Breaking Down Barriers

“No bank account, email address, computer, internet, English language skills or trust in government services“, explained Elvira de la Cruz, Executive Director of the Latinos in Virginia Empowerment Center (LIVE Center) as she described the difficulties her clients, Latino/Hispanic victims of violence, have in accessing CoVID-19 resources. These words are part of our everyday language: they are resources we use to function in our society. For the most part, we take them for granted.

During this Covid-19 crisis, government programs, generous individuals and foundations have created funds to support individuals and families financially affected by the crisis. However, unfortunately the majority of Elvira’s clients cannot access most of those funds because the systems that process those requests are not designed to also assist monolingual, Spanish-speaking individuals. So the only phrase the victims seeking food and financial may hear is, “I am sorry, I do not speak Spanish”. 

One of Elvira’s bilingual and bicultural advocates has been working with a client, a homemaker with four children, who left her abuser just before this crisis started. The LIVE Center advocate helped her break the language barrier by filling out her application for financial assistance that was available only in English and required submission by email. This client did not speak English, understand the process, or have access to the internet. After overcoming all these roadblocks, the funds were granted. But her abuser had taken everything, including all documentation. And she needed a bank account to receive the funds. So here she was, facing yet another hurdle.

What can we do as charitable individuals and community leaders to prevent this type of situation? First of all, we can remember that not everyone has an email address, bank account, computer, command of English, or understands how to navigate our complex systems. Second, we need to get to know and form strong relationships with social networks, community organizations, faith-based organizations, local government representatives, and businesses with deep ties in their communities and who are trusted sources of information and assistance. In a time of crisis or not, we need to partner with and financially support these organizations that know and are trusted by their communities. This way, whether we are designing, implementing, or evaluating new resources and programs, we can develop solutions that are truly culturally friendly, accessible, valued and impactful.

Cecilia E. Barbosa, PhD, MPH, MCP
LMR Class of 2008
Consultant and community volunteer

Elvira de la Cruz
Executive Director, Latinos in Virginia Empowerment Center

The mission of the Latino in Virginia Empowerment Center is to provide education, advocacy, and support to Spanish-speaking individuals affected by violence and injustice in Virginia in order to ensure that they can access services that empower them to become happy, healthy and self-sufficient. and support to Spanish-speaking individuals affected by violence and injustice in Virginia in order