It’s a world where children don’t have their own toothbrush and putting their health first is difficult. It’s a community that is suffering from poverty, obesity and lack of healthcare. It’s a population faced with language barriers and poor education. And it’s all happening right under our nose—right in our own backyard.
Enter Esperança, a Phoenix-based nonprofit dedicated to improving health and restoring hope to some of the poorest communities around the world, including Maricopa County.
Founded in 1970 and derived from the Portuguese word for “hope”, Esperança was established to provide global health missions for those in need. Today, the organization travels within some of the most poverty-stricken towns and provides access to clean water, stable sources of food, disease prevention, health education and ecological home building. Most notably, are the hundreds of medical missions that Esperança has organized throughout its nearly 50 year history. Ranging from pediatrics to ophthalmology, a group of volunteer surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses travel for approximately 10 days and perform between 30 and 50 surgeries—some of which are a matter of life or death.
“While conducting these global missions, we realized there were so many more people that could benefit from our services—many of which are located right in the Phoenix area,” said Jeri Royce, president and CEO of Esperança. “As such, in 2000, we launched our domestic program in order to serve our community’s most under-resourced children, adults and seniors.”
By partnering with Title I schools, dental clinics and community centers, Esperança’s bilingual and bicultural health educators provide children with oral health literacy, referrals for free or low-cost dental care and daily health and wellness exercises. They stress the importance of nutrition and physical activity, providing information in a language and at a level the kids can understand.
“In the local, Latino communities where we work, more than 64 percent of kindergartners suffer from untreated tooth decay,” said Royce. “This leads to a host of other problems including chronic disease and missed school days.”
Known as Salud con Sabor Latino (Health with a Latin Flavor), adult classes are built around the idea that a family can be healthy, without losing touch with their culture. Participants engage in culturally appropriate, hands-on activities, such as cooking sessions and tours of local grocery stores. Further, the team offers parent-ambassador training, which teaches parents about public health and how to be a strong advocate for their children.
“Whether local or global, we don’t enter communities with the intention to disrupt their way of life, rather we listen to their needs and give them the tools, training and support they need to succeed,” said Royce.
Want to get involved?
Join Esperança at their 9thannual Hope Breakfast on April 4 at the Phoenix Art Museum. The signature fundraising event welcomes more than 400 attendees, including community leaders, to enjoy dynamic speakers, breakfast and a celebration of the thousands of lives the organization has been able to transform.
For more details on the event, plus ways to volunteer and contribute, visit www.esperanca.org
Written by: Kelsey Makings