It is time to celebrate the achievements of the amazing Atlas Corps Alumni who are making inspiring impacts against COVID-19. Today we want to talk with our Fellow Karla (Class 33, El Salvador) about her efforts to support vulnerable communities in the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Currently, Karla serves as a Policy Advisor for her Host Organization, The Unity Council, where she promotes public policies to the benefit of her clients. The Unity Council primarily supports low-income families and immigrants, populations which have been hit hardest during the current pandemic.
In the past couple of months, their work has expanded to provide additional financial assistance, resources, and coaching to help these vulnerable communities get back on their feet during and after the current crisis. Thank you so much, Karla, for everything that you do! We wish you the best with this inspiring work!
Name: Karla Guerra
Home Country: El Salvador
Host Organization: Microsoft
Role at Host Organization: The Unity Council
Social Issues that you have worked with: Sustainable Cities and Communities
How is your Host Organization working to fight against COVID-19?
The Unity Council has taken a really proactive approach to ensuring that we care for our people in this especially challenging time. Some measures that we have taken include:
- providing direct cash assistance to low-income families who have lost their income to pay for rent, food, and other essential needs;
- helping people file for unemployment, apply for jobs, and access other public benefits remotely;
- providing middle and high-school youth a point of stability in an uncertain time through virtual check-ins;
- increasing staffing in our Fruitvale Business Improvement District program so that we can help more small business owners in Fruitvale apply to loan and grant programs and get set up with online ordering;
- distributing meals and groceries to more than 1,200 low-income senior citizens and families with children under 5.
Please tell us more about the specific role that you have taken to combat COVID-19 with your Host Organization and beyond?
My main role at The Unity Council is to lead the policy and advocacy efforts at the Local, State & Federal Level by engaging with legislators, policymakers, coalitions and stakeholders to advance public policies that benefit our clients through all our programs: Children & Family Services, Affordable Housing, Real Estate Development, Community Programs, Youth, Seniors, & Small Businesses. As a strong anchor organization in Fruitvale, we not only serve our clients and communities, we also represent them and elevate their voices to make sure their needs are heard and met by their elected officials.
The population we serve are mostly immigrants who have been directly impacted by the pandemic, people who have lost their jobs and need money to pay rent. I have been working with all of our teams to help them do research on resources and opportunities to amplify the voices of the communities that we serve. My work has included demanding health access for immigrants, economic opportunity & the allocation of resources to alleviate the impact of the pandemic on those who have been hit the hardest.
I have also been keeping our Senior Executive Team informed of the latest COVID-19 policy updates every week at our current meetings and tracking new HR policies, 2020 Census, Payment Protection Program policies, Small Businesses grants, opportunities, County Stay-At-Home-Orders-, Rent & Eviction Protections, County & City Council meetings & every single order that will have an impact on our people. Officers, Directors, Managers & Staff come to me with different advocacy requests & urgent legislative actions that I have to work on in order to protect our community, programs and immigrants rights.
Do you have anything you would like to say to everybody about how we can all do our part in this pandemic?
Doing your part looks different for everyone. For some, it’s helping to flatten the curve by making the simple and selfless decision to stay home so you don’t put others at risk.
For others, it might be connecting with your local organizations helping elderly people with grocery shopping, volunteering at a local food distribution, donating to a fund, becoming a contact tracer, becoming a promotor of public health in your community to teach about PPE in different languages through different social media, or donating blood & plasma when needed.
The most important thing to do right now is to come together in our various communities and support each other, helping in whatever way we can.
Atlas Corps Fellows continue to serve in the U.S. and remote, and we reaffirm our commitment to building a network of global leaders, even- and especially- in these times. We need your help to overcome the operational challenges that Atlas Corps faces so we can continue our critical work of training the social change leaders that this world urgently needs. As a special initiative, donations of $100+ will be matched! Will you support our Fellows?