Follow the community’s lead on personalized COVID support
Fast forward to August 2020. COVID was still relatively new, stay-at-home orders were extended, toilet paper was in short supply, and no one knew what the immediate future would look like. During this frightening and confusing time, our Community Engagement Coordinators (CECs) began their tireless work supporting Seattle communities through partnerships with city departments and community organizations conducting culturally appropriate and centered COVID-19 outreach. on people.
“A lot of people didn’t know what to expect or how the pandemic was going to change the way society worked. The resources we were able to provide provided community options,” said Alvin Edwards, Community Engagement Coordinator who serves Southeast Seattle, SODO and Georgetown. “They could, in some ways, get some of their lives back and do normal things like go to the grocery store and still feel safe doing it.”
Over 21 months, the CEC team has invested $323,974 to support the efforts of local, community and faith-based organizations to fight the pandemic and keep people safe. They coordinated the distribution of face masks and other personal protective equipment, delivered hand sanitizer to local community groups and events, and helped launch testing sites and vaccination centers in the areas most affected by the virus. the COVID. Of the 17 groups CECs partnered with, 88% were led by and for Black, Indigenous, People of Color, Refugees, Immigrants and other underserved communities. These collaborative outreach efforts have helped reduce some of the barriers faced by many families of color when interacting with medical systems.
“We really wanted to build on a trusted messenger model and connect with organizations that had good rapport with the community and could reach further than we could as a government institution,” Edwards said. “These community groups have been critical to the success of our COVID outreach and engagement work, especially in BIPOC communities which have been among those hardest hit.”
Collaborations with city departments like the Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs and the Seattle Fire Department and community groups like Metropolitan Seattle Urban League, fathers and sons together, African Americans achieve and teach health, Mount Zion Baptist Churchand Seattle Southeast Senior Center helped CECs meet communities where they are and in a way that works best for them.
“The best part of working with the City of Seattle was their belief that the community knows best what the community needs. It gave us the opportunity to be creative,” said Zyna Bakari, health program manager at the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle “We’ve hosted fun youth immunization events, created educational materials, trained peer educators, and distributed aftercare wellness kits at our clinics. The flexibility and the grace of this partnership allowed us to be truly present for the community.
A recent example of this work is the CEC team’s partnership with Roxana Pardo from La Roxay Productions. His project, Healing and storytelling in the time of COVID-19 was a three-day event focused on engagement, education and community building. The event took place in South Park and included mental and public health officials to answer questions about COVID and vaccinations, as well as artists and community organizations like Community Villa to facilitate opportunities for healing and conversation through art. More than 80 community members of all ages came together to express their feelings, ask questions and, above all, find strength and comfort in the community.
“The Neighborhoods Department facilitated meetings that gave way to planning and brainstorming around the final concept for these events,” Roxana said. “The partnership supported the planning, organization and success of the gatherings as we were able to offset the work and time of the partners involved in the events.”
This partnership resulted in the production of a short documentary on the project, which you can watch on La Roxay’s YouTube channel.
At a time when isolation was necessary and fear was rampant, this community-city collaboration brought information, protection and support to thousands of Seattle residents and uniquely served the many communities that make up One Seattle.