Alfaro-BlogSingle mother Ana Alfaro made the difficult decision to leave her native Guatemala with her son, Jose, with the hope of a better life for her small family. The transition proved traumatic for Jose; this was coupled with a speech impediment that led to the monolingual Spanish-speaking adolescent having a hard time fitting in with fellow students at the eighth-grader’s new place of learning, San Francisco’s Everett Middle School.

These issues led to a referral from the Special Education Department to Mission Promise Neighborhood’s Roberto Aparicio, one of a quartet of highly trained family success coaches, whose job it is to help families succeed so that students can achieve.

“My role is to connect families to needed services in the community, at MEDA’s Plaza Adelante and 26 partners in the Mission,” explains Aparicio.

That is exactly what Aparico did for the Alfaro family, leading to important referrals to services.

“Being able to speak their language and to relate culturally helped Ana and Jose relate to me,” continues Aparicio.

Jose was connected to an after-school program for accelerated academic support.

Ana accessed MPN partner Support for Families of Children with Disabilities, where she learned to advocate for Jose at Independent Education Plan (IEP) meetings, plus she was connected with a caseworker. Aparicio also counseled Ana to go to Taxes Plus: Go Further with MEDA, where free tax preparation was available. This was Ana’s initial foray into doing taxes—and a big step forward on the path to financial health.

The good news: Jose is now fitting in more during his second year of schooling in the U.S. Aparicio continues to work with the young man, with the ultimate goal of ensuring the latter eventually graduates from a four-year college. That would be a dream come true for Ana, who sacrificed so much so that Jose could have a better life.

Ana remains an ardent advocate for her son’s education. She is now transferring her experience into disseminating information in the Mission as a promotora for MPN, under the guidance of Community Engagement Manager Teresa Morales.

Sums up Morales: “Ana was instrumental in reaching families for MPN’s neighborhood survey last spring. She also participated at last August’s “Backpack Giveaway,” where over 2,000 Mission families received items to start the school year off right. Ana is succeeding, and now she is definitely paying it forward!”

 

 

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Thanksgiving-BlogGuest Blog by Teresa Morales
Mission Promise Neighborhood Community Engagement

It was an early Thanksgiving feast, Latino-style, held at MEDA’s Plaza Adelante on November 14th, with staff and promotoras sharing a meal. It was time to give a year-end thanks to these amazing community outreach workers, the six women who began working with MEDA and the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) last spring. Their first community outreach was successfully conducting an intensive MPN neighborhood survey, and they have done outreach for many other events since.

Thanksgiving-Inside #2On the cosmopolitan, potluck menu for everyone’s enjoyment were: chuchitos (tamales) from Guatemala; baleadas (flour quesadillas with beans and meat) from Honduras; mole con pollo from Mexico; galletitas Peruanas; refried beans and Mexican rice; salsa with homemade tortillas; and picadillo de carne from Panama. A true feast.

Sitting around tables draped with burgundy MEDA tablecloths and centerpieces teeming with autumn flowers were the promotoras and their families. They were joined by Bob Phillips and MEDA staff of Amelia Martinez, Michelle Reiss-Top, Sophia McGurk and Gabriel Medina, who always stops by to say, “Hola” when he is working late (the promotoras have taken to affectionately calling him “Don” Gabriel.)

Friday night was not about work though–it was about sharing, relaxing and enjoying. The conversation centered on the topics of food, traditions, culture and family. It was a night of breaking bread together, compartiendo historias (sharing stories) and laughing about names of foods and idioms from each country that mean something completely different in another nation. Laughter filled the voluminous conference room that served as the venue for the feast, with background sounds of children joyously playing.

Suddenly, two little boys began distributing to each dinner guest a cup filled with a green shake. It turns out Michelle Reiss-Top (a.k.a. MEDA’s “Salesforce Queen”) had brought fruits, vegetables and a blender, with she and her sons, Everett and Henry, busily preparing concoctions.

“What is that?” asked a promotora’s six-year-old daughter. “Try it,” cajoled eight-year-old Henry. Small sips first occurred, with all drinking cautiously, having never downed a kale drink before. Suddenly, like magic, everyone wanted more.

Later, another drink concoction was presented, this one similar to MEDA’s robust burgundy–the color of life. This drink actually sufficed as dessert, with the sweetness of berries and apples making the vegetables fade to the background.

Thanksgiving-Inside 1Everyone wanted the Reiss-Top family recipe by the end of the night. All toasted to health.

If only Avni Desai, the Mission Promise Neighborhood’s new Health and Safety Manager, could have been on hand to see nutrition education in action (she had another engagement and graciously brought two gallons of organic apple juice for the party.)

Not everyone knows the long-standing role of promotoras in the Mission. Think of them as domestic workers. They clean houses. They baby-sit. They wash dishes.

When the promotoras return home after a hard day’s work, they still have to make dinner for their own families, meaning more housecleaning and dishwashing. When they come to their MPN workshop each Tuesday, these indefatigable women never leave Plaza Adelante until they have left everything in better condition than when they arrived. That is their work ethic.

Imagine their surprise at the Thanksgiving event when Michelle’s kids started to remove the plates from the table and taking them into the kitchen. Everyone thanked the little helpers, with one promotora stating to the room, “Such well-behaved and well-taught little gueritos. They must have good parents.”

When a short time thereafter everyone adjourned to the kitchen to begin cleaning up, it was discovered that room was spotless, with every dish washed and put away, plus every composting product and recycling item already in the correct receptacle.

The promotoras’ mouths were agape: they could not believe that this night they would not have to wash dishes after dinner. They were allowed to simply enjoy the evening.

This was a true Thanksgiving of gratitude, all around.

From MEDA and Mission Promise Neighborhood staff, we wish all of our clients and stakeholders the best Thanksgiving imaginable. Thanks to you for making MEDA’s work possible.

Addendum: On November 25th, all promotoras were given a donated turkey, so they can share a meal with their family tomorrow. The picture says it all!

Turkey Donation-Inside #3

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