Partnership Tackles Racial Disparities

The YWCA has served 125 women in under three years through its home visitation program.

When it comes to racial equity, our regional community can do better.

By Sara Coppo, Guest Blogger

“Whether it’s education, whether it’s income, whether it’s health, families of color line up behind at all times.”

As CEO of YWCA Kalamazoo, an organization that has been active in the community for 130 years, Dr. Grace Lubwama has a powerful perspective on disparities of income and race. That makes YWCA a solid partner with United Way as we work together on equity in the region.

YWCA Kalamazoo focuses on improving children’s lives; caring for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking; advancing gender and racial equity and promoting infant and maternal health. That work is made possible through the partnership of United Way, Lubwama said. “Without United Way dollars, volunteers and partnership, we would not be as successful as we are with our programs,” she said.

Those programs include a child care center (which currently has over 89 children), a domestic violence shelter, transitional housing for women who have been abused, forensic sexual assault testing, advocacy for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking, a 24-hour crisis hotline, and a home visitation program for pregnant women. While its programs are open to all, Lubwama said that YWCA Kalamazoo intentionally works to lift up families of low income and of color due to the unique disparities they face.

One example involves YWCA Kalamazoo’s home visitation program. Babies of color are up to four times more likely than white babies to die before their first birthday. This prompts YWCA to focus on pregnant women of color who are low income or have infants under a year old. A social worker and two community outreach workers provide basic needs and other support to mothers, from pregnancy and infant care plans to legal situations. In less than three years, this effort has helped 125 women.

Still, with infant mortality rates remaining high among vulnerable groups, a big challenge remains.

“The infant mortality rate is a measure of how healthy a community is overall,” said Lubwama. “Our disparities, especially racial disparities, put our community among the worst in the state of Michigan. I believe that our community can do better than this.”

United Way shares that commitment. We work with YWCA Kalamazoo, the Nurse-Family Partnership in Battle Creek, and others to improve infant health and tackle disparities. We invite you to join us—by donating, by volunteering, or by advocating for vulnerable children and families.