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La Luz Center moves “Censoteria”, Census 2020 outreach online during pandemic

Mayra Lopez
Written by Mayra Lopez

When La Luz Center in Sonoma began putting together their strategy to engage the Latino community in the 2020 Census, no one could have imagined that months later a pandemic would force them to change their outreach methods. 

The organization’s original plan of door-to-door canvassing and community pop-up events, all became impossible to do after a shelter-in-place order was put on Sonoma County. As a result of the lockdown, La Luz Center decided to move its outreach efforts to online social media engagement, phone banking, and “socially distant” conversations to continue to get more Latinos counted in the census. 

“Right now, for a lot of people the census is the last thing on their mind and hopefully this current situation will only last a few months,” said Angie Sanchez, Community Engagement Manager at La Luz Center. “But not counting in the census is something that will have a long-lasting effect, one that will impact our community for 10 years.”

The U.S Census occurs every ten years and aims to count every living person in the country. The original April 1 deadline has been moved to August 14, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Sanchez, the Latino community loses around $1,800 per person, per year for ten years when someone is not counted. “The importance of being counted was apparent in the results of the last census,” she said. “In the 2010 Census, 100,000 children were not included.”

The center wants Latino residents to know that by participating in the survey, they are bringing money back into the community. “We remind people that the census brings money back into programs that they benefit from,” said Sanchez. “Like CalFresh and the reduced lunch program.” 

She pointed out how the count is benefitting people right now, amid the Coronavirus pandemic. “A lot of schools are giving away free lunches because they have an account of how many kids are in each school,” she elaborated. “That’s possible because of the census.” 

La Luz Center is engaging the community through social media platforms, like Facebook and Instagram. In 2018, Sanchez created the “Censoteria,” a bilingual census-themed game modeled after the Mexican bingo game, Loteria. She created the game with the intent to educate the Latino community about the census and the importance of being counted. 

Initially, La Luz Center had planned to play the game at different pop-up events throughout the county, but they are now moving the game virtually. On Thursday, April 2nd at 4 p.m, they will be playing the game through Facebook Live. 

The “Censoteria” game boards will be available to download as a PDF or the boards can be screenshot on the player’s phone. “They can play from home, with frijoles,” she said. The Loteria game is traditionally played with beans as board markers. 

The winners will be able to post a photo of their winning game on social media and tag La Luz Center or take a screenshot and send it to them for a prize. 

They are also creating informational videos online to inform the public about the census count, as well as the coronavirus. Additionally, the organization has been collaborating with partner organizations to share resources information with the community. 

“We are finalizing flyers that will be printed and handed out during lunch pick-ups at food distribution sites,” she said. They plan to have volunteers at the sites talking to residents about the census as they wait for their meals in their cars. “From a social distance,” she said. 

A particular demographic that the organization is focusing on is reaching residents who don’t have access to the Internet. Originally, they had planned to outreach to this population through door-to-door canvassing, but after the order was in place, they decided to shift to phone banking. Volunteers will be calling community members to provide information, answer questions and help walk them through the survey. 

If anybody at home would like to support their outreach efforts, they are looking for Ambassadors to support them in phone banking. Anyone is interested, they can email Angie at angie@laluzcenter.org.

For information about La Luz Center’s Census outreach, follow them on Facebook and Instagram. 

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