After COVID-19 scrapped their clinical rotations in 2020, five South Bay nursing students turned their focus to educating children about the virus.
Elaine Pham, Liz Nguyen, Elaine Fu, Vivian Doan and Tina Tran created the 15-page book “Let’s Learn About COVID-19” containing coloring diagrams, crossword puzzles and other activities that explain the virus.
Nguyen, Fu, Doan and Tran are San Jose State students, while Pham studies at San Francisco State.
“We wanted to reach out to not just the children but also their families so they could also be educated,” Fu said.
Among the activities in the book, Nguyen said she designed a word search that distinguishes the differences in COVID-19 symptoms of children and adults.
“It’s making sure that you know how to cope with what’s going on in the world because it can be scary,” Nguyen said.
The students came up with the idea to educate kids in San Jose’s Overfelt neighborhood for the Community Health Partnership, a nonprofit health care provider. The nonprofit printed 2,800 books, which cost $2,122.
Community Health Partnership’s school health clinic, Planned Parenthood’s East Side Clinic and Mar Monte Community Clinic will receive 400 copies. The rest will be distributed by community health workers during outreach programs.
The Overfelt neighborhood is one of the areas hardest hit by COVID-19, an area in East San Jose that is close to home for some of the nursing students.
“I actually myself grew up in East San Jose,” Pham said. “This project was definitely very personal to me growing up within a neighborhood and one of the more uninsured neighborhoods.”
County data shows health officials tallied 4,326 cumulative COVID-19 cases for the 95122 ZIP code of the Overfelt neighborhood as of Dec. 23.
While outreach from health officials has focused on adults, the students say helping kids understand the pandemic is just as important.
Despite parents’ and teachers’ best efforts, the nursing students learned it was still a challenge to make kids understand the severity of the pandemic.
Some saw it firsthand with their siblings.
“I do remember thinking since I have a nine-year-old brother … kids his age, they’re not very informed about COVID,” Doan said.
Facing months of remote learning and stay-at-home orders, kids carry the weight of learning about COVID-19 and drastic changes to their lives while being isolated from the outside world.
And for many parents in the East Side, language barriers and a lack of WiFi has created a disconnect from reliable facts about the pandemic.
Dolores Alvarado, CEO of the Community Health Partnership, said the lack of technology can often exacerbate disinformation in immigrant communities.
When Alvarado’s family moved to the United States, she said they would rely on friends rather than experts for information. And Alvarado says she sees the same echo chambers today.
“I remember when we first came here that my parents, who did not speak English, they would get their information from their friends,” Alvarado said. “They never got it from the government or from the doctor or a credible source … And that’s what I hear now, 50 years later.”
Although health officials have posted COVID-19 informational videos in multiple languages, Alvarado says it doesn’t always reach people who need to see it the most.
“I asked the focus group that I did, ‘Did you watch all the announcements the health department did?’” she said. “I asked them and they looked at me and said no … nosotros no vemos eso (we don’t see that).”
Amid the disinformation, Alvardao said providing credible facts through translation often falls on the shoulders of children.
Tran, 21, switched from English to Vietnamese with her family in the East Side to relay important messages.
“A lot of the time, I grew up being the information person of my family,” Tran said. “If my parents didn’t know about something, I would be the one who had to look it up, Google it.”
Oftentimes searching through the sea of information on the internet was overwhelming, Tran said, which made it clear that children need simplified and direct messaging about the pandemic.
Like Tran, many of the nursing students were raised speaking multiple languages and served as information messengers for their families — which influenced their work on the book.
Contact Mauricio La Plante at [email protected] or follow @mslaplantenews on Twitter.