FamilyFit:  Moms, Dads & Kids Come Together for Nutrition, Fitness and Fun!

The recently-completed pilot of FamilyFit, our first-ever family-based program to promote healthy eating and exercise, was a great success! Six families, including seven adults and 15 children, participated in six weeks of nutrition education, cooking classes and gardening led by Roanna Keener, RD, LDN, Dietitian; group fitness such as Zumba, led by Christe Lee, Esperanza’s Café and Exercise Programs Manager; and education related to topics such as feelings, self-worth, and bullying, led by Mai-Khanh Gunther, LCSW, Behavioral Health Consultant. The class concluded with a group celebration with food and prizes including a Wellness Bag, a Community Circle​ and a final Zumba ​Fiesta.

Roxanna, her husband and their six children, ages nine through six months, participated in every single FamilyFit class! Said Roxanna (photo, R, with daughter Isabella): “This program has been amazing! Thanks to the class, my children understand more about nutrition and are starting to eat more healthy food. It’s the first time we’re all doing something together as a family….to see my husband jumping and playing with my children, I love it!” Isabella particularly loved the group exercise part of the class: “I think it’s great that we got to exercise…they actually made it fun! We had races, it was really cool!”

Debra Ortiz-Vasquez, JD, Assistant Director of Community Health and Wellness, reflected: “​We were blessed to witness families coming together to learn, support one another, and at times try something new!” We’ll offer a new FamilyFit class this fall; many of our patients and other community members have expressed interest, and we’re hoping to expand the program further in 2017. 

Preparing for Birth and Beyond…New Centering Pregnancy Groups Underway at Esperanza

In response to the significant need for bilingual prenatal care in our North Philadelphia community, Esperanza has recently started new Centering Pregnancy Groups at our Hunting Park site. Based on the initial response, we are excited about their potential to help many mothers-to-be, children and their families! 

Centering Groups are a different model for healthcare; pregnant women receive their prenatal medical care in group sessions, instead of individual appointments. The groups are open to all Esperanza patients who are pregnant, and are offered in both Spanish and English. Expectant women with similar due dates are registered together and in their preferred language. Also, one support person attends with the mom: a spouse, friend or relative. Each Centering Pregnancy Group meets for 10 sessions. Each session is divided into two parts. During the first hour, each mom meets individually with her medical provider for a checkup and taking vital signs. The second hour is focused on group discussions in a comfortable environment. Some topics covered include nutrition, preparing for labor and delivery, breastfeeding, newborn care and parenting.  

Our first group started in January 2016 and was designed for English-speaking patients. During the second session, Esperanza’s facilitator, Lara Lahr, RN, led an activity around the stages of labor and how to deal with fear. They distributed several Bible verses, which prompted discussion and reactions. One of the verses was 1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…” A 14 year-old mom responded: “That’s beautiful—can you read it again?” and two of the moms asked, “Can we keep these Bible verses?” Later during that group, a brother who accompanied his pregnant sister asked: “What is an abortion?” His question was prompted as a cousin in his family had had an abortion. This sparked an interesting conversation among the group members, and it encouraged Esperanza’s staff to know that the participants felt comfortable and safe enough to ask difficult questions. 

We also had good reception with our Spanish-speaking group, which started in April 2016. It included four first-time moms and one dad. Immediately after the first session, all said without hesitation that they would like to continue their prenatal care in the Centering model . “It was really fun!” said one participant. “I enjoyed the group discussions, and I’m going to bring my husband to the next session so that he can also learn!” A new group is planned for this fall as we continue to expand access to compassionate, comprehensive prenatal care and support. 

Summer Medical Institute 2016 Highlights

From June 25 to July 16, a team of 19 health professions students together with Esperanza staff and many other volunteers participated in the Summer Medical Institute (SMI) Philly 2016. This was the sixth consecutive year that the Medical Campus Outreach ministry of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia and Esperanza have collaborated to conduct the SMI outreach.

During the three weeks of SMI, over 3,000 doors were knocked on throughout North Philadelphia, with over 1,100 medical screenings with 588 individuals; additionally, 605 people were prayed with and 5 people prayed to receive Christ. A group of over 40 volunteer Christian healthcare and other professionals participated with the students, along with volunteer interpreters and others from North Philadelphia churches and the local community.

God was at work in and through this year’s SMI in many ways — some of these are highlighted on the SMI Blog in posts by the students who participated. Said SMI student Jordan Aguirre in reflecting on his experience: “The overall sense of SMI has been a call to a deeper dependence on God, which I want to live out after I leave this program.”   

Watching Our Garden Grow

We’ve begun harvesting from our Urban Teaching Garden….kale, chard, tomatoes, eggplant, okra, peppers…you name it, we probably have it! Thanks again to the Clemens Family Corporation, the Aetna Foundation and our other partners for your generous support that made our new Garden a reality this year and for years to come!

We’re Hiring!

We have a number of open positions across different Esperanza departments, and we’re seeking qualified, committed people to join us in advancing our mission to serve God in our North Philadelphia community. To learn more about our current openings and to apply, please visit us at