As part of National Public Health Week, 25 members of the Berkeley community, involved in projects from domestic violence to mobile clinics, were honored Tuesday night by the city of Berkeley’s Division of Public Health.
“It was an opportunity to honor and recognize community members nominated by the Public Health Division staff for their contributions to a healthy Berkeley community,” said Kristin Tehrani, a health educator with the division.
This year’s focus was on community members, though Public Health Week in previous years focused on issues such as environmental health or HIV/AIDS.
Martha Cueva, of the Bay Area Hispano Institute for Advancement’s School-Age Program, said she was surprised, but very happy, about the nomination.
“For me, the return is to see the children learning about how to be safe with food,” said Cueva. “It’s great timing with the Cesar Chavez memorial, so that the children can see what happens with the whole farm issue.”
Cueva coordinates a market every Tuesday at BAHIA so that local Latino and African-American farmers can sell their pesticide-free produce, brings speakers to BAHIA, sometimes acts as a Spanish translator for the speakers and circulates a newsletter with health tips. She has also helped create a garden curriculum at BAHIA for parents and children.
“I do a lot of volunteer work with the city health department on health and nutrition. A lot of Latino families are not clear about pesticides or how to help Latino farmers,” Cueva said.
“I’m a doer and I don’t like to wait around for something to be done. I just like doing it,” she said.
Reverend D. Mark Wilson at McGee Avenue Baptist Church was so busy with church duties he didn’t even know he had been nominated until after the ceremony had taken place.
“I’m embarrassed,” he said. “It was Holy Week, and I didn’t even open the letter until Wednesday.”
But he acknowledged that it was nice to be recognized.
“There are seldom and few rewards. But there are times when you bump into someone unexpectedly and you see the hope it brings them. When they say, ‘I was helped by coming to the church. I was served more than a meal,’ that’s a reward,” Wilson said.
Wilson’s church works with the South Berkeley Community Church on a community lunch program three times a week. Wilson has also worked to spread awareness of HIV/AIDS in the primarily African-American community members who come to his church.
“The church is a space to connect faith and health. The church has traditionally been a place for the African-American community to come together. But it has been a place of condemnation and fear about HIV/AIDS. Here, we try to heal some of that,” Wilson said.
The other honorees were Vincente Avila, Sarena Chandler, Maliyah Coye, Pauline Bondonno Cross, Reverend M. Gayle Dickson, Emma Donnelly, Juanita DuVal, Wendy Georges,Sandy Kwong, Claire Levy, Ricky Martinez, Shobha Menon-Hiatt, Nancy Holland, Nancy Johnson, Nancy Jordan, Marty Lynch, Anya Pearson, Alonzo Ramirez, Chayla Summers, Cecilia Walls, Mia Washington, Miriam Wong and Pastor K.R. Woods.
“It’s always important to recognize people who better their community through very special work,” said Mayor Shirley Dean on Friday.
She praised not only the community members, but also the city’s Public Health Division, which is only one of three city Public Health offices in California.
“I’m very proud of our health department,” Dean said.
“If someone lived in Oakland and wanted to contact the health department, that person would have to go to the county facility to do that. We can do it right here in our own city. It’s much more convenient.”
Public Health Week runs through April 7. But Berkeley’s Division of Public Health sponsors events all year round. Their next event is a “Party for Your Health” in Martin Luther King, Jr. Park starting at 10:30 a.m. on Sat., April 13. It will feature health screenings, alternative health services, food and live music.