Cultivating Change: Emma Gonzales

Latino-Hispanic Heritage Month 2016 is here, and HealthConnect One is honored to amplify the voices of our Hispanic and Latinx allies, as they share about changes they are making in their lives and communities.

¡Mes de la herencia Hispano / Latino  ya está aquí! Nos encantaría que te unas a nosotros para celebrar del 15 de Septiembre al 15 de Octubre de 2016.  Nuestro tema este año es el Cultivando Cambio: los Latinos y los Hispanos hablan acerca de un cambio personal y de su comunidad.

 

emma-with-kids-2015A widowed mother of three children, Emma came to the United States in 1993. She enrolled in HealthConnect One (formerly Chicago Health Connection)’s breastfeeding peer counseling class in 1998, at the suggestion of her sister-in-law. Emma wanted to take this class to help others in her community, and in the ten-week course, she learned the basics of breastfeeding, how to advocate for new moms, and how to become a source of support when there is no one else to rely on.

She was surprised at what else she learned – in learning to advocate for others, she also began advocating for herself. “With this training, I learned to listen, pay attention, and speak up for myself and my kids. I want to be the best, because that’s what’s best for my kids. Breastfeeding helped me to be closer to my kids, and it taught me to be responsible for my future.”

Breastfeeding helped me be closer to my kids & taught me to be responsible for my future. ~ Emma Gonzales #HHM2016 Click To Tweet

A very shy person, Emma has never been shy of hard work. For years, she shared her wisdom, knowledge and support with breastfeeding moms in her community, and in March 2006, she returned to HealthConnect One for a Facilitator’s Workshop. This workshop was geared towards developing counselors into trainers, allowing them to reach a larger audience to make a broader impact. Here, Emma learned how to be more open with her feelings and voice her opinions in a very diverse group. She ended this class feeling more confident, and decided to run for a very competitive seat on her local school council. Within a week, Emma was elected to serve on the No Child Left Behind committee at her school.

She was making her impact!

emma-with-kids-graduationSlowly, quietly, and with great determination, Emma had become a local community leader, advocating in a new way for the healthy development of children. “The Facilitator’s Workshop helped me to be more open and secure with myself. The workshop helped more than anything I ever did. I don’t want to always be behind. I want to be ahead. [HC One] is something important in my life and has given me the opportunity to do all these things.”

HealthConnect One trains community health workers, but more than that – HC One trains community advocates, women and men who strengthen their own communities by drawing on their own strengths, making one connection at a time. It is this connectedness that translates into effectiveness.

Emma worked for WIC awhile and ten years later, although no longer with WIC, she continues to provide peer counseling to new moms in her community. She wants her neighbors, family and friends to have the same experience she had with her children, and she hopes all mothers will realize the impact of bonding through breastfeeding. She says, “[HC One] taught me to open my eyes and my mind.”

HC One may have given her the tools to find her own power, but the power has always been hers.

As she continues to quietly nurture her community, Emma becomes a symbol of strength and independence – not only to her children – but to us all.

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