By Alfredo Camacho for South Kern Sol
LAMONT, Calif.– About twenty parents squatted onto children’s seats and huddled around a short table to share what they had just made in their cooking course: a mango and black bean dish. Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo’s (CAPSLO) cooking course, a recent addition to monthly meetings for parents is doing more than providing cooking and parenting classes; it’s also a place for indigenous people to learn a foreign language: Spanish.
“Spanish is my second language, and through these classes, I’ve learned how to participate in community events, before I was too shy because I don’t always understand what is being said to me or I don’t always know how to express myself in Spanish,” said Blanca Paz an indigenous woman of Mixtec background and a mother of five. “The food we make is not what I’m accustomed to, but I really like it.”
Paz has also seen a benefit to how she interacts with her community, her kids, and sees the course as a chance for personal growth.
“I’ve learned so much; how to involve myself in the community, how to let go of some timidity, and to involve myself more with my children,” said Paz.
Emanuel Rendón, father of two, finds himself attending classes at thirty years of age to improve parenting.
“More than anything, my child, trying to do the best I can for him,” said Rendon.
Rendón has learned how to strengthen bonds with his family in a program that is conscious of the heavy work-load that many migrant families endure.
“[I’ve learned] how to interact and spend time with the kids, more than anything,” said Rendón. “One doesn’t always have a lot of time but we should do what we can, and that’s why I’m here.”
The cooking course has been a hit, says Luz Torres, a Family Services advocate at the CAPSLO, that leads the meetings.
“I, as a person, like doing different things with my families to get them involved with different activities in the community, which is why we started the cooking classes last month,” Torres explained. “I want them to open their minds to the different choices out there for healthy eating, and making cooking into a fun activity for their kids and for themselves.”
Torres incorporates these and other activities as part of a package of services offered to migrant families through CAPSLO.
“We provide services to migrant families for child care as well as case management, so if families need food, clothes, legal assistance, we help with that too,” said Torres. “I got ten of my families to participate in a 5k/10k run with their kids,” said Torres.
Torres says CAPSLO is currently serving migrant families in eleven counties across the state, and has been providing services in Kern county for fourteen years.
Paz credits the dedication and patience of workers like Torres, who strive to meet the needs of migrant families.
“If I have a question or need a word explained to me, I can ask them and they’ll gladly help me,” said Paz. “Because of this, I’m more involved, and I’m starting to see other families like mine getting involved.
Torres has also seen that these activities are increasing a sense of community where she works.
“I have noticed my families are more involved in the parent meetings, because before my groups were maybe five parents, and it’s been growing since I started doing different things, like the cooking activities,” said Torres. “There’s a health fair in August and I’m getting my families involved in that, and I’m seeing this big change in more participation in activities.”