BILINGUAL PROFESSIONAL ADVOCATES FOR UNDERSTANDING
Like most moms, Enid Carranza of Hilton Head Island thought her only child, Ian, was just about perfect. When he was born in 2006, the feelings of homesickness that had plagued her for years — she’s originally from Costa Rica — vanished.
“I felt I had my family here. There wasn’t time to be homesick,’ she said.
As her son grew, so did Carranza’s admiration for the energetic and strong-willed little boy. Sure, it was hard to take him to restaurants because he wouldn’t stay in his chair, but it wasn’t until she spent a couple years in her home country so Ian could get to know his relatives that she discovered he had real learning challenges.
Carranza did what most mothers would do after a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity: She learned all she could about the disorders. She took her son to a neurologist, read textbooks about treating hyperactive children designed for medical school students, attended an intensive parenting class and put Ian in occupational and speech therapy. She also got certified as a life coach. Ian was making progress, but Carranza felt her job at a high-powered law firm and long commute were taking valuable time away from her son.
“I was getting home at 8 p.m. to help him with his homework,” she said, “When here, everything is 10 minutes away.”
Since leaving Costa Rica to return to the Lowcountry, Carranza struggled to find a school setting where Ian would thrive and found little support for parents of children with mental health and brain disorders. She also noticed that the Lowcountry’s Latino population had grown while she was gone.
“We were lucky because I’m bilingual,” she said of her journey to get help for Ian on Hilton Head Island. “I thought, what about all the families that don’t speak English and are dealing with this?”
Carranza found the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) at about the same time the nonprofit group identified the need to better serve Spanish speakers. NAMI volunteer Claudia Padilla asked her to help lead the organization’s first offering in Spanish, a six-week course called NAMI Basics for parents and other caregivers.
Carranza’s involvement with NAMI has grown hand-in-hand with her advocacy for the Lowcountry’s vulnerable immigrant community.
Today, Carranza is on the Lowcountry NAMI board and is a statewide bilingual trainer for NAMI Basics. She’s also a cultural writer, content and development officer for La Isla Magazine, an active member of Holy Family Catholic Church’s Hispanic ministry, and someone who local officials count on as a liaison to the Spanish-speaking community. During Hurricane Irma, she appeared beside Mayor David Bennett in videos on the town’s social media profiles, repeating in Spanish his messages about safety precautions, evacuating and re-entry. She also interpreted for FEMA during Hurricane Matthew.
Carranza recently presented a segment about cultural sensitivity during NAMI’s annual crisis intervention training for law enforcement officials. Much of her presentation was centered on kids.
“Hispanic children, who are often U.S. citizens with mixed-status families, can’t tell the difference between a friendly officer who is trying to help and an ICE official,” she said. “They’re terrified of anyone in a uniform.”
In the wake of increased immigration enforcement during the past year, Carranza wrote and is distributing a children’s story about the need for immigrant families to have a plan in case one or both parents are suddenly detained or deported.
And while she’s excited about the opportunity to advocate for the Spanish-speaking community, she’s most proud of her son. Ian’s energy is a plus on the (American) football field, and he’s succeeding academically in the fifth grade at St. Francis Catholic. School.