Centro Hispano Enhances Community Outreach in Pender County

In the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, Centro Hispano’s Edelmira Segovia and Cristóbal Montero immediately reached out to those in flooded mobile home communities in Pender County, where many Hispanic and/or Spanish-speaking residents live.
Segovia, the director of Centro, and program coordinator Montero volunteered with a group of Seahawks, organized by associate professor Amanda Boomershine from the Department of World Languages and Cultures, to serve as Spanish translators; clean out damaged homes; and deliver nonperishable foods, cleaning supplies and winter clothing to families in need. An estimated 5,000 structures had flooded in Pender County as a result of the storm.
“There are a high number of affected homes in these areas, a high number of youth in the communities, and a need for interpreters. These areas have ties to the UNCW community through the MI CASA program,” said Segovia. Mentors Initiating Community Action, Support and Advocacy is an innovative program designed to provide access to higher education opportunities to Hispanic/Latino high school students.
Since many of the MI CASA volunteers live in the area, they have helped the university strengthen Centro studentsconnections that Montero hopes will continue long after the cleanup process concludes. By working alongside families, Centro staff and volunteers have the opportunity to promote the value of higher education.
“Having these students in the community really helps establish trust,” he said. “We are building an incredible relationship with the residents. It is an exhausting, but very fulfilling, environment.”
The team, including Ashley Wells, assistant dean for community engagement and impact, and other colleagues from the College of Health and Human Services, have also provided residents with invaluable information about nutrition and wellness, Montero added.
He recalled one of the first days the team worked in one of the communities. Montero and several volunteers cleaned out a mobile home that was significantly damaged by floodwaters. Nearly all of the residents’ possessions were coated in mold and had to be disposed of, he said.
“We were throwing away everything that they worked so hard for and, inside, I was choking,” he said. “It is painful to see a family lose everything. The lady of the house, she came up to me afterward, and she thanked me. I said, ‘Why are you thanking me?’ And she said, ‘Because all of you are here and you care.’”
See photos and more information about Centro Hispano’s Hurricane Florence recovery outreach on Facebook.

-- Andrea Monroe Weaver