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We are Heroines, not saviors!

A Message from CWC Public Health Manager, Elva Serna, during Women’s History Month


Berwyn, IL Today, CWC’s Public Health Manager, Elva Serna, spoke at the Peggy A. Montes Unsung Heroine Award Ceremony hosted by Cook County Commission on Women’s Issues (CCCWI). A past awardee herself, Elva congratulated and shared her thoughts with this year’s awardees about the role of social service nonprofits.

Elva’s words:

“My name is Elva Serna, and I am a resident of Berwyn. As you all know, the pandemic has devastated our immigrant communities. Language barriers and the limited access to basic services has made the gap bigger in families accessing public health. Public policy that funds public health needs to build from the valuable lesson it learned from the pandemic – that grassroots organizations are crucial to bridge the gap between workers and public health.

Since the beginning and during the worst of the pandemic, CWC has been at the forefront providing vital resources and tools such as: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and information to protect ourselves from COVID in workplaces. We have vaccinated THOUSANDS of people and provided information about their rights as workers. Why? Because 100% of the people we employ look, talk and understand the needs of our community. For us, the people are our neighbors, not our clients. Our neighbors see us as trusted messengers, and we build bridges, not barriers, between people and the systems that are supposed to support them.

This access gives us first-source information of what are the issues plaguing communities: domestic violence, family disintegration, unsafe working conditions, etc. How do we respond? We provide the tools to the survivors to assert their rights, to access the judicial system through web-applications (somewhat unknown to our community before the pandemic); personal support so our neighbors don’t feel intimidated by the bureaucratic systems (which, by the way, were created by men). We equip people with tools and support because our neighbors are not victims, they have power because we are in relationship with each other and together we have the smarts to learn how to navigate systems ourselves.

The Public Health system has the opportunity to address structural barriers and inequities by building upon this system it created with grassroots organizations, reinventing itself, and always (and truly) building bridges with the community. This deep reach we have, needs to be recognized and funded as essential to public health. Let’s build on our grassroots efforts that create relationships with the community to break down the institutional structures within nonprofits that contribute to it.


At CWC, we work:

· By community,

· For the community,

· With the community,

· But, above all, we are part of the community.

And finally, I want to take this moment to thank my family here, for the support they give me every day. Thanks!"

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