Inside “SOMOS,” a NY Gathering to Empower the Hispanic Community

Posted on March 14, 2019 by Catholic Charities Admin  |  Share

“Focused on the Advancement of Our People”: Larissa Story Shares Her Perspective

Larissa Story, 3rd from left, with fellow CCNY staff

Presenting on panels, mingling with legislators and learning the latest strategies to successfully address social service issues, Catholic Charities NY once again took a leadership role at the SOMOS conference held in Albany last weekend, March 10 – 12, 2019. Held twice a year, this conference touches on issues as varied as the opioid crisis, immigration issues and the housing shortage, serving as a platform for legislators, scholars, business and labor leaders to address various concerns pertinent New York’s Hispanic community. 

By Larissa Story

Catholic Charities NY Homebase Director

I attended the annual SOMOS conference for the first time last week. The many levels of accomplishment of the Latino community present at the conference stood out to me most. There was an incredible range of professionals, all sharing their passion for the work that they do whether it be in the fields of government, health, non-profits etc. 

It was empowering to hear stories of young professionals who will be leading our future and at the same time comforting to know that their ideas are focused on the advancement of our people. The weekend provided many opportunities to network with professionals and bring back this important information to my team.
I attended several legislative workshops but honestly wish I could have attended them all. However, they took place at the same time so I had to choose.

I attended a workshop focused on the NYC immigration DREAM Act where a panel included our very own Catholic Charities Community Services Executive Director Beatriz Diaz-Taveras.  She explained to us the work being done with immigrant populations. Twenty-seven million dollars has been pledged to allow Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) students- those brought as children to the U.S. typically by their parents without legal papers - so these young people can benefit from higher education when they previously couldn’t.

I also attended a ‘Housing for All’ workshop where Robert Vargas, Catholic Charities NY director of housing finance, presented on our involvement in affordable housing. 

And at one point I snuck out to watch Dominique Mills, regional supervisor of Catholic Charities Ulster County where opioid addiction, per capita, is among the highest in the state, share her personal experience using NARCAN, the lifesaving overdose reversal nasal spray, on a client who was overdosing. This particular workshop highlighted the importance of the Department of Health’s involvement with free NARCAN training for anyone interested. One important point they made about the opioid crisis was that there are vulnerable populations that don’t automatically jump to mind such as elders who may forget to take their pain medication.  I stayed behind and received the very quick training and my own Narcan first aid kit.

The message I took away from the weekend is that we need to be empowered in the communities that we serve by being informed about policies and advocating for the rights of our clients.

For many clients we are their only voice.  Expressing their needs to elected officials is the only way for them to be heard. I have practiced this many times in the past and will continue to do so moving forward.

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