AMPUTEE COALITION LAUNCHES FIRST SPANISH-SPEAKING SUPPORT GROUP
By Jewel Connelly, Communications Specialist
Jan. 13, 2023, marked a momentous day for the Hispanic amputee community with the launch of the Amputee Coalition’s first fully Spanish-speaking support group in partnership with Angel City Sports!
Seeing the need within his own community and determined to break down the language barrier, Certified Peer Visitor (CPV) Luis Ovando De Leon has made it his personal mission to bring a Spanish-language support group to fruition. Co-leading with Cristian Lira, community engagement associate for Angel City Sports, Luis is passionate about the opportunity to unite Spanish-speaking amputees and has a special appreciation for the power of support groups.
It was through his own local group that he found the inner strength to adjust to his new life as an amputee. After tragically losing his left leg in a car accident over 12 years ago, Luis battled severe depression at the start of his journey, but that all began to change once he joined Amputee Connection of Redlands while attending the National Conference. Since then, Luis has used his experience to make a significant impact on the lives of others, empowering them not just locally but across the United States and even abroad with peer visits and calls.
As the first bilingual CPV in Amputee Connection of Redlands, Luis had the opportunity to facilitate the first Spanish-speaking roundtable in the organization’s history during the 2022 National Conference in Palm Desert, California. The session included amputees with any level of limb loss and, as Luis looked around the room, it sparked the idea to create a support group in their native language.
“The Amputee Coalition didn’t have a support group in Spanish, so I thought why not create one here in Southern California where we have a great partnership with Angel City Sports,” Luis said. In fact, in 2022 alone, 28% of the Amputee Coalition’s over 500,000 website users viewed resources in Spanish, indicating a population who could benefit from this type of group.
Before launching the new group, Luis participated in long jumping and other sports through Angel City Sports, an LA-based nonprofit that provides year-round free adaptive sports opportunities for people with physical disabilities or visual impairments.
“Luis and I connected and we wanted to create this community of Spanish speakers because in the Latino community, there’s a stigma around opening up,” Cristian revealed. “Many of us haven’t learned how to be vulnerable and cope with troubling times we’ve experienced, so I really want to encourage Latinos to be a part of these vulnerable spaces.”
Giving attendees the ability to connect through the commonality of a shared language, the group serves as a source of emotional support and encouragement from understanding peers. “I think it’s important to create this group which combines support and Amputee Coalition resources with the opportunities Angel City Sports provides through sports,” Luis said. “This will help our community go on with their lives, believing they can still do things they used to do but in a different way.”
Impacting people of every age, socioeconomic status, and nationality, amputation is a reality for people who speak a variety of languages. Luis hopes his group will pave the way for other Spanish and foreign-language groups to follow.
“We want to encourage other amputees to become peer visitors and create support groups so we can share more information in other cities,” Luis said. “The CPV program gets requests for calls and peer visits in other languages, but unfortunately it’s only English or Spanish right now. There is a lot of need for support in people’s own languages.”
Opening the door for Spanish speakers to fully express themselves in their native tongue, Luis’ group is a pivotal step in increasing accessibility and empowering as many as possible to experience the life-changing benefits of community.
Luis and Cristian’s support group is held both in person and via Zoom on the second Friday of every month from 4-5:30 p.m. Pacific in Pasadena, California. Any local Spanish-speaking amputees, family members, and caregivers are welcome to attend.
Pasadena Industrious Office
21 Miller Alley, Suite 210
Pasadena, CA 91105
The Amputee Coalition also offers a variety of Spanish-language resources at www.amputee-coalition.org.
To learn more about the Spanish-language support group or register for the upcoming meeting, please email Cristian Lira at firstname.lastname@example.org or Luis Ovando De Leon at email@example.com.