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Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest is combining forces with Glocally Connected, a not-for-profit agency that helps refugee families transition to life in west Riverside County.

“We want to teach people how to integrate while still maintaining their own culture and values,” said Lizette, public health community organizer at Glocally Connected. “Not ‘this is the American way,’ but ‘this is how we can both preserve culture and assimilate here.’”

The organization provides people (mostly women) with tools and resources, including sexual and reproductive education taught by Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, life skills, and ESL classes (English as a second language).

“We all come to the table with different values,” said Clara, community engagement manager for Planned Parenthood in Western Riverside. “We’re giving people unbiased, complete health information so that they have the opportunity to make their own choices.”

The Planned Parenthood-taught class topics include reproductive anatomy & physiology, contraception, sexually transmitted infections, and healthy relationships. The healthy relationships module covered reproductive coercion, consent, open communication, respect, and protecting your partner’s health as well as your own.

Glocally Connected health advocates then go out into their own communities — such as Riverside county’s Afghani community — to share the information with other women and families, including their daughters.

“This is the first time our Community Engagement program has worked with the Afghani refugee community in Riverside,” Clara said.

“Regions are different. We were already aware of the need to reach out to Spanish monolingual speakers and college students here in west Riverside. But with Glocally Connected, we can reach our refugee community as well,” she said.

Friba is an Afghani health advocate working with Glocally Connected. She focuses on preventive health: She will be adding contraception, family planning, and STD information to the classes she teaches at the Riverside Islamic Center every Friday evening. A different topic is discussed each time, with approximately 20-25 students in attendance.

Many of the women in this refugee community didn’t have the opportunity for education in their home country (Afghanistan has been in a state of war for over 45 years).

Many have not had sex before marriage, and marry at a young age. Some women have 5-11 kids in Afghanistan, and may not be knowledgeable about birth control.

“The women have a lot of questions,” Friba said.

Glocally Connected also helps women learn to get drivers licenses, find jobs, pay their bills, make doctor appointments, and register their children for school; they provide English tutoring for the refugee children.

Glocally Connected has taught women who have never held a pen or pencil before.

“Many Afghani women don’t have a chance to go to school,” Friba said. “They’ve had a lot of struggle. But now they can write. Some of the women prayed to learn English. They feel that if they learn, they can do things for their children and for themselves.”

“I think the biggest impact on the women is the ESL classes,” said Lizette. “They want to be able to communicate with a doctor, for instance, if they’re feeling depressed. Or they want to go to a grocery store and be able to ask questions there. After learning English, they can tell us what services they especially need and what challenges they face.”

“They build strong relationships with the other women here,” Friba said. “There may be few English words at first, but they form strong friendships with each other. These relationships give women power.”

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Photo caption: Clara (community engagement manager, PPPSW), Lizette (public health community organizer/Glocally Connected), Friba (Afghani community health advocate), and Sophia (community engagement specialist, PPPSW).

If you’d like to learn more about Glocally Connected’s programs, visit them here.

If you’d like to learn more about Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest’s Community Engagement programs, contact Clara at [email protected].

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