Association advocates for Hispanic community during pandemic

VIDEO: Association advocates for Hispanic community during pandemic

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston Hispanic Association works to provide resources for families and there’s been a greater need due to the pandemic.

CHA’s Chief Financial Officer Enrique Grace says there’s been additional obstacles for English learners.

“We’ve gotten calls when the students just start crying because they don’t get what’s going on they can’t comprehend what’s going on," Grace said. "The parent can’t help them that much because they don’t understand.”

The president of the association, Carmen Grace, says she would like to see more support for families in school.

“They really need help, they need to talk to them and I think we just need to change our whole system,” Grace said. “The pandemic has highlighted that, we need to do real changes.”

The Charleston Hispanic Association says they find ways to support families during the pandemic by keeping the community informed about food drives, free medical clinics, school lunches and more.

When it comes to navigating day-to-day life, they say Hispanic families may not always receive translated information and may not understand how to navigate certain things.

The Charleston County School District says it has more than 5,500 English learners.

The district’s coordinator for the English to Speakers of Other Languages Department, Chris Hagy, says they’ve worked to keep families connected during virtual learning by providing devices and having regular communication with families.

“That’s what our program is about, we’re about helping students for whom who are fortunate enough to have another language receive access to our curriculum," Hagy said.

The district says they have parent advocates and teachers who translate information and utilize various resources including translation apps to keep students connected.

“We had 10 Spanish speaking folks working multiple hours of week making thousands of phone calls in order to get students access and they are doing that everyday,” Hagy said.

Some students have already returned to the classroom in Charleston County.

“It takes a village and we’re all working exceptionally hard to meet the needs of the students and really it’s about finding out what exactly some of those needs are and adjusting quicker than we’ve, ever adjusted before,” Hagy said.

Christina Vivas is an ESOL parent advocate.

“I feel like there’s always a need for more support and ask any school they would say yes we need more support for all of our families," Vivas said.

Vivas says parents are more involved due to the pandemic.

“I feel like we have just rolled with the punches and it has been stressful, but I commend the teachers and the staff that are working with the students and in the schools,” Vivas said. “The parents...I commend them for everything that they’ve done to support their children’s learning.”

As for the association, they say they will continue to provide resources for the Hispanic community and beyond.

“A lot of Hispanic people right now are finding it hard to work, they work in the hotel industry the restaurant industry those have taken a big dive, which means lot of them aren’t working right now,” Enrique said. “This means they can’t pay their bills, they can’t get food, a lot of them aren’t eligible for employment or government help.”

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