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Putting Experience to Work

Latino Health Access

Community Health Workers (also called promotores) are experts from the community. They speak the same language and share many of the same problems as the people they are reaching out to. Norma, a Community Health Worker from Santa Ana, California, describes how she reaches out to survivors of domestic abuse:

We go to the streets every day to find women like us. Women who are suffering violence in secret like I was. We offer tortillas. When women come to get free tortillas, we tell them, “Tortillas are part of our culture but violence is not.” … My objective is for any woman in need to know that she does not have to take the violence, and that I will be there for her when she is ready.

Tere, another Community Health Worker, is a mother from the community, just like the people she is trying to reach. She says:

I give information with my own words, my vocabulary, and they feel that I am really talking to them. Some people have a lot of education, but not many. There are people who cannot fill out a form. I know what it’s like because sometimes I have trouble filling out forms. I normally say, “I’ll help you if you like.” I do not ask if they can read or write. … I know I have many things in common with the people I am reaching out to. When they feel confident, they start to open their hearts, their trust, and their doors to us. It is what happened to me when I told my group about the loss of my baby. I saw their sad faces. A mom approached me and thanked me because it had happened to her. And another mom told me, “I thank you because I lost my baby at four months, and I could not talk about it.” I said, “That happened to me when I lost my baby. I could not talk about it. I felt that it blocked me.” When someone listens to you without judging, you feel  like you are part of a family that you do not know. They open their hearts and they don’t judge you. Then you can confide in each other. But if you feel judged, you immediately block yourself. We promotoras, we know about loss and pain, so people feel like they can approach us.

Latino Health Access

Latino Health Access in Santa Ana, California, employs Community Health Workers to deliver much-needed health services to people in the community.

Photo (used with permission) from: www.latinohealthaccess.org
Source: Excerpted from Recruiting the Heart, Training the Brain: The Work of Latino Health Access (LHA) by America Bracho, et al., Hesperian Health Guides, Berkeley, CA, 2016 <www.hesperian.org>. Thanks to LHA and Hesperian for permission to excerpt.

Back to Issue 45