Guest Blog by Teresa Morales
Mission Promise Neighborhood Community Engagement
It was an early Thanksgiving feast, Latino-style, held at MEDA’s Plaza Adelante on November 14th, with staff and promotoras sharing a meal. It was time to give a year-end thanks to these amazing community outreach workers, the six women who began working with MEDA and the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) last spring. Their first community outreach was successfully conducting an intensive MPN neighborhood survey, and they have done outreach for many other events since.
On the cosmopolitan, potluck menu for everyone’s enjoyment were: chuchitos (tamales) from Guatemala; baleadas (flour quesadillas with beans and meat) from Honduras; mole con pollo from Mexico; galletitas Peruanas; refried beans and Mexican rice; salsa with homemade tortillas; and picadillo de carne from Panama. A true feast.
Sitting around tables draped with burgundy MEDA tablecloths and centerpieces teeming with autumn flowers were the promotoras and their families. They were joined by Bob Phillips and MEDA staff of Amelia Martinez, Michelle Reiss-Top, Sophia McGurk and Gabriel Medina, who always stops by to say, “Hola” when he is working late (the promotoras have taken to affectionately calling him “Don” Gabriel.)
Friday night was not about work though–it was about sharing, relaxing and enjoying. The conversation centered on the topics of food, traditions, culture and family. It was a night of breaking bread together, compartiendo historias (sharing stories) and laughing about names of foods and idioms from each country that mean something completely different in another nation. Laughter filled the voluminous conference room that served as the venue for the feast, with background sounds of children joyously playing.
Suddenly, two little boys began distributing to each dinner guest a cup filled with a green shake. It turns out Michelle Reiss-Top (a.k.a. MEDA’s “Salesforce Queen”) had brought fruits, vegetables and a blender, with she and her sons, Everett and Henry, busily preparing concoctions.
“What is that?” asked a promotora’s six-year-old daughter. “Try it,” cajoled eight-year-old Henry. Small sips first occurred, with all drinking cautiously, having never downed a kale drink before. Suddenly, like magic, everyone wanted more.
Later, another drink concoction was presented, this one similar to MEDA’s robust burgundy–the color of life. This drink actually sufficed as dessert, with the sweetness of berries and apples making the vegetables fade to the background.
If only Avni Desai, the Mission Promise Neighborhood’s new Health and Safety Manager, could have been on hand to see nutrition education in action (she had another engagement and graciously brought two gallons of organic apple juice for the party.)
Not everyone knows the long-standing role of promotoras in the Mission. Think of them as domestic workers. They clean houses. They baby-sit. They wash dishes.
When the promotoras return home after a hard day’s work, they still have to make dinner for their own families, meaning more housecleaning and dishwashing. When they come to their MPN workshop each Tuesday, these indefatigable women never leave Plaza Adelante until they have left everything in better condition than when they arrived. That is their work ethic.
Imagine their surprise at the Thanksgiving event when Michelle’s kids started to remove the plates from the table and taking them into the kitchen. Everyone thanked the little helpers, with one promotora stating to the room, “Such well-behaved and well-taught little gueritos. They must have good parents.”
When a short time thereafter everyone adjourned to the kitchen to begin cleaning up, it was discovered that room was spotless, with every dish washed and put away, plus every composting product and recycling item already in the correct receptacle.
The promotoras’ mouths were agape: they could not believe that this night they would not have to wash dishes after dinner. They were allowed to simply enjoy the evening.
This was a true Thanksgiving of gratitude, all around.
From MEDA and Mission Promise Neighborhood staff, we wish all of our clients and stakeholders the best Thanksgiving imaginable. Thanks to you for making MEDA’s work possible.
Addendum: On November 25th, all promotoras were given a donated turkey, so they can share a meal with their family tomorrow. The picture says it all!