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Engaging Latino community volunteers

The Issue

Supportive communities with residents committed to and involved in the nurturing of youth contribute significantly to the healthy development of children and their families. The increasing cultural diversity of California communities and other social phenomena, such as working parents and changing family compositions, bring new challenges to UC Cooperative Extension programs that rely on volunteer participation.

With Latinos now comprising one-third of the population of California, understanding the dynamics of Latino involvement in community life is essential to designing community programs to attract the participation and meet the needs of Latinos and their families.

What Has ANR Done?

A team of UC Cooperative Extension advisors initiated a research project to explore successful community activities undertaken by Latinos to benefit communities. Ten Latino volunteers in each of five local projects were interviewed to find out how and why they were involved, the rewards and challenges of their involvement, their perceptions of activities in their communities targeted at youth and families, and whether they had advice for organizations that wished to develop programs with the community. An equal number of Latinos who were not volunteering were interviewed to discover their knowledge and perceptions about the project, their current or past community involvement, their reasons for becoming involved or not, their perceptions of activities in their communities targeted at youth and families, and their advice to organizations that wish to develop programs with the community.

The survey participants indicated that successful engagement of Latino volunteers requires investing the time to know the community and to build relationships, collaborating with existing groups and delivering information from trusted sources in familiar language and by familiar people, institutions and media. Access to an easy entry point that allows people to participate without taking on prestructured or formal roles was an important point made by the respondents.

The Payoff

UCCE learns from Latino community about working with the Latino community

The research team published a peer-reviewed manual titled "Recommendations for Working with Latino Communities: A Guide for Public Agencies and Other Social Service Practitioners." The guide outlines the research findings and makes recommendations to increase the success of agencies and organizations who wish to engage Latino volunteers. The nine-page publication includes a self-assessment guide that will help organizations understand how ready they are to begin working with the Latino community. The guide may be downloaded free from the Internet in pdf format at http://ucanr.org/latinocommunities The findings from the study have also been published in the Journal of Extension at http://www.joe.org/joe/2006june/a3.shtml.


Supporting Unit:

UC Cooperative Extension, Tulare and Kings counties
Peggy Gregory, Kings County, (559) 582-3211 Ext. 2730, pfgregory@ucdavis.edu
Carla Sousa, Tulare County, (559) 685-3309 Ext. 221, cmsousa@ucdavis.edu