Coordinator, Dayton Council on Health Equity
Drafting member, Welcome Dayton Social Services and Health Services Sub-Committee
My story: “My job is community. I coordinate the local Dayton Council on Health Equity. My whole focus is minorities and minority health. Public health is invested in improving the health of minorities.
My vocation and my advocation married. I work with several ethnic coalistions. I work with the Asian American Coalition, the Miami Valley Native American Coalition, in the African American community…many groups. I recently had a research student from Wright State University assigned to me, and we did a project on the health needs of refugees from Rwanda and Burundi.
Public Health recognizes the barriers that these cultures face and have done a lot over the years to address them. They have provided health services in whatever languages necsessary for years. We’re one of the gateway services for refugees coming into the community; provided initial health assessments and through the Dayton Council on Health Equity we’re addressing the concerns that impact these communities.”
On the value of immigrants: “People around the country are in a valley of indecision on how to handle immigrants. We shouldn’t paint everyone with a wide brush, and should stop and appreciate what everyone has to offer.
People would be surprised to know the populations that are here in large groups. Russians, Iranians, people from the Caribbean; many, many countries of Africa. Dayton’s a very diverse community. It’s good for people from other countries to learn American ways and become assimilated, but that doesn’t mean they have to lose their own culture and it doesn’t mean we should ignore the difference in culture. We should value that and try to assimilate some of their culture.
I teach English as a Second Language classes to Hispanic families once a week. We take so much for granted. I speak, read, write, understand English. These are people who are trying to grasp all of that and can speak it very well and understand the nuances and colloquial expressions and Americanisms. They have different levels of learning and they’re all just tying to fit in. Some are very afraid, afraid of rejection; you can tell some of them have really been hurt. They tend to put the teacher on a pedestal because you have something they need and they respect that, but I tell them, “I’m just Cheryl.” I’ve been humbled, and I appreciate what I have a lot more because I see things through their eyes–and I also appreciate more the value of what we as Americans give to the world. ”
Why Dayton? “Dayton is a perfect crossroads: it’s about 6 to 8 hours from everywhere you could want to go. I’m a transplant, and it’s always been a good city for me, a great place to raise my kids, has a lot to offer.
There are a lot of great houses that are going empty, and it’d be great to match them with families that would value them and pay the taxes. They have programs that literally give houses away; why not give those to families that would enjoy them? The families benefit, and the community benefits because the house is occupied and it increases property values, and the city benefits because it makes tax dollars. And there are many other community resources going underutilized, available to families. All of this is available to those who come here.”