Employee Interview: Volunteering with Bienestar

April 1, 2021

We talked to FFA’s Cristina Camacho about her new position as a member of Bienestar’s Board of Directors and her appointment to the role of Housing Committee Chair. She reveals her passion for creating a brighter future for Washington County’s Latinx community and why she joined Bienestar.

Bienestar is a non-profit human services organization that owns and operates 12 affordable multifamily properties for more than 500 families in Washington County. 95% of the people they serve are Latinx, and most are immigrants and/or farmworkers. These groups are severely affected by our local housing crisis, and Bienestar constructs and manages hard to find, two- and three-bedroom affordable apartments for these families.

As a Latina herself, Cristina takes pride in her involvement for an organization like theirs – Bienestar honors and respects residents’ Latin heritage through their day-to-day operations as well as through fundraising events. What resonates with Cristina about Bienestar is “their end-goal is not only to provide people with a place to sleep, but to create thriving communities where Latinx leaders advocate for fair, accessible housing and immigrant rights, and where children can focus on school and their future while participating in Bienestar’s youth enrichment programs.  I have seen first-hand the work that they do toward building a more equitable future. All Board Members receive Equity Training with the goal of advocating for greater racial equity and support for the residents.”  There is diversity in the Board and Committees — it is inspiring to see community members and companies wanting Latinos to succeed.

Each Bienestar property has “Promotores,” residents who take part in ongoing leadership development training and apply it to provide services and advocate for their community. These trained leaders provide information and access to resources, and make referrals to everything from food assistance to ESL classes. This model helps Bienestar keep a close connection with the residents and to be responsive to their needs.

With the current COVID-19 situation, Bienestar launched the campaign “Salva vidas, se fuerte” (“Save lives, stay strong”). Currently, the organization is working not only on keeping the residents safe but on informing them about vaccines, eligibility, and appointments. This is just one example of how Bienestar is a nimble and fluid organization that rises to the needs of the moment. Although only beginning her journey with Bienestar, Cristina can already see the long-term potential to empower Latinx communities.

“In the short period of time I’ve been involved, I have witnessed the impact this organization has on the community thanks to the talented and committed staff, the community Promotoras, members of the different committees, and the great leadership of their Executive Director, Nathan Teske.”

“Being part of Bienestar’s Board of Directors and chairing the Housing Committee gives me great joy and a bigger sense of purpose. I wanted to take advantage of the paid staff time FFA sponsors for Community Outreach, channel it into one cause, and watch it grow. It is rewarding to know that my aptitudes and skills as a Latina professional can be of service to others and to see it ripple into the community through the important work Bienestar is doing to create thriving Latinx communities.”

For more information and to support Bienestar, visit their website.

Cristina has 12 years of experience in the AEC industry, having graduated from Tecnologico de Monterrey (Mexico) in 2009. Since joining FFA in 2018, she has worked on projects for the National Park Service, various K-12 school districts, and an industrial utility provider.  She is an active member of FFA’s Equity, Community Outreach, Sustainability, and Safety committees. Growing up in the Sonoran Desert in Mexico has given her a great passion for the Pacific Northwest, especially the coast. In her free time she enjoys hikes in Forest Park with her husband and their beautiful toddler and running (she tries to incorporate a Half Marathon each year). When at home, she’s usually cooking and testing healthier versions of recipes she loves. Cristina is an avid learner with a strong curious streak.  She likes to talk with new people and learn about different cultures.