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Bilingual Community Treasures

Latina Outreach, Just the Right Touch

ith sky rocketing housing prices in Sonoma County's interior, the Latino population is being rapidly pushed out to the margins of the county. As scant as vital Spanish language resources are in Santa Rosa, these resources are virtually non- existent in outlying areas. Add transport problems, below poverty incomes, language problems, and small town police that all but refuse to meet growing Spanish language needs, Latina rape and domestic violence victims in our outlying towns are often doomed to remain trapped in the violence.

One of the first things we do with the many Spanish-speaking clients who come to us from outlying areas of the county is search the area for those very special people with just the right touch. They can be male or female, friends of the victim, neighbors, co-workers, or professionals in another field. What we search for is that invaluable combination of intuition, resourcefulness, and a willingness to pitch in and help. With little or no training, they frequently make all the difference in the world to victims who would otherwise feel isolated and far from help. They are truly community treasures.

That's how we met Veronica Hernandez, this month's "bilingual community treasure". We were looking for just the right person in Cloverdale to help us with a victim there who was very much alone. Veronica knew exactly what to do and say, though she'd never done it before.

Veronica Hernandez
Outreach Health Worker
Coppertower Family Health Center Cloverdale
(707) 894-4229

he first time Veronica set foot in the United States was two years ago. And she has already contributed enormously to our community. Upon arrival, Veronica simultaneously nailed the English language, completed a two year outreach worker program at SRJC in a compressed couple of months, and is now teaching health and training others as volunteer outreach workers in Cloverdale.

Veronica was always just as dedicated to excellence and accomplishment in her native Cuernavaca, Mexico. The daughter of hardworking parents whose successful newspaper distributing business allowed Veronica to go to college, Veronica took it from there and went on to study in an advanced degree program in bio-technology. Over 50% of the students in that graduate program were also determined young Mexican women like Veronica. "Machismo is still very alive in the rural areas," says Veronica, "But there are big changes in the Mexican cities."

With the laboratory science of microbiology still her first love, Veronica is sometimes surprised to find herself teaching and organizing health care. She's also surprised to find herself liking it so much. "My education makes me humble. It makes me want to share it with people who didn't have the chance."

eronica is also very grateful to Coppertower Family Health Center in Cloverdale for the training she received through the clinic and for the opportunity to go out everyday and do health education among the farm worker families in the northern reaches of Sonoma County.

Like all good organizers, one of Veronica's primary goals is to train others to do the same quality educational work in the community that she's doing; teaching everything from child health, diabetes treatment, birth control, and just plain how to navigate the health care system. "Just as important," says Veronica in her intensely thoughtful way, "I want to help people remember the beautiful values we have as Mexican people, at the same time as encouraging families to take advantage of the opportunities we have here."

Like so many of the county's bright young Latino service workers, Veronica finds herself frequently called on for tasks that are far afield of her job description, like our call one day for help with a victim of violence. And like others, with no specific violence training, Veronica put her mind and heart to the task and gave it just the right touch.

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Copyright © Marie De Santis,
Women's Justice Center,

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