For some, this was the first graduation ceremony they had ever attended. The excitement was palpable. But this was no regular graduation ceremony.
This was the graduation of some of the most creative members of Seattle’s Latino/a, Vietnamese and Khmer communities, celebrating their completion of training to become Community Health Advocates. Over the previous few months, ECOSS facilitated training about local environmental health risks and helped the advocates practice their outreach to communicate these risks to their communities. This is in partnership with King County Public Health under the auspices of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Raising awareness about environmental health requires actively engaging community members. This means doing away with word-dense information packets. Instead, community leaders instill their culture into the outreach lessons.
And the graduation ceremony would not be complete without the same level of creativity! Though there were inspirational, heartfelt graduation speeches aplenty, the Community Health Advocates and facilitators also strengthened their relationships with team building activity, such as an interactive string game.
Ultimately, this project is not just about training health advocates; it is also about helping community members become community leaders. Advocates are empowered to be the voice for their communities in engaging public agencies, and they build skills that will benefit future career paths.
After graduation, these community health advocates are raising awareness and engaging their communities about the contamination issues of the Duwamish River and about healthy seafood choices. We look forward to seeing their creativity in promoting environmental health for all!
The Community Health Advocates program is part of Seattle and King County’s Public Health department, which is funded through EPA as part of the Fun to Catch, Toxic to Eat Program for the Lower Duwamish Waterway Superfund Site.