Chula Vista Community Collaborative’s Promotora Program Expansion

The Chula Vista Community Collaborative (CVCC) was established in 1993 and is located in Chula Vista, California, in the San Diego County region. The CVCC works to support and strengthen families through a network of five family resource centers. In 2000, the CVCC was involved in a funded community outreach project that gave birth to the promotora model work for the CVCC. Promotoras assisted in canvassing the community and learned about the various needs of community residents. Promotoras then coordinated a community health and resources fair that specifically targeted the identified needs of the residents. This needs assessment resulted in a new and thriving initiative for the CVCC named the Neighborhood Council Initiative (NCI), a volunteer promotora group dedicated to community capacity-building activities.

But by 2007, because of a decrease in funding, the promotora program was dwindling and only a handful of promotoras were continuing to meet. No activities were conducted. As the CVCC began to look at its focus and with new CVCC administration, the potential of the promotora program was recognized and the work of the NCI group was revisited. The CVCC began a strategic planning process that included community wellness as one of its three overall objectives. This objective specifically directed the CVCC to build the community’s capacity through outreach, education, and community engagement aimed at increasing residents’ health and wellness.

In 2008, the NCI focused on increasing membership. Current promotoras went out into the community and to community events and invited participants to join NCI. The CVCC staff at the family resource centers also referred some of their clients to the NCI. The group’s membership began to increase and organize. In an effort to better demonstrate its focus, the group’s name changed to Promotores Active for Community (PAC), and continued as a volunteer promotora program.

PAC promotoras were provided training and more direction. A new promotora coordinator was hired to help develop a new focus and initiatives. Since there was no funding at the time, CVCC was only able to hire the coordinator for 10 or fewer hours per week. Promotoras began to get out into the community as volunteer “PAC members,” and participate in events such as street cleanups and health fairs. Promotoras also started organizing events such as a Mother’s Day celebration and invited members of the community. As the promotoras engaged with the community they began to hear from the community about its needs. At the time, the housing crisis was a major concern as well as the need for food and health programs. PAC established itself as a voice for the community and CVCC reached out to partners to increase programs and services at family resource centers.

PAC’s success was readily noted by other agencies in the region, and CVCC was approached by organizations interested in reaching the community. There had been recent major fires in San Diego County at the time and because of a publicized event involving immigration and a Hispanic person at a Red Cross evacuation site who was deported from the shelter, there was an overall distrust of shelter sites and Red Cross services. The Red Cross approached CVCC for assistance to reach the community, educate them about the available services, and help rebuild the trust.

PAC promotoras were hired as “Project Promotoras” for the CVCC and helped with an outreach and education project to reach the community with information about the Red Cross and its services. The project was successful and all deliverables were exceeded. The success of the CVCC’s promotora program continued to gain recognition. Soon the CVCC was approached by the Epilepsy Foundation for assistance with an outreach and education campaign around epilepsy.

As members of their community and peer educators, the promotoras were successful in reaching the community. They went to strategic locations, such as apartment buildings, community events, and schools. They were able to engage residents in meaningful conversation giving way to fruitful education. This opened the doors for residents to share about additional needs and concerns. A key success of the CVCC was the fact the promotoras were backed by a network of five family resource centers and were able to connect residents to additional services beyond the outreach program.

The CVCC’s promotora model was established as a two-component promotora program: the PAC volunteer group and Project Promotora. PAC ‘s membership currently ranges from 15-20 volunteer promotoras and it is a self-funded group that conducts community benefit activities. One of their activities was support for a local Homeless Connect Event that provided resources and services to the homeless. Homeless individuals were able to shower and to get haircuts, food, and program resources. PAC wanted to ensure that all homeless had the opportunity to wear new underclothes when they showered. PAC fundraised and purchased all new clothing for about 100 homeless individuals who attended the annual event. Other volunteer programs have included a senior social, prom dress giveaway, and food donations.

The second component to the promotora program is the “Project Promotoras,” the majority of whom are hired from the PAC group. Project Promotoras are employees of the CVCC and are paid an hourly wage. CVCC promotora staffing ranges from four to seven staff. Project Promotoras work on several CVCC-funded projects and conduct outreach, education, presentation, support groups, and various other activities. Since 2009, CVCC has continued to be approached with funding opportunities as well as pursued opportunities.

CVCC is recognized as a leader in promotora programs in San Diego County. The success of the program was because of its demonstrated value. The CVCC began the work of community education and engagement before there was funding or resources. The effectiveness and value of the work was recognized and noted, and paved the path for CVCC to continue to thrive as a funded program.