The Provide Experience: Still Learning After 35 Years on the Job
by Sara Kaye Larson, Provide Storyteller and Content Marketing Officer
I came on board as the Provide Storyteller just over six months ago. When I got the job I felt like I won the nonprofit work lottery. I was so impressed with the way Provide works to increase access to abortion care. Our program acknowledges the barriers and challenges surrounding this topic in different health care systems as well as the personal and social concerns of the people that work in these systems. Our approach to increasing access to safe, nonjudgmental abortion care is centered around the health and social service workers that serve women facing unintended pregnancy. As the Storyteller, I know this center is where the stories are and where we can open up a useful conversation. To get to know these workers, I’m starting a monthly blog series featuring people who have participated in our Abortion Referrals Trainings. It’s a chance to learn more about the people we train, how our trainings support their work, and hopefully create a space where other health and social service workers can recognize themselves and learn about how others deal with the rewards and challenges of working with abortion referrals.
A few weeks ago I got a note from Belem, our Evaluations Program Assistant who follows up with training participant surveys. She wanted to pass along the name of a participant, Guillermo. Her email read, “Such a great interview! Was in Spanish.” I am excited to speak with Guillermo, and then a little worried. My Spanish is pretty weak, but I am hoping that the great part will prevail when I talked to Guillermo, and it did.
As soon as we get on the phone, Guillermo tells me that he is glad to have the chance to speak with me, so I like him already. I ask him to tell me about his work and what his workday looks like. He says he’s a Resource Specialist for a health care organization in South Carolina that connects the Latin American community to various health systems. On any given day he will work with people that need help finding resources for everything from education and parenting skills to family health and individual counseling. I ask about the Latino population there and he says it is large and that it keeps him busy. “They are from all over,” he says. “Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, Columbia… and they work in areas all over the city.” He says his work has to do with helping his clients overcome literacy and language issues and barriers that contribute to the difficulty in getting this information out to those that need it.
He then tells me that he has been working in this field for over 35 years. I almost don’t believe him because his voice has the energy of someone on their first day on the job. In our conversation I can tell that he’s into his work because he stays interested in the people and the community. I gather that is why he wanted to tell me about how much he enjoyed the Provide training. We speak a bit more about the barriers to health care and other resources in the community, and I ask about abortion. He tells me about the silence surrounding family planning and abortion in particular. He says many people he encounters “don’t speak of it by name” and that there is a big stigma around it within the communities in which he works. He says, “I believe people don’t ask because they are embarrassed. It is not talked about. In this area in particular [South Carolina], I believe that the religions are a big obstacle to spread information about family planning and abortion.”
“But the information is very much needed,” he tells me. It is a great segue into talking about his experience with the Provide training.
“The training was excellent,” he says. “There was an excellent facilitator, very open-minded and friendly.” I know he is talking about our awesome State Coordinator that does trainings in Spanish. He continues, “The training was very interesting. I have an open mind. It’s very important that community health workers are open-minded. Sometimes when I talk to others they reject this subject and I don’t understand. In my work I need to promote health care. The best was the part about the obstacles and clues to listen reflectively. I believe that I need to improve how to manage some obstacles, cultural and illiteracy, when I am talking with my clients.”
I tell him that I’m impressed that, even with all of his experience, he still looks for ways to improve his client interactions. He says “of course” and tells me that he has been using what he learned at the Provide training when he talks to his clients and that it makes him a better listener.
It’s so encouraging to think about the powerful combination of our innovative training and a healthcare professional dedicated to client-centered service. I imagine people leaving his office feeling supported and empowered.
I thank Guillermo for his time and think about how Belem was right– this was a great interview.