CTLatinoNews.com supports many causes and works to bring the Latino community together by gathering and sharing news, stories and information from around the state with our readers. This year we are proud to extend our support to Nilda Fernandez and her team that run the Pediatric Youth HIV Program at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford by sponsoring the center’s Back-to-School Supply Drive.
This is the first year the center has reached out for support from the community. In past years, Fernandez says the team would pull their money together to help the families struggling with back-to-school financial hardships. However, by reaching out the center hopes to better meet the needs of the families they treat. CTLatinoNews.com publisher and co-founder, Diane Alverio said, “We created our news site to better serve the state’s Latino community. These children are among the most vulnerable amongst us, we see it as our role and responsibility to help.”
“This year the need seems greater, the hardships seem greater,” admits Fernandez. Although the need has always been there she says, this year quality of life seems to have slipped to a much lower level than before. Fernandez goes on to explain: “90 percent of the families that we serve live far below the poverty line to begin with, like 300 percent below the poverty line, so things are always tough. But it seems this year people are losing jobs, getting laid off. It seems like there are more deaths in the family and people are having to put money towards funerals or travel. Or, while most of the families do have cars they are old cars and they are breaking down.”
The idea for the Back-to-School Supply Drive was generated from a need and is a creative solution to limited funding. While Fernandez and team work under the umbrella of a comprehensive medical program (with doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, and nutritionist) the program is funded by grants that don’t extend beyond pure medical care.
The team that works with Fernandez focuses on medical case management and psychosocial support, which therefore requires an understanding beyond purely medical care and attempts to provide care for the patient and the patient’s family in a larger sense. “We have a very special relationship with the families,” says Fernandez. “This is where we get to see and hear what their needs are, and we try to step outside the box to help with those needs, therefore the supplies drive.”
There are around 60 children in the program and five case managers: Fernandez, Danielle Warren-Dias, Myrna Millet Saez, Consuelo Muñoz and Angel Ruiz. That is, on average, 12 children per case manager. School supplies for 12 children can add up quickly, so they decided it was time to get creative with their resources and turn to the community, applying their motto “Teamwork Makes the Dream Work” to all of us.
Fernandez says the drive is one more way for them to support their families, so “the parents can think about other things then worrying about school supplies. They can focus on the medication, which is really important for the children to thrive and learn in school. Anyway we can make things easier, we try.”
Back-to-school supplies that can really help are vouchers to any store where school uniforms can be purchased, notebooks, binders, daily planners, backpacks, pencils, crayons, etc.
If you’d like to help these children by donating back-to-school supplies there are a number of ways you can do so. Simply drop off donations between August 20 and September 7 at 385 Washington Street in Hartford Monday through Friday from 9 to 5 p.m. For group/bulk donations, arrangements can be made for direct pick up by one of the social workers. Direct contact can be made to Nilda Fernandez, LMSW at 860-466-0818 or via email: Fernand@uchc.edu.