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Sandy-based AntFarm launches program to aid, connect Hispanic families to resources, the wider community

AntFarm Youth Services was founded with the mission of "(creating and connecting) a healthy, purposeful, and compassionate community by providing culturally aware and responsive life-changing learning experiences for youth."

In furthering this mission, the Sandy-based nonprofit organization formed a new program last year: Nuevo Futuro (New Future).

Nuevo Futuro aims to empower the Latino communities of Clackamas County by eliminating language barriers as well as barriers to resources and opportunities, while supporting cultural integration throughout the county.

Cristina Diaz, the program director, has nearly two decades of experience helping minority families as a housing specialist and advocate in Multnomah County. Now she's excited to be working to help Latino families across Clackamas County through AntFarm.

"(My inspiration to take this job was) my people, the culture and just bringing culture back and having diversity," Diaz said. "I work to have Latinx families know that they can do it; that their voices are also important and for them to overcome barriers that are stopping them from moving forward. (I'm passionate about) helping minorities and families that don't have the same opportunity. I don't want us (Latinx people) to always be second. I do (my job) with passion, coming from my heart because I feel families need that."

As director of Nuevo Futuro, Diaz has implemented several initiatives to educate members of the Hispanic community and connect them to resources, including classes to teach Spanish-speakers English and English-speakers Spanish, classes to teach children guitar, vaccination clinics with translators available and more.

Diaz and her team also have hosted several events celebrating Hispanic culture-specific holidays like Dia de los Muertos, Dia de los Ninos, Dia de las Madres and Hispanic Heritage Month. They also recently facilitated a march for child abuse awareness around downtown Sandy that saw more than 60 attendees, and they plan to host a Noche de Musica (Night of Music) every fourth Friday at AntFarm, which will feature a Hispanic musician as well as arts and crafts.

"I want to make sure we do these events so that people know we celebrate these holidays and the culture," Diaz said. "For every event, we also try to bring in culture-specific groups, (such as) Todos Juntos and others."

Diaz said she's trying to meet with as many people one-on-one or in small groups as possible because "if families keep seeing me, they'll be more comfortable with me," and safety is often a major concern for minority families.

Though Nuevo Futuro has done quite a bit since its inception last year, Diaz says she has plenty of plans for the future, including a food assistance program that would offer food boxes with culture-specific food items and recipe cards.

"I want to bring more diversity, education and equity here," Diaz said. "A lot of times we don't feel equal or included and like we can't speak up. I want to meet people where they're at. I tell people '¡Si se puede!' ('Yes we can!')"

For more information about Nuevo Futuro, visit antfarmyouthservices.com/nuevo-futuro/


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