By Equal Voice Action
“After 40 years of working in our community, I learned so much today. All of us will be able to use what we learned today to meet the many challenges that our community faces.”
Working in the heart of the Rio Grande Valley, Proyecto Vida Digna is an organizational member of Equal Voice Action whose goal is to improve the quality of life of low-income families in South Texas through advocacy, education, and empowerment.
These are critical resources in this fast-growing border region, where large populations of immigrant families live in colonias, unincorporated neighborhoods that typically lack essential infrastructure and access to other public resources.
Based in San Benito, Proyecto Vida Digna (PVD) helps community members negotiate these and other challenges that disproportionately affect poor and low-income families in the valley.
PVD, founded by and for colonia residents, works to connect community members with immigration legal services, citizenship courses, leadership training, and other supports—all with the goal of increasing opportunities for families to empower themselves, and each other.
With this goal, PVD conducted a two-day community organizing and leadership training for community members in early December.
Supported by EVA, the training session marked the beginning of a new pilot project partnership between Equal Voice Action and Proyecto Vida Digna.
Through the partnership, PVD will draw on support from EVA to provide a series of “organizing for change” trainings to Rio Grande Valley residents over the course of six months, with the goal of engaging more community members in collective advocacy work.
Kicking off the pilot project, the first training session welcomed 10 local residents interested in developing their organizing and leadership skills to drive collective action in their community.
Drawing on its deep expertise in organizing and leadership development over several decades, UnidosUS, the nation’s largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization, was on hand as a project partner to deliver the expert training.
Over the course of two days, training participants engaged in lectures, discussions, and hands-on exercises to develop their skills and understanding for activating fellow community members in collective advocacy and movement-building for change.
Topics included hearing and listening; leadership strategy; campaign building; recruiting; and explorations of power, social identity, systems of exclusion, and more.
The immediate outcomes were powerful.
“I have been working in the community for 25 years, and over these last two days I discovered that I am a leader,” said Carmen Guerra, one of the training participants. “No one ever told me that I was one. I feel stronger, more empowered, and better able to do my work. I feel in my element!”
“After 40 years of working in our community, I learned so much today,” shared Silvia Garcia, another participant. “All of us will be able to use what we learned today to meet the many challenges that our community faces. Thank you to Equal Voice Action for supporting this work!”
Beginning with this small-scale but deeply engaged group, PVD will seek to expand the cohort and its impact through additional training sessions and engagements over the coming months.
“Over the last two days, we were able to increase the flame of leadership in our participants,” said Elsa Gonzalez, Executive Director of Proyecto Vida Digna and a longtime Family Advisory Community Member and Board Member for Equal Voice Action. “We left with a plan and next steps, including a strategy for growing our group going forward.”
EVA Executive Director David Luna, who was on hand for the training, said: “I was in awe of the commitment that our training participants have toward creating positive change in their communities. It is an honor for Equal Voice Action to support them in their critical work.”
Look for updates on additional outcomes from this pilot project, as Equal Voice Action continues to support Proyecto Vida Digna in its work to organize for change in the Rio Grande Valley.