Bridging the gap: A bilingual advocate for the community
Juan Rivero recalls leaving his home in Mexico City at age nine and immigrating to the United States with his parents and siblings. Like many immigrant children, Rivero faced isolation because of the language barrier and struggled with his identity.
“It was tricky to find out who I was. My family experienced many of the stigmas associated with being immigrants, so we would not go out much,” reflects Rivero. “It was like we were free, but we were in a cage.”
For Rivero, connecting with the community was an important step towards embracing his Hispanic heritage.
“When we realized there were more of us out there, the whole community started getting together and I began feeling more appreciative of where I came from,” shares Rivero.
As a community health worker at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill., caring for the community is a key part of his career. Rivero assesses underserved patients in the emergency department and connects them with community resources such as food, behavioral health information and insurance enrollment.
In the Elgin community, where Rivero lives and works, 47% of the population is Hispanic. When Rivero meets with Spanish-speaking patients, he’s able to authentically connect with them and build trust.
“I never thought I would use my native language as something positive in my career,” Rivero admits. “The opportunity to help people using my background and communication skills is incredible.”
In addition to his work in the emergency department, Rivero represents the hospital at community organizations including the Elgin Hispanic Network and Centro de Informacion. The strong relationships Rivero has built with these organizations and many others help him to better provide patients with the resources they need.
“When a patient starts telling me what their needs are, my brain is already trying to figure out where I can send them,” explains Rivero. “I love the feeling of finding a solution to help someone. It’s so rewarding to know that this work directly impacts their life.”
Rivero is proud of his culture and sees Hispanic Heritage Month as a time to recognize and celebrate the contributions of all Hispanic people: Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Colombians, Nicaraguans among others.
“There are so many of us and we all bring our skills and abilities to make this country a better one,” says Rivero. “We all want the opportunity to demonstrate what makes us unique.”
About the Author
Elizabeth Blasko is a public affairs coordinator with Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She studied public relations and nonprofit leadership at Western Michigan University. Elizabeth previously worked at Bernie's Book Bank, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing book ownership among underserved children.