story title image

Breaking Down Barriers

Martha Ordoñez didn’t speak English well.

She was expecting her first child and needed to complete an insurance application, so she came to La Paz for help.

She found so much more.

Ordoñez got the guidance she needed to see her pregnancy through. But she also discovered a place that made her feel less isolated, more in control.

Chattanooga’s Hispanic population more than tripled between 2000 and 2010.

Now she comes by every Tuesday to attend classes that teach her how to cook, sew and help care for her family – all in an inclusive environment that embraces her culture.

“My friend told me that I should come here because the organization is so helpful to the Latino community,” she says through a translator.

Martha Ordoñez attends classes every week.

“I felt supported in getting what I needed. I always recommend that friends and family members come here. There are other organizations that provide services, but they are too costly.”

Closing the information gap

Since opening its doors in 2004, La Paz Chattanooga has offered a wide assortment of health and wellness resources to the city’s growing Latino population, which has more than tripled in the past 10 years.

Some residents are seeking help with launching a business or finding employment. Others require assistance for more basic needs.

La Paz Community Health Worker Jessica Cliche focuses on empowering women.

The six-person staff of La Paz Chattanooga must overcome a number of different economic, social and cultural barriers to offer that help. Most of their clients – 71 percent – are from Guatemala and speak in Mayan dialects.

“La Paz is so helpful to the Latino community. Other organizations provide services, but they are too costly.”

“You have to be patient,” says Jessica Cliche, Promotora de Salud (Community Health Worker).

“There are language issues. And a lot of these women don’t feel like they have a lot of power and don’t feel like they have a voice. Some of them have dealt with domestic violence issues. This is like their house.”

71% of La Paz clients are from Guatemala and speak in Mayan dialects.

Introducing key health advice

La Paz Chattanooga focuses on the idea that empowered women create strong communities.

To inspire healthy eating and active living, Cliche developed a series of nutrition classes focusing on meal planning, grocery shopping and food preparation.

She supplements these lessons with exercise programs that help clients get fit and gain a sense of purpose when planning their daily activities.

“It’s not about being skinny; it’s about being healthy,” says Cliche. “For example, we offer yoga classes and Zumba classes. It gives everyone a chance to relax and learn something new.”

That’s what Ordoñez, now a mother of three, continues to do years after that first request for help.

“Martha is very active here. She’s like family,” says Cliche. “What I see now is a strong woman and mother.”

La Paz celebrates Latino culture and works to build up the women they support.

To learn more about healthy communities in Tennessee, click here.

Photos by Dotson Studios.

The post Breaking Down Barriers appeared first on Better Tennessee.

Related Content