“We’re here for the people who need us”:  Engaging community ambassadors to promote COVID-19 Vaccines in East Oakland’s Fruitvale Neighborhood

July 28, 2021

California Volunteers currently partners with LA Works, OneOC and the Santa Cruz Volunteer Center, three regional volunteer centers that work in eight counties across the State to mobilize volunteers around needed vaccine support.

At a Volunteer Hub convening this month, guest speaker Itzel Diaz Romo joined us to continue the conversation about engaging grassroots volunteers and promoting COVID-19 vaccines in communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. The discussion sparked reflection, questions and collective learning focused on equity, inclusion, and culturally responsive volunteer strategies

Itzel is the Senior Manager of Communications and External Affairs at The Unity Council, a nonprofit Social Equity Development Corporation with a 55-year history building community resilience and enhancing the quality of life of residents in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood. The Council’s holistic and community-centered programs and services reach more than 11,000 individuals and families annually in five languages.

COVID-19 has hit East Oakland’s primarily low income, Latino and Black residents particularly hard, with one of the highest infection, hospitalization, and death rates and lowest percentage vaccinated in the Bay Area. In response to this disparity, The Unity Council joined forces with UCSF and La Clínica de la Raza early in the pandemic offer COVID testing, prevention protocols and more recently, vaccine outreach and administration. According to Itzel, Fruitvale is still at great risk from the virus: “Only 50% of adults are vaccinated and the neighborhood remains in the county’s top 3 zip codes for virus infections.”

Through their partnership with La Clínica and UCSF, the Council has mobilized Community Ambassadors, multi-ethnic and multilingual local college-aged student volunteers, and Promotoras, Spanish speaking women who live and work in the neighborhood to serve as trusted messengers, promoting vaccine confidence and access. As a part of their service, both Ambassadors and Promotoras receive a stipend. They also have the opportunity to gain professional skills by participating in a series of trainings and panels through La Clínica de la Raza with topics ranging from the science of the virus and of vaccines, to effective community outreach and careers in the field of public health.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities, visit The Unity Council website.

Want to help #VaccinateAll58 by taking individual action? Visit My Turn – Volunteer to learn more.