Friday, September 30, 2011

Pool Table Raffle Brings Thousands

It all started with a group of students seeing a need, and finding a way to meet it. With class offerings and staff being cut back because of lack of funds, the Technology Program students began brainstorming with Program Manager Elba Velasquez on ways to raise money.

Advanced class student Gerardo Martinez volunteered a pool table to be raffled off.  With that a fundraiser was born. Soon enough over 1,000 raffle tickets were distributed to the students, and everyone was asked to sell tickets to their friends and family at $5 each.  Slowly but surely, the envelopes of tickets returned with the money each student had raised.  Then the money was counted revealing a surprising feat.  In less than a month the students had raised over $3,000!

“They were so happy to help and contribute because it hurts them to see that we are struggling financially. They won’t wait to receive help, but instead they want to contribute because they know the value of the computer classes. Their support really made it possible!” explains Elba.

At the computer class graduation, the winner was announced.  The winning ticket had the mysterious nickname “El Lobo” scribbled on it. After about a week of searching, the winner was finally contacted and received his prize. Ever since the raffle students have continued to demonstrate their willingness to contribute, offering their time, cooking and music skills, and items to be raffled.

You can also be a part of the movement to keep the technology program going strong.  Donate today!

A "Small" Graduation

 by Elise Gelston

On Saturday, September 24th, students of the basic and intermediate computer courses received their diplomas in front of family and friends at the New Hope International Church. The Michael Chavez Center teachers, with thoughtful speeches, words of encouragement, and personal jokes, invited each student to walk in front of the audience. Guests cheered as graduates shook hands with their teachers, accepted their diplomas, and smiled for pictures. Since advanced classes now last 6 months, this graduation was a “small” graduation of only about 100 pupils.  Still there was plenty of pot luck food, representing many countries, laid out on the blue and white tables. We would like to praise our students not only for their mastery of computer skills, but for their fine cooking skills as well! Following this delicious chow-down, the raffle took place, with prizes consisting of computer-related items such as printers and USB flash drives. Saturday’s celebration at the New Hope International Church recognized the sacrifice of family or work time, and the sincere effort of each student. To our basic and intermediate course graduates, congratulations! We wish you the best!

Volunteers were also recognized for all of their contributions
to making the Technology program such a success!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Undoing the Chain Reaction of Poor Health for Men

For those of us who are in the loop, you know that healthcare seems to be  the topic of much debate, news and interest in the past year.  But what about those who are not in the loop.  Do they know the  importance of healthcare let alone how to access it?

In certain groups, this is the reality of the situation.  According to Contra Costa Health Services’ 2010 Community Health Indicators Report, Latinos are among the most uninsured in the Greater Bay Area.   In particular Latino men are affected.  They tend to avoid seeking health and medical care for a variety of reasons, including misinformation, insufficient education about health issues, lack of knowledge about the local health care systems, and a lack of supportive networks encouraging them to seek care. Perceived cost is another barrier many report. In addition, some immigrants avoid contacts with public institutions, including health services, fearing that they might attract the attention of law enforcement or the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

At the same time , within the Latino community men typically are more at-risk.  According to a study done by La Clinica’s Maria Reyes, men tend to visit the doctor less and therefore do not catch diseases in early stages, leading to more serious health concerns.  Cultural factors and general isolation are often at play causing men to keep health needs and issues to themselves.

Men not seeking healthcare causes a chain reaction that spreads to families.  In the Latino culture, men act as the heads of the household and decision-makers for the family.  If men do not choose healthy lifestyles, it is likely that neither will their families.  By educating men about health services and access, entire families are changed for the better. 

Unfortunately, there is currently little being done to focus on men within the Monument community.  La Clinica’s health promoters are currently women, which according to Reyes’ study creates an environment in which men are less likely to discuss health issues.  The study is hopeful however in that there has been success elsewhere with male promoters.

The Chavez Center and La Clinica have joined forces to begin undoing this chain reaction.  Through combined efforts, we are putting together a team of male health promoters to educate their peers about healthy living for themselves and their families. The combination of outreach, presentations, on-site screening, and health education will help dispel misinformation and promote access to health services.  Through the promoters outreach and workshops, community members will become better educated about the healthcare system, resources available to them, and the effects of injury, disease and sickness. 

Last night the Chavez Center held the first information session to begin the training of these promoters.  La Clínica Monument will provide comprehensive training to the promoters, utilizing a 10-session curriculum called the Escuela para Promotores (School for Health Promoters) to provide participants with the philosophy of community action, an understanding of group dynamics, and the skills necessary for leadership.  They will learn to present culturally appropriate material on such topics as: nutrition and healthy eating, first aid, worker safety, diabetes prevention, asthma, hypertension, cardiovascular health, mental health, sexually transmitted diseases and drugs and alcohol use. 

Early next year the Chavez Center will also conduct preventive screening onsite, to address such health related concerns as blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, muscular/skeletal problems, arthritis, depression and work injuries.  This will give community members an opportunity to receive health services and connect with ongoing health care offered through La Clinica.

The Chavez Center sees a strong connection between health and sustainable employment, recognizing that its clients (and subsequently the whole community) benefit from the integration of education, training, access to health care and employment opportunities. When members of the community face disease and injury they often face employment limitations.  In addition, the population that we work with – and men in particular – tend to hold more dangerous jobs and thus face exposure to chemical toxins, injury and other health issues.  Further health education would catch these problems early and help community members access the services they need, allowing them to maintain stable employment.  In line with this view, the ultimate goal of the project is to improve health access and utilization of health services for immigrant and minority workers across the city of Concord and neighboring areas of Contra Costa County, with a particular emphasis on men.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Kudos to the Day Laborers

The Day Laborers are constantly working hard to refine their skills and find work.  And we think they're doing an amazing job.  But don't just take it from us, here's what others had to say about their experience.

"We recently employed Jose A. through the Chavez Center to remodel my redwood deck (approx. 12' x 25') as it had several areas of dry rot due to the wear and tear over the last twenty years.  We found Jose A to be a reliable, hard working, conscientious, and a highly skilled carpenter whose background included about 20 years of construction carpentry work building frames for new homes, and also performing other types of carpentry work.  He was aware of the building codes and made appropriate corrections and strengthened the underlying foundation before putting in the new redwood deck.  He also performed several other miscellaneous carpentry projects for our home. We are completely satisfied with his skills and wouldn't hesitate to recommend Jose to do similar carpentry projects. Kudos to Jose A."
- Fred and Doris


Friday, September 2, 2011

Women's Rights Workshop Hits Home

by Elba Velasquez, Technology Program Manager

The need is big, the invitation was presented, ... the response was amazing!

Domestic violence is an ongoing problem in today’s society. But who knew? Save for a few nonprofits, the conversation around domestic violence is pretty scarce. It is emotional, reactionary and confusing. And when different cultural norms get in the mix, the conversation becomes even more muddled. Luckily, even in this complex area, there are ways that help can be found.

Working alongside Stand! For Families Free of Violence, the Michael Chavez Center hosted our first informative workshop directed specially to women. Together we worked to bring clarity to a topic largely kept in the dark by informing the community about signs of domestic violence and women’s rights.

Presenter Irene Van Der Laan a Legal Advocate for Stand! Brought enlightening information that drew on her extensive experience with this issue both at Stand! and from her work at the Concord Police Department. The more than 20 women in the audience receive valuable information and resources and were highly enriched by all the participants’ questions and testimonials.

Our participants left very satisfied with all the information they received. Some of them expressed that it’s a blessing to have a peaceful happy home, but sadly you never know when you might need the resources for a loved one.

“I’m a survivor… years ago I woke up and looked for help. Now I have my life back, and I’m a confident and happy woman. My kids are now growing up in a safe and loving atmosphere,” expressed Nuria, one of our participants.

The Chavez Center was proud to host this workshop and very thankful to Irene for donating her time and expertise to this center and our community.  It’s important to know that there’s hope and there’s help.

S-Comm /Trust Act Forum

by Nati Flores, Day Labor Program Manager 

On Saturday, August 27th, alongside day laborers Antonio Esparza and Jesus Nuñez, I attended the NorCal Forum on S-Comm. Hosted by the Asian Law Caucus, this two hour forum addressed the controversial program Secure Communities, or S-Comm. We arrived at the Unity Council to find representatives from various organizations and faith groups in the Bay Area. Since this was not our first time gathering to talk about S-Comm, we were not surprised by the more that 200 people in attendance, but still the diversity of the group was clear, as was the involvement from political leaders.

The S-Comm program, which was implemented in California in 2009 is now in effect in over 40 states. Along with much other information, we listened to testimonials and statistics, as well as the effects and fear this program has created in the community, the state, and the nation. While no one is opposed to deportation of criminals who are undocumented, it is rather the separation of families and the deportation of domestic violence victims which stirs the controversy. Another concern for many of the people at the forum has been the misleading information that the Department of Homeland Security has given many of the states, jurisdictions and counties to sign in to S-Comm.

The Trust Act is a bill being introduced in California that will allow counties to opt out of S-Comm, but if approved would report the information of undocumented individuals who have been convicted of serious crimes or are repeat offenders, and still protect the victims of domestic violence. This is in hopes that this program will not erase the years of effort that many police departments have put forward in working with the community, to create a safe and secure California.