Sixteen years ago, Tatiana Maida immigrated from Cochabamba, Bolivia, to Los Angeles, making the choice to leave the comfort of her family and follow her new husband. As she describes, people in Bolivia don’t understand the concept of personal space. And, to Maida, that means close relationships and a family that is always there for one another. On the other hand, “it takes a while to build relationships,” in the United States, she says. “It’s learning how to adjust, how to be alone, truly alone.” But, after more than 10 years in L.A., Maida eventually found herself in a new city, where she’s seen diversity and people with a resilience and passion for improvement in their lives. That city is Milwaukee.
When Maida arrived in Milwaukee, she continued with her career in journalism and began writing about holistic nutrition. Motivated by her personal experiences with illnesses, she was driven to help others find healthy alternatives in their not-so-healthy lifestyles. She thought, “How can I not just write about it, but do something about it?” It didn’t take long for Maida to find her way to CORE El Centro, where she began developing nutrition and health programs. From there, she moved on to work at Milwaukee’s Sixteenth Street Community Health Center (SSCHC). She worked her way up to her current role as the Healthy Choices Department Manager, transitioning from the world of journalism to community advocacy.
Maida found a home at the SSCHC because their mission easily aligned with hers. That mission is to improve the health of Milwaukee community members, not just through medical treatment but through education and prevention. Maida developed a curriculum for the Family Education Program that teaches families about healthy eating habits, physical exercise and stress management. The goal is to empower people through knowledge to make their own healthy choices. Most importantly, the program accommodates the cultural background and language of the participants. “Families and children have the right to receive education according to their age, language of preference and culture,” she exclaims. According to Maida, the education shouldn’t stop there.
Once community members in this program have the education to lead healthier lives, Maida believes they should learn the leadership skills to speak for their community. That is why she created the Community Advocacy Program. In this program, people learn how to be leaders by promoting health and advocating for the change their community wants. With that program comes the challenge of creating space at community meetings for both professionals and community members. “That’s been my fight; to connect with the community in meaningful ways and give them the voice and the space to make decisions.”
Over the years of doing this work, Maida explains how her eyes have been opened to injustice and inequality. However, through those hardships, she has also witnessed the power of people to change their own homes and environments. And Milwaukee has provided her with that opportunity: a space to make closer connections and for her work to be visible. The main lesson she’s learned is to “have a lot of hope,” she says. “We can’t give up.”
Learn more at sschc.org/health-community/healthy-choices