Activist groups receive grants for COVID-19 outreach education


Photo Courtesy of Lesley Nava

The booth that Lesley Nava and Anthony Erlinger, Pandemic Health Navigators, set up at Rantoul Foods on March 31 is pictured above. The goal was to inform immigrant workers about the COVID-19 vaccine and dispel myths.

By Amrita Bhattacharyya, News Editor

Two Champaign County organizations have received grants for conducting COVID-19 outreach and education to vulnerable communities.
The Illinois Public Health Association awarded Pandemic Health Navigator grants of $200,000 to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People of Champaign County and $223,000 to Immigrant Services of Champaign-Urbana.
ISCU will send in monthly reports of their expenses to the IPHA, for which ISCU will be reimbursed. ISCU is eligible for this grant through Oct. 31.
To apply for the grant, ISCU had to write a letter of intent describing their organization and interest in the grant and present a budget. Then, they had several Zoom sessions in which members of ISCU were interviewed.
“It was an unusual process in some ways because sometimes you apply just online through an application — there’s no personal contact,” said Ben Mueller, executive director of ISCU. “But Illinois Public Health Association is a very personal kind of organization. They wanted to get to know us.”
With the grant, ISCU has been able to start an outreach education program targeting immigrant communities.
Lesley Nava, senior in AHS, and Anthony Erlinger, sophomore in LAS, are both Pandemic Health Navigators for ISCU.
Nava and Erlinger primarily help Guatemalan immigrants with referrals for various assistance programs, such as rental, food or medical assistance and help them with applications.
Last Wednesday, Nava and Erlinger went to Rantoul Foods, a meat-processing plant which has a large immigrant workforce. Nava and Erlinger passed out flyers and resources regarding vaccine effectiveness, as well as phone numbers to make vaccine appointments.
“They don’t trust the vaccine, and it was kind of our duty to make them feel comfortable and assure them that it’s OK to take,” Nava said.
During the workers’ lunch break, Nava and Erlinger gave a presentation on the vaccine and talked to workers about personal concerns they had with the vaccine.
“They’re there to answer questions and provide assurances to the workers that this is something that’s safe and effective,” Mueller said.
Erlinger says they were able to convince a few people to start searching for appointments.
ISCU is also trying to disseminate vaccine information through local school districts, according to Erlinger.
“You kind of have to play things by ear with the pandemic,” Erlinger said. “So we’re waiting to see what opportunities pop up, and then we’re gonna do our best to be able to spread as much information as we can.”

[email protected]