Brought to the United States from Mexico as a teenager, Catalina Garcia knows the challenges that a new country, language and culture present. They can even put a person’s health at risk.
Decades after her arrival, Garcia is helping others navigate those challenges as part of a program call Promotoras de Salud that serves north Wichita’s Hispanic residents.
“I prayed to help people,” Garcia said.
Promotores de Salud is the Spanish term for “community health worker.” Garcia and colleague Denise Romero help residents with the health care system, nutrition, physical activity and more while trying to foster a sense of community.
Garcia and Romero are based at the Evergreen Community Center. The pair worked with the Kansas Food Bank to start a food pantry there on the first Friday of each month, operate a clothes closet, organize free twice-weekly Zumba classes and walks and helped arrange a vaccination clinic at Evergreen.
For Rebeca Castillo, who started participating in January 2021, the program was a lifesaver. “I got laid off from my job. I got depressed and I gained weight. I did not know what to do, until I saw on Facebook exercise classes offered at Evergreen Resource Center.
The two-year-old program has been operating with a grant from the Kansas Health Foundation. The grant runs out Dec. 31 but Promoras de Salud will continue under the auspices of Empower Evergreen, a nonprofit founded earlier this year.
Garcia spent her teen and early adult years in California, became a nurse and started a family. As crime there increased, her family relocated to Wichita. She started looking for work again when her daughter started college. She also works with youngsters in the Children First program, which is based at nearby St. Patrick School.