More than 1,000 Connecticut children under age 6 were reported poisoned by lead in 2020, according to aÂ reportÂ released this month by the state Department of Public Health (DPH).
Of the children tested that year, 649 were new cases.
As has been the case for many years, nearly half of the 1,024 lead-poisoned children lived in the stateâ€™s cities. New Haven had the highest number of lead-poisoned children, with 171, followed by Bridgeport, 148; Waterbury, 81; Hartford, 71; and Meriden, 35. These five cities had 49% of all lead-poisoned children in Connecticut in 2020.
Following suit, health disparities also continued. Black and Hispanic-Latino children continued to have higher rates of lead poisoning than non-Hispanic white children. Non-Hispanic Black children were 2.6 times more likely to be poisoned than white children, according to aÂ reportÂ on the 2020 lead poisoning numbers on the stateâ€™s Open Data website.
DPH Commissioner Manisha Juthani, M.D., said, â€œProtecting the youngest residents of our state from lead poisoning is a priority for DPH. And even though the numbers show that we are heading in the right direction, our work â€” including linking families to vital resources and building awareness in our inner cities â€” is far from done.â€�
But these latest numbers are based on a calculation that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the state have used since 2012. That calculation defines lead poisoning as 5 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood in a childâ€™s body.
In October, the CDC lowered its definition of lead poisoning to 3.5 micrograms per deciliter.
If the state had used the CDCâ€™s new measurement, or â€œreference value,â€� the number of Connecticut children considered lead poisoned would triple, to 3,000.
Even without the CDCâ€™s adjustment, the pandemic complicates how to compare the numbers released to those from earlier years.
The DPH says in its report that â€œthere was a sharp decline in screeningâ€� in April 2020, a month after the country started shutting down. A total of 61,700 children in Connecticut received lead blood tests in 2020, compared with 72,000 in 2019 and 73,000 in 2018. In addition, less than 60% of the stateâ€™s children under 3 years old were tested twice, as required by state law.
Although lead poisoning is notoriously linked to the water crisis in Flint, Mich., in 2014, lead poisoning in the Northeast and in other older parts of the country is usually the result of deteriorating interior and exterior house paint.
For close to a century, before the federal government finally banned its use in 1978, lead was added to paint to increase its durability. Although walls may be painted over, chips from the degrading paint can be leaded. Of particular concern is leaded paint dust, created as paint breaks down and is left behind when doors and windows of older homes are opened and shut.
Babies and toddlers are particularly vulnerable to deteriorating paint because they are close to the ground and their breathing rates are higher than that of adults. And, as any parent knows, young children typically explore their new worlds, quite literally, through hand-to-mouth activities, turning a floor with leaded paint chips and leaded dust into dangerous terrain.
Exposure to the heavy metal, particularly during these early years when childrenâ€™s brains are developing, can cause permanent cognitive damage, including an irreversible loss in IQ points. The toxin is also linked to speech and developmental delays, hearing loss and hyperactivity.
In addition to the 2020 numbers, DPH this week issued the numbers of lead-poisoned children in 2019 â€“ 1,188; and 2018 â€” 1,333.
To view the 2018 and 2019 childhood lead reports go here.
Hartford Public Schools (HPS) have over 17,000 students, and more than half are Hispanic-Latino; more than 1 in 5 are English language learners.
Struggling with the same staffing shortages faced by districts across the country, HPS is recruiting bilingual educators from Puerto Rico to fill teacher vacancies ahead of the 2022-2023 school year.
Through the Paso a Paso Puerto Rico Recruitment Program (step by step) â€” the district plans to recruit as many as 15 teachers from the island who would become full-time educators.
Adriana Beltran-Rodriguez is one of them, â€œI was interested in helping the students feel like theyâ€™re not completely alienated in the school.â€� The Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) educator told WBUR, â€œFor them (students) to know that thereâ€™s someone that cares about them and wants them not only to succeed in English but to honor their culture and their language.â€�
Beltran-Rodriguez is one of two TESOL teachers who make up a team of seven at Michael D. Fox Elementary School to support about 230 multilingual learners from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, the U.S. Virgin Island and worldwide.
Research shows that academic outcomes for English language learners are better when students are first taught in their native language and English.
â€œSo, this is a novel approach to help Puerto Rican bilingual teaching talent gain certification in Connecticut, and specifically bolster the Hartford Public Schools teaching force,â€� Superintendent Leslie Torres-Rodriguez said.
Paso a Paso will include two years of support services for teachers to relocate and adjust to Hartfordâ€™s community. Selected candidates receive a competitive salary, a $5,000 signing bonus and a moving stipend.
Dr. Madeline NegrÃ³n, Chief of Academics, Teaching & Learning in the Hartford Public Schools also expects Paso a Paso will help diversify the teaching workforce. â€�Because a place like Hartford, we have to ensure that our students can see themselves reflected in the teachers that are in front of them,â€� NegrÃ³n said in an interview with NBC Connecticut.
Publisherâ€™s Note:This story is an aggregate from WBUR, NBC Connecticut, and The Hartford Courant.
State Rep.Â Hilda E. Santiago,Â D-Meriden,Â said serving people and working in state government is her biggest passion. Her involvement in local government started in 1990, Santiago said. In 2005, she became the first Puerto Rican female to win an open seat on Meriden’s City Council, she said.Â
WithÂ March celebrating Womenâ€™s History Month, the Latino Communities Reporting LabÂ interviewed Santiago and three other Latinas who are making an impact in the Meriden community.
â€œToday, I am proud to say that I am the first Latina to be named Assistant Deputy Speaker Pro-Tempore â€” a high ranking leadership post in the House of Representatives,â€� Santiago said.
â€œEvery vote I cast in the legislature represents the voice of the people in my district and the state. Securing critical safety net services and ensuring a better Connecticut for all residents and their families have always been top priorities for me,â€� Santiago said.
Vowing to fight for voting rights and help her party attract the stateâ€™s growing Hispanic-Latino population, Santiago officially announced her candidacy for secretary of theÂ state in December.
People are still facing obstacles and barriers when they go to vote,â€� Santiago said on WNHHÂ FMâ€™sÂ â€‹â€œDateline New Havenâ€� program. â€�We still have aÂ lot of work toÂ do.â€�
If she emerges from aÂ crowded field of Democrats seeking the open secretary of the state nomination, Santiago would become the first-ever Hispanic-Latino on the statewide Democratic ticket, at aÂ time when the group are Connecticutâ€™s fastest-growingÂ group.
While the majority of Connecticut residents are white, the U.S. Census reports the number of Hispanic-Latino residents have grown by approximately 30 percent over the last decade. The stateâ€™s Hispanic-Latino population increased by 144,206 people for a total of more than 600,000 from 2010 to 2020.
â€œI am aÂ Latina. IÂ am aÂ woman,â€� Santiago said in an interview with New Haven Independent.Â â€‹â€œIâ€™ve been fighting in the trenches. IÂ have theÂ experience.â€�
CTLatinoNews partners with the Latino Communities Reporting Lab in best serving the Hispanic-Latino communities of Connecticut.
This week CTLN Opinion+ had the opportunity to speak with Commissioner Seila Mosquera-Bruno, of the Connecticut Department of Housing.
We had an informative discussion on the importance of providing access to affordable housing, the challenges behind the lack of affordable housing, and the state’s new program available for rental and homeownership.
Commissioner Seila Mosquera-Bruno brings a wealth of knowledge to the Department of housing. Before her appointment, she was the President and chief executive officer of NeighborWorks New Horizons (NWNH), a non-profit organization dedicated to providing affordable housing opportunities to help build strong communities and revitalize neighborhoods. Under her leadership, the organization expanded operations beyond New Haven County to New London and Fairfield counties.
Mosquera-Bruno has vast and extensive experience advocating for affordable housing on a state and national level. She also served on the National NeighborWorks Association board and is co-chair of their National Real Estate Development Advisory Council.
Mosquera-Bruno’s goal is to continue the state’s production of creating more affordable units by increasing resources to developers where they can continue building quality housing for those most in need.
Key points of discussion:
Â· Connecticut Department of housing mission statement
Â· The problem behind the lack of affordable housing and what CDOH is doing to help solve this issue
Â· Discussion about some of the affordable housing programs/resources
Â· How CDOH educate and inform communities about affordable housing
Â· The importance of making affordable housing available
Â· The status of the emergency rental assistance program UniteCT
Â· What can communities or an individual do to address CT housing inequalities
Â· The new emergency program MyHomeCT to help homeowners pay their mortgage
Small businesses are making a comeback after two challenging years under COVID-19. There were more than 47,000 new business registrations in Connecticut in 2021; a 20 percent increase from 2020, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
CT Latino News spoke with Sonia Alvelo, CEO of Latin Financial, a family-owned and operated brokerage firm in Newington with offices in Puerto Rico. “Everybody was lost, everybody was overwhelmed,” said Alvelo on the Latino News Networkâ€™s podcast, â€œ3 Questions Withâ€¦â€� about the early days of the pandemic when small businesses were scrambling to get financial help in order to stay afloat. “There was so much miscommunication,” she said.
AlveloÂ described the beginning of the pandemic as a tense and stressful situation as her firm scrambled to help their clients access Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding.
Many members of the Hispanic-Latino community werenâ€™t aware of COVID financial aid, including the U.S. Small Business Administrationâ€™s (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) programÂ until Alvelo told them. She worked with dozens of business owners submitting first-time applications, loan increase requests, and reconsiderations of denied requests â€“ many times translating information in Spanish.
Alvelo said there are three things that make any small business successful: passion, logistics, and a good accountant.
“Start a business that you’re good at and love,” she said. “The second is logistics – have a solid plan of action,” Alvelo advises. And the third is a good CPA because it sets you up for success she said.
Much of the work Alvelo provides is at no cost, an investment in the community that she says is paying dividends in new clients for her company. She plans to hire new employees and expand her business beyond Connecticut and Puerto Rico.
Publisher’s Note: Please participate in a short survey at the end of the story. Knowing how this story may have influenced you can help guide our future reporting...Thank you!
â€œPeople feel excluded in not having the knowledge because of the language barrier,â€� said Luis Lorenzo, a resident of Bristol, about what he thinks keeps new Americans like himself from participating in the electoral process. Lorenzo is originally from Mexico.
Lorenzo was featured in Voting System Fails Immigrants, as part of the Advancing Democracy: Connecticut SolutionsÂ Journalism Initiative that CTLatinoNews.com (CTLN) is undertaking as part of eight reporting projects in 10 newsrooms across the United States. The six-monthÂ programÂ is sponsored by theÂ Solutions Journalism NetworkÂ (SJN); its mission is to spread the practice of solutions journalism: rigorous reporting on responses to social problems.
CTLN is exploring solutions to these problems by engaging with thought leaders in Connecticut and drawing from the best practices and lessons learned in communities across the country.
â€œInability to speak or read English cannot be a barrier to the most cherished right of a U.S. citizen, the right to vote,â€� said Arturo Vargas, the executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, in an interview with NBC. Vargas cited the example of Puerto Ricans, the majority of Hispanics-Latinos in Connecticut, who are not required to read or write English if they live in Puerto Rico.
A Puerto Rican who moves to the U.S. mainland and is not proficient in English “is a fully franchised U.S. citizen and must have free and complete access to the ballot,” said Vargas, regardless of language proficiency.
As a way to make voting more accessible, the U.S. Census Bureau notified 10 Connecticut towns and cities last December that they had to provide language assistance for eligible Hispanic-Latino voters whose English skills were deemed inadequate to participate in the electoral process.
This federal mandate emanated from Section 203 of the 1975 revision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and is based on American Community Survey figures. The criteria are a minority language group comprising at least 5 percent or 10,000 members of the eligible voter population.
For 2021, the Census Bureau designated 331 jurisdictions across the United States that must provide bilingual voting assistance compared to 263 in 2016. This list ranges from entire states, such as Florida and California, with large Hispanic and Asian populations, to central Alaskan villages where Yup’ik is a prevalent language.
Ricardo Negron-Almodovar, All Voting is Localâ€™s Florida campaign manager says new language accessibility determinations under Section 203 are hindered by U.S. laws that do not fully remove language barriers in elections. “These disparities in language provisions ultimately have a discriminatory effect on our multiracial democracy, leaving out entire swaths of people,” Negron-Almodovar said. He believes over a million Floridians find themselves at a disadvantage when voting because English isnâ€™t their primary language.
In many cases, compliance has been an ongoing process spanning more than one five-year consent periods. In Connecticut, the Section 203 towns include nine designated in 2016: Bridgeport, East Hartford. Hartford, Meriden, New Britain, New Haven, New London, Waterbury, and Windham. Norwalk was added this time.
Section 203 serves as a double-edged tool in removing the language speed bump inhibiting and complicating Hispanic-Latino voter turnout.
Whether Section 203 compliance can positively increase the number of Hispanics-Latinos going to the polls, Teresa Begnal, Waterbury’s Democratic Register, says “absolutely.” And without these structures, she said, “there would definitely be more confusion.
A primary reason that Congress included minority language provisions in the Voting Rights Act was an awareness that many members of these groups had been effectively excluded from participation in the electoral process.
U.S. Rep. John Larson, whose constituency includes Hartford and East Hartford, sees the provision’s call to action as integral to the current debate about voting rights. He noted these mandates are strengthened in the John R. Lewis Voting Act, which is currently stalled in the Senate.
“We must do everything we can to make voting as accessible as possible,” Larson said. He also suggests that if anyone has any concerns, they should report them to their local election board and the Secretary of the State.
“There are many Hispanic immigrants, including those who are U.S. citizens, who aren’t necessarily comfortable in their English speaking abilities,” said Mark Hugo Lopez, Director of Hispanic Research at the Pew Research Center, in a recent interview with CTLN. “Spanish (information) might help those folks.”
More than 23 million U.S. immigrants were eligible to vote in the 2020 presidential election, making up roughly 10 percent of the nationâ€™s overall electorate â€“ both record highs, according to Pew Research Center estimates based on Census Bureau data.
The Census Bureau uses the American Community Survey to determine every five years who is covered rather than every ten years as was the standard in the past. Compliance is required if more than five percent or more than 10,000 voting-age citizens are limited-English proficient.
In Connecticut, the affected jurisdictions include the state’s eight largest cities, the home of many eligible HispanicLatino voters whose English skills are insufficient reside. Citizens whose primary language is Spanish comprise the population requiring assistance in all ten of the affected jurisdictions. However, five years ago, a Native American cluster in Kent was covered.
Nearby Massachusetts had the most communities added to the list, increasing from 12 to 19.
Spanish also is the language of most of the citizens of the three states and many of the 300 towns and counties requiring compliance. Still, Section 203 also applies to Asians, American Indians, and Alaska Native voting-age citizens.
The five percent criteria can represent a low hurdle in cities such as Hartford and Bridgeport. In the latter, one-third of the households are categorized as having Spanish as the primary language.
The U.S. Department of Justice monitors elections as needed to determine whether programs required under the Voting Rights Act are being implemented, although ultimately, local election officials ensure their jurisdiction complies.
In Dallas, where nearly 21,000 citizens of voting age speak Vietnamese, some 400 locations will be outfitted with cell phones that voters can use to access translators in the March primary.
Philadelphia, where more than 24 percent of the city’s citizens are speakers of a non-English language, Spanish being the most common – use voting machines, touted for their ability to accommodate at least 12 languages.
Both good ideas say supporters of grassroots organizations demanding the state make the voting process more accessible to naturalized citizens in Connecticut; the challenge is the financial means in realizing them.
The Connecticut Office of the Secretary of State in meeting federal law requirements will supply the translated materials to the Section 203 towns.
Language assistance includes the bilingual signs posted at a polling place, said Begnal. What a town is required to do can be extensive. For example, New Britain plans to do the following activities according to Rachel Zaniewski, public affairs specialist, Office of Mayor Erin E. Stewart:
1. Individuals choosing to register to vote can register using a registration form in Spanish
2. Voters choosing to vote can cast a ballot that is bilingual.
3. All election materials are printed in both Spanish and English. That includes not only the ballot but instructional posters that not only instruct voters on how to vote but also speak to their rights.
4. All legal notices of elections and polling locations are in English and Spanish.
5. Spanish-speaking poll workers and moderators are hired to help with elections.
In Waterbury, all letters and other written materials are in English and Spanish, and there is someone bilingual at each polling local, Begnal said. She has reached out to the local Spanish Coalition for help at the polls. Or, on occasion at the office, the English-speaking official has gone across the hall to a Spanish program for a translator.
Whether or not assistance in Spanish language will increase the number of Hispanic-Latino voters at the polls at this year’s midterm election and in the 2024 presidential election is yet to be seen, but new voters like Lorenzo are optimistic.
â€œNow, with me becoming a citizen, it gave me the opportunity to contribute, to have a voice â€“ not only for me but other people,” said Lorenzo.
Poor nutrition, stress and a loss of physical activity when schools closed during the COVID-19 pandemic appear to be worsening the problem of childhood obesity nationally and in Connecticut.
Nationally, obesity among youth ages 2 to 19 increased from 19.3% in 2019 to 22.4% in 2020, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The same age group saw the rate of increase in their body mass index (BMI) double during the pandemic, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. The heaviest youths experienced the highest gains.
In Connecticut, the obesity rate among ages 10 to 17 rose from 13.3% in 2018-19 to 15.3% in 2019-2020, according to the Johnson Foundation report.
Pediatrician referrals of children have nearly tripled at the Pediatric Obesity Center for Treatment, Research and Education at Connecticut Childrenâ€™s Medical Center in Hartford. In 2019, it had 890 referrals, which grew to 2,491 in 2021. It now has a waiting list of nearly a year, with 642 children on it, said Dr. Christine Finck, the centerâ€™s surgical director.
â€œThe ramp-up in referrals was so acute and took us by surprise,â€™â€™ Finck said. â€œItâ€™s really been a tough challenge.â€�
To meet the demand, the center is expanding its programâ€”which offers nutrition education, counseling, and even bariatric surgery for children with severe obesityâ€”into Farmington, Fairfield and Westport, said Dr. Melissa Santos, the division chief of pediatric psychology and the clinical director of the center.
â€œKidsâ€™ rates of obesity are significantly higher now than theyâ€™ve ever been,â€™â€™ Santos said, with some patients weighing 400, 500 and even 800 pounds.
Gardening And Jumping Jacks
A variety of programs across Connecticut are tackling childhood obesity.
With 13 gardens at city schools, New Britain ROOTS teaches children to improve their eating habits by growing collard greens, spinach, lettuce, squash, and even tilapia in a new fish reservoir. Executive Director Joey Listro said ROOTS educates 500 children at a time, and itâ€™s been therapeutic to see them back outdoors after the stress of the pandemic.
â€œGardening has a very calming effect,â€™â€™ Listro said. â€œAnd if they donâ€™t have media around them, they can be left alone with their own thoughts.â€�
One of the longest-running programs in the state is the Bright Bodies Healthy Lifestyle Program, which Mary Savoye, a registered dietitian, started 23 years ago at Yale New Haven Hospital. She said participants in the program have seen a 1.7-unit drop in their BMI after one year, compared to a 1.6-unit increase in the control group.
Bright Bodies provides 70 families a year with nutrition education, behavior modification and exercise classes, now held on Zoom and featuring planks, lunges and jumping jacks.
The effect of the pandemic on childrenâ€™s weight and their ability to exercise has been stark, Savoye said.
â€œThere was a limited amount of exercise happening and a lot of emotional eating,â€™â€™ she said.
She said nutrition also suffered in many households, where parents were buying unhealthy, processed food because it had a long shelf life.
In Hartford, Santos said isolation, stress and excess screen time when learning was remote contributed to childhood obesity. One of her programâ€™s goals is to have the children spend no more than two hours a day online instead of the 12 or more hours sheâ€™s seeing. Its other â€œFit5â€� daily goals are: eat five fruits and vegetables, have four servings of calcium, give and get three compliments, exercise for one hour and have no sugar-sweetened drinks.
Santos said some of her patients rarely went outdoors during the pandemic.
â€œI had one mom say, â€˜My child looks ashy,â€™ â€� Santos said. â€œSheâ€™s like, â€˜I make him go sit outside in the sun for a half an hour a day like heâ€™s a houseplant.â€™ â€�
Many of Bright Bodiesâ€™ participants come from low-income families, and about two-thirds are Black or Latinoâ€”all groups disproportionately affected by childhood obesity, Savoye said.
But two participants say theyâ€™ve lost weight, are eating in moderation, and feel better about themselves now.
Sol Gonzalez of New Haven said her pediatrician recommended Bright Bodies last spring because her son AngelGabriel Coronelâ€™s blood sugar levels put him at risk for diabetes. Since joining, AG, as his family calls him, has lost 12 pounds. The fifth-grader at Nathan Hale School said he gets less out of breath now playing basketball.
â€œBefore, I used to think that other kids would make fun of me when I wasnâ€™t looking, but now, I donâ€™t think they really are,â€™â€™ AG said. â€œIâ€™ve gotten lighter, and I can do a lot of things that I couldnâ€™t before, like I can play sports better.â€�
Tears welled up in Alysha Newton-Cuetoâ€™s eyes as she talked about being teased for being overweight while growing up.
â€œI used to get bullied a lot,â€� Newton-Cueto, 21, of New Haven, said. â€œKids said I should drop off a bridge.â€�
But she said things are looking up for her thanks to Bright Bodies. Her mother, Tiquanda Newton, said her daughter had done the program at age 10 and asked if she could do it again when her self-esteem was low last fall. She can take part at her age because she has cognitive and learning disabilities, Newton said.
The familyâ€™s eating better and doing the Zoom workouts together. Newton said sheâ€™s lost 14 pounds and Newton-Cueto has lost 13.
â€œItâ€™s something that was missing in our family for a long time,â€™â€™ Newton said of Bright Bodies.
Cover Photo: Angel Gabriel Coronel, 10, of New Haven, has lost 12 pounds since joining the Bright Bodies program. He is heading into his third 12-week session. He has learned about healthy eating and enjoys the exercise program.
Photo by Melanie Stengel
Publisherâ€™s Note:CTLN and c-hit.org collaborate to best serve the Connecticut Hispanic, Latino community.
This week CTLN Opinion+ had the opportunity to speak with Debra Greenwood, President, and CEO of The Center for Family Justice (CFJ). Greenwood has spent more than 35 years in nonprofit management, with extensive experience in strategic planning, fundraising, community mobilization, and leadership and program development.
Prior to joining The Center for Family Justice, she served as a CEO at various YMCAs in the region, leading four successful Capital Campaigns that resulted in creating a new YMCA, two renovations at different Ys, and most recently remodeling The Center for Family Justice.Â
The Center for Family Justice is a nonprofit that provides free, confidential crisis and supportive services to victims and survivors of domestic, sexual, and child violence in Bridgeport, Easton, Fairfield, Monroe, Stratford, and Trumbull. Dated back to 1895, it began as the Bridgeport YWCA, and in 2016 it became Connecticut’s first Family Justice Center to provide support and help in keeping victims safe under one roof in one safe place. Today, CFJ joins over 150 family justice centers in the U.S. and 16 other countries to help victims lead a life free of trauma and abuse.
CFJ offers 24/7 crisis hotlines for sexual and domestic violence victims. It welcomes non-English speakers by providing bilingual services. Greenwood says, “looking and understanding the people that we serve and in addition to our hotlines being in Spanish as well, we have language lines for those that speak many languages.” Their most prominent population support group is in Spanish, and they are now adding a Portuguese support group. Hotline services expanded to in-office visits, and satellite offices are available for those in the suburbs.
The pandemic affected all of us worldwide, but more so for those individuals who had no choice but to stay home with their abusive partners. She mentioned that abuse could be more than partner violence, not only husband and wife or boyfriend and girlfriend. It could be a mother or father and their child. “We realized so many individuals were sheltering at home with their abusive partner.” “Schools were online, and kids weren’t going to school, so they didn’t have that safety net where they can speak to a teacher or guidance counselor or someone.”
After the lockdown, their office pivoted in less than 72 hours and went completely remote. “We never stopped with our hotlines or counseling those that we have been counseling.â€�
CFJ advocates and counselors continued working on their cases non-stop. They noticed their numbers were jumping well over 25-30 percent in the greater Bridgeport area.
Another great topic discussed is CFJ’s legal and attorneys’ support system. They provide free and confidential services to help victims through the journey of survivorship. This service is especially needed when the mother is trying to keep her children safe, and in many cases, the children are taken away.
A new empower house is opening in Fall 2022, supporting around 1,400 individuals and children who need a safe place to stay. This empower house was possible through the state’s financial support, foundation donations, and grants received.
During the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic, Latinos, in particular, have suffered and faced disproportional health and economic impacts. For example, the group is 1.7 times more likely to contract COVID-19 than their non-Hispanic white counterparts and 4.1 times more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19, and 2.8 times more likely to die from the disease.
The pandemic is taking a toll on mental health. A 2021 Healthy Now survey found that about 60 percent of Americans were more likely to feel stressed, anxious, and/or depressed last fall as compared to 50 percent during the fall of 2020.
â€œI have an entrepreneur spirit and itâ€™s always been my calling to increase communication among individuals when it comes to mental health needs,â€� said Abramson.
Abramson felt compelled to support a world struggling with social justice issues, isolation, and interpersonal conflicts. Her business provides mental health treatment, consultation, and coaching services.
â€œI see myself as the cousin, a Latinx Mary Poppins, you didnâ€™t know you had, bringing an afro-centric, family-focused, and strength-based perspective. I bring humor, creativity, and playfulness to my work,â€� said Abramson.
She approaches therapy by addressing an individualsâ€™ problems through family history and the community, she said.
Coming to the United States from the Dominican Republic at the age of 5, Abramson speaks fluent Spanish and provides services in both languages.
â€œI bring my cultural humility and pride into the work that I do,â€� said Abramson. â€œI find that my background and culture bring more people into the conversation, and I am able to highlight the need for all of us, American born or immigrants, to know ourselves from a cultural perspective,â€� she added.
Another motivation for starting her business came after the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota in 2020, an event that caused protests nationwide. As a person of color, Abramson felt the need to help with issues involving race and discrimination, she told the Latino Communities Reporting Lab.
“In these recent times, we are being challenged on how much we are willing to push for change and equality,” Abramson wrote in Reflections of an Afro-Dominicana Family Therapist in 2017. “As an Afro-Dominicana, my silent torment has manifested in many different ways â€” from overly proving my worth at the workplace to graciously deflecting unwelcome advances and even chemically straightening my hair.”
She said that as a family therapist, she’s come to appreciate and value the power of “our narratives” and reflect on those stories during times of transformation. “More specifically, the stories that intersect with the different parts of my identity”, she said. “Through that intersectionality, she has come to explore and expand her “reflective capacity” â€” the ability to find different ways to process the choices “weâ€™ve made and the circumstances we are dealt with.”
The Dominican community of Meriden celebrated Nuestra SeÃ±ora de la Altagracia â€” Our Lady of Altagracia â€” the â€œprotector of the Dominican peopleâ€� earlier this month like millions of their compatriots in the island nation.
Parishioners walked through St. Rose of Lima Parish at a special mass on Sunday, January 23, carrying the image of the Virgin as the choir sang. Organizers made their way to the altar wearing Dominican national costumes. The church was decorated with flowers, highlighting the colors of the Dominican flag: red, blue and white.
Hundreds of thousands of devoted visitors make the trip to the BasÃlica Catedral Nuestra SeÃ±ora de la Altagracia in SalvaleÃ³n de HigÃ¼ey in the Dominican Republic to see the painting of their patron saint.
The story of Our Lady de Altagracia dates back to when Spain first colonized the island of Hispaniola. Alonso y Antonio de Trejo, are said to have brought a painting of the Virgin to Hispaniola from their home in Placencia in 1502.
The legend states that the image of the Virgin mysteriously disappeared from the house of the brothers Trejo and later reappeared in an orange bush. The location of this bush is where the first church of Higuey was built.
The image of Nuestra SeÃ±ora de la Altagracia is believed to have been painted in the late 15th century in Spain. It was mysteriously delivered by a shrouded elderly man who dropped off the painting and disappeared. The painting shows the scene of the birth of Jesus.
Another miracle story tells how Dominican soldiers appealed to the Virgin to help them win victory over the French in the 1691 battle in La Limonade, near Cap-Haitien in northern Haiti. They won the battle.
Virgen de la Altagracia was crowned the spiritual mother of Higuey by pontificate of Pius XI in August 15, 1922. The ceremony was held in Santo Domingo at the Puerta del Conde. Later, President of the Dominican Republic, Doctor Joaquin Antonio Balaguer Ricardo declared that DÃa de la Altagracia would be celebrated on January 21 as a national holiday.
According to Colonial Zone-DR, 1in every 12 Dominicans are named Altagracia in honor of the patron saint.
â€œPersonally, it has been an enriching experience for me,â€� Rev. James Manship said in an interview with the Record Journalâ€™s Latino Communities Reporting Lab.
St. Rose of Lima started to celebrate a special Mass honoring Our Lady of Altagracia in 2018, as it recognized the growth of the Dominican community locally, Manship noted.