What has been the impact of COVID-19 in your local community?  ¿Cuál ha sido el impacto de COVID-19 en tu comunidad?

COVID-19 is taking a heavy toll on the physical, emotional, and economic health of our vulnerable community. Community members often live in crowded apartments, making social distancing difficult. Few adults have health insurance. Fears of ICE may keep those who become ill from seeking healthcare. Many in our community cannot shelter in place because of the dire need for income. Others work at restaurants and grocery stores that are considered essential services, where they face potential exposure. Many have lost their jobs. Most of our community members cannot access public benefits such as paid sick leave, unemployment insurance, and other safety nets due to their immigration status. Small businesses in our community are closing their doors. We are hearing reports of children who cannot attend school remotely because their families lack home computers or internet access. Our social workers are helping families secure the tools their children need to attend school. Now more than ever, Mixteca is a critical source of life-saving information and support.

What have been the challenges in responding to the impact? What has been the greatest need in the community?
¿Que desafíos han enfrentado al responder al impacto de la pandemia? ¿Cuáles han sido las necesidades más urgentes de la comunidad?

While these communities are some of the hardest hit by COVID-19, in infections, deaths, and financial strain, they have received little support from all levels of government. What is particularly devastating, is that Immigrants without federal immigration status – including those with US citizen families – were excluded from programs that are supposed to help workers who lose their jobs or have their work hours cut. This includes the federal stimulus payments, state unemployment benefits, and federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) and most temporary leave and disability payments. Furthermore, this pandemic has shed light on the historical and systemic injustices faced by low-wage and communities of color, and in this case, particularly hitting the undocumented immigrant community the hardest. The lack of access to quality health care and healthy food options in our communities has contributed to the high death rates. Having access to healthy food options and food security is a basic human right and the least that our communities deserve. Falling anything short of providing this for our communities will undoubtedly have irreversible and devastating consequences for our city.

How did your organization respond? ¿Cómo ha respondido tu organización?

In the days following the COVID-19 outbreak in New York City, Mixteca conducted rapid assessments of our community’s needs and began to provide immediate emergency relief as the crisis unfolded. We mobilized quickly to respond as we understood that we would be working, directly and on-the-ground, with some of the most impacted communities and neighborhoods – undocumented workers and families with little access to services and likely not to qualify for federal relief programs. We immediately sprang into action to address the need for Food Access, and have partnered with food vendors, small businesses and food initiatives such as Jalapeno King, a local small restaurant in Sunset Park, Tacombi, La Palapa and other Street Vendors to sourced hot meals to the community. We are also partnering with Angel Family Farm, a very local farmer group that provides us with fresh and high-quality vegetables. Upon surveying the environment for our members and community, we responded by increasing our food programs as the need for food grew exponentially over the initial weeks. Mixteca distributes boxes of fresh vegetables complemented with culturally appropriate food such as cilantro, jalapeno, tomatillo, tortillas and other items. As part of our initiative, we have developed a basic grocery and essential item delivery service to families that have been severely impacted by the crisis and who are not able to reach external resources. Our boxes include masks, hand sanitizers, and other essentials as well as critical information to prevent the spread of the virus in our community. We Know our community needs access to financial resources and we were able to launch a GoFundMe page to support their needs. With this support and other grants, we have been able to support over 700 families so far. This money has been used for funeral services, repatriation, internet access, rent and other bills payment, purchasing an AC, baby formula, diapers and many other basic needs. As a result of these actions, Mixteca has quickly become the go-to organization in Brooklyn, not only for our community members but also for government agencies and other institutions seeking guidance and assistance in reaching out to and assisting undocumented immigrant communities, in the neighborhood known as the “epicenter of the epicenter” of the pandemic nationwide and where death rates per capita are disproportionate in comparison to other neighborhoods.

What has brought you the greatest joy in your work? ¿Que parte del trabajo que hace tu organización te da la más felicidad?

At Mixteca we are honored to be supporting our community. Our greatest moments are when a family is able to put food on the table, or when we see the strength in our local business that are willing to donate food even when they don’t have enough. The resilience of our community.

What would you like people to know? ¿Que te gustaría que la gente sepa de tu trabajo?

I would love people to know that our community is strong and that Mixteca is here to support our community in need. I would like them to know that our community has been more affected than others but it is resilient.

How can the community support your efforts? ¿Que pueden hacer tu comunidad para apoyar tu trabajo?

Continue volunteering and supporting each other.