JANS – On Feb. 3, 2024, the first cohort of Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity “promotoras de salud” (community health workers) graduated after completing a 17-month program. The program is a journey developing skills as organizers and community leaders, plus one year of community preventive health. It focused on CPR, first aid, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes mellitus. These two chronic diseases are risk factors for the leading cause of death in the country. Sexual reproductive health, breastfeeding, and prevention of sexually transmitted infections were part of the awareness program.
The promotoras worked together to organize emergency response funds. They distributed essential supplies and provided support to each other during times of job loss. Their collaboration with other community groups enabled them to aid over 120 families in each initiative. The committees formed by the promotoras served as the infrastructure of change, creating a network for community support and empowerment.
“Promotoras de salud” was created by Lorena Quiroz, director and founder of IAJE, who pushes and maintains all the organizer development. The curriculum was designed by the program manager, Yudenia Tiza, an immigrant doctor who graduated from an educational institution in Cuba and adopted some of her experience as a physician in primary health care, critical care, and emergency to the needs of the immigrant community in Mississippi. The lead promotera, Isela Gonzalez, has been an essential link between the promoters, the community, and the organization – a vital piece in communication and unity.
“The program is based on the power of community for the community. IAJE promotoras de salud plays a crucial role as trusted leaders in their communities. It provides culturally and linguistically appropriate support and helps address health prevention,” says Gonzales. The IAJE promotoras have been actively engaged in sharing health information, supporting families, and providing personal protective equipment and resources since the COVID-19 pandemic and the water crisis.
The promotoras de salud are 15 immigrant women from Central America. They have overcome cultural, racial, and language barriers, acting on the need to reduce the disparities that impact Latino immigrant communities. Despite working full-time jobs and often being entrepreneurs, these strong women prioritized biweekly meetings to be part of community projects that address disparities in acute or chronic community issues. Emotional intelligence and positive language were part of the program. It helped the promotoras tackle various challenges and achieve remarkable milestones.
The graduates are: Luz, Mirna, Isela Gonzalez, Carmelinda, Nicolasa, Silvia, Gabriela, Manuela, Marina, Elizabet, Angelica, Mayra, Epsiba, and Gregoria. Their dedication, resilience, and impactful work have made a significant difference in the lives of individuals and families in Canton, Jackson, Morton, Laurel, Forest, Carthage, and Cleveland.