MICOP Is Vital Link for Indigenous Communities During COVID
Friday, November 20, 2020
(For the full article visit the website linked below)
Published by the Santa Barbara Independent
Mixteco Indigena Community Organizing Project (MICOP), much like the 29,000+ Indigenous residents of Santa Barbara and 21,000+ Indigenous residents of Ventura County that it serves, toils each day out of view of much of society, but it plays a vital role in assisting Indigenous communities, in COVID times and normal times.
The communities MICOP serves are primarily Mixteco, but there are small groups of Zapotecs, Purépecha, and other Indigenous groups as well. Most are farmworkers, and many live in Oxnard and Santa Maria and speak only their native language.
MICOP, with a $5 million budget (half of which comes from public sources) and a staff that is 80 percent Indigenous, has earned the trust of those it serves through 19 years of outreach and assistance in Ventura County. It began serving Santa Maria residents in 2017, opened a small office last year, and is presently expanding staff and services.
When COVID hit, MICOP functioned as the critical bridge between Indigenous residents and community resources. Its Oxnard offices began with wellness calls to clients to learn of their needs and provide immediate assistance. At the same time, staff were translating official health information into Indigenous languages and making the technical health information intelligible to its clients. This was challenging work, according to MICOP Associate Director Genevieve Flores-Haro, who noted that Mixteco does not even have a word for “virus.” Working with Ventura County’s Farmworker Resource Program, MICOP created informational videos, which it distributed through social media, Zoom calls, and its own radio station, Radio Indígena (94.1 FM and Facebook Live).
MICOP has worked to persuade farmworkers with symptoms to get tested. Not only do farmworkers not get sick days, according to Flores-Haro, but some employers warned employees that they or their entire crew would be fired if they tested positive. Farmworkers are at heightened risk for contracting COVID because of crowded living situations and shared transportation. They are at heightened risk for COVID complications because of comorbidity factors.
Among those who were ill, there was a reluctance to get treatment as well. To address cost concerns, MICOP advocated to both counties that they waive co-pays for COVID treatment, which the counties did.