Latino Community Foundation

“One of the most disheartening things I’ve seen is how the evacuation sites did not have emergency signage in Spanish nor bilingual staff. Our county had been making strides on this front because of community pressure and it was unfortunate to see that it failed during this crisis. This is why the Just Recovery Partnership has stepped in to help build a volunteer brigade of over 150 bilingual and bicultural residents who support our Latino, immigrant, undocumented and Indigenous communities. I am amazed by our collective power and yet dismayed by the structures that make us react in such ways.” – Gabriela Orantes, LCF Just Recovery fellow 

2020 was the worst year on record for wildfires in California. The record-breaking 4.2 million acres burned were more than the previous three years combined. Five of the six biggest fires in California’s history burned in 2020.

In response to these devastating wildfires, Latino Community Foundation (LCF) received a Google-funded CDP grant to support their California Wildfire Fund. The funding supported the work of LCF’s Just Recovery Partnership and their efforts to ensure that residents have access to critical and potentially life-saving disaster response and recovery information.

In Sonoma County, California, more than 30% of residents are people of color for whom English is not their first language. This means that, especially when disaster strikes, it is crucial for information to be readily available in multiple languages so everyone can access and understand it.

Latino Community Foundation’s Just Recovery fellow holds a card in Spanish promoting interpretation for emergency communications. The photo was taken on October 2, 2020 during the Glass Fire in Napa County. (Photo Credit: Gabriela Orantes, LCF Just Recovery fellow)

LCF and their Just Recovery partners have been working to fill ongoing language and cultural responsiveness gaps in every disaster since 2017. During the LNU Lightning Complex Fire in 2020, Just Recovery partners created and printed a card (pictured here) promoting emergency communications interpretation. The cards were distributed to families across Napa and Sonoma counties and placed at temporary evacuation sites for LNU Complex Fire and Glass Fire survivors.

During these two fires, LCF and their partners coordinated with each other and with multiple government agencies, and leveraged resources, relationships, cultures and languages to identify and fill gaps in response. They dedicated countless hours to coordinate staffing and volunteers at evacuation sites and help disaster agencies adapt emergency response protocols to local Indigenous families’ needs.

From providing professional interpreting services for multi-sector emergency calls and over the airwaves on KBBF 89.1, to staffing a 3.5-acre encampment in Napa for families due to lack of language access at shelters, LCF’s Just Recovery Partners made sure that Latino and Indigenous families were not left to suffer in the shadows.

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy is proud to support LCF’s efforts to ensure that all members of their community have access to critical services when disaster strikes.

(Photo source: Latino Community Foundation)