Hello, I am Elida, I’ve been a health promoter for a number of years now, and am originally from Guerrero, Mexico. I came to the U.S in 2000. The road here was not easy; I faced a number of obstacles to overcome, as many of you may know and have experienced, walking hours upon hours through rivers, mountains, in the light, in the darkness, between grasses, weeds, and many more things…and I have no shame in sharing this because many of you have also experienced it, and we know how difficult it was to accomplish our first goal of crossing and continuing on our path.
In my first 3 years here in the U.S, I lived on the Southside of Milwaukee, WI, which is where I met my husband, and some time after my first daughter was born. When she was born, we already had some friends, and because of their help, it was not difficult to access the services we needed. After that, we moved to live in West Allis, WI, bringing my 2 year old daughter with me and we had to start over again. I began to get to know people and look for resources in my community, and with a bit of fear, but being in need, one day I reached out to the Health Department in my community. To my surprise, they did not speak Spanish. At that time, I knew and understood a little English but I was embarrassed to speak because I thought that they might not understand me. This barrier
A winter sunset with blues and yellows.
intimidated me and made me doubt whether or not I should continue to look for help here in my community. Another barrier existed too: I could not drive, much less owned a car, and I did not know how to use public transportation either.
These obstacles served to remind me that I could not, let alone should not, abandon my dreams and goals that brought me here and for which I had left everything behind. Since speaking English here is a necessity, and I had decided to continue, I did some research and signed up to go to school. I also learned how to use public transportation because the ironic thing about this was that I was living only a block from the school at that time, but did not have anyone to help me take care of my daughter. It was not easy, I confess, but even so, I never gave up. I had to wake up at 5:00am with my daughter so that when my husband headed to work, he could drop us off at my sister’s house so that she could look after my daughter while I took the bus to school to be able to continue towards my goals and dreams.
I continued to go to the Health Department every chance I had and I began to meet more of the employees, but none of them spoke Spanish, and it was here that I realized why the Hispanic population did not come here to receive the services they offered. Out of necessity, they had to go to the Southside of the city, where they would be treated in their language without any problems. During one of the many times I visited the Health Department, I remember very clearly, a kind individual who was always willing to help and that always helped me, invited me to take a course as Health Promoter. In the moment I stood there surprised thinking to myself, what is this? She explained a little about the concept and plans of what we could do together if I agreed to do it, and this way we could get people like me to access services in our own community and language. I liked the idea, but at the moment I did not feel sure that I could truly do it, because I had my daughter and did not have someone to help me take care of her and of course I was not going to neglect her, much less, pay someone to look after her because I did not have the financial means that would allow me to do so. Therefore, I did not answer her at that moment, and she simply told me to take my time, that I could decide later, and if I decided to do it, I could take my daughter with me, and that caught my attention.
I arrived home with that curiosity, I thought about it for a few days, spoke with my husband and some time after, I decided that yes I wanted to do it. I visited that person to let her know the decision I had made, and we talked a bit about the program. She asked me to contact the person in charge of training, which I did a few days later. I went to her place of work, we took a tour and she explained in more detail what they did there. When she finished explaining and showing me the work, I have to be honest, it scared me a little bit, and I thought, I think that maybe they made a mistake, because what it was all about focused on health and I really didn’t have any knowledge about health-related things. I thought this was for people who were professionals, those who were prepared and had something to do with health, like Doctors, Nurses, Psychologists, etc. I had none of those degrees, my degree was in Tourism, and that has nothing to do with health, AND I am simply a mother with her daughter trying to get services in her community. I returned home a bit reflective and sad, thinking that yes, they had made a mistake with me, but still I had to give a response to this person about my decision. After analyzing the situation a bit, I decided that yes I wanted to do it, keeping in mind that if I did not accomplish it, I would have at least tried.
That is how, without having any knowledge from studying health, I was encouraged to do it. My first training lasted around 5 months, every weekend, and the majority of these were very long, but I liked it because I did not have to neglect my daughter. This was how I began to learn and become more involved in the Health Department in my Community. After the training and with some more knowledge, I began to invite people to get their services right here in our community, letting them know that yes, we speak the same language, and we began to see positive results. Little by little we were accounting for the needs of the people and to respond to these needs, we began to do very interesting projects along with other workers, and from there I began to involve myself and prepare myself in more areas of health and with other organizations.
I know some of you will ask yourself, what is a Promotora de Salud or what does a Promotora de Salud do?
I will share something with you! It sounds easy to say, but to be a Promotora de Salud, you must have passion and do what you do with your heart, you must always be willing to help, to share, to listen and to feel, of course only doing that which is in your means.
Being a promotora is a job that is easy to say, but so complex and important at the same time, because you are the manual, the guide, the path, or the bridge, that many of us need most of the time to get to that right place that will help us cover the needs, that as human beings we have the right and deserve dignity, no matter our color, our race, our religion, our social status or legal status. And most importantly that I am someone from our own community that understands you, that knows and feels what really happens among us.
A lot of times you have to cry 😭because of others’ pain, you will feel anger 🥶from knowing that because of the simple
Yellow tulips in front of a dark gray brick wall.
fact that you do not know how to speak English, or because they do not trust you, or because you think you do not have the right to receive a service, or not knowing where to go, or you are not deserving. A few times you will be able to share some things, but a lot of times you will remain quiet and will cry 😭in silence, for a pain that is not yours.
After years of doing this job in my community, I decided that I could continue to prepare myself in other areas, and that was how I began to look for more information to begin doing and learning new things, always guided by the specific needs of the Latino Community.
And one day after one of the many courses I had, a strong woman came on behalf of Planned Parenthood, with her now famous program called and known as CCmáS (Cuidándonos Creceremos más Sanos / Growing Healthier Together), with a desire to help, to share, and to teach our Hispanic community about their right to dignified access to their reproductive and sexual health, and she was willing to tear down the barriers and myths regarding all of those topics.
In the beginning the goal of this program was to break down barriers and myths related to sexual and reproductive health, especially in our Latino population, and have safe and quality access to reproductive justice. But today that is not our only objective, our objective today is to empower each and every member of our community, teach them the way to access the best of available resources and so that they can take action and receive everything that will lead them to have a better life in every way.
Today I am that track, that road, that connection, that bridge🧍🏾♀️🌉🛤, that many families can cross with confianza, and with the certainty that at the end, they will obtain what they need to have access to all of the services 🏥🏦🏘⛪️🏛🏢 and many more things.
Drawing of a bridge over some water with birds flying in the sky.
The people have confianza with the promotores because we are people like them. We speak the same language, many times we share the same customs, traditions, and even the same diseases. We are people from the community that know the needs, and that know that many times there exist barriers to communicate or to have access to services.
On the other hand we know how to listen and we have the time needed to listen to the whole story, compared to going to a medical appointment, when as patients we simply go to the doctor to tell them where I have pain. The doctor does not have the time to listen to all of your story. The doctor will simply ask: “Where does it hurt?” or “Why are you here?” They will not ask, “Why you are
feeling this way?" This is the big difference that exists between being a health promoter and being a doctor. Being a health promoter is being willing to listen and help 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The simple act of being listened to helps us feel good, and the majority of the time, we need someone that listens to us, not just someone that treats us. A health promoter gives you the confianza that they will listen as many times as you need regardless of whether you're busy or not.
The confianza we offer is so great, that someone that you do not even know or are just getting to know can come to you without fear to ask or confess:
I have never felt or known what it is like to have an orgasm.
I was raped when I was young and I did not know what to do.
My sister got pregnant and my parents kicked her out of the house.
No one explained to me that during puberty I would have my period. The first time I got it, I got very scared and it made me feel embarrassed in front of my classmates at school.
I am verbally abused and I am afraid to say so.
Can I have sexual intercourse when I am on my period?
I had never seen a condom and much less used one with my partner.
Where can I go to get a mammogram screening or a pap smear test?
How can I make a doctor’s appointment if I have no health insurance?
Where can I go to learn more about contraceptives and birth control?
Thank you very much for helping me because I really need help and you know so many things!
Thanks for telling me where I can go to see a doctor, even though I don’t have medical insurance!
You will hear these and many other things, and I know that with the simple act of doing so, someone will feel relief and comfort knowing that someone understands you, or can connect you with resources.
It’s been many, many years now that I have been doing this work that I enjoy so much and that I’m passionate about, and I know that I will never stop learning because there will always be something new to tell, share, or help. I will keep being that path for whoever wants to travel it. And in my mind and heart there will always remain a small box that will keep holding the stories of joy, of sorrow, of surprise, of tears, of laughs, of thanks, and of course some of these things I will be able to share and cry about with someone else, and others, I will simply keep to myself, and there they will forever remain.
And my path will continue and it will continue because this is like a story that never ends.
A confused Memoji.
If you would like to share your experience after reading the stories, click here.