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  • Writer's pictureAlejandra Garza

Maria Pesqueira: Successfully Leading Through Crisis With Grace

Updated: Dec 4, 2020

For Maria Pesqueira, community-centered work has always been a top priority. As the former President and CEO of Mujeres Latinas en Acción, Pesqueira helped empower survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. She was keen on addressing these dangers as a public health issue and aimed to help survivors lead a safe and fulfilling life by providing resources and a space for them. In her new role as the President of The Healthy Communities Foundation, she advocates for quality, affordable healthcare and addressing the social determinants of health by fighting the systemic barriers that keep marginalized communities from having access to them.

Needless to say, Pesqueira is no stranger to crisis situations. So when COVID-19 rippled through the community, she was well equipped to tackle various challenges it brought. “In a crisis, we tend to operate in survival mode,” Pesqueira tells Color Us Women. “At The Healthy Communities Foundation, we developed a response that addressed recovery but also promoted resilience. It’s time to reimagine a new world. And we do this by addressing immediate needs while also looking ahead towards recovery.” Pesqueira’s strong leadership skills have equipped her well for navigating her organization through its toughest waters. She intuitively understands that acts of leadership can greatly impact employees and the surrounding communities.

With that in mind, here are four unique ways Pesqueira is leading her organization during the COVID-19 pandemic:

1. Acknowledge the Stress

“Our team was already working remote pre-pandemic, so a transition to full-time working-from-home was seamless. It’s important to acknowledge the stress, anxiety, and fear that was felt by the staff. We encouraged self-care, reflection times, and flexible schedules.”

2. A Hyper-Local Focus

“We are keeping our focus on hyper-local information and community-led strategies to understand and address what is happening on the ground. As a philanthropic organization, it’s time to invest boldly and prioritize funding to communities without access to a safety net. We also joined several local funder collaboratives and leveraged four million dollars for our region and developed our own rapid response fund.”

3. Celebrate Individuality

“I think that individuality should not be lost under umbrella terms. It’s important to celebrate what’s under the umbrella and use inclusive language and pronouns. Selecting the right language to use when describing the environment, lifestyle, and individuality is key to success.”

4. Promote Resiliency

“We are living in a new world, so we must think about it differently. We must honor the 1st voice - the original voice - and trust that the community knows what is best for it and has its own solutions that we must listen to.”

To learn more about The Healthy Communities Foundation, click here.

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