Although we’re in the middle of a pandemic, the team at the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (¡HICA!) in Birmingham is working hard to make sure families have access to the resources they need. We spoke with ¡HICA!’s executive director, Isabel Rubio, to find out more about their work.
1) ¡HICA! is a champion for Latino and immigrant communities in Alabama.
¡HICA! exists to champion social justice and advocacy for Latino and immigrant families in our state. The group’s founder, Isabel Rubio, saw a need for ¡HICA!’s services 20 years ago when she was a social worker at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).
“We started because our community was changing. We wanted to make sure Latinos calling Alabama home were able to be fully engaged and contribute to the broader community.”Isabel Rubio, executive director, ¡HICA!
2) Their services are multi-faceted, from family programs to economic development.
“We are heavily engaged in helping people achieve their dreams and aspirations,” said Rubio, whether that’s becoming a U.S. citizen, preparing for college or starting a small business. According to Rubio, ¡HICA! has helped more than 225 businesses get off the ground in the last seven years!
¡HICA!’s Strong Families Program also serves families by referring them to various services they may need, from case management to court and family advocacy.
“The program is critical in helping the broader community understand how to respond. We sit at the table of Children’s Policy Council and work with law enforcement to make sure they know how to work with the culturally specific community we serve.”Isabel Rubio, executive director, ¡HICA!
3) The Strong Families Program includes the Alabama Language Access Project, which is crucial in a time like this.
We all want to stay informed of the latest in our community. This is especially the case given what’s happening with the COVID-19 outbreak. Now imagine if you couldn’t access critical information because of a language barrier. That’s where ¡HICA! steps in. They work to get constituents the information they need to know.
“We are a connector in the community. We know that being a partner for the cities in our area is really important.”Isabel Rubio, executive director, ¡HICA!
For ¡HICA! COVID-19 resources, visit this link.
4) ¡HICA! is still helping those that need their services, despite COVID-19.
Within the last two weeks, a woman arrived in Alabama concerned for her safety. A victim of human trafficking, she turned to ¡HICA! to help her with her needs. ¡HICA! not only gave the woman a mattress to sleep on, but also secured a doctor’s appointment for her son. A ¡HICA! advocate is still working on her behalf:
“The advocate I have only met through the phone has never wavered. From the beginning she offered me free counseling with a bilingual counselor. Amid the COVID-19 crisis, my advocate has maintained close communication with me regardless of how many texts I send or calls I make.”¡HICA! constituent
¡HICA! may be working remotely right now, but they are 100% operational. Kerlyn Mendez has been in one-on-one Zoom meetings with a ¡HICA! financial coach to help her with her small party decor business. This service is especially important in a challenging time like this.
“I want to thank ¡HICA! for the support that they offer in the middle of this situation. The options that we have to continue in the growth of our projects. We are together in this, and their information is valuable for us as small business owners.”Kerlyn Mendez, owner of Happy Angels
How to Contact ¡HICA!
Although ¡HICA!’s office is closed for in-person assistance until April 6, staff are still available by phone at 205.942.5505 and email.
Have you worked with ¡HICA!? How are other Birmingham nonprofits stepping up amid the COVID-19 outbreak? Let us know @BhamNow!