Bridging the gap |

Bridging the gap

Communidad Integrada helps bring together white, Hispanic residents

When forming Communidad Integrada, board members said they thought a bridge was needed between the English- and non-English speaking residents in Routt and Moffat counties.

After two workshops — one attended by about 75 people and another by nearly 120 people — board members know there is a need.

Communidad Integrada, or Integrated Communities, presented a workshop in Spanish last week with a focus on first aid, health care myths and basic home care.

Members of the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse As–sociation attended, arriving with 50 doses of flu vaccine. The vaccine quickly ran out, said Summer Laws, director of Communidad Integrada.

“It was a really good turnout,” Laws said. “A lot of people came for the vaccination clinic.”

More than 100 people attended the group’s first workshop, which focused on immigration law.

Laws distributed a survey at the second workshop. More than 90 percent of attendees said it was helpful, she said.

“Only one person wrote that it was somewhat helpful,” Laws said.

Suggestions for future workshops included law, culture, consumer protection, public health and health care emergencies.

Laws said Communidad Integrada will organize future workshops about those topics.

The next one, on Nov. 8, will focus on civil rights and responsibilities.

“These workshops are filling a need,” said Al Landa, coordinator of the Migrant Education Program. “There’s never been anything like this around here.”

Landa helps get the word out about Communidad Integrada through his connections with the Spanish-speaking community.

He said attendance is challenging.

“We’ve got to find topics that interest people,” he said.

Jose Sáenz, priest at St. Michael’s Catholic Church and a Communidad Integrada board member, thinks most of those who take advantage of the organization’s services are from Steamboat Springs. He said many immigrants are slow to trust, coming from a culture where their only support was family-based, not community-based.

“We’re building up that trust,” he said. “It takes a long time.”

The goal is to host three to four workshops a year, Laws said. A lot of work goes into the organization and marketing of each workshop, which makes holding monthly workshops difficult, Laws said.

The Moffat County School District helps get the word out about upcoming workshops by sending information — in Spanish — home with students. The meetings are also publicized using posters.

Still, it’s difficult to reach the non-English speaking community, Laws said, which is one reason she proposed the Communidad Integrada to begin with.

“In my volunteer work I was seeing a lot of gaps in services,” she said. “The consensus was there are not enough services and everyone is struggling to meet the demands.”

Five meetings were held in Craig, Hayden and Steamboat Springs to discuss the scope of the need, and Steamboat Mental Health and the Yampa Valley Community Foundation provided a bridge grant to get Communidad Integrada off the ground.

Among the group’s priorities were better access to English classes, access to medical care, and access to information in Spanish.

“There are few ways to get news out in Spanish,” Laws said.

Landa said the group “works both sides,” providing services to immigrants as well as education for existing residents.

“That was the whole idea,” Sáenz said, “to integrate both communities, not just one side.”

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or by e-mail at

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