In order to succeed, Beverly Maltzberger a CD from the NW Region and her team had to discover some important lessons that she calls her keys to success. And while they have been learned in the context of health outreach, they can be applied by any specialist wanting to connect at a new level with the Hispanic/Latino community.
1.) Listen. It is vitally important to hear about needs from the people themselves, rather than assume. Save yourself regret about wasted efforts by recruiting the help of someone who can interpret.
2.) Find your promotores/promotoras (promoters). Every community will have a small number of people that members go to for advice and direction. They are well-informed, trusted and connected. In the Hispanic/Latino community, these are the folks who know how to navigate both cultures around them. According to Maltzberger, “These are the natural leaders. If we need to get information to the community, these people are key to getting it dispersed. They bridge the gap, and keep the pulse of the community.”
3.) Gather community partners. Maltzberger credits much of the success of the long-running Binational Health Fair to a committed Community Cultural Diversity Group she helped to form and leads. The team meets monthly to share information among agencies, find solutions to problems encountered by people of various national origins, and plan the health fair.
4.) Host your events on neutral ground. Certain locations are considered safe harbors by undocumented Hispanics and Latinos. While they may be unwilling to come to an event at a public park, they may feel protected if the event takes place at a local church with a reputation for helping people in similar situations. Talk with your promotores/promotoras to determine where members of their community feel safe to come together.
5.) Learn key phrases. While an interpreter is a critical person to enjoin in your work, there will be times when a specialist needs to communicate short messages directly. For example, simply learning the phrase for “please share this with others” (Por favor comparta esto con otros) can further your efforts when passing out translated, written information you hope to spread in the community. For help on basic Spanish phrases that are particularly useful to extension specialists, including lists for each specialty, check this online resource from Alianzas: http://alianzas.us/user_storage/File/Alianzas%20Manual%20Final.pdf.