July 15, 2021 - Healthy Savannah and YMCA of Coastal Georgia are seeking 65 community advocates to participate in an education and outreach program on COVID-19 vaccine awareness and acceptance.

An information and listening session will be held Thursday, July 22 to provide details, along with a platform for questions and discussion. The event is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the African American Health Information and Resource Center at 1910 Abercorn Street in Savannah. Those wishing to attend should RSVP to elsie@healthysavannah.org.

“We are looking for Savannah residents who can demonstrate their ability to reach communities whose voices go uninvited and unheard,” said Elsie Smalls, PhD, operations manager. “They should also be able to relate to the health inequities that disproportionately affect Black and Hispanic Savannahians.”

Along with fellow team members from Healthy Savannah and the YMCA of Coastal Georgia, Smalls is seeking to identify and begin training of the advocates over the next several weeks. Neighborhood leaders, church leaders, community organizers and post-high school students are encouraged to apply.

Utilizing their background, experiences, interests and skillsets, the advocates will be trained to speak to and learn from the community by:

  • Organizing and holding public meetings with community members
  • Sharing information at local faith-based organizations, places of worship and events
  • Attending and distributing informational flyers, surveys and materials on COVID-19 and Flu at local community events
  • Participating in and speaking at city and neighborhood events to share information 
  • Meeting with local business owners (barbershops, beauty salons, corner stores, etc…) 
  • Sharing approved information on social media outlets
  • Sharing information at local schools, parent meetings, and student groups
  • Reporting on activities and measurable outcomes

“There are many people out there advocating for their communities,” said Nichele Hoskins, communication manager. “We invite them and anyone else with a heart for community service and an interest in health equity to apply. In addition to the $500 they’ll receive for completing the program, they’ll sharpen their leadership skills, learn about health advocacy, and add to their resumes.”

This effort, funded by a supplemental grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is intended to broaden the initiatives of the current Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) grant to focus on COVID-19 vaccine education, awareness, and acceptance, particularly in Savannah’s Black and Hispanic communities.

Organizers will work with a trainer who will use the information gathered at two listening sessions held in June, plus the third session on July 22, to develop the training curriculum for the community advocates. Training in small groups of about 10 each will get underway in the next few weeks with the ultimate goal of creating community-acceptable approaches for improving vaccination availability, accessibility, and confidence.

“This process is about getting people vaccinated but first to build trust and listen to all voices through these advocates,” said Paula Kreissler, executive director of Healthy Savannah. “Our long-range goal is also to use this journey to build trust in other areas funded by the CDC’s REACH grant areas of nutrition, physical activity and community/clinical linkages.”

To register for the July 22 listening and info session, apply to become a community advocate or learn more, visit https://healthysavannah.org/community-advocate-program/ or email elsie@healthysavannah.org.

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