Check out this month’s Community Health Worker (CHW) spotlight with Flor Hernandez, employed by HUB care coordination agency, Beginnings, Inc.

Tell us about yourself.
I was born in Washington, DC and grew up in the diverse melting pot of Alexandria, Virginia. I witnessed and experienced poverty. I was a child translator for my community at an early age. I was exposed to the ramifications of poverty, but I was also surrounded by strong voices. My passion comes from hearing and translating people’s stories, and their journeys. I also know how it feels to be silenced, to feel like a 2nd class citizen in my own country at times.

Today, I am blessed to have a place at the table and the privilege to speak for those who feel disenfranchised, neglected, left behind, marginalized, and exploited. Every day I try to promote a beloved community through my actions and shine light on those trying to make it happen! Like my good friend Rachel Allen continues to teach us: “We speak our truth, sing our song. We don’t hold back, we break the silence. Here, we belong. The world needs our voice. Resilient WE are.”

We heard you just got the Covid-19 vaccine. Can you share anything about that experience and the importance of getting vaccinated?
I feel very blessed that Community Health Workers had access to vaccines early this year. I have received both doses of the Moderna vaccine. My first shot did come with flu like symptoms and my second felt like someone hit me with a bat. Was it worth it?? Yes, because it is about protecting each other. I was a little hesitant at the beginning due to all the information that was coming out and the history of “medical experiments” and vaccinations in America.  I did my research and came to the conclusion that it is about protecting all of us. Education is going to be a key part in rolling out the plan to vaccinate all. We, as CHWs, are up to the challenge in bridging the trust gap between government agencies and medical facts with our participants.

What does being a Community Health Worker mean to you?
As a CHW, I am an advocate for the People. It means building trust with the communities and agencies with whom we collaborate. We listen to what our community members are in need of and if they are lacking information and resources. We advocate and brainstorm to create healthy communities by joining task forces and committees.  We work one-on-one with participants and meet them where they are at physically, mentally, emotionally and at times spiritually. We are here to walk with them and try our best to create healthier families and communities through “pathways”.

If you could help people understand one thing about the participants you work alongside, what would it be?
Our clients come from all walks of life. For example, we have young mothers and mothers who thought they were “done” having children, but life had an additional surprise. Some are in dire need of financial help while others are looking to explore options before they fall behind on bills. Some are in need of guidance and/or access to education. Our main goal is to help our participants have healthy babies so healthy families can flourish – and that is their goal too!

What are some of the barriers and obstacles your participants face that people might not know about?
As humans, we feel shame asking for help. A feeling of failure may be also attached. Our participants face these difficulties and the stigmas that come with poverty. Another barrier our participants face is lack of mental health access. We are lacking counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists and access to group support. Many of our community members would benefit from access to Mental Health Professionals for diagnosis, medication, and ongoing support.