“Promotores Collaborative” may just have our Latino Community on a faster track of assimilation into our San Luis Obispo community.

Latinos in our community continue to face tremendous challenges: language, cultural and educational barriers, access to good paying jobs and now, the constant fear of deportation.

“Promotores Collaborative,” of San Luis Obispo County is an emerging prevention and health education model that works for the Latino community with neighbor-to-neighbor outreach activities. This promising and novel program, introduced by Center for Family Strengthening, is rapidly changing our Spanish-speaking Community to achieve greater and greater success. Organized and trained volunteer Latinos within the neighborhood are providing a path for other Latinos in the neighborhood to thrive.

What is Promotores Collaborative?

Center for Family Strengthening
, a nonprofit organization, is “centered home” for Promotores Collaborative recruiting and training Promotores volunteers to reach into the Latino neighborhoods. They recruit, organize and train networks of Spanish-speaking volunteers who introduce Latinos to highly beneficial services to build healthy communities. Through Promotores, the Latino Community, neighborhood by neighborhood, is learning essential life skills. Promotores provides Latinos access to healthy foods, nutritional education, emotional support, access to mental health resources such as substance abuse and domestic violence programs, medical and dental care access, and programs tailored to child development, effective parenting and education.

Access to Good Nutrition

Overcoming food shortage or food insecurity is a major obstacle for many families living in poverty in the Latino Community. Rosa drives 45 miles per day to access the proper nutrition to feed her family. The gasoline costs for this 45-mile drive places a major burden on Rosa’s meager household income.

Promotores Collaborative has launched a major initiative with the San Luis Obispo Food Bank to bring healthy, fresh food to Latinos. Now Rosa can get fresh vegetables and produce from a local distribution center close to her home. Promotores advocates have educated Rosa about proper food preparation and have helped her understand and value the importance of proper nutrition for her and her children. Rosa’s kids delight in eating fresh fruit and vegetables. Promotores and the San Luis Obispo Food Bank make culturally-appropriate food and nutritional education available for women like Rosa.

Emotional and Mental Health

Promotores Collaborative helped organize the Oceano Support Group made up of Latino mothers to foster emotional and mental health support in their families. Mothers come together to discuss topics that meet their immediate needs. Mothers share their concerns regarding relationships, communications with their children, discipline, depression, anxiety, chronic diseases, and health concerns.

Attending moms may be referred to other agencies when there’s a need for special assistance. Maria suffered from an abusive husband. Through the help of the Oceano Support Group, Maria learned that she and her three children were victims of domestic abuse. Promotores referred Maria to the Women’s Shelter where she received the help she needed to live independently and to support and nurture her children. With the emotional support of the Promotores and her peers, Maria took action needed to end the domestic violence.

Through Promotores, sponsored groups like the Oceano Support Group Moms rediscover themselves, learn their value, improve their self-esteem and enhance their well-being all of which impact families in a positive way.

Mental Health Interpretation Services

Yolanda’s 15-year-old daughter seemed very depressed. Her grades in school were suffering, and she lost interest in her friends. One of the Promotores suggested Yolanda take her daughter to a counselor at a local mental health clinic. Yolanda felt extremely uncomfortable going to the clinic. She did not speak English well and felt the stigma attached to mental health problems. The Promotores Volunteer accompanied Yolanda and her daughter to the clinic. (Select Promotores volunteers have been specifically trained to translate and explain mental health conditions to the Spanish-speaking community.) The Promotores worked with Yolanda, calming her fears and giving her a better understanding of how to help her daughter through the guidance of the Counselor at the clinic.

One-on-One-Parenting Counseling

Promotores Volunteers work with mothers and fathers who are struggling with the challenges of parenthood. When appropriate they refer them to Center for Family Strengthening’s Parent Connection for a one-on-one Spanish-speaking parent coach.

The parent coach encourages assimilation and giving back to the community. The Parent Coach may emphasize the need to speak English as a way to understand and respect the culture of the United States. Speaking English is also a primary tool for effective parenting. Without English, many parents fail to understand the world their children inhabit. Ana, a client, sought out parent coaching at a time when she barely spoke English. With support and encouragement, she enrolled in an ESL class. Now, just a few years later, Ana can work, pay her taxes and has successfully enrolled in John Hancock College. Her ambition is to work as a paralegal. 

Promotores Collaborative Works

The Promotores Collaborative approach is effective and is helping the Latino Community assimilate into the Amercian culture. Promotores are sensitive to their neighbor’s’ struggles and challenges because they themselves have overcome similar experiences. Their neighbors trust them. The volunteers are well-trained in listening and empowering their neighbors with a path to access services and resources of SLO County. The volunteers immerse themselves in engaging the Latino community with a positive can-do spirit that is infectious and transforms people’s lives. Promotores bring a voice and the path to positive, healthy change and assimilation into the larger San Luis Obispo community.

Erica Ruvalcaba-Heredia, Coordinator, Promotores Collaborative and Ximena Ames, Parent Coach, Parent Connection, contributed to this article.


About Center for Family Strengthening (formerly SLO-CAP): In 1988 the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors designated Center for Family Strengthening (CFS) as the self-governing entity responsible for local efforts to prevent and respond to child abuse and neglect. Center for Family Strengthening is dedicated to strengthening families through education and advocacy. Center for Family Strengthening partners with family support organizations in SLO County to provide resources to families in need, protect children from abuse and neglect, and ensure that strong families are a community priority. To donate or learn more about Center for Family Strengthening go to www.cfsslo.org or call 805 543-6216. To become a Promotores Volunteer call Erica Ruvalcaba-Heredia at 805 720-6091.