The countdown to 2020 Census means overtime hours and extra miles for tireless advocates like Cristina Camacho.
If you haven’t crossed paths with Camacho during one of her many visits up and down the Central Valley she’s been actively training community-based organizations and engaging residents on the upcoming Census, chances are you may have seen or heard her as a guest on any number of local TV and radio shows.
Each visit is an opportunity to inform, educate, and in some cases calm the fears of those who may find participating in the Census daunting.
“Every morning I’m answering emails, and booking presentation events,” said Camacho who works as the Regional Campaign Manager for NALEO Educational Fund, a national non-profit, non-partisan advocacy group that promotes Latino participation in (but not limited to) political and social causes, but also working with the United States Census Bureau on community engagement. “Right now, I’m working on training the Census trainers here in Kern County, as well as Kings County, and Fresno.”
When asked whether her arrival has been welcomed in the cities she’s visited, Camacho said a smile goes a long way.
“You can break the ice with a smile. Say hello, introduce yourself,” she said. “The more that they see you are there to just offer resources, they are more than welcoming. Have the willingness to go and help is the best way to build relationships in areas where nobody knows who you are.”
Following a brief introduction, Camacho goes to work providing all the necessary information and how-to on the Census. Whether set-up at a table with leaflets, video monitor, or in front of the camera, civil engagement has also become a priority during her latest trips.
“There’s always something new coming up we must read and learn to stay informed. The audience has a lot of questions, which as a presenter is always great to have.”
Camacho credits working alongside the well-established Kern Complete Counts Committee on the Census campaign trail helping her gain the necessary tools to make an impact.
“Here in Kern County, I’m very familiar with the organization, but in Kings County, they don’t have a lot of resources to do a lot of this outreach, but they have a passion for work,” Camacho said. “So, we’re able to work really
well with the various Complete Count Committees and try to serve each community as much as possible.”
Camacho added that one of the most effective methods has been incorporating bilingual (English/Spanish) and monolingual (Spanish) communication where language barriers are commonplace.
“Recently I was conducting a training session in Spanish and a lot of people were surprised as to how the Census information is used to better their communities.”
Among the most common questions asked by all residents:
“Will the citizen question be on the Census questionnaire?”
“Will our phone number be shared and/or sold to outside parties?”
The answer to both questions is no. This according to official Census guidelines available for reference at census.gov.
Camacho understands these concerns and as part of her job and mission, will answer any and all Census questions directed her way.
“We always make sure to explain to them that all of the Census information collected is confidential.
There are laws in Title 13 (of the U.S. Code) protecting your privacy. You are asked for your phone number to contact you over any missing information. That is all.”
Along with informing residents on privacy, the value of Census participation to help secure federal funds needed to keep programs such as First 5, Head Start, WIC, alive has also become an integral part of Camacho’s messaging.
“These programs rely on federal funds to serve their community. That can affect a child’s life in a lot of ways. One scenario is that if a working mother doesn’t have adequate childcare for her children, she might only be allowed to work part time and not provide enough for her family.”
In the coming weeks, Camacho plans to increase her travel time by road and air, staying connected with her NALEO co-workers and colleagues to maintain synergy in and away from the office.
“Just in the last four days, I’ve been to Fresno three times. I’ve also visited Kings County, Los Angeles, and flown to Denver and Missouri. I’ve seen the passion in these various community’s working to ensure a full count.”
For more information on NALEO Educational Fund, visit NALEO.org.