Leadership in Action Project- Summer 2021

This summer, I worked with an organization called Center to Support Immigrant Organizing (CSIO). This organization is based in Boston and the surrounding area and aims to support immigrant organizations through various endeavors.

CSIO itself has provided these organizations leadership trainings, one-on-one mentorship, and organizational retreat days. They work primarily with grassroots organizations in Boston and have a community of youth that they work to empower. 

While there, I primarily focused on the project “Equity Now & Beyond” (EN&B) which targeted vaccine hesitancy and vaccine rates among immigrant communities in the greater Boston area. EN&B was a partnership between four different immigrant organizations and CSIO. These organizations included Agencia ALPHA, Acedone, Haitian Americans United (HAU), and Brazilian Women’s Group. Together, we organized vaccine clinics within their respective communities, targeting areas of Massachussetts that each organization knew had large immigrant communities.

We worked with various medical providers, such as Boston Medical Center, Mass General Hospital, Mass General Brigham, Boston EMS and other’s to coordinate availability of vaccines and the administration of them. As a majority of the populations that we served did not speak English as a first language, it was imperative that we provide alternative language opportunities for these individuals. This was especially true when individuals were hesitant about receiving the vaccine and wanted more information about the side effects. 

In addition to organizing, I was able to participate in research. Research assistants from each organization worked together to identify barriers that existed among the respective communities in an attempt to better address vaccine hesitancy. At each clinic that we organized, we would walk around and survey individuals who received the vaccine. We would ask questions such as "Did you have concerns about the vaccine before deciding to get one? If so, what where they and where did you hear them? What made you decide to get vaccinated today?". This allowed us to understand not only the barriers that faced individuals, but what had encouraged them to get vaccinated. 

In terms of leadership, when I first started my internship, I felt incredibly uncomfortable leading various immigrant organizations in coordinating vaccine clinics. It felt wrong to assert my own opinions when I could not personally understand the barriers that were keeping individuals from getting vaccinated.

Through talking with each individual immigrant organizer, I was able to gain an inside look into the barriers facing these communities. English is not the first language for most individuals who would come in, making it difficult for them to find resources. Those I was able to speak to have a severe distrust in the government due to the historical malpractice towards people of color and immigrants by the medical community. People often lack health insurance and sometimes a form of identification, making it difficult for them to access medical care. Working on EN&B, I have not only been able to identify these barriers, but target them.

This experience has better informed me about how to lead these organizations, but also how to take a step back to allow their own voices to be heard. It is disheartening to learn about these barriers, but also empowering to be able to make real change in these communities.