The Transylvania Times -

Hispanic Community Helps One Another During COVID-19 – Transylvania County, NC


Last updated 6/10/2020 at 5:04pm

The local Hispanic community functions within an “economy of caring” as the coronavirus restrictions deplete the resources of many.

“I’ve talked with the key members of the community and they say that they are helping each other,” said Rodrigo Vargas, executive director of El Centro, a nonprofit organization that assists in integrating Hispanic people into the community.

Many families have seen much worse, he said, and due to the job market availability for much of the Hispanic community that includes outside work, some were still employed.

Much of the community have the advantage of having few financial strings attached, such as bank loans and credit card payments, because of the simple fact that some can’t get the credit card or bank loan that can lead to further stress, he said, a luxury much of the Hispanic community can’t afford.

However, those working in the restaurant industry, he said, are struggling because they went from working six days a week to three, though they are slowly beginning to work more days as restaurant restrictions loosen.

“Another struggle is in education because parents probably can’t work with the kids with their limitations in language,” he said.

At El Centro, Vargas said they have set up online tutors for kids at home.

Comporium had provided free Wi-Fi for two months to families with children at home for the purpose of using educational resources.

“We have organized that to help those families since they cannot work with the kids, and we are trying to help them closely, and when I say closely, I mean over the phone,” he said. “Every three or four weeks we go to the houses of the participating El Centro kids and we give them books. We help the families to connect with the different organizations who are helping families. So, I think, we are all in the same struggle, but with the help that is here, we are able to keep up.”

El Centro Chairwoman Judy Nebrig pointed out that the Hispanic community is struggling like everyone else.

In her talks with the leaders in the community, she said she’s found, like Vargas reported, the Hispanic community is helping one another.

“They are fearful of getting sick and losing work,” she said. “People who work inside like housekeepers have not had work. Some of their employers have been paying them anyway. Most of the men working are still working in landscaping, tree cutting and construction. So, there has probably been less job loss, but what I do know is people are working in outside work. I think it’s important to note that they are helping each other. They know to connect with El Centro, and when they do, we connect them with other programs and people in the community that are available to everybody.”

Echoing Vargas, she said many “have been through worse than this.”

“I don’t want to come across as everything being OK for them, but while this may not seem as bad as it may for you are me, they have struggled and have come through struggles. So, I think they are stronger for it,” she said. “So, that’s my outside view as a white woman. But I am caring about them, hearing from them and trying to be part of their network of taking care of each other.”

They operate within a network of kindness, she said.

“The word gets out on a job loss in the restaurant business, and then someone helps that person out with a job in landscaping,” she said. “It’s that kind of person-to-person help. A family in a church expresses a need and the church people get together and call and text and figure out what needs to happen.

“So, one big thing is that more have jobs than we think, and, secondly, they are helping each other in an informal economy, an economy of caring.”


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