El Sol Neighborhood Education Center’s COVID-19 response efforts recognized by Dr. Anthony Fauci, staff invited to White House

San Bernardino-based El Sol honored as Inland Empire’s Non-Profit of the Year for outreach efforts to vulnerable communities during COVID-19 pandemic

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Photo El Sol: From left: El Sol Program Manager Joanina Gazcon and El Sol COVID-19 Outreach Lead Natanael Chavez holding a photo of El Sol’s community health care workers at a vaccination event signed by President Joe Biden during the 4th of July White House event they were invited to.
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El Sol Neighborhood Education Center, a pioneer in community health worker and promotoras (specially trained Spanish-speaking health workers) programs in California’s Inland Empire, received national and state recognition this month for its crucial work in helping protect the region’s vulnerable populations from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two promotoras from El Sol were invited to attend a July 4 White House event with President Joe Biden celebrating the nation’s birthday and progress in fighting COVID-19. Attendees included first responders and healthcare workers from across the United States.

President Biden addressed the group on the South Lawn of the White House, saying, “Thanks to our heroic vaccine effort, we’ve gained the upper hand against this virus.”

The invitation to the White House event came on the heels of a video message received from Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in which he lauded El Sol for its leadership in expanding access to COVID-19 vaccines among underserved communities in California’s Inland Empire.

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El Sol is one of hundreds of community-based organizations across California contracted to reach diverse communities that have been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic. These organizations are crucial partners in delivering critical education and COVID-19 safety and vaccine information in 27 languages across the state, as well as appointment assistance and referrals. The successful effort is a partnership amongst The Center at Sierra Health Foundation, the California Department of Social Services, and the Labor and Workforce Development Agency. 

Assembly Majority Leader Eloise GómezReyes recently honored the organization as her district’s 2021 Nonprofit of the Year for its work to increase COVID-19 vaccine access and overcome vaccine hesitancy with a focus on mono-lingual Spanish speakers, immigrants, and residents with limited-English proficiency.

“We are so proud to recognize El Sol,” said Assembly Member Reyes. “Inland Southern California nonprofits work tirelessly to reach at-risk community members with life-saving resources and information. El Sol’s innovative outreach efforts have helped save countless lives and slowed the spread of the deadly coronavirus in some of our hardest-hit communities in the Inland Empire. El Sol represents the best of Assembly District 47.”

El Sol’s COVID-19 prevention efforts include leading dozens of pop-up vaccination events and clinics throughout the Inland Empire to deliver nearly 6,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, distributing nearly 7,000 COVID-19 care kits and training community health workers.

“For more than 30 years, El Sol has been a trailblazer in empowering people in our community to become trusted messengers of health, and connecting our residents to critical resources and care,” said Alexander Fajardo, executive director of El Sol. “I am so grateful that the tireless efforts of our team and promotoras have been honored. It further inspires us to ensure everyone we serve can get vaccinated against COVID-19.”

During the pandemic, El Sol quickly transitioned from in-person outreach to electronic and virtual outreach within a matter of weeks, which reached thousands of people and saved lives even in California’s most rural areas. El Sol’s frontline public health workers often share the language, culture and socioeconomic needs of the people they serve.

A hallmark of El Sol’s unique approach to community outreach is integrating pop culture to reach their audiences. El Sol produced original music videos in both English and Spanish that used lyrics and imagery showing community members receiving vaccinations in a supportive environment. 

During the pandemic, El Sol produced music videos, “Time to Heal” and the Spanish-language “The Official COVID-19 Song.” El Sol’s Time to Heal virtual tool kits, which include mental health check-in plans, self-care planning tools, and fact sheets, promote healing from the trauma of the pandemic.

“It was an honor to be invited to the July 4 event, and for our community health workers to be acknowledged by the President,” said Natanael Chavez, El Sol’s lead promotor. “It was a great delight to see so many people who worked hard to fight this pandemic, gathered together.”

Chavez was able to make his way through a throng of attendees to achieve his main goal for attending the event: He had the President sign a picture of El Sol’s community health workers at a vaccination event, and was able to have a few words with the President as he signed it.

To learn more about or support El Sol’s work in the Inland Empire, visit https://www.elsolnec.org/.  To download the organization’s “Time to Heal” self-care toolkits, visit https://www.elsolnec.org/news-and-media/covid-19-response/. More information on COVID-19, vaccines and the state’s efforts to reach vulnerable communities can be found at www.vaccinateall58.com.

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