During COVID-19, underserved communities in Philly rely on tech to connect - Generocity Philly


Sep. 21, 2020 12:45 pm

During COVID-19, underserved communities in Philly rely on tech to connect

In and around the Hunting Park neighborhood, Latinx nonprofits use tech to build community and to keep people engaged.

Acción Colombia held its first virtual even in April 2020.

(Courtesy photo)

Latinx community organizations are adapting to the pandemic by using technology to directly connect to community members. In the process, they have found ways to still serve community members in a remote and virtual capacity.

Advocacy for the Latinx community during the pandemic is underscored by existing issues like the language barrier many Latinx immigrants face and a lack of health insurance.

COVID-19 is affecting Latinx Philadelphians in drastic ways. Latinx people make up only 6.2% of all people that have been locally tested for the virus.

With COVID-19 changing how people are able to meet in-person, North Philadelphia nonprofit Acción Colombia has used social media to engage the community it serves.

Volunteer work supports the civic engagement and arts programming that Acción Colombia usually provides for the community under regular circumstances. COVID-19 forced the small organization to get creative and quickly adapt.

Leity Rodriguez-Largo is Acción Colombia’s executive director and said the organization moved quickly to adapt to the challenges that COVID-19 presented in connecting with people. Rodriguez-Largo said that while Acción Colombia had a social media presence before COVID-19, it relied on Facebook much more than it did before.

“We had to try to use whatever we have,” she said. “In the process, we learned how to use it. We used Facebook before but not in the way we are using it now.”

Acción Colombia has used its Facebook account to share information about COVID-19 and to help raise awareness for the 2020 Census. Rodriguez-Largo said the organization has worked with the U.S. Census Bureau since November 2019 to provide as much support as possible.

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Latinxs comprise more than 14 percent of Philadelphia’s population and the participation of the local Latinx community in the survey is paramount to making sure it receives the resources it needs.

After finding its way in using social media and apps to connect with its community, Acción Colombia is marching ahead with more activities. From October 15-17, the organization will host its first ever Virtual Book Fair.

North Philadelphia nonprofit Esperanza works to help Latinx community members by focusing on education, economic development and ways to create social change. Esperanza marketing and communications manager Samantha Martinez said that Esperanza has remained steadfast in its support role throughout the pandemic.

“During the pandemic, Esperanza continued to serve the North Philadelphia community remotely,” she said. “The pandemic has impacted the community both socially and economically, so we made it a priority to support and advise our community of any services and opportunities available to them.”

Esperanza works with individuals facing issues like housing insecurity and unemployment. To still take care of its clients, the nonprofit has made all of its services remote and adjusted its intake process to offer services via phone and text message.

Esperanza also operates the Esperanza Academy Charter Schools. While students and teachers are not able to meet in-person due to COVID-19, Martinez said the nonprofit has supported families in many ways including offering laptops to students attending Esperanza schools.

[Read how the Korean American Association of Greater Philadelphia uses tech to keep connected during COVID-19]

Like Acción Colombia, Esperanza had to cancel in-person events due to COVID-19 and pivoted to virtual programming like its Virtual Latino Arts Festival. The festival will help affirm local residents’ appreciation and knowledge of Latinx traditions.

“For our inaugural festival, we’re excited to present streamed music, dance, theater, and cinema productions representing a broad spectrum of cultural traditions from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Spain, Cuba, Brazil, and Argentina,” she said. “This year has set the tone and direction of what we envision will be an annual online celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month from Esperanza Arts Center.”

With creativity and adaptation, Acción Colombia and Esperanza are providing hope for Latinx community members even more alienated by the pandemic, recession and upcoming presidential election.


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