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Guara Bi Proyecto Guaitiao
Please briefly describe your Communities Talk activity.
We connected with multiple agencies and schools that work with the young people and established collaboration agreements with them to hold these prevention activities. We successfully used the following strategies reach and work with 40 organizations in Puerto Rico:
- Actively participating in service fairs in the community.
- Sharing educational posts about prevention on social media several times a week, covering topics such as substance/alcohol misuse and sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs).
- Handing out informational materials about substance/alcohol misuse prevention.
- Carrying out rapid HIV testing.
- Offering educational talks to communities.
- Offering training to professionals working with young people.
How does alcohol and other drug misuse affect your community?
Substance and alcohol misuse among young people is an increasing problem in our country and is affecting their quality of life as well as the quality of life in our communities overall. For this reason, teachers from different educational institutions, social workers, community leaders, and others in the community asked us to develop and host workshops and activities to emphasize the importance of prevention to young people who have been exposed to risky behaviors.
Our workshops and activities aimed to promote healthy habits, attitudes, values, and skills that will lead to a healthy life in which young people have the knowledge to be autonomous and active citizens. This way, we work to reduce situations that may contribute to addictive or problematic behaviors among young people.
What goal(s) did you hope to accomplish with your Communities Talk activity?
- Reduce prevalence of underage drinking and other substances in community
- Create an ongoing conversation about underage drinking and substance use prevention in the community
- Foster collaboration between community stakeholders for continued underage drinking and substance use prevention activities
- Create new resources/materials (e.g., publications, handouts, factsheets, videos, graphics) to support prevention of underage drinking and misuse of other substances
- Encourage community and local businesses to implement measures to prevent underage drinking (e.g., restricting or decreasing sales of alcohol at community events; conducting responsible beverage service training)
What challenge(s) did you face in planning your activity this year?
- Lack of interest from the community
- Adapting to conducting a virtual activity
How did you overcome these challenges?
Once we identified the challenges besides COVID-19 that we experienced, we trained the staff and searched for strategies to increase our virtual work. We managed to engage groups of young people in the afternoons through virtual platforms like Zoom and social networks, which were widely used by that audience. And in order to carry out our in-person work, we took the proper safety precautions and provided a safe space to encourage and maintain some community involvement in those in-person activities. Handing out promotional items and prevention materials in-person has undoubtedly been a key to capturing the interest of the community and young people.
What are your next steps?
- Host follow-up meetings or activities
- Expand our coalition with new partnerships in the community
- Conduct research efforts to learn more about issues in our community
- Continue to train staff and stay up-to-date on topics and prevention strategies related to STDs and substance/alcohol misuse.
Which Communities Talk resources (or other SAMHSA resources) were most helpful for your activity?
- Prevention-related webinars
- StopAlcoholAbuse.gov website
- StopAlcoholAbuse.gov What’s New email newsletter
- Communities Talk website
- Communities Talk planning guides
- Communities Talk toolkits
- Communities Talk social media content (e.g., Facebook, Twitter)
Who did you involve in your activity planning, and who did your activity impact?
Carrying out the 40 different activities meant involving the whole project team from Guara Bi, and we also worked with government and the private sector in each community to include many audiences affected by substance/alcohol misuse. And while all our activities and community outreach efforts were focused specifically on young people, we ultimately ended up reaching parents and the larger community through our work.
Did the COVID-19 pandemic affect the planning or execution of your activities?
COVID-19 caused an unprecedented crisis across the board. This emergency led to the massive shut down of face-to-face activities in educational institutions, which affected our young populations. Therefore, we had to create new strategies to meet the project objectives and be able to carry the message about prevention to young people using virtual platforms such as Zoom, which gave us a way to provide continuity through educational workshops aimed at developing working life skills with all the participants.
Because community outreach activities were greatly reduced, we identified places where there were greater concentrations of people so that we could place a table containing informational and prevention materials in a location that would have high traffic from community members. We also used social media for our outreach efforts, which allowed us to reach more people digitally to ensure that valuable information about prevention was still shared despite challenges from COVID-19.