United We Prepare: Raising Awareness of Preparedness in Honor of the 9/11 Spirit of Community
The Cesar Chavez Foundation (formerly National Farm Workers Service Center), a non-profit foundation, has provided working families with services that meet community needs, such as quality affordable housing and education for over 40 years. Today, over 3,700 rental and 600 single-family homes for low-income residents in concentrated Latino and underserved communities in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas are operated and sustained by the foundation. Our Community Services division works to empower the youth, teens, and families that reside in our affordable properties and within the surrounding communities to learn, achieve, and grow by offering programs and services that focus on education, leadership, and life skills; it is our goal to break the cycle of poverty. One main program within the community services division is the ¡Si Se Puede! Learning Center which offers after school and summer programs for school-age children, grades K-6th. The program provides academic enrichment learning activities which include homework assistance and a project-based learning curriculum focused on literacy, math, science, and technology. The ¡Si Se Puede! Learning Centers are operated by AmeriCorps* VISTA and AmeriCorps* National Direct Program volunteers. All Americorps* Members commit to an entire year of service, and ensure that the youth and families of our properties, and beyond, have quality programs, services, and access to critical resources to improve their quality of life.
September 11th, 2001 brought a sense of community and service after feeling helpless as we witnessed the death of thousands of people. In honor of those who died and those who have maintained the spirit of unity and compassion for the past decade, the Cesar Chavez Foundation will observe the 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance by collaborating with the American Red Cross, several local colleges and universities, and residents in providing information on disaster and emergency preparedness to the residents of our sixteen !Si Se Puede! Learning Center sites. While natural disasters do not discriminate socially, time and time again we have witnessed that it is the lower-income populations that are impaired and impacted significantly through a time of distress. Low-income communities oftentimes do not have the same access to certain resources that educate on preparing for natural disasters. Fully equipped and up-to-date emergency kits are expensive, leaving these families without a kit because they cannot afford one. They are also less likely to evacuate before disaster strikes due to a lack of transportation and money. We recently witnessed such a situation in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina destroyed a large part of the Gulf Coast. The people stranded with no food, shelter, or clean water were low-income communities who lacked the resources, money, transportation, and out-of-town relatives to evacuate.
The communities in which the Cesar Chavez Foundation serves are located in rural and urban areas, such as Somerton, AZ, Pharr, TX, and San Francisco, CA, where natural disasters, including earthquakes, hurricanes, and fires, occur at a severe level. Our goal for this project is to ensure that our communities are prepared in case of a disastrous event. We will recruit college volunteers as well as residents that will be trained by the American Red Cross to become our “Street Team” to conduct presentations at our centers and go door-to-door to inform our residents of the importance of being prepared. Residents will be given information on how to assemble their own emergency kits, as well as how to develop a family Master Plan that will allow them to evacuate safely or meet at a safe location. Three months after we conduct our presentations and door-to-door visits, we will check-in with residents for an update and evaluation of their emergency kits and Master Plans. Most of our residents work multiple jobs to sustain their families or have other situations that keep them busy and stressed, making a natural disaster the last thing they are concerned with. Therefore, we will continue working with them if they have not yet started their kits and plans. Commemoration for the victims of 9/11 and for those who have served in response to the tragedy will be implemented through group discussions at the end of each day in which volunteers will share their own feelings towards serving as a tribute to 9/11 and how it made them feel to make a difference in their own community. This will serve as a reminder of the value and power of community and what can be accomplished when we all unite and serve.
We expect to have at least 20 volunteers per site, bringing our total to 320 volunteers. Besides conducting presentations and door-to-door visits, our volunteers will have accomplished a better understanding of the underserved population in their communities as well as the opportunity to experience the spirit of service, community, and compassion that was felt after 9/11. The number of volunteers serving as our “Street Team” will be tracked by having volunteers sign-in and out. The Resident Service Coordinator at each site will compile all the information on the sign-in sheets into another sheet provided for them, and send it to our national office where a final compilation of all volunteers will be done. Promotion for the project will begin in early August and continue throughout the month of September. We plan on including “9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance” on our flyers as well as having our “Street Team” mention its significance during their presentations and door-to-door visits. We will also do promotion through Radio Campesina, a high rating, educational radio programming network of the former NFWSC that provides farm workers and recent immigrants with important information on social services, politics, and local and national news in California, Arizona, and Washington.
Cesar Chavez believed in integrity, doing the right thing when no one is looking. The service done after 9/11 was done by people with integrity who wanted nothing in return, but to serve the most underserved in their community. We look forward to continuing the legacy of Cesar Chavez and the spirit of the 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance.