Olga González, Director of Equity & Inclusion, Shares Her Powerful Perspective on Recent Political Events

As part of our ongoing commitment to integrating a health equity focus into all aspects of our work and organization, we’re pleased to announce that Olga González has accepted the newly created position of Director of Equity and Inclusion at LiveWell Colorado. The position works directly with the CEO in advancing both internal and external commitments to health equity including staff development, strategic planning and partnership cultivation. Olga joined LiveWell as Director of Community Engagement in November, 2015. She has extensive experience working with nonprofit organizations serving diverse communities as well as expertise in building organizational cultural competency, grassroots leadership, community organizing, and addressing health disparities in under-represented communities.

Below, Olga provides a powerful and timely perspective on recent political events. Through the lens of both her professional and deeply personal experiences, Olga reminds us of the real-life impact of these issues and the increasing significance of focusing LiveWell’s work on the populations most affected by health disparities caused by racism, poverty, and place.

A Dream Interrupted

By Olga González, Director of Equity and Inclusion, LiveWell Colorado

The recent immigration executive order has posed a direct threat to the health and well-being of many of our immigrant and refugee families across the state. For me, these actions have brought back memories of growing up in California as an undocumented, Mexican-born student. The feelings of uncertainty, unsafety, instability, and fear have come pouring back.  Like many other families, my parents left their home country, risked their lives crossing the border, and resettled in an unfamiliar and often unwelcoming country in pursuit of their dream of providing me and my sister with a better life. Their love for us, as well as their determination and courage, helped them to overcome the many hardships and challenges that came their way.  The sacrifices of my parents, and the parents of many other children like me, have meant that many of us did go on to obtain a college education and many have used our standing to help communities, organizations, and institutions improve the quality of life for our generation and those to come.

Thanks to the tireless work of activists, lobbyists, and community-based organizations that helped pass amnesty legislation, many of us were fortunate enough to be ensured a permanent home in this country. These collective efforts helped us fulfill the dreams our parents had for us. Today, many others are being denied that same opportunity; their dreams have been interrupted. Our community partners are reporting that many of their families are fearful and going back to their home countries. Children have been pulled out of schools, and homes that were purchased after many years of sacrifice are being abandoned.

Amidst all of this, I’ve been inspired by the many demonstrations of support for our immigrant and refugee community members across sectors. Mayor Hancock recently stated that Denver would continue to be welcoming of refugees and immigrants and would not have law enforcement do the work of federal authorities. Likewise, Web Brown, Director of the Office of Health Equity at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, recently wrote a thoughtful article reminding us that this country was founded on the idea that immigrants were welcomed, and warned us of the dangers of stereotyping a group of people. Starbucks’ CEO, Howard Schultz, recently stated that his company would hire 10,000 refugees at their stores nationwide. Locally, many community activists showed up at Denver International Airport to welcome all immigrants and refugees arriving in the wake of the immigration ban, and thousands rallied at Denver’s Civic Center in support of Muslim neighbors (pictured above & left).

At LiveWell, we are dedicated to removing barriers to healthy eating and active living in the most marginalized communities. We are determined to identify ways to partner with immigrant and refugee communities, and with organizations that serve them directly, in order to ensure that our policies and programs are responsive to their needs. We want to elevate the voices of the immigrant and refugee community so they can guide and inform our work. LiveWell is committed to doing its part to make sure that the policies and systems created to promote the health and wellness of all people do not exclude immigrants, refugees, and other marginalized groups. Together we can help ensure that these hard-working, determined individuals have the opportunity to fulfill the dream of a better life for themselves and their families.