For more than 30 years, the Community Health Workers/Promotores (CHWs/Ps) of the El Sol Neighborhood Educational Center (El Sol) have represented the hope to achieve equitable access to health and healthcare for all. As CHWs/Ps of El Sol and other related organizations unpack the implications of incorporating CHW/P as part of the Medical benefit, it is valuable to reflect on how specific approaches to training adapted by El Sol can continue to build CHW/P capacity to improve the lives of individuals and transform communities.
Alex Fajardo, Executive Director of El Sol, with El Sol Staff and a group of CHW/P participants.
A Focus on Emotional Readiness/Intelligence in CHWs/Ps
El Sol’s CHW/P training approach primarily focuses on sharing the CHWs/Ps existing knowledge and life experiences in a group learning environment where the facilitator aims for participant leadership and self-directed learning, practice and reflection. Prioritizing emotional readiness and resiliency is at the core of all training and practice; by focusing on emotional intelligence, self-growth and adaptability, each CHW/P is empowered with the necessary skills to connect and build trusting relationships with participants and community members.
Nora Beltran, a CHW/P from El Sol, preparing a group of CHW/P participants for a day of canvassing in a neighborhood in San Bernardino, California.
As experts in understanding the needs of their communities, many CHWs already have the motivation and the basic skills to do the work. The support El Sol gives in emotional readiness and resiliency is then focused on helping CHWs/Ps develop and build strong relationships, create trust, and go deeper with their work, by creating a safe space for dialogue and critical thinking and reflection within the communities they serve.
Changing Hearts and Minds through Popular Education
Popular Education is a non-traditional active learning method that overlaps with reflection and peer-to-peer learning to create a continuous learning/teaching cycle. By using popular education methodology, El Sol supports CHWs/Ps in developing social skills such as communication, identifying body language and facial expressions, being aware of and managing their own emotions when collaborating with others, conflict resolution, and relationship management.
CHW/P participants are working in groups on a popular education activity sheet about community outreach methods.
Exercising these skills prepares the CHW/P to be an effective mediator between health/social services and the community, and strengthens a CHWs/Ps capacity to serve as catalysts for change through a holistic transformative learning approach.
The goal for every CHW/P who goes through the training program is to not only be knowledgeable and skilled in the many areas they practice in but for each one to feel emotionally ready and prepared before engaging in new activities or areas of practice.
What makes CHWs uniquely qualified to provide support in these communities is their ability to build strong relationships, speak the language, and empathize with complex life situations. These qualities allow CHWs to successfully connect individuals to community resources, organizations, and government programs that often provide free or low-cost services.
CHW/P participants and CHW facilitators from El Sol at The Garcia Center for the Arts in San Bernardino, California.
In order to do their complex work, CHWs need to be emotionally intelligent, empathetic, resourceful and willing to help others. Such qualities are personal characteristics that are not necessarily taught, but rather enhanced through training. To learn more about El Sol’s training program, email us at email@example.com.