Local community health worker and organizer Maria Antonia Sanchez has been given the 2006 Human Rights Activist Award, presented jointly by the Columbia River Fellowship for Peace and Oregon's Rural Organizing Project at a ceremony held Dec. 11, 2006 at La Clinica del Carino.
Over 40 community members attended the bilingual presentation. Linda Short and Steve White, respectively, represented CRFP and ROP in explaining the award and the selection of Sanchez.
Sanchez, known widely as "Tona," was described as a tireless and immensely talented health promoter and a highly valued employee of several area organizations, among them La Clinica del Carino and the Nuestra Comunidad Sana project of The Next Door, Inc.
Among her many roles at La Clinica, Sanchez has provided education and awareness to the Latino community on maternal and child health care including prenatal care, well baby care, breast feeding and immunizations; facilitated support groups for women in the form of cooking and sewing classes to discuss issues of concern including domestic violence; conducted cultural competency trainings about the Latino community at Oregon Health & Science University for medical, nursing and psychology students; provided education and awareness to the Latino community on cervical and breast cancer; and coordinated primary care health services for women in need.
On behalf of the Nuestra Comunidad Sana program at The Next Door, Inc., Sanchez provides education and awareness to the Latino community of the Mid-Columbia Gorge Region on breast cancer, diabetes and oral health -- through door-to-door outreach, community presentations, training of other community members, case management and counseling. She facilitates intensive, long-term group counseling for perpetrators of domestic violence referred by the court system, and conducts focus groups and interviews within the Latino community to learn about health concerns, habits and maintenance.
Other areas in which Ms. Sanchez has focused her energies include HIV/AIDS, cervical cancer, and diabetes. She also provides lay mental health counseling to patients on dialysis to assist them in learning and using coping strategies.
Sanchez, a resident of Husum, has also served for the past 11 years as a Family Liaison for Even Start Pre-School in White Salmon, where she recruits qualifying Latino children and assists the school and families.
She is an active volunteer in many efforts, including as special events coordinator and fundraiser for St. Joseph's Catholic Church in White Salmon, as informal counselor and mentor for the community at large, as a former member of the Board of Directors of Housing for People, Inc. (HOPE) in Hood River, and as an organizer and advocate for immigrants' rights in numerous community events.