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When millions of Coloradans stayed at home during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, agricultural workers returned to fields and processing plants. Without these essential workers, grocery store shelves would have remained empty and the food system would have broken down. Despite the pivotal role agricultural workers play in the economy, initial government efforts focused on the needs of business owners and excluded undocumented people from relief. Immigrants with limited English fluency or literacy could not find reliable information about how to protect themselves from the virus. At the end of 2020, the Project Protect Promotora Network launched in this environment of fear and uncertainty.


It began with six Regional Directors who understand the needs of Colorado’s agricultural workers based on lived experience and relationships with community members. Each Regional Director built a team of four Promotoras and up to six Community Organizers to connect with workers in rural communities across the state. At its peak, the Project Protect Promotora Network involved more than 70 active team members working across Colorado. Project Protect Promotoras specialize in culturally and linguistically tailored outreach designed to educate workers, distribute resources, and facilitate access to service providers. Community Organizers expanded the capacity of the Project Protect Promotora Network to host events promoting vaccination and reducing food insecurity at the height of the public health emergency. Throughout 2021 and 2022, the Project Protect Promotora Network partnered with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to implement a comprehensive strategy to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in rural communities.


In the wake of the Trump administration, many immigrants living in the United States held a deep distrust of the government and official public health information. The culturally tailored approach of the Project Protect Promotora Network enabled workers to learn about COVID-19 and protect themselves from transmission. In 2021 and 2022, team members had more than 50,000 conversations to educate people in rural communities about COVID-19 and more than 34,000 conversations about vaccines. Workers living in crowded housing or sharing vehicles benefited from more than 60,000 face masks and 13,000 at-home COVID-19 tests distributed by the Project Protect Promotora Network. After the vaccine became available in January 2021, team members helped facilitate more than 23,000 vaccine appointments through community events or service providers. These efforts helped reduce the impact of the public health crisis on Colorado’s rural communities, but the lingering effects of COVID-19 and longstanding health disparities demand further attention.


The Project Protect Promotora Network pairs COVID-19 activities with other health equity programs to ensure agricultural workers receive the support they need. Extensive data collected and displayed on the Data Dashboard show the impact of the Project Protect Promotora Network in 2021 and 2021. During those two years, team members connected with more than 16,000 unique agricultural workers during over 117,000 reported conversations. These conversations created opportunities to educate workers about legally-required workplace benefits and agricultural workers’ rights guaranteed SB 21-087. In addition, Project Protect Promotoras helped thousands of agricultural workers register for adult education classes, connect with legal services, apply for their Driver’s License, find a childcare provider, and find refuge from domestic violence. Thanks to partnerships with public and private organizations, the Project Protect Promotora Network has been able to distribute thousands of articles of clothing and outerwear, hygiene kits, work gloves, duffle bags, and bottles of sunscreen. Perhaps most importantly, the Project Protect Promotora Network distributed more than 41,000 food boxes and helped more than 33,000 people sign up for other food assistance programs. Centuries of marginalization made agricultural worker communities exceptionally vulnerable to the combined public health emergency and economic crisis created by COVID-19. Thankfully, Project Protect Promotoras could provide critically needed support to agricultural workers and their families.


As an unprecedented wave of government funding receded at the end of 2022, the Project Protect Promotora Network was forced to reduce staff and outreach capacity. The Community Organizer position could not continue beyond the COVID-19 public health emergency. At the beginning of 2023, Project Protect Promotoras worked only a few hours each week to ensure essential food distribution events continued. Although Regional Directors became part time employees, they still advocate just as fiercely for their communities. These dedicated team members are adapting successful COVID-19 outreach strategies to combat various health disparities affecting Colorado’s rural, Spanish-speaking communities. Now we are building the Project Protect Promotora Network into a sustainable force that can support and advance the well being of Colorado’s agricultural workers for years to come.


Key Points:

  • 6 Regional Teams Across Colorado

    • 1 Regional Director​ per team

    • 4 Promotores per team

    • Local volunteers

  • Promotores across the state are provided access to training and resources for legal, health and food-based issues that confront food systems workers in response to COVID-19. 

  • Promotoras support and work in tandem with Regional Labor and Employment Specialists. 

  • Promotoras live in the geographic region where they work and have connections to the farm/food worker communities therein.

  • Promotoras work in collaboration with agencies and members of the community to bring community voice to inform and influence decisions that impact their lives.

  • Promotoras provide community education around health, legal guidance, and available resources including personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies.

  • Promotoras provide support for community members in agricultural and rural areas who are experiencing additional vulnerabilities related to COVID-19. 

  • Promotoras provide support for community members who are Colorado residents as well as community members who are not residents but who are employed in the state or are required to remain by public health officials to remain in Colorado as a result of COVID-19 exposure. 

Regional map of counties served by Project Protect Promotores.
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