Building stronger communities so that each child has what they need to succeed requires not only an understanding of the existing conditions, but the ability to create unique programs and build alliances with diverse members of the community—government, community-based organizations, religious and other leaders, etc. NLCI has a twelve-year proven track record in bringing people together to work on specific issues and helping to create a better future for all children. NLCI has identified the best strategies for working with the Latino community and partners with community organizations throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico to test ideas and implement new programs. The community programs are frequently chosen from winners of the La Promesa de un Futuro Brillante Awards, a recognition of exemplary work in the Latino community.
In order to find what works in the Latino community NLCI conducts focus groups and public forums to gather information about policies and programs affecting young Latinos. The resulting research enriches other bodies of knowledge with anecdotes grounded in real-life experiences. This approach offers exceptional insight into the cultural issues of the Latino community and creates ownership and buy-in among the participants.
Our commitment to working with the community to develop new programs, its partnership with La Promesa programs, the alliances it has built around the country, and the coalitions of El Día de los Niños committees provide a sound base for ensuring that all new initiatives can be integrated into any community.
¡Ay Chispas! conveys the importance of fire safety to children and their families. The program, developed in partnership with Nationwide Insurance, highlights the messages that fires are preventable; everyone has to know what to do in case of fire; and everyone can learn what to do. Interactive materials—including an exhibit, storybooks, games, bilingual checklists, and a community organizer’s handbook—help families learn what to do to prevent fires in the home. With support from Nationwide Insurance we have distributed over 50,000 informational packets since 2003 through conferences and special events.
HIV/AIDS epidemic is a serious threat to the Latino community and yet discussions of sex and sexuality and other risky behaviors are often not part of the conversation in a Hispanic home. In fact, in October 2008, the CDC reported that although Latinos comprise 15% of the US population, they accounted for 17% of all new HIV infections occurring in the United States in 2006. During the same year, the rate of new HIV infections among Hispanics/Latinos was three times that of whites. In 2005, HIV/AIDS was the fourth leading cause of death among Hispanic/Latino men and women aged 35–44. Yet many young people do not get the information they need.
Through a cooperative agreement with the Office of Minority Health (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) NLCI developed Onda Sana, a program that uses cultural values and novel strategies to help young Latinos create a “healthy wave” in their community. Onda Sana is a program that focuses on getting the word out to young Latinos about high-risk behaviors and provides them with the tools to make healthy choices. It uses cultural messages to help Latino youth and parents discuss “taboo topics” including sex and sexuality, substance abuse and other behaviors that put youth at risk. By providing information and talking about these topics—something that many Latinos find difficult to discuss—Onda Sana helps Latino ages 9-15 make informed choices and develop strong communication with their family and friends.
Utilizing the cultural strengths of the Latino community as the foundation for passenger restraint education, Corazón de mi vida’s bilingual materials remind everyone of the most important reason to make restraint use a lifetime habit—they love their children! The program was funded in partnership with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Nationwide Insurance, and the Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services; through these partnerships to date we have reached over 1.4 million people through PSA campaigns, Spanish language talk shows, press events, conferences, car seat installations, parenting classes and training bilingual certified child passenger safety technicians in over 30 cities.
NLCI’s award-winning program Salsa, Sabor y Salud helps Latino families make healthy lifestyle choices for eating and for leading active lifestyles. The bilingual program is designed in-culture using Latino traditions and values as the foundation for conveying nutrition and physical fitness information. Families learn to make healthy food choices, enjoy being physically active and understand that small steps lead to success. It is currently funded by Kraft Foods and the Aetna Foundation. Since 2003 over 300 facilitators have been trained reaching over 20,000 family members in 14 states. In 2008, Aetna Foundation joined NLCI and Kraft expand Salsa Sabor y Salud Program in eight additional communities, and endowed NLCI with the ability to provide implementation pass-through grants.
El Día de los Niños, Celebrating Young Americans is a gift from the Latino community to all children. It underscores the tremendous value children have in a community’s life. Over 100 cities work with young people to create parades, book festivals, health fairs, and other special events to promote the well-being of children. Mayors and other leaders join in the celebration by passing resolutions and making public commitments to children. Anyone can celebrate the holiday; however, official sites receive materials and technical assistance from the Institute and become a part of a national network. Over 375,000 participate annually in the celebration. In 2009, we will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of El Día de los Niños.
The milagros exhibit is a cultural vehicle designed to provide a forum for the voices of children. The word “milagros,” or miracle, represents an ancient tradition of hanging small photos, symbols, and supplications in the churches of Latin America. Children design and create artistic messages about their wishes, dreams, or desires. Over 15,000 children’s messages have been received since 1996 and are exhibited at conferences and special events; more milagros are added each year.