Latin American Coalition’s Helpline is providing reassurance and guidance during this time of great uncertainty.
With the ongoing disruption of routines, jobs, and school, and the constant updates from local government officials, many families are struggling to adjust. In particular, the most vulnerable families in our community, such as the migrant population and those with limited English skills, are finding it difficult to keep track of the resources available to them.
The Latin American Coalition (LAC) is one local organization trying to close the gap in information and connect families to resources. The LAC is currently running a Monday-Saturday helpline to provide resources and information to the Spanish speaking community in Charlotte. Since launching the helpline on March 28, they have been able to connect with and support around 1,000 families.
Alba Sanchez, Immigrant Welcome Center Manager at the LAC, runs the helpline logistics. She shares that the majority of the calls are from Mecklenburg, Gaston, Union, and Cabarrus counties, “but I have seen calls from Tennessee, Raleigh and South Carolina,” she adds.
Like many of the area non-profits, the LAC is doubling down on its responsiveness to our community. The staff is all-hands-on-deck as everyone pitches in to manage the helpline, which is proving critical at a time when official information in Spanish might not be available right away and as families are having a hard time connecting with many different needs such as: grocers, mental health, legal and financial assistance, unemployment applications, social security forms, job needs, stimulus check qualifications, connecting with the CMS teachers, as well as information about eviction and utilities.
As to the helpline’s impact, Alba thinks that it is one of the most engaging and successful initiatives they have launched, especially at a time when they were not prepared to tackle any of this. Moreover, she says:
“Continuing to serve families and to keep in contact with them, is the main reason why we are doing this. They have deposited trust in us, and we want to be there for them. ¡Estamos todos en esto! (We are all in this together!)”
To help the staff at the Latin American Coalition, local resident German Barriga is volunteering his Saturdays to manage the helpline, as he takes calls from home and gives the staff a much-needed breather. German, who is now working from home, shares why he believes it is important to contribute some hope:
“It is in challenging circumstances, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, that opportunities arise that remind us of our fragile human condition and that as such we are morally obligated to thank and give back to those who need our support, whether in consequence of itself, or for other conditions not as fortunate as ours. The grain of sand that I have been able to contribute through volunteering allows me to know that I am somewhat alleviating the anguish that some mothers and members of our community face to provide food at the table for their children, without forgetting that some may not be eligible to access some of the incentives offered by the federal system.
As one of the few local organizations providing their services and referrals fully in Spanish, the LAC’s helpline has seen around 400 of their calls in relation to food insecurity. Just the other day, German helped a mother in need secure food for her family. After losing her job at a restaurant, she needed information on how to connect with a place for food assistance. The LAC staff were able to sign her up for a food pantry visit at a local church.
Since Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden announced a hold on evictions, the LAC has seen a decline in calls for rental assistance. However, they have seen an increase in calls for crisis intervention and questions about COVID-19 testing sites.
Mental health is another area the LAC has been able to offer support. At a time of so much confusion, Alba believes that helpline serves as a comforting voice of hope, offering a compassionate listening ear to many community members who also worry about loved ones in other parts of the world. Moreover, the LAC has been able to provide callers with free and low-cost mental health referrals.
If you wish to support and learn more about the efforts of the Latin American Coalition, please visit their page HERE.
***coronaHOPE is a new digital series from Levine Museum of the New South that is highlighting stories of hope and resiliency within our community during these unprecedented times. While we all are doing everything we can to stop the spread of COVID-19, many community members are also caring for one another in small and big ways. Please share your stories of people bringing HOPE to their communities with us. Email firstname.lastname@example.org