Thursday, August 2, 2007

Improving the well-being of Latino families in the US

From Alma Elizondo, SuccessLink Coordinator


Last week, July 21 – 24, 2007, I had the opportunity to represent Women’s Initiative at the Annual Conference of the National Council of la Raza (NCLR) in Miami. I was in a sea This was a great learning experience from me. I met a lot of people and learned more about the issues affecting the Hispanic community. In addition, I was able to hear first-hand from Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama about how they would improve the well-being of the Latino families in the US. 

NCLR is the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States; its objective is to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans. Through its network of nearly 300 affiliated community-based organizations – Women’s Initiative is one of them- NCLR reaches millions of Hispanics each year. To achieve its mission, NCLR conducts applied research, policy analysis, and advocacy, providing a Latino perspective in five key areas: assets/investments, civil rights/immigration, education, employment and economic status, and health.

The conference was fitting to happen in Miami because it is one of the most diverse cities in the country. In Miami people buy more salsa than ketchup. It is a place where cultures mix and create a spicy community. There couldn’t be a better place to hold this year’s conference; according to Mayor Manny Diaz in his welcome message more than 60% of Miami’s two million residents are Hispanic whose families have come to this country to make their dreams come true.

Without a doubt the NCLR Conference has been the most political conference I have ever been. Topics such as immigration, education, health care and civic engagement were raised everyday at the workshops, luncheons and at the booths in the exhibit hall. Most of the speakers were politicians stressing the importance of the Latino vote for the next election. 

More of 41 million of Latinos live in the U.S., it is a growing force that will continue to increase in the future. However, we need to join forces and work together for the wellbeing of our communities. Those who can vote in this country, should go to the polls in the next election and vote not only because of their candidates, but also to demonstrate the power that the Latino community have in this country, the only way to be able to measure our power is through democracy.

Sunday July 21 was a day full of music, food and politics. We started off with a brunch with Senator Hillary Clinton, then we headed out for a conference with Senator Barack Obama. 

They both talked about the immigration reform, the Dream Act, education and health care for all immigrants. Hillary focused more on the family values of the Latinos and promised to push a reform under which all children no matter their legal status will have access to education and medical care. On the other hand, I feel that Obama focused a little bit more on the civic rights, saying the he don’t only talk the talk but also walk the walk when supporting the Latinos; he said that if he wins, he will push the immigration reform during the first year of his firs presidential term and that will do everything in his power to protect undocumented immigrant from being overworked and underpaid by cruel employers.

At the conference the people who spoke into the microphones spoke with an accent, and my speaking was no exception. During the last day of activities, I had the opportunity to be a panelist in the workshop “How to become Self-sufficient through Self-employment?” This was a huge challenge for me, it was my first time as a speaker in a conference, and I am proud to say that everything went pretty well, I had a great audience; they were all very impressed with our program and how we help low-income women to become economically independent through self-employment. The conference was a truly learning experience; I learned a lot and met a lot of people. It really opened me the eyes in regards of all the issues that Latinos, especially Latinas and their children face everyday in hopes to be part of the American dream.

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