By: Kyle McKendall, Staff Member
Photography by Kevin Daniels
Taken from the Summer 2016 issue of Dateline: Full PDF available here


For the first time ever, HFA offered a comprehensive Spanish-language program at its annual Symposium, held in Las Vegas from March 30-April 2, 2016. More than 50 attendees participated in the program and attended sessions that were designed specifically for the Spanish-speaking community. Of course, HFA has delivered individual sessions in Spanish at previous Symposiums but this was the first time an entire track, comprising five sessions, printed materials, and translation services during general sessions, was offered. And prior to this program at Symposium, the organization had translated several educational sessions and made them available for presentation at the local membership organization level.

While building the materials for the Spanish language program, HFA welcomed input from community members and it registered loud and clear that having educational materials merely translated is just a small part of delivering an effective program. As one participant stated, “We wish that we had the ability to create personalized programs for each of our communities, not just cookie-cutter programs.” In addition to content, delivery and context are equally important. This input was vital. If merely-translated content can seem generalized then it lacks the tailored approach that HFA aims to offer all community members through its services. The program track offered at Symposium was designed to resonate with the Spanish-speaking community with a sense of authenticity, addressing the cultural differences that impact individuals.

Program sessions within the track were designed with not only the cultural component in mind, but the intent of providing enhanced networking, social support and educational opportunities. The track started with a “get to know you” which, regardless of the language you speak, evoked a sense of purpose and belonging among the participants and onlookers in the room. The session’s facilitator held a large ball of yarn. He introduced himself and shared a story about his connection to the community, then, holding on to the end of the yarn, he passed the ball to a participant who introduced themselves and told their story. The ball kept moving, crisscrossing the room, darting in every direction, and as it passed through one set of hands after another, each participant shared a bit of themselves with the group. By the end of the activity, the group found it had created a crazy, beautiful web that bound them all together. The facilitator used that very tangible metaphor to talk about the importance of community, the shared sense of struggle, and perseverance needed to overcome all of our battles.

The track also included an overview of HFA’s programs and services as well as a group discussion focusing on resources available to local communities. “Taking Care of YOU — Caretaker Stress Relief” was a particular favorite within the track. This session was designed to address the impact of stress on caretakers and introduce various coping mechanisms that can be used by the entire family. In addition to tips and tricks for dealing with stress, the session included a Q&A with Dave Robinson, PhD, LMFT, director of the marriage and family therapy program at Utah State University. Participants revealed afterwards that this session provided a much-needed forum for families, across the generations, to share their experiences and challenges. At the end of Symposium, a “Spanish Rap Session” was offered, allowing Spanish-speaking participants to come back together to continue the peer learning and networking that had started earlier in the week.

Martha Boria, HFA Program Coordinator, who facilitated the program, says that the families who attended “were extremely satisfied because for the first time a program was directed at them.” She remarked, “I loved seeing the camaraderie among the families and the sincerity with which they spoke of their difficulties and problems. In each of the sessions they showed friendship [and] companionship despite having just met at Symposium.”

Naturally, attendees were eager to make suggestions for additional topics of discussion for future Spanish language programs and tracks. Some topics offered for consideration were: getting involved on a local level, applying for scholarships, and aiming for success at school or work despite having a bleeding disorder. When asked about needs beyond Symposium sessions, attendees outlined the benefits that would come from having a translated website and printed marketing materials.

HFA hopes to continue to deliver programming for the Spanish-speaking community at Symposium each year. Given that the annual conference moves throughout the country, demand for such a program will be evaluated each year. As always, the organization will continue to listen to the needs of the community and build programming to meet those needs in the most inclusive and appropriate way possible. Understanding and meeting the needs of community members and finding the funding to facilitate those needs are essential aspects of HFA’s ongoing work.

Asked for her biggest takeaway, Martha replied “seeing my Latino family loving each other, supporting each other, and willing to learn to help their families be successful regardless of the obstacles.” We say “Amén!” to that!

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