June 21, 2021 by Jessica Gee
Roxana Contreras Cardiel from North Country HealthCare was recently awarded a Key to the City for former Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans.
Roxana was recognized for her work helping underserved populations in Flagstaff through her work with North Country and the Northern Arizona Interfaith Council.
Read on to learn more about what drive’s Roxana’s passion to care for her neighbors in northern Arizona.
In 2014 Roxana Contreras Cardiel was walking into the living room of a Flagstaff resident, discussing ways to improve the health and wellbeing of those living in her neighborhood. Roxana was doing her work as a community health worker with Hermosa Vida, a North Country HealthCare program created to address health inequality in Flagstaff. Roxana started to take notes on her clipboard as they talked about the need for better access to healthy foods and more opportunities for families to engage in physical activity.
Then the woman stopped her. “Well, you know there’s no point in talking about this, right?” Roxana was confused.
“I’m going to be losing my home. They’re moving all of us out of here to build more student housing. So why should we talk about any of this if our whole community is going to have to leave?”
It was at that moment that Roxana knew she had to do something to help the residents of Arrowhead Village, a community of mobile homes in central Flagstaff. She wanted to help teach them how to advocate for themselves and have a seat at the table when the City of Flagstaff was making decisions that would have such a profound impact on this group of people. In the end the neighborhood was successful in their fight to postpone displacement; they could not have done this without Roxana’s help.
It was for her work with the residents of Arrowhead Village, and for much more, that North Country HealthCare’s own Roxana Contreras Cardiel was awarded the Key to the City by former Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans this year.
Before leaving office Coral Evans set about awarding 67 keys to the city to deserving Flagstaffians. Her criteria: “People in our community that you don’t know about, doing work each and every day but, because they may or may not be within a certain structure, people just don’t know about them.”
Long before she began working at North Country HealthCare in 2009, Roxana has been passionate about caring for the underserved in our community, especially immigrants.
“Immigrants have less protections, less rights. I want to help them to advocate for themselves and remove the barriers preventing them from living a whole, healthy life,” Roxana said.
In her role with Hermosa Vida at North Country, Roxana also worked with the families of students from Killip Elementary, a Title 1 school in Flagstaff’s Sunnyside neighborhood. Roxana worked with immigrant families there, advocating for food and exercise equity.
Now her role as the Equity and Inclusion Specialist at North Country supports the organization’s mission to create healthier communities in northern Arizona by developing and establishing credibility and trust among diverse populations within the organization, as well as to actively promote and sustain equity and inclusion throughout North Country’s service region.
She is also a community organizer with the Northern Arizona Interfaith Council (NAIC), a coalition of congregations and organizations that work to build leadership for civic participation across lines of race, class, age, and religion and organize for issues that advance the common good. In her work with NAIC over the last year, Roxana helped families from the Flagstaff Unified School District learn leadership skills to work with others and best advocate for and gain access to much-needed COVID relief, including help with food, housing and financial support.
When she’s not doing work with NAIC or North Country HealthCare, Roxana spends time with her four children and one grandchild, all of whom also live in Flagstaff. She hopes to one day become an immigration lawyer, so she can continue to fight for the rights of immigrants living in Arizona.
Read this article from the Arizona Daily Sun to learn about other recipients of the key to the city from 2021.
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