A small, artistic enclave located on Florida’s southeast Atlantic coast, Lake Worth is a diverse and vibrant community which features the 20th highest percentage of Guatemalan residents in the United States and the 21st highest Haitian population in the country with over a quarter of the city’s residents speaking Spanish as their first language.
Despite the fact that Palm Beach is the state’s wealthiest county, almost a third (32.3%) of Lake Worth’s residents live below the poverty line and multiple studies have shown that those raised in poverty are seven times more likely to drop out of school, thus perpetuating the cycle of economic disparity and diminished physical and behavioral health.
To get a better idea of what conditions were like for residents in the area, Community Partners got together with Neighborworks America and BRIDGES to administer Impact: Lake Worth - a Community Impact Measurement survey.
Noting both physical conditions of the neighborhood and how residents expressed their opinions about living in the area, the survey was taken over three days and helmed by a large group of passionate, community-minded volunteers.
Armed with surveys, pens and Publix gift cards (a thank you for all participants), volunteers interviewed residents living in the Highland neighborhood and learned a significant amount about the area.
I was lucky enough to volunteer for the first shift on the first day and initially, I was nervous. I didn’t know the area very well and in my experience, people don’t exactly respond positively when a stranger knocks on the door.
Luckily, my concerns were allayed by the measures put into effect before the survey even started. In the weeks leading up to the event, every resident received a letter informing them that a survey was being conducted and that their participation was requested but by no means mandatory. Volunteers would be out in their neighborhood wearing clearly marked shirts and for their time, residents would receive a $10 Publix giftcard.
We started at 9:00am and my partner and I were immediately flagged down by a resident who had been expecting us.
We talked for twenty minutes and she explained how much she loved the neighborhood but was worried about crime. She spoke about her history in the neighborhood – how she had raised her children here and how she worked hard to take care of her home. She also expressed gratitude for the fact that, “someone was listening” and for the Publix giftcard.
Another resident invited us inside of his home, gave us cold water and spoke at length about his love of Lake Worth and community organizing, the importance of diversity and income equality and thanked CP for the work we are doing there.
Being a non-Spanish speaker, I was slightly worried about communicating with the Spanish-speaking residents of the area, but learned that through design, my partner was fluent. She took the lead and communicated effortlessly with the residents and in doing so; I learned that empathy has no language
Participating in Impact: Lake Worth made me reflect on my position here at Community Partners. After meeting the residents of the area, I'm more conscious of our non-English speaking residents and will be more cognizant of their needs regarding forthcoming communications materials. I'm going to strive harder for a greater sense of inclusion, equity, and diversity and feel better equipped to speak about the diversity of our client base and how we are Changing the Odds for those we serve in a myriad of ways.