“No one knows their community better than the community itself,” says Marina Palma, a founding member and leader of Voces del Canal.
Voces del Canal is a coalition of resident leaders and Latino immigrants from the Canal Neighborhood of San Rafael who came together in 2014 to lead an unprecedented community-driven research project alongside the leadership of Canal Alliance and Dominican University to identify the biggest challenges facing the Canal community. In conducting this research project and survey, residents wanted to affirm their role as authentic, local experts and give power to the collective experiences of Canal residents who shared their personal stories, opinions, and vision for a stronger and safer Canal.
Over the past year, Canal Alliance and Voces del Canal have come back together to work on numerous projects and COVID-19 health campaigns; the COVID-19 pandemic has compounded pre-existing issues affecting the Canal – such as the lack of affordable housing, safety and security, and the need to advocate for the health and education of students and families – creating a domino effect disproportionately impacting the Canal community.
Marina Palma shares that at the beginning of the pandemic, Canal Alliance offered a series of technology training workshops to help Voces de Canal members and Canal residents become more comfortable using ZOOM and other online tools and resources to better support their children’s online school work.
Canal Alliance has also supported the work of Voces del Canal by providing online trainings to help members understand the effects of COVID-19, and how to best inform the community how to stop the spread of virus. Canal Alliance has also shared key statistics to keep Voces del Canal members informed of the impact of the virus in the community, and provided information and resources to help those who test positive for COVID-19.
Voces del Canal then relays this information to the community through various outreach efforts. In the past year, volunteers with Voces del Canal have worked diligently to combat disinformation and myths regarding COVID-19, and have provided free face masks and accurate and up-to-date information to keep the Canal community safe and informed.
In March 2021, Voces del Canal, Canal Alliance and our Aliados por la Salud (“Allies for Health”) team, which is supporting our UCSF research and outreach project, joined forces to complete a COVID-19 testing campaign. A total of 762 people were tested, and in that same month, Voces del Canal members also helped to register over 650 residents for the vaccine.
“It’s a hard job to do, because some people don’t want to get vaccinated,” says Marina. “However, Voces del Canal has a responsibility to help, we encourage people to get vaccinated, and to get tested frequently. We let people know of help that is available through Canal Alliance.”
Marina adds that Voces del Canal does much more than just COVID-19 outreach. At testing and vaccination events, Voces del Canal members also help families with technology issues and teach parents how to navigate online tools and access resources for their children’s education.
“Many people don’t know just how many services Canal Alliance can provide. People are always surprised to hear what Canal Alliance can help with, whether it’s immigration legal services, to helping children and students through UP! (our college access and success program), there are many services that Canal Alliance provides to the community.”
At the moment, Voces del Canal is working closely with our Advocacy and Policy team every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday to provide individuals with vaccine registration assistance, COVID-19 testing information, and financial and legal resources. Members of Voces del Canal register people for the vaccine, let them know of testing events, and where to find other important resources for themselves and their families.
Starting May 22nd, Voces del Canal and Canal Alliance will also host its own testing site by providing COVID-19 rapid testing every Tuesday and Saturday until further notice. Tests will be provided directly by Canal Alliance employees and Voces del Canal volunteers, all of whom are currently receiving training on how to conduct COVID-19 tests from Aliados por la Salud members with support from UCSF.
“We definitely have our work cut out for us, but I’ve noticed that the community is starting to familiarize themselves with the work of Voces del Canal and Canal Alliance. I’m happy to say that more and more people are getting tested and vaccinated and familiarizing themselves with the work of Canal Alliance. It is a blessing the help of Canal Alliance; I want others to receive the support that I did, that’s why I volunteer. I volunteer because I want to give back. Canal Alliance has done so much for me and my family that I can’t help but to volunteer, I am indebted to give back to my community.”