June 15th is Community Health Worker Day!

"I can't save the world or do everything all at once, but if I throw a seed here and throw a seed there, I will eventually have a garden." -Nicole Ramirez-Acevedo, Greater New Bedford Community Health Center


We recently interviewed community health workers at four TEAM UP health centers about their work. For Community Health Worker Day, we’d like to share some of their comments to recognize their tremendous dedication to each other and to the families they serve. Each of them highlighted team collaboration, their personal connection to the work, and what community health work means to them. These interviews provide a glimpse into their individual motivations and approaches to the work.


Team collaboration

“Between the CHWs, it’s amazing the way we work. It’s a good relationship. We’re honest with each other and, between the three of us, we always figure it out. I listen to them and they listen to me, too. I don’t have a problem asking for help.” –Wanda, Greater New Bedford Community Health Center (GNBCHC). Wanda has been working in the medical field in the New Bedford area for 20 years.

“During COVID, there’s not as much time to talk about things besides work, like what we’re proud of. So among Community Health Workers, I organized a Zoom twice a month for us to vent and feel supported by one another. We feel really good at the end. We support each other, give feedback, and give solutions according to what we think is best. It’s soothing.” –Maria, DotHouse Health. Maria has been at DotHouse for 16 years.  She has built deep connections within the DotHouse community, even before she entered her current role as a Family Partner.

"What keeps me coming back to this work every day is my team." –Jessica, Brockton Neighborhood Health Center. Jessica is a CHW Supervisor at Brockton Neighborhood Health Center (BNHC). She has been working at BNHC for 11 years.

“I am not only trying to be the best I can but also trying to emulate a lot of the people I work with because I really admire the way they approach working with families. Working with people who just want to do what’s best for the families makes it a lot easier.” –Natalie, South Boston Community Health Center (SBCHC). She joined the SBCHC team as a CHW after graduating college, where she studied community and global health.

 

Personal connection to the work

“Before I entered this role, I didn’t know what a CHW was. I didn’t know what that terminology was. But when I took the classes, I learned that I've been a CHW since I was born. My family members are CHWs. My family’s been feeding people. That’s what we do – we've been community health workers all our lives, just without the title. So that’s my goal here – when I can call an agency and get food for a family, or get clothes for a baby in winter time…that’s what brings me here, just helping.” –Wanda, GNBCHC

“I honestly feel I was cut out to do this work. I can really relate to families, I can empathize with them, I feel as though I have a capacity to walk in their shoes. And for me, that’s the piece that’s most satisfying.” –Barbara, DotHouse Health. Barbara is a Family Partner at DotHouse. She was drawn to community health work as a result of her own experience raising children with special needs.

“It’s a calling. I like to help people. That’s what makes it easier. When you advocate for a family and see things happen the way they should, I just feel happy. It motivates me to keep going, and it confirms that I’m in the right place and in the right field – advocating for the ones that sometimes feel they have no voice or no hope, and giving hope. That’s the most rewarding thing we can have in life” –Maria, DotHouse

 

Community health work and individualized care

“Because every family situation is so different, there’s a lot of preparation work that goes into each thing you’re helping a family with. So even if you’re getting the same referral for five different families, it might be a completely different process with each of the families, just based on where they live and what language they speak and where they’re at in the process generally, how they feel about doing it, what exactly they want. Maybe you end at the same point with all those families but the path can be so different…That’s important to recognize because it’s kind of the point of the job that every family gets their own path from point A to point B that works for them.” –Natalie, SBCHC

“Overall, I find the role to be very fulfilling. I absolutely love connecting with families, hearing their voice, hearing what’s top of mind for them and how I can meet their challenges, whatever I can do to support them – primarily in accessing services but also in providing emotional support. I just find it extremely fulfilling.” –Barbara, DotHouse