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8 Activities That Can Foster Community Care

 · March 3, 2023

Meet Ysabel Garcia of Estoy Aquí LLC

Estoy Aqui addresses suicide and mental health by examining the underlying social, cultural, and structural issues that affect our well-being. We acknowledge that there are both benefits and barriers to accessing any form of mental health care. We encourage you to research and find the resources that best suit your needs and help you navigate what forms of care to tap into along your unique journey.
Estoy Aquí Website

Listen to Estoy Aqui’s #WhyIAmStillHere #PorQueSigoAqui podcast series for a more in-depth
exploration of 8 activities that can foster Community Care!

“Wow! I love that. - Yes! Thank you for making that connection! - this is Fantastic!” This was my response repeatedly as I journeyed through my recent podcast series, #WhyIAmStillHere #PorQueSigoAqui. Being a host for the first time was a little nerve-wracking but exciting at the same time.

The question I was curious about was: What is the connection between community, culture, and mental health?
Since the 1960s, the subject of self-care has been steadily on the rise in U.S. mainstream media (Slate). Today, it has become a mental health call to action and promises to boost self-esteem, confidence, and overall well-being. It is a multimillion-dollar idea, and its message is clear.

Take care of yourself first.

But for many experiencing stress, trauma, and even thoughts of death, self-care can feel very overwhelming and isolating. Especially for those of us in Black and Brown communities where microaggressions, implicit bias, and discrimination are ever present, self-care falls short as a protective factor for our mental health.

By broadening the idea of mental health care to include the community, we expand the resources we have to become and stay well. - "Community Care has existed in the Latinx and QTBIPOC communities for generations and is rooted in collectivistic beliefs that the well-being of the individual is intrinsically tied to the well-being of others” (MHA).

In Community Care, we share space, give energy, and make time for others. We work to build our own strengths while supporting others in finding theirs. We begin to connect the dots of what works for us as we help others on their journey and create a sense of belonging through activities of shared creativity and social connection. 

—Ysabel Garcia

Listen to Estoy Aqui’s #WhyIAmStillHere #PorQueSigoAqui podcast series 

1. FOOD: Public Health, Cultural Assimilation & Community Care

“Improving our health, we can do that as a community. When you are looking at health from a holistic place, you have to address food. You have to address where this person lives, what they have access to, how much money they have….”
- Ariana Williams

When you look at a list of “healthy” foods and say, “Wait, MY food is not there,” what does that mean? The social connection, reciprocity, and labor of love we experience through cooking, eating, and shopping OUR food is a powerful form of Community Care.

Ysabel Garcia, Founder, Estoy Aquí
Ariana Williams, BSPH, CHW, Strategic Grant Writer
Listen to Episode

2. JOURNAL SWAPPING: Communication, Honesty & Community Care

“A lot of us are unlearning the barriers around not communicating because it wasn't normalized. Culturally, we weren't allowed to talk about our feelings. When writing [journal swapping], we always had to be very intentional. We always had to speak from love even if it was something difficult.” - Stephanie Marrero-Wilson.

Journal Swapping is a complex and intentional communication process with those we love. It can build our capacity for conflict resolution and trust by teaching us to resist urgency and impulsivity. Honest communication through Journal Swapping is a courageous and authentic form of Community Care.

Ysabel Gacia, Founder, Estoy Aquí
Stephanie Marrero-Wilson, Founder, Beneath The Healing

Listen to Episode

3. THE BARBERSHOP: Black Hair Joy, Trust Building & Community Care

“ People are actually talking, and maybe the tv is going, and so you are seeing the news and striking up a conversation. You can kind of see how are people doing with what is happening in their everyday lives. It is the development of culture and community…it transcends generations.” - Tanisha Arena.

It is so much more than hair. You get your specific Barber time and time again. They KNOW you. You TRUST them with your vision of who you are. Barbershops are powerful places of Community Care.

Ysabel Gacia, Founder, Estoy Aquí
Tanisha Arena, Executive Director, Arise for Social Justice

Listen to Episode

4. GAMING: Dialogue, Skill Building & Community Care

“Gaming is a time and space for my own interests. It also allows for a lot of community building. It starts conversations.. and you can learn a lot about different cultures and different aspects of life that you might not have thought about before.” - Charlie Laboy.

Dialogue, character creation, and laughter make Gaming a unique learning culture. Gamers learn how to connect with others, gather resources, and problem-solve. Building skills alongside others makes gaming an engaging and fun form of Community Care.

Ysabel Gacia, Founder, Estoy Aquí
Charlie Laboy, Founder, BoyCharliePlays

Listen to Episode

5. CROCHET: Art, Activism & Community Care

“Self-care does not have to turn into a capitalist hustle. It can just be something that centers and grounds you. And if I want to make a simple scarf for a shelter or some program…why not? There are just so many different ways to use crochet to build community.” - Jose Luis Maldonado Velez.

The fiber community connects Art to Activism by supplying people in need with hats, scarves, and other pieces. As a stress reliever, crocheting can slow our breathing, increase our focus, and support social connection through gift offerings. ARTivists make crocheting a creative and meaningful form of Community Care.

Ysabel Gacia, Founder, Estoy Aquí
Jose Luis Maldonado Velez, Holyoke Counselor At Large

Listen to Episode

6. BABYWEARING: Connection, Family & Community Care

“Generations of people have lost or have been denied their cultural babywearing and baby-caring traditions. Empowering yourself to take back these practices…carries on that mental and emotional feeling of being connected to your community.” - Laconia Fennell.

Doulas work through every stage of birth and baby care that includes all types of caregivers; everyone in the family benefits from the emotional connectedness resulting from babywearing. Babywearing is a sacred form of Community Care.

Ysabel Gacia, Founder, Estoy Aquí
Laconia Fennell, Holistic Birth Doula, Springfield Family Doulas

Listen to Episode

7. SOIL CARE: Nature, Belonging & Community Care

“The process of colonization separated us from the land, from our medicine, from the way that we feed ourselves. [It is about] going back to the root and taking care of that soil. Gardening work is Placemaking…a third place for folks [to be] stewards, not just of the land but also the community.” - Terry Gibson

Soil Care takes care of the soil our plants grow in. It benefits our mental health through opportunities for connecting with nature, socializing, and physical exercise. It is also an immune system regulator that creates healthier food. Soil Care is a grounding form of Community Care.

Ysabel Gacia, Founder, Estoy Aquí
Terry Gibson, Field and Cultural Organizer, Neighbor to Neighbor Massachusetts

Listen to Episode

8. SPOKEN WORD: Creativity, Verbal Arts & Community Care

“Spoken word…it is just me expressing myself and people feeling comfortable to express themselves. It is an
art form. They say a picture paints a thousand words. I flip it in reverse. A thousand words paint a picture.”
- Aaron Joseph St. Louis

Verbal Arts allow room for honest communication and brave spaces. Spoken word poetry can help break the tension, reframe thoughts, and increase self-esteem. It allows us to understand different perspectives and make sense of the world through storytelling. Spoken Word is a creative form of Community Care.

Ysabel Gacia, Founder, Estoy Aquí
Aaron Joseph St. Louis, Spoken Word Artist

Listen to Episode

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🎨: @beverlylove

It's always so interesting and a true gift to see what our kids choose to be for Halloween when given total choice over their costumes. 🤩

May we always encourage our children to freely express every aspect of themselves and not project our own old socially-constructed programming about what they “should” do, like, or be in this world. Let's give them the autonomy to decide and embrace the things they show interest in. 🎃 ⁣⁠

And also, let's not forget---it's also up to us to guide children in understanding that **CULTURE IS NOT A COSTUME** so that we can, as a family, be careful and conscious⁣ about the harms of appropriation. ⁣ ⁣ ⁣⁠

⁣What costumes did your children choose this year? ⁣👻⁠

#Halloween #LatinxParenting #EndChanclaCulture #RaisingFutureAncestors #DecolonizeOurFamilias #IJustWantMiGenteToHeal #thecyclestopsconmigo

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Parents & adults—I know it’s Monday but let’s enjoy some Halloween fun! Give yourselves permission to not take yourselves super seriously today, K?! JUEGA! PLAY! Use this opportunity to let your inner child shine and play, too. Your children will appreciate it far beyond Halloween. 🥰

So, what are you dressing up as today? What about your kids⁉️ 

Happy Halloweeeeen, everyone! 🤩

#Halloween #LatinxParenting #EndChanclaCulture #RaisingFutureAncestors #DecolonizeOurFamilias #IJustWantMiGenteToHeal #TheCycleStopsConmigo

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Reclaiming our Familias.
Reclaiming Ourselves.
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