Author: Amanda Boomershine
UNC Wilmington Latino Alliance
For the first time in over a century, the entire world is faced with a global pandemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, including almost 1,000 here in North Carolina. This deadly virus has far-reaching impacts for everyone, including impacts on your health, education, well-being, and daily life. For those members of our community who have immigrated here from another country or who are children of immigrants, cultural differences, language barriers, and lack of access to resources often worsen the pandemic’s effects, especially on children.
Students in NC schools have been learning remotely since schools closed in mid-March. This has been a challenge for teachers, students, and caregivers alike. Many children live in a home where there is no computer or laptop, or even access to internet. When schoolwork is to be accessed and submitted electronically, and teaching is done via online sessions, students without reliable access to the internet or technology will fall behind. Families in our community are able to borrow a device from their child’s school if they have transportation to the school and the ability to communicate with the school to reserve the equipment. Having access to a device and internet is only the first step – many children do not have someone at home who is able to help them learn. The vast majority of learning materials are only available to students in English, and parents with limited English or who are working are not able to help their kids with their assignments and remote learning. The pandemic is shining a light on the digital divide that inhibits equity in education in this country and in our community.
Another challenge for some Latinx students is food insecurity. When schools close, many students lose two meals a day. NHCS is offering meals for pickup at many of their schools and using school buses to deliver to many communities. Children without transportation to a school to pick up the food and not living on a school bus delivery route can request that their meals be delivered by a community partner such as the YMCA. Some get meals from a food bank, NourishNC, or a local church. Others go hungry. The pandemic is highlighting and exasperating food insecurity in our community.
Finally, we must discuss the impact that being an immigrant in this country has on access to resources on a daily basis, but especially during a crisis. Children and their families who are undocumented immigrants do not qualify for many resources, including stimulus checks or unemployment benefits from the government. Many are not eligible for medical insurance and cannot access affordable preventative care or urgent care when they fall ill. Having limited English is detrimental to your health outcomes when you do not understand what you can do to prevent infection or to help spread contagion. The pandemic is making it even more difficult to survive, let alone thrive, as an immigrant in the United States.
But there is also some positive coming out of the pandemic. Many agencies and governmental entities are seeing the need to communicate with the Latinx community in Spanish. Families within the Latinx community are bonding over a shared need for childcare, food, technology and study assistance. Many people in the Wilmington area are stepping up to help members of the Latinx community – delivering meals, donating tech devices, providing tutoring/mentorship to children, troubleshooting tech problems, donating non-perishable food, and getting to know their Latinx neighbors. Juntos, podemos superar estos desafías y crear una comunidad más unida y fuerte.
UNC Wilmington Latino Alliance
**Editor’s Note: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, organization, committee or other group or individual, nor to NourishNC.**