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Posts Tagged ‘community leaders’

Photo: Nathan Klima for the Boston Globe.
Health care professionals at a Mass. General vaccination van parked near the La Colaborativa food pantry administered COVID-19 vaccines and tests for residents during a mini-festival for teens in Chelsea, Mass., on Oct. 06, 2021.

Today I’m thinking about all the people who keep on keepin’ on. Some may think they have no choice, but that doesn’t make them any less heroic to me. There is a kind of unconscious daily heroism of putting one foot in front of the other without any expectation of light at the end of the tunnel that I used to see among tired commuters on the subway. Endless Covid has a bad effect on my gumption, so I greatly admire truckers, grocery workers, nurses, doctors, hospital cleaners, housecleaners, farmers, teachers, and the many others who just keep going.

Today’s article from the Boston Globe shows, I hope, that such dedication pays off. Even if things get worse after they get better, it pays off again and again.

Felice J. Freyer, Bianca Vázquez Toness and Diana Bravo wrote last fall, “The crew had been out on the streets for more than an hour before they found a man who needed a shot.

“The five young people in torn jeans and mint- and cantaloupe-colored T-shirts had already accomplished a lot on this bright late-September day. Stopping stroller-pushing moms on the sidewalk and knocking on the doors of triple-deckers, they told people about the food pantry, the English classes, the sports and music lessons for children, the upcoming block party, where to get help with a leaky oil tank — even how to register to vote.

“But until they came across Gato, sitting at the open door of a shed under the staircase to his home, the promotores de salud — community health workers — did not have occasion to talk about the vaccine against COVID-19, an illness that had stormed this small impoverished city with notorious ferocity.

“ ‘Have you been vaccinated, Gato?’ asked Natalia Restrepo, the 29-year-old engagement coordinator for La Colaborativa, the community service group that hired and trained the promotores.

“ ‘No,’ he said. Restrepo knows Gato; he’s friends with her husband. But she did not know this troubling fact about him.

“He was a member of the unvaccinated minority. According to state data, 74 percent of Chelsea residents are fully vaccinated, above the state average of 67 percent. That happened even though Chelsea’s population is dominated by groups traditionally hard to reach — immigrants, poor people, Latinos. …

“And new COVID-19 cases in Chelsea have plummeted to below the statewide average. Chelsea has made itself into a vaccination standout, the result of a person-to-person campaign by multiple community groups.

“ ‘The Chelsea experience is one we really need to learn from,’ said Carlene Pavlos, executive director of the Massachusetts Public Health Association. ‘It’s one where we can see the value of efforts that are locally designed, locally led, and developed by the people most familiar with the community and most trusted by the community.’ …

“The pandemic had raged like a wind-whipped fire in Chelsea, a 2.5-square-mile city across the Mystic River from Boston, bringing fevers and hacking coughs to apartments and houses packed with grandparents, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters — a mysterious sickness that rode home with folks who took the bus to jobs serving food or cleaning hotels or hospitals.

“In April 2020, according to a new report from the environmental group GreenRoots, the COVID-19 infection rate in Chelsea was one of the highest in the nation, 57 per 10,000 residents, higher than the worst days in New York City, six times the statewide infection rate. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital found that by April 2020 one-third of the city’s residents had acquired antibodies to the virus, indicating they’d been infected. …

“But sickness wasn’t the only source of pain: By June 2020, with the economy flattened by the pandemic, one in five Chelsea residents was out of work. …

“Founded in 1988 to serve a new influx of Latino immigrants, La Colaborativa [offered employment and more]. It set up a food pantry, delivering food and medicine to those in quarantine. ‘We became the survival center,’ said Dinanyili Paulino, the chief operating officer.

Gladys Vega, the CEO, recalls encountering an 11-year-old in the food line. The girl had been left to care for her 6-month-old sibling when their mother was suddenly hospitalized with COVID-19.

“ ‘We adopted that girl for three weeks,’ Vega said, making sure she had diapers and food, and neighbors checking in on her.

“So when it came time to vaccinate, Paulino said, community members wondering whether the vaccine was safe turned to La Colaborativa —’the people that have been with them from the beginning.’ …

“When the COVID-19 vaccines were approved in late 2020, the organization trained mothers to form a cadre of promotores, who teamed up with doctors from Massachusetts General Hospital going door to door to talk about the importance of vaccination. …

“Despite such preparations, despite the severity of COVID-19 in Chelsea, the vaccine itself was slow to arrive. … Advocates were outraged, and undeterred. …

“The first big vaccination clinic in Chelsea opened on Feb. 4. The doses didn’t come from the state. Instead, the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center received them through a federal program and agreed to set up a clinic at La Colaborativa.

“Offering the vaccine at their headquarters, Vega said, ‘sent a strong message that, if we are welcoming the vaccination, that means that you as an individual should get vaccinated.’ ”

More at the Globe, here.

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