March 10, 2021

RLA COVID-19 Relief Projects Support Resilience, Connection and Community Health

Lora Cayanan, Program Manager, Community Health Improvement Partners

It is undeniable that Resident Leadership Academy (RLA) leaders have selflessly stepped up during these unprecedented times to address the challenges brought on by the pandemic. To help support these leaders in bringing relief to local communities, Community Health Improvement Partners (CHIP) and the County of San Diego’s Community Action Partnership, worked together to provide a funding opportunity to support RLAs with community improvement projects related to the pandemic response. 

The goal of the RLA COVID-19 Relief Project Stipend was to support projects intended to directly respond to the pandemic, reduce barriers to participation in community engagement work, and support the connection between community organizations and resident leader groups as trusted messengers to their communities. Projects will focus on response to and recovery from COVID-19 impacts by addressing the themes of community resilience, adaption, connectedness, community member support, and mental health.

“Although COVID-19 still continues on, so does the incredible work of the RLA leaders, partners and network,” stated Yeni L. Palomino, Vice President of Community Health & Engagement for CHIP and RLA co-creator. “The RLA community is resilient and remains inspired and encouraged to support one another to improve current circumstances through collective community-based work.”


Following a difficult yet inspiring selection process, CHIP announced that four projects would receive the funding: Bayside Community Center, Newcomers Support & Development, SBCS, and Vista Community Clinic.

1.     Bayside Community Center: Senior Companionship Project, North Central Region, Linda Vista Community

The Bayside Community Center’s Senior Companionship Project will benefit 16 homebound seniors living in Linda Vista who are experiencing loneliness and social isolation. COVID-19 has exacerbated the isolation already experienced by many of these seniors who are living alone, as they are unable to go out to social gatherings.

To make an impact, Bayside and the Linda Vista Leaders in Action will set up regular phone and in-person wellness checks with seniors and deliver a monthly care package consisting of hand-crafted items and purchased necessities.

“CHIP's generous funding has helped Bayside launch a new program in Linda Vista and surrounding communities that truly embodies what it means to be in community,” stated Kim Heinle, Interim CEO, Bayside Community Center. “From weekly phone calls to monthly home deliveries of care packages and wellness check-ins, the Seniors in Action are touching the lives of their friends and fellow community members.” 


2.       SBCS: RLA COVID Action Team, South Region, South Bay Community

South Bay has been one of the areas of San Diego County most impacted by COVID-19. SBCS’s RLA COVID Action Team will have RLA graduates with work alongside experienced Promotoras to provide Latinos in the community with accurate, up-to-date COVID-19 information and referral support in Spanish. The project will include community education via social media outlets, weekly online support groups, and monthly ‘Communidad Unida’ virtual presentations to reach approximately 200 Latino community members per month.

“Thanks to this opportunity, two RLA graduates were selected to facilitate an organic support group,” stated Rachel Morineau, Community Engagement Director with SBCS. “The facilitators offer a space where participants can feel safe and comfortable to share strategies for healing their emotional health in times of COVID.” 

3.      Newcomers Support and Development: COVID Response Access to Food and Technology (CRAFT), East Region, City of El Cajon Community

The COVID Response Access to Food and Technology (CRAFT) Community Improvement Project is a new way of creating change during COVID-19. The focus of this project is to create educational videos in Arabic that provide resources and training information to Arabic-speaking populations, which are one of the most isolated populations in San Diego County due to language barriers and lack of access to new technology.  Through these activities, members of the Arabic-speaking community will become better informed about COVID-19 and gain the confidence and skills to actively participate in virtual settings.

4.     Vista Community Clinic: RLA Partnership for COVID-19 Outreach and Education, North Central Region, City of Vista Community

Vista Community Clinic has long been involved with community engagement and educational activities, most recently with efforts around COVID-19 community response. A high proportion of the community they serve are immigrants and often lack access to healthcare. Most residents are of Mexican ancestry and approximately 75% speak Spanish at home. In these neighborhoods, more than 30% of children live in households with incomes below the federal poverty level.

The “Lideres and Comité” project will reach a minimum of 1,800 community residents in Vista Townsite with science-based COVID-19 health, mental health, and vaccination information through text messaging, flyer distribution, and social media posts. 

For More Information

To learn more about the Resident Leadership Academy, please email Yeni L. Palomino at You can also visit CHIP’s RLA website at