September 2, 2021
Sonia Kroth, County of Ventura Human Services Agency
Every month we feature stories of individuals and agencies that are making a difference in their communities during this time of COVID-19. Today we are talking with Sonia Kroth, Community Relations Manager, County of Ventura Human Services Agency.
How did you get interested in the social services field? When did you get involved with your work at the Human Services Agency?
Sonia: I’ve always been passionate about social capital and the ability of people to work together for common purposes across differences. Prior to coming to the County of Ventura Human Services Agency 14 years ago, my energy was dedicated to the nonprofit sector in sustainable agriculture, supporting immigrant youth, and eventually overseeing Big Brothers Big Sisters of Santa Barbara County. The shift to working in local government came about through an opportunity to play a role in strengthening the Human Services Agency’s relationship with partners and other stakeholders, including supporting populations facing barriers to accessing our services such as Mixteco speakers. I was inspired that a government agency held a vision for such a role and appreciate the opportunity to work alongside staff who value community as I do.
What is your passion for working in the community?
Sonia: Community for me is about interdependence. Not one of us is truly independent; we all rely on others in countless ways from meeting our most fundamental needs for shelter and food, to the details involved in carrying out our callings. (Think of all the people who make it possible for many to work remotely, to connect with loved ones far away or to know that our children and elders are being cared for safely!) I love the quote “We all drink from wells we have not dug” as a reminder of our connection to our ancestors and so many others who make aspects of our lives possible today.
Many people have knowingly or unknowingly opened pathways for me throughout my life, providing important work and volunteer opportunities, encouraging me to take on a new role or challenge, placing trust in me with something or someone they deeply valued, and so on. Each one of these served as a branch extending me out into the world in a new direction and supporting my growth. Knowing the impact these individuals have had in shaping me and my path, I am honored when the opportunity arises to connect others to resources and opportunities that may be meaningful to them.
How are you specifically addressing issues of Health Equity in your work and your community? How are you making a difference?
Sonia: Guided by the capable leadership of Melissa Livingston, the Human Services Agency has begun to engage in reflective work across the agency, acknowledging ways that structural inequities have disproportionately impacted outcomes for communities of color and those living in poverty, and moving this awareness into action to provide better access, opportunity and equity in how we deliver our services.
There is recognition that this will be a continuous process requiring sustained commitment and attention. I’m grateful to be learning alongside our team as we begin these conversations, and engaging the valued input of our partners and clients on their assessment of equity, diversity and inclusion as experienced in our agency’s mission, vision and values. Hearing and elevating the voice of our customers and co-collaborators is a critical element in helping to increase equity and equitable outcomes for our those we serve.
What are the areas that you hope to make changes in?
Sonia: At this moment in time in which a global pandemic and critical environmental and social needs have brought our delicate interdependence into the light, it’s clear that intensive and reflective collaborative work is needed to achieve meaningful change.
For me this includes making space for equitable participation in the planning and delivery of services, ensuring those who are most vulnerable in our community have meaningful roles in our agency’s disaster planning and response, and exploring innovative avenues by which to exchange information, make referrals and partner to deliver services to those who need them in ways that are responsive to those needs. I am excited to work alongside our staff, partners and community to elevate voices, remove barriers and co-create new opportunities to communicate, collaborate and increase shared understanding.
Tell us one thing about you that helps us get to know you better?
Sonia: My mother immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico in her youth and has always inspired me to be a helper. Collaborative work energizes my personal life as well as my work life, and I enjoy devoting time to community projects such as envisioning and seeing to fruition Ventura’s Kellogg Park, planting trees and native plants in my community with my young son, and participating on the boards of the Partnership for Safe Families and Communities and People’s Self-Help Housing Corporation in support of their important work in Ventura County.
If you could give a closing remark for or words of inspiration for the community during this time, what would it be?
Sonia: Chief Seattle, after whom the city was named, said “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.” It’s an honor to work alongside so many passionate and engaged colleagues and partners to share information, and connect and co-power community members, parents and seniors with the services that strengthen their network of support.
Thank you Sonia for sharing your experience with us. You are an inspiring Driver of Change!