Working together to increase Safer Healthy Homes practices among King County immigrant and refugee families
At the Hazardous Waste Management Program, we come to work every day to protect and improve public health and environmental quality in King County. Together with our partner agencies, local businesses, community groups, and individuals (like you!), we are working toward a healthy and safe Puget Sound region free from hazardous chemical exposure.
But we are not doing this work alone. There are many organizations doing great work to increase environmental and neighborhood health across our King County communities. The Haz Waste Program gets to partner with some of these groups to collaborate towards the shared vision of a healthy, safe, and clean Puget Sound Region.
This month, we spotlight Mother Africa, a community-based organization that works to advance racial equity by supporting African refugee and immigrant women and families to reach their highest potential through innovative, community-led approaches.
Last year, Mother Africa and the Haz Waste Program partnered to raise awareness about safe use and disposal of household hazardous materials. The Safer Healthy Homes program promoted safe use and disposal practices among immigrant and refugee families from Africa and the Middle East.
COVID-19 response and innovation
- The Safer Healthy Homes program initially planned to conduct at-home visits with community members, teaming with Health Promoters from the Mother Africa team who speak Arabic and French. In response to COVID-19, the Mother Africa team pivoted to create a new, safer approach to sharing information through virtual home visits.
- Mother Africa staff created a PowerPoint presentation with culturally relevant images and content to guide conversation and shared it via Zoom and What’s App.
- Each participant received a Safer Cleaning Kit prior to their virtual visit, through no-contact home delivery.
- Mother Africa offered basic resources for families struggling because of the pandemic, including healthcare and rental assistance information.
- In addition, Mother Africa created a training center to teach participants about Zoom, What’s App, and Chat.
The Mother Africa team not only helped clients to adapt to using new technology, they also supported clients through the uncertainty and isolation of the early months of the pandemic. Kholoud Aldeen, Program Supervisor, shared that, “Another aspect we had to manage was that our community was impacted by isolation due to the pandemic. Therefore, when we wanted to talk with our clients, they wanted to chat and socialize so our team had to accommodate for that need for connection and conversation while also continuing our Safer Homes workshop.”
Other formerly in-person events, like the workshop and field trip, also became virtual. Local agencies provided virtual learning experiences for community participants on rainwater, drinking water, and wastewater, as well as a demonstration on how to properly dispose of hazardous household products.
Collaboration and co-creation
Mother Africa and King County collaborated to make communication materials that resonate with community members in a culturally appropriate way. Flyers were translated into Arabic and French and included individuals wearing hijabs. Sahar Al Alarasi, Health Promoter for the Arabic community, shared that “Co-creating culturally relevant materials is important because when people see their culture represented, for example, people in a hijab, they will think, ‘These people are thinking of me. I should share this with my community. I see myself in this effort and will do my best to contribute to the goal.’”
This co-creation with Mother Africa helped to build trust with King County immigrant and refugee families and increased positive outcomes by providing access to information about how to make homes safer and healthier.
Safer homes practices
Participants in the Safer Healthy Homes program learned more about how to safely dispose of hazardous materials, use safer cleaning products, and understand the dangers of mold and lead. One participant said, “[The virtual home visit] was very helpful because before I used bleach every day. Now I know how to make a safer choice.”
This project’s success would not have been possible without the dedicated Mother Africa team. Mother Africa continues to support leadership building, advocacy, and community action to reduce barriers to healthcare, education, safety, and economic independence for African refugees and immigrants. Support Mother Africa’s work by clicking here, or follow them on Twitter and Facebook.