Alianza staff has been trekking around the country for the last few months delivering trainings for Domestic Violence advocates and other service providers who work with Latino women, men and children. We want to share some of our training experiences.
Our first training took place in Shreveport, a community that has experienced an increase in the Latino population in the past couple of years. Shreveport, located in the northwest section of the Louisiana, is the 3rd largest city in the state and extends along the Red River.
Our host agency was Providence House in downtown Shreveport. Providence House is a resource center for victims of homelessness, domestic violence and sexual assault as well as concerned friends and family. It provides short-term transitional housing in combination with an individualized support program including parenting, money management, and life skills development. Our Shreveport training was well attended; around 27 participants enjoyed a full day of practical information presented in a fun and interactive way.
Our second training took place in New Orleans at the Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans. CCANO is one of the largest health and human service providers in the Gulf South. They house 45 programs and serve the poor and vulnerable population in the area, regardless of religion, race, color, or economic status.
Once again our training was packed and Alianza was able to provide participants with new strategies and best practices to enhance the participant's existing programming. Participants at this workshop included law enforcement officers, attorneys, volunteers, service providers and domestic violence advocates.
Participants shared their concerns regarding the lack of culturally appropriate services in their area. The most recent state figures from a late 2006 survey conducted by the Louisiana Public Health Institute and the Centers for Disease Control put the local Latino population at just under 10 percent of the city's population, though many who work with the community suspect it is more.
Both of our trainings began with an "Altar Ceremony" where we took a few solemn moments to remember why we are committed to ending domestic violence in our homes and communities. Our new friends placed pictures of their family and friends on the altars, as well as the names of those victims who have passed away leaving a burning desire to make each day count in the fight against domestic violence.
I was delighted to learn that the Hispanic Center of Reading has been serving the community for the last 40 years. It has been the primary agency that serves the rapidly growing Latino population, which according to the last census figures represents 70 percent of the City of Reading. BWIC is the leading organization in Berks County for assisting victims of domestic and sexual violence and has been doing so since 1976.
This is the first time BWIC and Centro Hispano joined efforts to work on eliminating domestic violence in the Berks County area. They recently were awarded a grant from the Office of Violence Against Women in the amount of $300,000. This funding will allow the organizations to focus on prevention work and include Alianza's Working with Men and Boys curricula as a guide. The organizations aspire to increase awareness in the Latino community about domestic violence and to increase access to support services for Latinas who are victims of domestic violence.
Jerry Tello, one of Alianza's founding members and head of the National Compadres Network and National Latino Fatherhood and Family Institute, joined us early the next morning to begin the work with both organizations. Jerry is an internationally recognized expert in the areas of family strengthening, community mobilization and culturally based violence prevention/intervention issues. He began working in communities in the early 1970s and has continued to help strengthen, heal and develop children, families and communities, building on their own internal assets.
Although we had been communicating with the two organizations for a couple of months to make sure that every single detail was taken care of, when we got to PA, we met with the Berks Women in Crisis staff to prepare for the kickoff event and press conference. Artemis Kahl and Ineavelle Ruiz (from the Centro Hispano) gave us an insight into the barriers that Latinos are facing in Berks County. Artemis, who recently received her citizenship talked to us about her connection with the area's undocumented Latino population. "I know how they feel, because that is how I felt while I was waiting for my documents to arrive....They are hard workers that want to provide for their families," she informed us. Christine, Ineavelle and Artemis talked about how the Reading Latino community is changing and how the programming needs to be culturally appropriate in order to be successful. Bravo BWIC!
In the afternoon, we walked to the Centro Hispano for the kickoff celebration. The room was filled with community supporters as well as media. Christine and Ineavelle addressed the group and introduced the men and women that will be heading the project. The group was composed by 12 men headed by Michael Toledo, the Centro's Executive Director and one woman, but after hearing Jerry Tello speak, more people joined the group. Jerry energized the crowd and gave an overview of what the training was going to look like. Through storytelling, Jerry was able to capture the attention of the young and old in the room.
The day of our training finally arrived. Participants starting trickling in slowly and by the time we began, we had a group of 22!
Our training was a mix of storytelling and best practices that kept the participants engaged throughout the entire day. The group was very diverse-from parole officers, teachers, outreach workers and advocates to retired fathers. The men and women that attended the training came out with a better understanding of how important a father's role is on a child's life. Like Jerry said, "girls are hugged four times more than boys every day. We need to make a conscious effort to make a change in the way we are raising our boys if we want to end violence in our community." Our boys and our men need to feel included in the work against domestic violence, it is time to open our communities and walk alongside our strong Latinos that are committed to breaking stereotypes and being an example of what a true Macho is.