YWCA Alaska's partnership with the Alaska Literacy Project (ALP)

By Robin Lutz, July 2012

This year the YWCA of Alaska partnered with the Alaska Literacy Project (ALP), to provide breast and cervical health information to over 45 women speaking 15 different languages. This project is very special to us, and each year our outcomes improve. ALP serves recent immigrants and refugees who wish to obtain English language skills.

The YWCA works with the newest students; women who have just entered into the country, and are just beginning to navigate not only the language, but the medical system as well. To do this effectively, we trained 10 Peer Language Navigators (PLN's) on the content of our education workshops and the enrollment process for BCHC. We then presented our Breast and Cervical Health workshop three times at ALP, using the PLN's as both translators and cultural brokers. This process is amazing and fun to watch--when our trainer stands at the front of the room and demonstrates a self-breast exam, there is silence. Then, a loud buzz as women speaking 10 different languages translate the information to their table of students, helping them to imitate the breast exam, laughing at each other, and helping each other absorb the information. This year we had a table full of women from Nepal sitting next to a table of women from Somalia, surrounded by women of other various cultures and ethnicity. Languages spoken at this spring's workshops included Korean, Mandarin, Wolof, Nuer, Russian, Spanish, Nepalese, Thai, Hmong, and Vietnamese.

The YWCA has two goals for this project; first, to provide information and education, and secondly to provide screenings covered by our state BCHC program. This year we held our ALP Screening Clinic at Providence Family Medicine Center, a clinic that is known for valuing cultural diversity. We hired 4 translators in addition to using our Peer Language navigators, and also provided taxi service from ALP to the clinic. On the day of the clinic we provided 11 mammograms, and 17 clinical breast exams. Of our 11 women who received a mammogram, 7 of them had never been screened before, and all 11 women were significantly over the age of 40.