Stories & Voices
She Helps Her Neighbors Overcome Vaccine Hesitancy
April 14th, 2021
UJA Federation of New York >> <p>Community members in Williamsburg get vaccines at Woodhull Medical Center.</p>

Community members in Williamsburg get vaccines at Woodhull Medical Center.

UJA-Federation has awarded $588,000 in grants for vaccine access and education to over 90 community-based organizations in New York. We’re sharing how the funding helped one grassroots nonprofit, Southside United HDFC - Los Sures, that primarily serves the Latino community in Williamsburg.

What’s the key to helping people who are hesitant to get a vaccine?

Robin Sirota Bassin, Los Sures director of social services, will tell you this: Sensitive staff who don’t pressure people.

“Having a part-time vaccine educator, like Susana Pacheco, is so important,” Robins adds. “She’s a local resident and sensitive to the needs of our community.”

When Los Sures received a grant from UJA this spring, they immediately hired Susana. Soon after, Susana made a real difference.

“A woman was at a vaccine site, waiting for her shot. She became nervous and changed her mind,” Robin recalls. “Susana listened to the woman and expressed support and understanding. She didn’t pressure her to get vaccinated. The woman decided to leave. Two weeks later, she felt more comfortable and returned to get her shot.”

Susana made an impact through lending a sympathetic ear. But she has also spoken out at Los Sures’ food pantry to inform her neighbors about how vaccines can keep them and their families safe.

“As more people are hearing about someone getting vaccinated and that they’re O.K., that will help,” Robin says. “Word of mouth is a powerful influence.”

Helping With Vaccine Access, Too

In addition to vaccine education, Susana also helps seniors and other members of the community get access to vaccines at a local hospital, Woodhull Medical Center. Susana assists people who can’t navigate the system on their own, don’t have email, or don’t speak English well enough for a phone call.

St. Nicks Alliance, another organization in the neighborhood with a wheelchair accessible van, provides transportation to Woodhull for people who need it.

“We’re escorting people to the hospital, filling out paperwork, providing support, and doing a lot of handholding,” Robin says. “We provide access to vaccines that people might not get otherwise. Working together with UJA, St. Nicks, and Woodhull, we’re really able to help our community.”