Sam Sokolove

 

In the world of nonprofit organizations, building meaningful partnerships among organizations with similar community vision is becoming a movement. In Albuquerque’s South Valley, home to many service organizations that address health, economic and educational realities, sharing knowledge and limited resources is critical.

According to a recent study conducted by the Bureau of Business and Economic Research, 80 percent of the South Valley’s 41,000 residents are Hispanic and 52 percent are Mexican nationals. Sixty percent of the population over the age of 25 has no formal post-secondary education, and more than half have limited English proficiency.

From this need emerged EleValle, a collaborative of agencies working toward a healthier South Valley by strengthening families through community-engaged and community-driven solutions. Formed in 2008 through funding provided by the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center Office for Community Health (specifically for the Pathways to a Healthy Bernalillo County initiative), EleValle guides and connects underserved residents to health and social services. Members include: Casa de Salud, La Plazita Institute, Río Grande Community Development Corporation/South Valley Economic Development Center, Encuentro and Centro Savila. EleValle’s leadership team is comprised of the directors of each of those organizations. According to La Plazita Institute Co-Director Theresa González, “Everything we do is driven by community… because community health is what we hope to achieve.”

In 2011, EleValle was awarded a W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant to support the collaborative administration and build capacity. The McCune Foundation provided project-level funding. Since its inception, the Río Grande Development Corporation (RGCDC) has served as EleValle’s fiscal sponsor. EleValle presents monthly “burrito network” breakfast gatherings, which strengthens networking, linkages and resources for community health workers, activists and officials.

EleValle’s organizations are located along a mile of Isleta Boulevard. Due to their close proximity, organization staff often walks clients down the road to access services from partner organizations. Their focus is strategic planning, communication and coordination. Together they work to reduce marginalization and isolation; provide children and families with needed health services, including behavioral, physical, mental health and substance abuse; provide housing referrals; create economic opportunity and workforce development; provide food resources; and engage in problem solving with immigrants, refugees and former inmates. EleValle Director Sam Sokolove says, “The issues we address range from getting returning citizens jobs to securing food for indigent families, and we’re always focused on long-term solutions, not just a quick fix.”

Thirty Pathways program navigators or promotores, working with EleValle’s partner agencies, provide culturally appropriate guidance to assist marginalized, at-risk residents. The promotores identify risk factors and needs, and follow individuals’ and families’ progress. Data collected is reviewed and analyzed collectively.

Each organization in the collaborative has its own unique history, and before EleValle was established, their relationships were mostly indirect and limited. For RGCDC CEO Tim Nisly, collaboration among the partners was a process that did not happen overnight. “Collaboratives take time,” he says. “It’s important to put aside egos to allow for collective decision-making.” After nearly seven years, the leadership team has achieved a high-degree of mutual trust and functionality. “We’ve learned that collective advocacy is a powerful thing,” Nisly says.

EleValle is also engaged in advocating for systemic and policy-level change; it also provides “backbone” support for the Juntos Para La Salud/Together for Health campaign, which successfully challenged Bernalillo County to strengthen its health safety net. Every county resident who meets income guidelines is now eligible, and community members are included in safety-net planning, assessment and decision-making. Recently, Juntos activists presented the County Commission with petitions containing nearly 1,000 signatures urging commissioners to use the UNM hospital lease agreement and memorandum of understanding as a foundation to achieve a well-designed system of healthcare.

Having served approximately 30 percent more clients per organization and with an 11 percent lower dropout rate than other Pathways organizations, EleValle’s leadership is committed to the Pathways model. The network is investing in more promotores and professional skill-building opportunities for them so it can generate sustainable social change by bettering the lives of the South Valley residents. EleValle has been approached by many other community organizations seeking promotores and hopes to partner with some of them in 2016.

For more information about EleValle or its partner agencies, call 505.306.7853 or visit www.elevalle.org.

 

Sam Sokolove is the director of EleValle.

 

[SIDEBAR:]

The EleValle Network

Casa de Salud offers a wide range of conventional, natural and traditional “dignity-based” medical services that include health literacy, promotion of community health and health leadership development. The organization offers diabetes prevention, nutrition counseling, women’s health and prenatal care services. Multiple projects have originated from this enterprise, such as Vision for Dignity, Access and Accountability in Healthcare (VIDA)—a project that works with community groups, political leaders and patients to address systemic barriers that reinforce inequality in healthcare.

Centro Sávila is focused on the healing and recovery of individuals with emotional and/or psychological problems. The center also aims to serve whole families and communities. Centro Sávila is particularly concerned with improving health outcomes, such as reducing inordinately high emergency room-use rates, increasing access to behavioral healthcare and providing affordable mental healthcare in a culturally and linguistically competent way.

Encuentro is central New Mexico’s source for Latino immigrant opportunities. The organization is focused on engaging Latino immigrant families in educational options that build skills for economic and social justice. Encuentro is committed to the belief that quality education should build both individual and community knowledge, and with that knowledge comes individual and community power.

La Plazita Institute, Inc. (LPI) promotes the well-being of youth, elders, families and communities through the philosophy of “La Cultura Cura,” which means “culture heals.” The institute encourages people to draw upon their cultural roots and histories to express traditional values of respect, honor, love and family in order to reduce violence, addiction, incarceration, recidivism and destructive lifestyles. LPI recognizes that indigenous and historically disenfranchised communities have unique experiences and contexts, so space and creative opportunities are provided for individuals and families to better navigate “multiple worlds.” The institute’s goals are: improve health, wealth and security of families by connecting them to healthy food; and improve health and economic equity by focusing on existing assets, education, innovation, healing, reinvigorating agriculture, and by inspiring disconnected individuals to become community leaders, entrepreneurs and practitioners.

The Río Grande Community Development Corporation (RGCDC) pursues community-wide economic and social development that enriches traditional cultural values and historical uses of the land while supporting the peoples’ voice in development and reducing poverty through entrepreneurial enterprise.

 

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