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Promotores Conference Inspires Best Start Members

When Natalya Seals recently went to the Visión y Compromiso 14th annual Conference of Promotores, Leaders and Community Workers in Ontario for the first time, she did something she doesn’t usually do. She cried.

The Best Start Metro Los Angeles member and single mom was one of about 45 members from several of Los Angeles County’s 14 Best Start communities sponsored to go to the conference Oct. 27 through Oct. 29.

Workshops over three days taught community leaders about being and working with promotoras, who promote health and wellness in their own communities. Seals, who has a 9-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old autistic son, felt inspired and emotional by the last day of the conference. Her favorite workshop was about healing from trauma – presenting ways for parents to relax, stay positive and stay focused when stressed.

“At the last lunch at the conference there was a skit where they were showing how you have stereotypes within the community of different ethnic groups. They were talking about how things can make us hard,” Seals said. “We sung ‘We Are the World’ to show that we are all the same, and that was personal. I don’t show my emotions a lot. I was trying to fight it back, but it came out. It can be good to cry. Once it comes out, it feels better.”

That sense of connecting with others is what Visión y Compromiso (http://visionycompromiso.org/) is all about. It’s the only organization in California that provides leadership development, support, advocacy training and capacity building to more than 4,000 promotores and community health workers across the state.

“We talk about a promotore being a natural leader, and serving the community naturally” - Melinda Cordero-Barzaga

The organization’s annual conference is in Spanish, with translation into English at the same time. Seals is African American and does not speak Spanish. She said the conference gave her a lot of respect for the Latino community. It influenced her to have hope and become a promotora herself.

“We talk about a promotora being a natural leader, and serving the community naturally,” said Melinda Cordero-Barzaga, associate director of Visión y Compromiso. “Issues happening around racism or classism (are) not about a specific group, but about many communities.”

“Whether I’m a woman or I’m gay or Latino or Chinese, it doesn’t matter. As different parents begin to grow and realize about their rights, their children do to,” she continued. “The topics at the conference tend to be topics we don’t hear a lot about, because they’re so taboo, like sexual, emotional, physical abuse.”

Best Start Wilmington member Eva Patricia Rosas, who has a 9-year-old daughter and just married a man she met at Best Start, said she felt comfortable, happy and motivated going to the Visión y Compromiso conference for the first time.

A promotore she knows within her own community has already had an impact: organizing parenting classes; connecting parents with resources so they can get clothes, food and Christmas presents; and helping parents deal with domestic violence and court appearances.

“When people can feel that they can work with the community, their children also learn to be more positive, with a pro-active attitude towards being helpful to others,” Rosas said.

Rosas went to four workshops, including one called “For My Own Sake, ME, My Advocate,” about how to deal with and prevent abuse and violence at work, and how work affects the emotional health of parents. Another workshop about expanding a bilingual guide about health programs was very important, she said

“I want to pass these guides out to parents, and get in touch with schools and others in Wilmington,” Rosas said. “I want this to be my biggest contribution to Best Start from the workshops I went to.” 

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