Founded on the belief that South Carolina is stronger when all residents are healthy and thriving, PASOs (Perinatal Awareness for Successful Outcomes) is a statewide initiative that was founded initially to support the Latino community with maternal and child health needs. After demonstrating success and positive outcomes, PASOs added more comprehensive programs and support services and expanded into additional communities across the state.
The decision to expand to Spartanburg was intentional and well-researched. In fact, conversations about bringing PASOs to Spartanburg began in 2009 and resulted in a community readiness assessment being conducted in 2013. While the assessment documented a clear need for the program, the challenge was finding a nonprofit home or fiscal sponsor. After several promising leads fell through, Upstate Family Resource Center agreed to a partnership with PASOs. With funding from the Mary Black Foundation, PASOs Spartanburg opened its doors in 2017, becoming the only countywide organization to serve the Latino community.
A Community-Driven Approach
PASOs uses a community-driven approach and is based on the community health worker model, a public health strategy that employs trusted members of the community to provide services and interventions within the same community. This trusting relationship allows community health workers to connect individuals to existing healthcare and social service resources. The community health worker model has demonstrated positive health outcomes among the people it serves due to the close alignment of values and practices between service providers and clients.
In Spartanburg, Nora Curiel is the program coordinator, and she leads a team of six community health workers serving the Latino community. Nora Curiel describes the importance of being from the community, knowing the people who she serves, speaking the language, and understanding the culture and unique challenges as keys to meeting the community’s needs.
A Lifeline for Families
PASOs is a lifeline for many Latino families in Spartanburg County. Blanca Gomez is one example of how individuals and families can be changed by PASOs. A survivor of domestic violence, Blanca Gomez describes the feelings of joy and relief at having accessible information through PASOs, which connected her to others in the community. She credits PASOs for helping her find the physical and psychological support, including a Spanish-speaking counselor, that she needed to be a better parent to her children and to get through a challenging time. Today, Blanca Gomez is a small business owner who employs other women in a successful cleaning company. She is an entrepreneur, a mother, an active PASOs volunteer, and a contributing member of the Spartanburg community. She believes her story would be markedly different without the support of PASOs.
For PASOs to be successful, though, it needs funding partners that share the vision for and value of a community-driven approach. The Mary Black Foundation has been that partner since its initial funding in 2017. According to Nora Curiel, the Foundation’s support has allowed PASOs to do its best work — removing obstacles for the Latino community, understanding their desire for connection with others, and developing leaders through mutually supportive relationships. The Foundation has also encouraged PASOs to use data that shows the needs of the community, so that others’ responses can be relevant and impactful.
Transformative community work has a long trajectory. Authentic relationships take time to build, but PASOs is creating the foundation for a Spartanburg that values the Latinx community’s voice, skills, talents, and experiences. It is a vision where all people participate in the growing of a healthy Spartanburg. Nora Curiel hopes that the work of PASOs will leave a lasting imprint on the hearts of each Spartanburg County resident.
The Mary Black Foundation saw the need for a program like PASOs and encouraged efforts within the community to bring PASOs to Spartanburg. The Foundation urged community leaders to plan for long-term sustainability of the efforts.
Curiel-Munoz identified that most families who seek the services of PASOs have low income and lack health insurance. Many are learning to speak English without the knowledge of resources in Spartanburg nor the means to access those resources. To have an organization like PASOs that can help navigate and advocate, to willingly and consistently partner with is extraordinary. However, PASOs recognizes this work does not happen without funding partners who share this vision and value the structure of community-based support.
Built on a Relationship of Mutual Understanding
Curiel-Munoz had a dream to help the Latino community. The people who didn’t have any support or security, who have been marginalized, and whose challenges were an invisible problem in Spartanburg. This is a community she knew and was an active part of, which meant her relationships with the people served by PASOs would be built on a foundation of mutual understanding.
The initial one-year funding commitment from the Mary Black Foundation allowed Curiel-Munoz to begin her journey as the sole community worker. The program resulted in the awarding of a three-year grant. Now there are five community workers, with a sixth slated to begin in 2022.
To read more from Mary Black Foundation’s 2021 Annual Report, visit: https://maryblackfoundation.org/about-us/annual-report/