by M. Fernandes
When María Teresa first heard about Nuestra Casa’s Promotora program, she felt called to the work. She learned about the program from Argelia, a former Promotora and great leader already very active in the community. Promotoras are trusted messengers in our community who ensure community members understand the facts about resources and programs. They also make sure community members are connected to organizations that can help.
María Teresa also explained that she was compelled to do this work because “when the government changes their policies, people begin to talk. They talk to their neighbors, friends and relatives…They sometimes get frightened by what they hear.” So she stresses the importance of getting the facts that Nuestra Casa gathers from local government agencies to explain how her community will be affected. She doesn’t want anyone to be afraid. This feeling of satisfaction she gets is from disseminating the correct information and connecting people to the right resources to dispel their fears and get them the help they need.
Another critical issue that María Teresa points out is the burden that bilingual children have to bear. They need to read or listen to the news to translate for their parents, which perhaps makes them grow up much faster than necessary. The outreach that the Promotoras do can truly alleviate this situation. Over the past year, Nuestra Casa has been deploying our army of Promotoras on various campaigns from the Census 2020 to voting rights, immigration rights, housing rights, environmental justice, food distribution to covid-19 restrictions, testing, and vaccination. The list is ever-growing!
The job of Promotora is not an easy one. María Teresa explains, “You never know what’s around the corner.” She mentions the things that made her job difficult—like when the pandemic hit, wearing PPE in the hot summer sun was quite uncomfortable. There are also dogs and possibly people who are not so welcoming. Nuestra Casa provides all our staff and volunteers who do outreach with all the training, safety protocols, and gear we need to stay safe.
In the end, the work has been rewarding for María Teresa and the rest of our dedicated Promotoras. With their help, San Mateo County superseded its Census 2010 numbers. Naturally, it was a big fear in the community to be counted, which made sense after what happened with DACA. When the program was launched, recipients were assured that their information would not be used against them until the former administration tried to dismantle the program, putting Dreamers at risk. Without the important work that they do, we wouldn’t reach all those who need help with accurate information. This outreach is particularly essential when our community members might be in crisis mode and don’t know that there are resources out there to assist them.
A .pdf version of this article is available here.
Interview originally conducted in Spanish. All information and quotes have been roughly translated/paraphrased.