How can Unidos pursue its mission of strengthening under-resourced neighborhoods in the midst of a pandemic?
Unidos' Relief Response
Led by Recipients.
- Community members planned and executed an 8 week Soup Kitchen project, serving 100 people five days a week out of Casa Unidos.
- Community members recruit and lead their own volunteer teams to transport and distribute weekly groceries to their own neighbors in need, allowing Unidos to reach 950 families per week in 16 different neighborhoods in South Orange County.
- During the project offering Covid-19 Relief Grants, our Resident Committee in the Capistrano Villas evaluated and vetted each and every recipient of direct cash aid, ensuring that these donations reached the most vulnerable members of our community, including those who would have never been able to access support provided by government and larger agencies.
- Unidos is in constant contact with other organizations, coordinating efforts to not duplicate but leverage resources for greater impact.
- Family Assistance Ministries provides groceries; Labor and space are provided by local churches.
- The food distributions provide an opportunity for other organizations (Mission Hospital, CHIRLA, WAVE, the City of SJC) to reach the community with information. Flyers have gone out about voter registration, parenting classes, flu shots, rental assistance and more.
- To participate in brain-stimulating experiences like travel.
- To have reliable utilities in the house.
- To have financial access to a tutor when you need one.
- To be free from the chronic worry of a family member being deported.
- To try new skills like horseback riding, surfing, or chess.
- To have a parent at home to support homework.
- To have a comfortable home that allows for uninterrupted sleep.
Not every child has the above opportunities, but each one contributes to students meeting their potential.
The Covid-19 crisis has widened the gap between working class and middle class families. That means that many students in our neighborhood are presented with more obstacles to their success. This is why research shows that in low-income neighborhoods, afterschool programs make a huge difference! (//www.afterschoolalliance.org/AA3PM/Concentrated_Poverty_Executive_Summary.pdf)
- Unidos South OC can stand in the gap for our students in the following ways:
- STS in partnership with Harbor Point Church. The STS program filled the gap for 17 students in September and 14 students in October by providing Safety, Tech-support, and Supervision in a learning pod twice a week during the Distance Learning portion of their day. STS will continue until these students are able to return to their school campus full time.
- Homework Help. In 2021, pending the acquisition of new staff, we will be providing Covid-safe homework help at Casa Unidos for neighborhood elementary students. Volunteers without underlying conditions are needed to provide homework help with masks to 1 to 2 sibling groups, one hour per week in the afternoon M-Th.
- Enrichment Activities that develop new skills, Reading Tutoring, Brain-stimulating experiences like Summer Camps and Field Trips, and more — all provided in the context of caring relationships.
Community Building Response
Therefore, we work at a neighborhood level to strengthen community cohesion and connectedness, and to build social capital. We do this through cultural events, collaborative neighborhood crisis support, and social events. We are currently in this phase of Community Building. Even in the midst of a pandemic, community building has still been occurring. Utilizing digital mediums, socially distanced meetings and relief activities, the community has come together now more than ever.
With a strengthened social fabric, Unidos will build the capacity of the community to act collectively on their own behalf to resolve upstream issues. This will begin through neighborhood forums, surveys and canvasing until the neighborhood has consensus on the issues that are most important to them for improving the conditions in which they live. The top issue will provide the neighborhood with a collective mission, as they build a plan to engage the issue with Unidos’ coordination and support. Unidos supports the neighborhood’s effort to act based on their self-defined priorities. The result of this process is a strengthened neighborhood that residents strengthened themselves.