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Dedicated Wood Village health worker continues to serve the Latinx community

Teresa Campos-Dominguez was born and raised Morelos, Mexico to a big family. Her father worked in their town as a community health worker, helping families stay healthy through informational programs and health classes.

Seeing her father coming home tired and over-worked, Campos- Dominguez would ask him why he continued to give so much of himself to his work, he would respond to her frankly, "because it is the right thing to do."

With nearly 30 years as a community health worker herself, Campos-Dominguez said she gets exactly what her father meant.

Coming to America

Campos- Dominguez immigrated to the United States in 1986 with her husband and her three children, her youngest being only six months old. The families stayed in Los Angeles briefly before moving to Hood River where her husband would work in the farms.

Campos- Dominguez would leave her factory job to work at a day-care center, where she started to see the needs of the Latinx farmworker community in Hood River.

After working at the center for several years, Campos-Dominguez took a position as a community health worker at a local clinic.

Although initially swearing off ever getting involved in her father's energy consuming career path, Campos-Dominguez saw how deep the need was and couldn't sit back and do nothing while her community suffered.

In her new job, Campos-Dominguez would visit Latinx farming camps and help translate as doctors gave check ups to the children at the farms to help reduce their number of visits to the emergency room.

"It was a three year program," Campos-Dominguez said. "Our job was to knock on the door and connect with the farm worker communities. Since we were part of the same community and spoke their language, they trusted us to let us treat their kids."

Campos-Dominguez urge to help her community didn't conclude when the funding for the program ran dry. She understood that if they left, there was a high chance these people would be forgotten.

"Based on the need we decided to apply for another grant that would serve the entire family, which became the Healthy Family program — La Familia Sana in Spanish," Campos-Dominguez said. Through another three year program Campos-Dominguez and company continued their work serving the growing Latinx community.

During their work they found even more obstacles that community was facing. "When we started getting into the physical needs, we also started to see that there were a lot emotional needs," Campos-Dominguez remembered. "We saw mental health needs like depression. But they struggled to understand those terms, so they needed us to translate the symptoms and what they were feeling."

On top of her visits, Campos-Dominguez started many programs and classes on subjects like diabetes, mental health, cooking, safe sex, childcare skills, domestic violence and many more.

Moving up

After working in the Hood River community for about 14 years, Campos-Dominguez decided to take an offer in as community health worker at Multnomah County Health. After two years of commuting to Portland from Hood River, Campos-Dominguez moved her family to Wood Village in 2001.

As Campos-Dominguez continued her work she started to garner more expertise and trust in the communities she served. Although she didn't take any college courses in health, Campos-Dominguez was constantly trying to learn more health information to share to the Latinx community and has accumulated dozens of certificates including HIV counseling, drug-abuse counseling and domestic violence counseling to name a few.

As clinics and health organizations started to see the value of community health workers, Campos-Dominguez expertise became essential. Soon she oversaw training future community health workers. Campos-Dominguez also started teaching leadership classes in many Latinx churches.

COVID-19

Those connections became significantly more important when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Campos-Dominguez said that as things started shutting down, resources for the Latinx and Spanish speaking community went silent.

With her position at the health department, Campos-Dominguez advocated for the Latinx community in East County to ensure they received masks, hand sanitizer and, when it became available, vaccines. Although many in the Latinx community had their reservations about the vaccine, Campos-Dominguez said that she was a trusted leader in the community eased some of their apprehensions.

"Our people were so afraid of the virus, there was a lot of pain," Campos-Dominguez said. "The Latinx community was also the hardest hit because the resources for us were so limited."

Campos-Dominguez continued the work of supporting the Latinx community during the pandemic with her group Lideres Naturales or Natural Leaders. The group consisted of East County Latinx community leaders who planned vaccine clinics, distributed masks and spread useful information about the COVID-19 virus.

Although there are still obstacles that face the Latinx community, Campos-Dominguez hopes to use Lideres Naturales group to share Latinx cultures to future generations and develop pride and self-worth in the community. Recently, the group held a Hispanic Heritage Month event that celebrated the Latinx culture.

"(Events like the Hispanic Heritage Month celebration) is another way to bring hope and healing to the community that has gone through a lot," Campos-Dominguez said.


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