Everyone has been touched by cancer – yourself, a loved one, a friend, a co-worker or someone close to you. It is a devastating and overwhelming diagnosis. What if you or your loved one was diagnosed with cancer and didn’t have any insurance? What if you didn’t speak the language? Where would you turn for help and guidance? Many Latinos face these issues once diagnosed with cancer. In the San Francisco Bay Area, these issues are magnified due to the high cost of living, where families find themselves working multiple jobs to afford housing.
Círculo de Vida Cancer Support and Resource Center (Circle of Life) has a 24-year history of providing guidance and a helping hand to Latinos diagnosed with cancer in the San Francisco Bay Area. Founded in 1992, Círculo de Vida is the first successful Spanish-language psycho-oncology program in the greater Bay Area and has since been a model for groups in five Bay Area cities.
Carmen Ortiz, PhD, Founder/Executive Director, a psychologist and breast cancer survivor, is considered a pioneer in the field of Spanish-language psycho-oncology support. Dr. Ortiz specializes in Spanish-language support group development and community outreach planning. She developed and implemented a hospital based psycho-oncology program for newly diagnosed Latinas at San Francisco General Hospital, and an in-home support program for Latinos in the terminal phase of their illness. She has won numerous awards, including the Jefferson Award in 2006, and in June of 2008, Dr. Ortiz was profiled on ABC’s Channel 7 (KRO-TV) Profile of Excellence. Dr. Ortiz has provided in-depth training for providers and has written two manuals on culturally competent and appropriate psycho-oncology support for Latina cancer patients. “A Guide to Developing and Sustaining Spanish-Speaking Support Groups for Latinas who have Breast Cancer,” and “A Peer Support Program for Latinas with Breast Cancer: Las Angelitas Model.”
Círculo de Vida Founded on the principles of familismo (the importance of the family unit) and personalismo (the importance of warm interpersonal relationships) Círculo de Vida provides an invaluable and unparalleled service to Latinos living with cancer and their loved ones – most of them immigrants, low-income, and without health insurance – as they navigate a frightening illness and an increasingly complex medical system.
Círculo’s experienced staff help translate for the patient and physician at the time of diagnosis, offer in-hospital and in-home support during surgery and treatment, provide a wide range of Spanish-language support groups for the patients and their children, as well as case management, resource referrals and in-home support for the terminally ill.
Círculo de Vida’s mission is to walk alongside Latinos living with cancer and their families as they find their way through the fear, confusion, and uncertainty of a cancer diagnosis. We aim to reduce the devastating effects of a cancer diagnosis by helping Latinos identify coping skills that will support their ability to meet the challenge of a frightening disease.
Campaign Motive: Círculo de Vida has started a crowdfunding campaign with a goal of raising $135,000. The funds raised will be used to hire a Development Director and an Assistant Director: Two critical staff positions that will help Círculo de Vida increase funding outside of its daily operations.
The Development Director will focus on increased awareness of Círculo’s mission within the community and local businesses. The goal is to leverage this awareness into larger fundraising events with repeat donors. The Assistant Director will focus on increasing the staff and scaling operations to meet the demand of the community.
Círculo de Vida program offerings include therapy, support groups for men, women, children and teens including a young mother’s group which helps to equip them with the tools to cope with their children’s response to their illness. Another program offered is the Las Angelitas program where women recovered from cancer and previously received support from Círculo de Vida are trained to serve as peer counselors to provide one-on-one support to other women in their homes who are living with cancer and/or are too ill to attend in-person support groups.
“Círculo de Vida has provided a family atmosphere where I can express my fears and anxieties, and receive understanding, love, and solidarity.” Maricela N.
“When I was diagnosed with breast cancer I felt awful, anxious. I wanted to meet other women who had lived through or who were living through the same thing. I wanted to know their experiences, and at the same time, I wanted them to tell me how they got through the difficult moments.” Maria R.
Staff quotes from our “Las Angelitas” (the little angels) Program: “I was diagnosed at 29, here in the United States, without any of my immediate family nearby. I think I would have experienced severe depression if not for the support I received at Círculo de Vida. I am now giving back to other women some of the support that I received because I know how important it is to have someone to talk to and someone to lean on. It fills my heart with happiness to see women who were once depressed and fearful, smiling and laughing again.” Ana Estrada
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For more information, please visit Círculo de Vida’s campaign page: