Delmarva Community Partners Strike at Misinformation, Equip Haitian Community with COVID Knowledge
Nestled between Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean is the Delmarva peninsula, consisting of the state of Delaware and portions of Maryland and Virginia. Delmarva is home to diverse agricultural and protein processing industries, and is well known for its fruit, vegetable, and poultry production. With such a high volume of food production, Delmarva has also become a large hub for migrant and immigrant workers.
Eddline Laraque-Petion, Community Health Worker with Rebirth, Inc., is hard at work serving the health needs of migrants and immigrants – and the work is constantly changing with increasing numbers of newly arrived Haitian immigrants, including pregnant women and their families. “We are seeing 15 pregnant women on a daily basis,” Laraque-Petion said during a recent learning collaborative session with Migrant Clinicians Network. Rebirth advocates for the rights of and facilitates resources to the vulnerable and immigrant workers in the Delmarva Peninsula – including the 15,000 Haitian immigrants in the region. “Sometimes they come for health insurance [assistance], or they need help with food assistance -- then we can also educate them about COVID,” she said. COVID has been an important aspect of their community education approach, as they battled misinformation, fear, and access issues in their community. As the pandemic stretches into its third year, Rebirth’s Executive Director, Habacuc Petion noted that “we keep doing what we have been doing and so far, we see a lot of changes. Hopefully, something is working.” Prepping for the bivalent vaccine rollout, Rebirth has partnered with various local agencies to provide a resource and health fair every other Tuesday where they can connect with community members, educate, and provide limited health services through the local hospital's mobile wellness van.
Reverend Roosevelt Toussaint, Executive Director of Haitian Development Center of Delmarva (HDCD) and minister at the Word of Life Church, has seen how fear and misinformation have negatively impacted his community. “On a regular basis, we give them information about COVID and [educate] them to still be cautious about it,” Rev. Toussaint said. “We have made some progress with the majority of them, but there are some, no matter what you do, they are still fearful… Because of COVID they are paralyzed.” He has been able to bring education to his congregation throughout the pandemic. HDCD’s Community Health Worker on staff is knowledgeable on US citizenship and immigration services which is a huge draw for new arrivals. HDCD often bring together their volunteers and staff to provide interpretation during "one-stop" events where they hand out food, promote the on-site COVID vaccine clinic, and offer immigration resources. Their offices have been very busy lately with school registration assistance and social services connections.
Rebirth and HDCD are two of several community organizations that have partnered with Migrant Clinicians Network in a project called Strength in Unity to provide accurate information and resources to members of the Haitian community residing on the Delmarva peninsula. The title Strength in Unity originated from the motto featured on the Haitian flag L'union fait la force. The Strength in Unity project utilizes MCN’s Vaccination Is... campaign, which features trilingual customizable resources to educate the community about the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine. MCN hosted a series of learning collaboratives with partnering organizations and community health workers to provide consistent capacity building and COVID-19 updates. The Vaccination is… campaign once again has come to the forefront as communities prepare for the bivalent vaccine’s arrival – with limited to no funding toward promotion or outreach. The Vaccination is... campaign offers a wide range of free customizable materials in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole.
While both organizations are working diligently to provide resources to the community, they also serve a vital role by providing community updates and addressing common myths and concerns from community members. At a recent learning collaborative, MCN’s Founding Medical Director, Edward Zuroweste, MD, delivered evidence-based education on COVID-19 and vaccines while sharing best practices and strategies to reach immigrant and migrant communities. Strategic partnerships like these are critical to reaching underserved populations and encouraging true and honest conversations to combat misinformation.
Access the Vaccination Is… campaign in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole to download any of the materials for free:
To view archived Strength in Unity learning collaborative sessions, please use the link below:
Visit Rebirth, Inc.: https://rebirthinc.org/
Visit Haitian Development Center of Delmarva: http://hdcd.org/