Creciendo Unidos

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Executive Director Guille Sastre talks about the organization’s efforts to mobilize neighborhoods, develop leaders, and build communities by focusing attention on the family unit.

José Cárdenas: "Creciendo unidos" means growing together. It's an organization that was created to focus attention to the family unit. With me to talk about what they do is Guille Sastré, executive director of Creciendo Unidos. Guille welcome to "Horizonte."

Guille Sastré: Thank you. It is a pleasure being here.

José Cárdenas: The program is fairly old. It was created, what, in 1992?

Guille Sastré: 1997.

José Cárdenas: 1997. And you were the founder.

Guille Sastré: Yes.

José Cárdenas: What was your purpose in creating the program?

Guille Sastré: It was to provide services to the Hispanic families in a way that is culturally appropriate, and basically looking for the strength in the families to really come together and to be part of helping others.

José Cárdenas: Now, why this particular name, Creciendo Unidos?

Guille Sastré: I think it fits perfectly. We are here together. Growing together means, you know, pulling each other's strings, sharing our momentums whether its sad, difficult, other challenges, and basically you know help each other.

José Cárdenas: And how do you do that? What kinds much programs do you offer?

Guille Sastré: We provide family, youth, men-to-men programs, marital enhancement courses, and leadership programs.

José Cárdenas: I want to talk about the content of some of those programs, but before I do, how is it that you deliver these services?

Guille Sastré: Well, we -- before we used to do a lot of recruitment process. We do have a collaboration with this school district. Our community centers, churches. But now we do have a lot of our participants, our volunteers who really are the word of mouth. They pass on the information and we have now waiting list, and the majority of our programs.

José Cárdenas: But you deliver these programs in schools, school buildings?

Guille Sastré: Yeah, we do deliver the programs in the school, and churches, and community centers.

José Cárdenas: As I understand it, there was -- there's a federal funding component to this that began actually in the Bush administration.

Guille Sastré: Yes. We do have -- we've been since 1997, but in 1990 - no in 2006 we received a federal funding through the Hispanic healthy marriage initiative, and it will -- that basically will help us for capacity build can, to expand our services. We used to do pretty much one program at a time, and now of course we were able to expand the services in the community.

José Cárdenas: Now, why the particular focus on Hispanic marriages? I know that Hispanics have the same issues that other groups have, but at least the stereo type is Catholic, very close family units, divorce frowned upon if not forbidden. So why would there be perceived need, anyway, for healthy Hispanic marriages?

Guille Sastré: Statistics show definitely the challenges in the Hispanic community are really high. And you know, just in Arizona, the divorce rates are huge. 64%. I think Hispanic families, they have a particular way they perceive what it means, families, and they have specific needs that has to be addressed. We know that there is a lot of families and families -- they do need help, but I think there is an effort basically because there is not -- they were a lot of needs particularly in our communities.

José Cárdenas: Are a fair number of the people you serve recent immigrants?

Guille Sastré: We do focus a lot in the immigration community. Yes.

José Cárdenas: Does that give rise to some of the stress you may see in families, because they've come from a different country, different customs, maybe more stable there, here they're in a different environment, choose add to the difficulties?

Guille Sastré: Definitely. There's more barriers, there's a lot of challenges that -- for the immigrant community, it makes it even harder, you know, to really be equipped to being in a foreign country, to adapt or to assimilate a new culture, to really work in issues that they do have.

José Cárdenas: What about traditional notions regarding the proper role of the wife, and of children, particularly young girls? We've had guests on the show talking about the barriers that they encounter sometimes with recent immigrant families, and the feeling that the young women shouldn't go to college, or if they do go they shouldn't live on campus and should stay home until they get married.

Guille Sastré: Well, we do have in the Hispanic community I think that I would not completely say that all of them, you know, but definitely there is some cultural traits that -- how we perceive, or how we would like to address our children to go to college. I think that there is a lot of ways, and I think that's what the programs -- they have to be really culturally appropriate to address those needs. I think it is -- the Hispanic families, they really are engaging and they really -- they want the best for their children, and they want to go to college, just they have different ways on how to meet those needs. And we have to be aware of those differences.

José Cárdenas: Let's talk about some of the specific programs you mentioned, leadership. How does that work?

Guille Sastré: You know, our leadership program, it is a 13-week course that basically it is offered to our participants who have completed any of the other programs that we offer. And that they want to remain with us as a volunteer. So we provide them with a course, with a leadership tools for them to continue working on themselves, focusing on the family projected in the community. So they're the ones that help us to really implement most of our programs.

José Cárdenas: We've got your website address on the screen, is that how people can find out more about the program?

Guille Sastré: Definitely.

José Cárdenas: Are there other ways to get involved?

Guille Sastré: Just to call us, to come to -- we have every -- the first Tuesday of each month at 4:30 in our offices we have an orientation about our program and how they can become engaged.

José Cárdenas: Now, how many people typically participate on an annual basis?

Guille Sastré: We serve 1500 participants annually.

José Cárdenas: How do you do that? I understand have you a permanent staff of seven.

Guille Sastré: Well we do have a lot of volunteers. And that's dispensary I think that uniqueness of us, we have at least 70% of our participants who completed the program, they want to stay with us as a volunteer. So thanks to them, is how we continue providing so many services to our community.

José Cárdenas: And when we're talking before we came on the air, you mentioned some particular examples of people taking buses to be able to help out.

Guille Sastré: Oh, yes. You cannot believe the commitment and the willingness that our community has to really help others. For me, I get so inspired when I see people that, we can see they're in a lot of need, and they're -- should be requesting services, and they're there to help us.
José Cárdenas: And they do.

Guille Sastré: Yes.

José Cárdenas: Thank you so much for joining us to talk about the program.

Guille Sastré: Thank you.

Guille Sastre:Executive Director, Creciendo Unidos;

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