National Hispanic Heritage Month is observed annually Sept. 15-Oct. 15. It’s a time to honor and celebrate the culture, heritage and contributions of Hispanic Americans, whose ancestry originates in Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.
To recognize the month, Monica Coon-Anda, staff chaplain, shares more about her work and how she celebrates Hispanic culture.
What is your role at Akron Children’s, and how long have you been with the hospital?
I have been a chaplain at Akron Children’s for five years.
What do you enjoy most about your work at Akron Children’s?
I came to Akron Children’s because I felt called to work with Spanish speaking families. They often have many psychosocial and spiritual needs that require more of my time, but the challenge is rewarding when a family feels heard and cared for.
As a Hispanic American, what does National Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you? The Hispanic community is made of many different cultures and even more dialects. I recognize how my values have been formed from my family. The traditions we keep are what bring meaning and connection into my life.
How do you recognize, honor and celebrate your Hispanic heritage?
Speaking Spanish and having the ability to connect with families is a gift and a blessing. My parents experienced multiple child losses before I was born, and this formed the way they cared for me. Many of the traditions and rituals I practice are religious. My parents bless me before leaving our home and practice forgiving one another and asking for forgiveness, reminding me that everyone is human and will make mistakes.
As we strive to deliver culturally competent care and create an inclusive environment for our patients and families, what would you like others to know?
There is a large difference in the power dynamic between someone who may not speak English as a primary language and the medical team. Being aware of that is important because some families are afraid to ask for help and feel intimidated by the large medical system. I try to start with where they can find the basics like food, toiletries, and encourage them to make their needs known. It takes time for me to build relationships and trust with families even as a native Spanish speaker. Sometimes, it has to do with the trauma the family has experienced.
Chaplains are supposed to be cultural brokers to help bridge the power gap between the medical world and families, between different cultures and values. I am not an interpreter, but I can help families feel heard and safe.