Almost 60 nonprofit organizations across the San Joaquin Valley, including some in Kern County, were granted almost $1 million in funding Thursday by The Center at Sierra Health Foundation as part of its ongoing mission to eradicate health inequities throughout Central California

The Center dispersed $975,000 during its fourth round of funding announced this week, and millions more for ongoing projects announced last year that run through 2020. At least $6 million total has been raised by The Center since 2012 to turn around health outcomes in the San Joaquin Valley. 

The venture began in 2014 when The Center established a partnership with 89 nonprofit organizations and 12 state and national foundations spurred into action to transform the region. This is the Golden State, advocates say, but it’s not golden for all. They established the San Joaquin Valley Health Fund. 

“As the impact and influence of the San Joaquin Valley Health Fund grows, we are seeing the power of having affected communities at the forefront of the equity movement to improve their own health and well-being,” President and CEO of The Center Chet P. Hewitt said. “The collective commitment of our diverse group of forward-thinking community leaders, nonprofits, activists and funders is making transformative policy and system change happen now.”

The funding includes 13 grants awarded to organizations specifically focused on immigration rights.

The other 45 grants fund organizations working to address a menagerie of health issues, including food insecurity, air quality, clean drinking water, housing, healthcare, education, employment, domestic violence, open space and neighborhood safety.

The organizations working in Kern County include:

  • California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance was granted $20,000 to develop an infrastructure to support immigrant youth led organizing and leadership development.
  • Planned Parenthood Mar Monte was granted $10,000 to develop a network of young activists in the Central Valley to mobilize communities toward reproductive justice.
  • Central California Environmental Justice Network was granted $20,000 to train a cohort of residents from disadvantaged communities to develop skills to monitor air pollution and advocate for stronger environmental regulations.
  • ValleyFWD was granted $20,000 to educate and empower immigrant workers on rights and protections in the workplace through direct outreach.
  • The Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment was granted $600,000 to improve childhood health and racial equity by reducing pesticide exposure in the San Joaquin Valley. (2017 to 2020)
  • The United Farm Workers Foundation was granted $600,000 to improve the health and well-being of immigrant children and their families through education and mobilization of residents, including establishing a cadre of local health advocates to identify priority health needs and implement civic actions to create equity in immigrant communities. (2017 to 2020)
  • Faith in Community was granted $600,000 to engage parents, community leaders and partners across five counties in the valley to research, build power and advance policy in three areas affecting children’s health, including safe housing, clean air and safe spaces to exercise. (2017 to 2020)

The targeted focus on funding nonprofits that will work specifically on immigrant rights and justice issues comes as a direct result of the political climate in California, said Kaying Hang, incoming vice president of programs and partnership for Sierra Health Foundation and The Center. 

Immigrants throughout California have been living in fear after the election of President Donald Trump, who ushered in stepped-up enforcement of federal immigration agents in response to the state's sanctuary state policies. 

"We directly see how this conversation impacts our community," Hang said. "In every corner of the San Joaquin Valley, we have immigrants contributing to the fabric of our community."

The flood of funding will help nonprofits assist immigrants by teaching them about their rights and expanding access to legal services during deportation proceedings, Hang said. 

"This will allow us to plan and ensure that immigrants have their rights protected," Hang said. 

Harold Pierce covers education and health for The Californian. He can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter @RoldyPierce

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