Kweku Hazel, MD, a general surgeon and fellow in minimally invasive surgery at the University of Colorado Hospital, and Cynthia Hazel, a Doctor of Public Health and researcher at the OMNI Institute, have a history of engaging communities of color and immigrant communities in the metro area of Aurora, Colorado. Their goal: empowering people to collaborate and tackle health inequities to improve community well-being.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the pair — a married couple who together run the grassroots community group The Gyedi Project — received a lot of questions from their community members about COVID-19. And, when the vaccine became available, people turned to them even more, as everyone was working to sift through the misinformation that was circulating.
They decided to host a clinic at the Solid Rock Baptist Church in their Aurora community to educate and vaccinate community members. The initial plan was to have 1 clinic and vaccinate about 50 people, but demand was so high they eventually administered more than 1,000 vaccinations during 2 clinics, the original held in February 2021 and another in March 2021. About 80% of people who came to their clinic identified as people of color, Black, or Indigenous, and a majority of those heard about the clinic through family and friends. To keep up with ongoing vaccination requests and hold more clinics, the organization needed additional support.
Grant supports over a thousand more vaccinations
With grant funding received from Colorado’s Together We Protect Fund, which is administered by the Caring for Colorado Foundation and financially supported by Kaiser Permanente, The Gyedi Project was able to hold a third clinic in April 2021, administering an additional 1,045 vaccinations in just over 8 hours.
“With the funding, we were able to support and protect our diverse volunteers and provide them with needed resources to serve the diverse people in our community who attended our clinics,” Dr. Kweku Hazel reflected.
In addition to vaccinating many people in the community, The Gyedi Project turned everyday community members into COVID-19 vaccination advocates.
“One family had adult kids who volunteered to help in the clinic and got vaccinated because they became essential workers,” said Cynthia Hazel. “They took credible information, repackaged it, and convinced their parents as well as other family members, who are elderly and were hesitant about the vaccine, to also get vaccinated.”
By May, all adults nationwide were determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be eligible for vaccination, and many more vaccination sites had opened. So the organization was able to wind down its local events, administering 447 vaccinations at their fourth clinic in May. The Gyedi Project then got back to its core work of helping to educate community members and focus on outreach to youth in their community who are Black, Indigenous, or people of color, while also developing a referral system to help people get vaccinated at other sites.
Additional community health grants
Each quarter, we at Kaiser Permanente offer grants to organizations working to improve the health of our communities. Our grant to Caring for Colorado helped The Gyedi Project, which supports our work to ensure fair and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in communities most affected by the virus.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored deep-seated inequities in health care for communities of color,” said Stephanie Ledesma, interim senior vice president of community health programs for Kaiser Permanente. “Grants to community-based organizations help us carry out work together that deepens our shared commitment to equity and inclusion.”
In the second quarter of 2021, Kaiser Permanente awarded a total of $32.7 million in grant funding, with grants awarded to organizations working to:
Increase COVID-19 vaccination rates to address inequitable access barriers
Address the inter-generational trauma of racism
Build the capacity of community-based organizations to provide personal and small-business financial coaching tools to close the racial wealth gap
Grants to community-based organizations are part of the contributions Kaiser Permanente makes throughout each year to improve community health. Kaiser Permanente also serves the community through a range of programs, including Medicaid, charitable health coverage, medical financial assistance, and medical research. Learn more about our commitment to community health.