The Latina Center on Barrett Avenue offered up lively mariachi performances, elotes and pozole at last Saturday’s “Gran Kermes,” an event organized to raise money for the nonprofit organization’s ¡Ya Basta! program, which assists local victims of domestic violence in Contra Costa County.
“We are really asking people to support us because the work here is unbelievable, it’s wonderful,” said Latina Center Executive Director and founder Miriam Wong. Over the past five years, the center has helped 500 victims of domestic violence in Richmond and throughout Contra Costa County.
Saturday’s fundraiser was all the more urgent as a federal grant from the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) that has supported the program for the past year was not renewed.
“We do not have the support from the government or the city, and we’re important because we’re the only Latino organization,” said Wong.
Wong began helping victims of domestic violence in 1991, after attending a statewide Women in Leadership Conference in Sacramento. After the conference, she made plans to begin a Spanish-language program to help women cope with the trauma of being in a violent or abusive relationship. The Latina Center officially became a nonprofit organization in the year 2000.
Two years ago, the center launched ¡Ya Basta! to aid women in Richmond’s Latino community affected by various forms of abuse from their partners.
The Latina Center’s Program Coordinator, Gloria Alvarez, explained that domestic violence can be a deeply rooted issue in the Latino community, which is something the center has worked to change through ¡Ya Basta!
“A woman is there to obey,” Alvarez explained. “That’s how it is. And that’s the culture that we’re trying to change because… men and women are equal and we have equal rights too.”
When victims seek help from the Latina Center, staff members start by determining how much risk the women face. They then provide resources and assistance tailored to each woman; for some, it might be help filing a restraining order, for others, it might be help finding shelter.
Once the women are safe, staff members encourage them to attend the center’s support groups.
In its efforts to keep ¡Ya Basta! going, the Latina Center launched a GoFundMe page after their grant proposal was denied in September. Alvarez said that the organization needs to raise $20,000 by December to cover the salaries of the ¡Ya Basta! program staff. Over the last month, it has raised a little over $300.
Wong said that program staff have so far been reluctant to seek other jobs.
“I told them that it would be sad for me, but it would be okay if they looked for other jobs,” said Wong, “But they all said no because they are serving the community.”
The Latina Center will be hosting four more events in the coming weeks to fundraise for ¡Ya Basta! For more information, visit the Latina Center’s website.