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‘Education, Empowerment, Respect’ is grassroots group serving NKY’s Spanish-speaking community

By Maridith Yahl
NKyTribune health reporter

Education, Empowerment, Respect (EER), is a grassroots group in Northern Kentucky serving the Spanish speaking population. Their mission is to educate; to educate Hispanics about resources and non-Hispanics about their diverse cultural differences and needs.

Situations sometimes arise because of the lack of knowledge about the Spanish speaking population and where they have come from.

“We tend to mush it into Latino/Hispanic whereas we’re all different cultures. We may share a language to some degree, but there are different needs and different wants and different resources needed,” says Linda Vila Passione, Director.

EER networks, makes new connections, and learns how to support our Spanish-speaking neighbors, specifically when it comes to healthcare. Hispanics are informed about the resources and are connected to them.

The first Resource Fair (photos provided)

“My focus is to educate non-Hispanics on how to communicate with their clients culturally,” says Vila Passione. When Vila Passione moved here from New York six years ago, there were no resources to help Spanish speakers in Northern Kentucky, she had to cross the river into Cincinnati. Finding a group there, she wanted to emulate what she was receiving and provide that in our neighborhoods.

Working in the Kenton County School District (KCSD), Vila Passione felt that Hispanics were invisible.

“This has been a passion for me and a way of paying back. I have always felt that if things had been different for my grandparents, I would [not] have been in the same boat,” she says.

The EER group brainstorms and discusses ideas for needs of the Hispanic population.

“But I don’t want it to be just the talking thing, I wanted to have some action stuff,” says Vila Passione.

She decided that now was the perfect time to have a resource fair, focusing on health.

The first Resource Fair was at the end of August. Held in the Heartland Pointe Community in Elsmere, the event provided basic needs and health information for residents. It is a highly populated Spanish speaking community, but the fair was open to all residents. Participants were required to pre-register. So popular and needed was the event, that Vila Passione was contacted by Spanish speakers from Cincinnati and Lexington asking to attend.

Care Closet collaborated with Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank and provided personalized bags of clothing and diapers for each family.  When families registered, they were given an application to detail the children’s ages, genders, and clothing sizes.

Master Provisions helped with food. EER was able to purchase 350 pounds of food at a discounted price. Every family that was registered received two bags of food and a 2-gallon box of milk.
The St. Elizabeth Mobile Mammography Unit was there with their van, providing mammograms. Fifteen women were scanned.

Other organizations that participated were the Women’s Crisis Center, WellCare, Passport, Aetna, Boone County Public Library, Head Start, Brighton Center, Learning Grove, and Esperanza Latino Center.

EER was pleased with the outcome of the event. Vila Passione said EER provided goods and resources for 35 families, including 84 adults and 92 children. The presenters were happy too and are eager to participate in another fair. St. Elizabeth said to let them know the place and time of future fairs and they will be there with their mobile mammography van. The manager of Heartland Pointe has already asked Vila Passione to bring the fair to other communities under her supervision.

To begin facilitating this and expand connections, Vila Passione, who is the Family Community Services Consultant & Preschool Partnership Liaison at KCSD, is going to meet with the family resource coordinators in the district. Letting them know about the fair, she will see how they can all get involved in putting this together for other communities.

In her capacity at KCSD, she connects to the families asking what they need help with, and if they are interested in specific resources. She says it is easy to think her ideas are good but, it is not always what they need. She has learned to ask questions; continue to always ask questions.

Sometimes it is a struggle in providing help. Some in the community are undocumented, they do not have access to certain government benefits.

“There’s also a great hesitancy to ask for resources or ask for help because of the concern of deportation,” she says.

Some of the families were concerned about signing up for the resource fair for other reasons. They have heard unfounded and misinformation leading them to believe that any resources they apply for will be a “demerit” on their record when seeking residency or getting their papers done.

“It’s a matter of slowly convincing people that this is okay, you’re safe, we’re not going to do anything else with this except give you help,” says Vila Passione.

Vila Passione is striving to make, for now, small life changes. Then perhaps a ripple effect to other Spanish speaking communities will occur and more communities will be served. The more networking, the more resources in healthcare will be available to share.

To be a part of EER visit their Facebook page. Another Facebook page, Educacion, Empoderamiento y Respeto para las Familias Hispanas de NKY, is a page to distribute information to the Spanish-speaking community.

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