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In 1962, 15-year-old Carlos Naranjo stepped off a plane alone into a new life, leaving his entire family and all his friends in Cuba behind. Since that day, Mr. Naranjo has committed his life to helping New Orleans’ most vulnerable children overcome adversity and go on to lead secure, healthy and successful lives, just like he has.
For 30 years he helped children in foster care as a case worker and then supervisor for the Office of Community Services. Later, he became a volunteer coach and then director of the Jefferson Parish youth soccer league.
Then, in 2008, when others his age might have been relaxing in retirement, Mr. Naranjo helped design the New Orleans Children’s Health Project’s Hispanic Outreach Initiative to help support the immigrant families who had moved to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Today, he spends his days linking low-income Spanish-speaking families to the doctors and nurses aboard CHF’s New Orleans doctor’s office on wheels, which delivers high-quality medical, mental health, case management and health education to over 1,000 children each year, regardless of ability to pay.
Because many immigrants are hesitant to seek out medical services, Mr. Naranjo began building trust one family at a time, scheduling community health fairs in Spanish-speaking neighborhoods, handing out fliers, and talking to priests, teachers and anyone else who would help spread the word. The results speak for themselves. Before he joined the mobile clinic team, just 4% of its patients were immigrant children. Today 46% of the children who step onto the mobile clinic are Hispanic.
For his passionate dedication to the people of his community, Mr. Naranjo has been named one of this year’s recipients of the Angel Award by BlueCross BlueShield of Louisiana. Every year, the Angel Award recognizes eight outstanding volunteers with a $20,000 grant to each honoree's nonprofit charity.
Mr. Naranjo and the other award winners will be honored at a special ceremony in the fall.