Nearly 8 years ago, a group of migrant women, realizing that language was a barrier to accessing health services, financial supports, and various other topics, created the Peer Leader Navigator (PLN) program.Their mission is to bring information on these issues to anyone who requests it in their own language, and thus support migrants arriving in Anchorage to solve their different needs.
The multicultural program has 26 PLN members, mostly women, representing 15 cultures and languages, including one of the program’s pioneers, Marisol Vargas, originally from Mexico, who has lived in Anchorage for just over 20 years.“We are the link between resources and the person who requests them. In addition to providing people with the required information, our mission also includes educating them, teaching them so that going forward they can do it on their own.” She shared in our interview.
The program is not responsible for providing monetary funds but supporting people to apply for access to various social programs. Migrants and North Americans alike find a friendly hand in the program. “By talking with everyone who seeks support, we manage to understand what their needs are. We then provide information so that those needs can be met,” adds Marisol Vargas.
The work is done in coordination with various institutions, including Providence Hospital and The Alaska Health Literacy Collaborative (TAHL), which provide training, knowledge, and skills to each PLN. Currently, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, contact between PLNs and applicants is not person-to-person, but anyone who requires program services can call (907) 290-3639 from 9:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. or fill out an application online by visiting muni.org/CPLN.
Marisol points out that among the support provided lately is showing people how to obtain computers or tablets, internet access, and tools that facilitate communication during the pandemic.
Nearly 600 people have received support from the Peer Leader Navigator program on various topics recently. They have also received guidance on what to do in case of earthquakes, grants provided by the government, and with food that sometimes is provided by the PLN members themselves. In the future the program is expected to grow, “We want to create a phone emergency line where the community can make donations and thus allow us to help more people. We need to keep working if we want to help our community,” Marisol concludes. It is even expected that because of the success of the program, other states in the country will replicate it.
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