Last month, our very own Valerie Tulier-Laiwa earned the Rosario Anaya Community Award for her tireless work with the Latino Task Force to help many families during the COVID-19 pandemic. We caught up with Valerie to see what the award has meant to her and how we can all work together in times of need.
Question: How long have you worked at the SFPUC and what is your job title?
Answer: I have been working for the SFPUC for 6 and a half years and currently I am the Social Impact Partnership Acting Manager in External Affairs.
Question: During your career with the SFPUC, what are some memorable projects and milestones?
Answer: My work with WEPS (Workforce and Economic Program Services) has been a perfect fit for my past community-based work. Co-developing with my WEPS colleagues on the Neurodiversity Pilot Program, the Women in Construction Career Exposure, the Tuolumne Community Collaborative Construction Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program are just a few programs that I am very proud of. A memorable moment was when the Tuolumne All-Women Cohort was recognized by the SFPUC Commission. I am now honored to work with the Social Impact Partnership team.
Question: What does it mean to you to receive the Rosario Anaya Award and be recognized by your colleagues?
Answer: To receive the Rosario Anaya Award by serving the Latino Task Force is one of my biggest honors. She was a trailblazer, being the first Latina to serve on the San Francisco Unified School District Board. She was professional, caring, generous, and a fierce advocate.
Question: How is the Latinx community stronger together?
Answer: This pandemic has been particularly devasting to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, (and) People of Color) communities, however, it has also had many stories of collaboration, resilience, youth leadership, career opportunities, and policy changes. The Latin community and non-profits already had existing relationships and a history of mutual respect and collaboration, but the pandemic brought us fully together and unified us to work toward one common cause – COVID response in multiple areas and for the most vulnerable, including the Maya community. The Latino Task Force is made up of over 30+ community-based organizations, City departments, government representatives, and 13 active committees. Together, we moved mountains and we are an example of a Latino city-wide community model on how to respond to a crisis. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge other BIPOC communities and neighborhoods doing incredible work including the Excelsior, Bayview, Tenderloin, Fillmore, and SOMA serving Black, Indigenous, Pacific Islander, Filipino, Asian, and other Communities of Color.
Question: You served as a Disaster Service Worker (DSW) for a majority of the COVID-19 pandemic. What stood out most to you working as a DSW during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Answer: First, I would like to recognize the partnership between two City departments, SFPUC and the Human Rights Commission and their leadership, Masood Ordikhani and Dr. Sherly Davis, for allowing me to be assigned to support the Latino Task Force-COVID Response. My work and community years of experience put me at the right time and in the right position to support the Latin community during this pandemic. I also need to acknowledge that the Latin community, particularly the Mission District leadership, gave me permission to coordinate the work. It was definitely hard work, but so rewarding working with the sheroes and heroes of the community and connecting the City’s response and resources to those who need it most.
Question: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Answer: As a Latina, I believe that it is everyone’s personal responsibility to commit to being involved in working toward our community’s betterment. It is not enough to have yours and not care about others. Latinos have certain positions, not because they achieve it on their own, but rather others have fought and sacrificed to gain our places of success whether you know your history or not.