The Puentes Project (puentes means “bridges” in Spanish) is training 34 Community Ambassadors – ranging in age from 17 to 50 and represent eight Latin American countries – who will bridge the cultural and language gaps between the community, healthcare providers and policymakers.
PASOs, a community-based organization hosted by the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health, requested applications from local men and women to serve as grassroots leaders, called Community Ambassadors, to improve healthcare for Latinos in Richland and Lexington counties.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s 2010 Local Funding Partnerships funded PASO’s Puentes Project proposal, one of 12 proposals out of 181 applications selected for funding.
The Knight Foundation Advised Fund at the Community Foundation helped PASOs qualify for the matching dollars. New Morning Foundation, the Sisters of Charity Foundation, Palmetto Health, Providence Hospitals and Lexington Medical Center also contributed.
“The $45,000 received through the Knight Foundation’s fund at the Community Foundation not only helped us develop this project,” Julie says, “but it also drew $45,000 in matching funds from a national funder. In addition, the Foundation’s reputation as a respected funder in our community helped us garner additional support from local funders.”
Year one of the four-year project is focused on the Community Ambassadors, who participate in Puentes curriculum training twice a month and English as a Second Languages classes twice a week. The Ambassadors are students, nurses, teachers, farmers and businessmen who are committed to making a difference in their community.
Ambassadors conduct learning tours with institutions like hospital and healthcare services, faith-based and social service organizations as well as university-affiliated programs in an effort to make the services accessible and more culturally appropriate.
“By improving access and communication with health care providers, we are helping some of the most underserved residents of our state learn how to stay healthy,” Mari Borghini, project coordinator, says.
During year two of the project, Ambassadors are responsible for community outreach, identification of best practice models and group work in commissions, including youth, project evaluation, local resources and community event planning.
Although year one isn’t complete, the Ambassadors’ efforts have led to information in local Latino newspapers and on radio about issues that are relevant for their health. The youth commission has become instrumental in helping the S.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy implement a Latino teen pregnancy prevention program.
Moving forward through year four, PASO’s goal is to have the systems in place for the program to remain sustainable once grant funding is depleted. After training, conversations, surveys and evaluations take place, Julie is sure this process will allow the Latino population to better access services and resources available and provide the Ambassadors, in particular, with an opportunity to grow.
To learn more, visit scpasos.org.
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