We stress God’s natural way of healthful eating and living, and how to reverse health conditions,” Rouss said. “We are what we eat, and the San Jose Organic Community Garden is a Garden of Eden. We hope to empower the Naco community to use what they have there to build a healthier life. We’re integrating healthy living principles and recipes with that bounty. Providing instructions on growing and using medicinal plants is in the lesson plan, too.”

Susan Suntag

Suntag has known NWI Founder and Director Tom Carlson since 2015. Then, the Naco diet consisted mainly of fatty meat, fatty food, snack foods, tortillas, and Coca-Cola, she said. “There were very limited vegetables available before Naco Wellness started its garden programs. Now, people have lots of vegetables to take home free. They just need to know how to prepare them in tasty ways.”

Around Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays last year the women presented a session that included lecture and nutritional presentation with recipe handouts of the cooking demonstration of rice and bean loaf, stuffed rice squash, sweet potato pie, and black bean, corn, and tomato salad for the holiday menu. Lots of samples were served.

“First, the students picked at them a little bit, then they made a beeline for them and came back for seconds and thirds,” Rouss said, chuckling. 

Suntag and Rouss have an average of 16 students in their every other Tuesday presentations at Barrio Nuevo Clinic, with more Naco women showing an interest and more lessons to come. One student recently brought a juicer to their exercise class and served refreshing juices when it finished. Since Covid, many more people are interested in wellness and healthy eating. 

“It’s their program,” Suntag said. “We match what we present to what they want to learn. The Naco women are very involved.”

“Repetition is the most important thing. This is all new information. We want to build consistency, introducing other health-related topics, as well as provide ongoing demonstration options, and eventually, we will start measuring their levels of health improvements,” Rouss said.

Come Learn with Us

Whether you want to see what we are doing so you may help your own neighbors, or you are eager to help us, visitors are always very welcome at our clinics and gardens. We share our gardening and wellness education ideas with anyone interested in doing similar things elsewhere. We incorporate everyone’s gifts and ideas in our work and welcome all helping hands.