Lorena remembers the very first time she heard about the Environmental Health Coalition. She was attending a meeting at her children’s school in National City, where she frequently volunteered. As the sound of children’s laughter echoed in the background, EHC’s Community Organizer, Monserrat Hernandez, stood at the front of the room, describing the environmental health risks that were adjacent to the school including polluting auto body shops.

"Although I had lived many years [in National City], I didn’t know what was affecting the health of my family. You live somewhere and you have no idea of the health problems that are affecting you."

After getting involved in EHC’s Community Action Team and graduating from the SALTA leadership program, Lorena noticed an immediate change in herself. She had always seen herself as a shy person who was timid to speak in public. But after the leadership training, she found her confidence to speak in front of the National City Council and advocate for the development of the Paradise Creek Affordable Housing Project, a 201-unit affordable housing complex. Although Lorena and her CAT leaders were told the project was impossible, she credits the determination of the community and the support of EHC with securing its completion.

Through her participation with EHC, Lorena built her leadership skills and her self-confidence. “I became much more confident in identifying injustices in my home and at my child’s school and I recruited others to make changes and improve the situation that surrounds them.”

Lorena is one of the over 2,500 community residents who have graduated from EHC’s SALTA leadership trainings over the past 20 years. Each one has gone on to take leadership positions within their neighborhoods and communities. With your support, leaders like Lorena can continue to find the confidence to use their voices for safe and healthier neighborhoods.