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
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.
Outreach Health Worker
Coppertower Family Health Center Cloverdale
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
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."
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