Jose Garcia is the director of New Horizons, a substance abuse treatment program, as well as the chair of the Hispanic Advisory Committee for the City of Hermiston. For 30 years, he’s been doing outreach with the Latino/Latina/Latinx and Cuban communities in Hermiston and Pasco, Wash.
When it came time for him to get his COVID-19 vaccine, it was not an easy choice.
“I was afraid to go in,” he says. “As a kid, I was afraid of needles and blood, and I was in great distress during my appointment. But at the same time, I gained some courage, I even cried waiting for the nurse to poke my arm. It was real crying, real tears, but I came to understand that I need to lead by example and show that it is safe.”
Garcia’s outreach is boundless. He brings information – and personal protective equipment and food – to farmworkers and keeps his community informed through the weekly radio show on La Voz del Pueblo, which is broadcast across Eastern Oregon on Radio La Ley 100.1 FM.
“He’s done so much work in Umatilla and Morrow counties,” says Jorge Martinez Zapata with OHA’s Community Partner Outreach Program. “Jose goes out to these farms to help and serve and puts himself in harm’s way.”
“I believe if we go out there and give resources to 30 people, that’s 30 lives we’ve worked to save,” Garcia says. “Food boxes save lives.”
So does correcting misinformation.
“Misconceptions are a big problem,” he says. “Some people have no trust in doctors; you see lots of reliance on home remedies.”
That is part of what drives his radio show, but it also informed his decision to get vaccinated.
“I’ve got to lead by example,” he told himself in the moment, “so I can bring it back to the show and tell callers, ‘Don’t be afraid.’ It’s nice to hear stories, and the more stories we hear, the more people understand.”
On his radio show, he told his story. And throughout the pandemic, callers have told their stories about how they’ve been affected by COVID-19. A lot of people have lost someone they love, and the show has connected them with grief resources too.
“I know others are worried about getting the vaccine, and I understand that feeling,” Garcia says.
But he did it anyway.
You can share your stories at the survey link in English or Spanish or use the hashtags #MyVaccineReason or #MiVozMiVacuna to share stories on your own social media channels. As we learn more about when and where vaccinations are available, information will continue to be posted at covidvaccine.oregon.gov and vacunacovid.oregon.gov.
This article first appeared in the March 25, 2021 issue of Oregon Coronavirus Update.