SANTA BARBARA COUNTY PROMOTORES NETWORK
About Our Program
The Promotores began in 2002 with three women who, while working in the Health Program Center for the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, through the clinic outreach, discovered that health issues were interconnected. Diabetes, Cancer Prevention, Well Child Check-ups, HIV/AIDS, and other physical health issues were the main education discussions going on within the community. However, during their outreach, they were concerned that the clinics could not address the wide variety of issues that were brought up by the families they were working with. When discussing diabetes, many different issues such as lack of access to affordable healthy food, stressful and abusive relationships, parents worried about their teenage children, and lack of affordable housing all came into play and affected diabetes. How would addressing only the “health” issue of diabetes, without looking for solutions to the other issues and needs help the community? These three women were not able to continue to put aside the needs of the families and individuals who came to them for assistance. They could not say, “I’m sorry, I don’t want to talk about that, I can only help you with diabetes education,” while understanding that the very issues they were unable to address were part of the reason an individual’s physical health was being jeopardized.
The first steps were to become experts in community resources. They began by inviting others who were also concerned with helping their community not only in physical health, but in all aspects of health and well-being. Guadalupe Perez, SBNC Outreach Coordinator at that time, developed a training for “Promotores de Salud”, which included basic education on a wide variety of health topics. Josefa Rios, Cancer Detection Program Coordinator, who was also at the time working for SBNC, was joined by Maribel Landeros, Health Program Center assistant and Teen Health Advocate Coordinator, and together they began working on developing connections with other agencies that served the community.
They soon discovered that they were not alone in this work. Vision y Compromiso, a national non-profit Promotores Network, was holding its second annual training conference. This was the steppingstone that led the Santa Barbara area Promotores de Salud to really take off and start connecting needs with solutions and resources.
In 2007, the Promotores, as they soon became known, became independent. They would meet in the park, or at a restaurant, about once every month to discuss ideas, options, and opportunities. These women connected with the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara, who were always very supportive. They were provided with a meeting space for trainings, for a point in time. Later, they found a school that they could use and the Promotores could bring their children to the meetings, if they had no one to watch their children.
The Promotores grew, going from the original three women, to six members, to eighteen members, and so on. They worked in the community, as volunteers for different community organizations, such as health fairs, health screenings, and one-on-one peer education. Domestic violence, sexual abuse, drugs and alcohol, sex education for teens, mental health support, smoking cessation, nutrition, HepC, breast exams and mammograms, and even prenatal education were only a few of the issues the Promotores could address. As the Promotores grew in number, they grew in skill, with each Promotor finding their preferred area of expertise. These three ladies who started the Promotores de Salud program eventually moved on from the clinic, but the program continued.
Josefa, now the Lead Promotora, was working at the Santa Barbara County Education Office when she met with her supervisor, Georgene. Georgene has a background as a nurse and recognized the value of these volunteers and liked what they were doing for the community. She joined in, and soon there was an opportunity to receive a small grant from Nutrition Health Net. The Promotores applied and received a grant of about $1,500. They money received helped to further train their members, and provide a small stipend to those that participated in a variety of events.
Realizing just how much this small amount of money had helped them, the Promotores spoke to many different agencies and asked for support to help the Promotores be able to grow and offer help to even more people in the community. Some of the agencies offered a little bit of money and support, in exchange for having Promotores help with a project or event that their agency was working on.
The Promotores became countywide in 2010. Their dream had been met. Promotores are now in every inch of this county. They speak Spanish, English, and some even speak Mixteco and Nahuatl. By being a Promotor/a, you can learn a lot about different cultures and about respect for both yourself and others. Promotores sacrifice for each other, as well as for the community. They educate the community, not just by speaking, but with hands-on teaching and learning. The Promotores have brought many positive and powerful changes to our community, and they are proud to play such a significant part in helping and continuing to make the difference in our community.