Seven Day Laborers are now Health Promoters

The first seven Health Promoters graduated at VOZ’s Worker Center last Tuesday.  Amidst applause and congratulations, they received diplomas that recognize their interest in becoming experts in health issues.  Now, their mission is to inform both their fellow workers and the community in general, teaching them how to prevent illness and access health care. Miguel Rojas, one of the graduates, says that he feels a duty to share what he learned.  He was especially affected by what he learned about mental health issues.  “It has to do with overcoming alcoholism and drug use in order to be able to work better.”  Mental health, diabetes, STDs, alcoholism, and security are all priorities for day laborers, according to a survey undertaken last year in the Center.

From that survey came the idea to train Health Promoters as a part of the LUCHA program of the Workers’ Center.  One of the coordinators, Lizzie Fussell, explained that the program also aims to develop leadership among the workers.  “There are different motivational factors, and health is a focus that interests the day laborers.”

The seven graduates all participated in a process that took eight weeks.  The Center for Community Training of the Multnomah County Department of Health presented several workshops.  Representatives from the program were also present at Tuesday’s celebration.  Noelia Wiggins, manager, explained that the themes that they discussed arose from the needs of the workers.  “The first thing that we ask at the beginning of the training is what are the most important issues in your community?”

Teresa Rios Campos, one of the monitors, spoke of her interactions with the day laborers during the classes.  When the topic of alcoholism was raised, she said, there was a special interest.  “They began to think about how they could apply the advice they were receiving to their own lives.”  Among other anecdotes, she recalled that there was much laughter when the topic turned to STDs.  “Some told of their experiences or of those of their friends.  Others laughed out of embarrassment or fear.”  But this, too, enriched the training.

Now that they have graduated, the seven Health Promoters will participate in the two workshops that will be organized every three weeks with the other day laborers.  Lizzie Fussell explained that they will evaluate this first experience and plan a new training that will take place in October of this year.

Maria Fernanda Mejia