Growing up in different parts of San Diego’s South Bay, Arianna Chavez observed notable contrasts in each. Some in particular lacked resources and frequently suffered the worst effects of health disparities.
In September 2019, when Chavez was a junior studying Biology at UC San Diego, she was constantly considering ways to alleviate the hardship in her communities.
The inspiration struck one day and Basta Disparidad flourished.
“I know a lot about social media and a little bit about nonprofit work,” Chavez said. “I thought, what if I just start an Instagram page promoting free resources for these communities?”
For a year, Chavez solely ran her San Diego Free Resources Instagram account named Basta Disparidad. She would identify and research a public health problem and promote it on the page. Free STI testing, food distributions, free flu shots, and counseling services for families in need have been resources Chavez has posted on Basta Disparidad.
In the midst of 2020, Chavez decided to launch a volunteer based internship program in order to help students whose internships had been ruined due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I knew a lot of people in college who had lost internship opportunities because of the pandemic, and so I thought of starting an internship program through my nonprofit that could help people make up for lost work opportunities,” said Chavez.
She said welcoming college and high school interns to her team ended up being a bigger help than she could have imagined as Basta Disparidad went from connecting about 5,000 people to local resources to connecting 100,000 people in the course of just one month.
Basta Disparidad has shifted to not just bringing awareness to free medical services but also to humanitarian resources, Chavez said. The Instagram page also posts information about scholarships for Latinx students, support for DREAMers, and details about free LGBTQ+ events and resources.
Chavez graduated from UC San Diego with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology the summer of 2021 and currently works for a Hispanic community health study.
Another one of Chavez’s activities include holding the Miss Bonita title since September 2021. Her foundation as titleholder has included attending community events and inspiring belonging. A special goal of Chavez’s is to be an exemplar for young Latinas.
“My favorite community events are anytime I’m with kids because I’m able to talk a lot about STEM with them and encourage them to pursue it if that’s what they like,” Chavez said. “I know growing up, there weren’t too many Latinas in STEM, so I think it’s really nice to be kind of a role model for those girls.”
The County of San Diego Health Services Advisory Board presented Arianna and San Diego Free Resources with a Community Inspiration Award in June 2022, being one of only five organizations to receive the recognition. “We are simply a group of students passionate about ending health disparities and uplifting the communities that shaped us,” reads their Instagram post.
Next, Chavez hopes to get into medical school and be able to continue to diminish health disparities, not only through Basta Disparidad, but also by meeting the health needs of urban underserved communities.
CALÓ NEWS recently interviewed Chavez to learn more about her award-winning San Diego Free Resources Instagram page and how she represents Latinx people as a community ambassador.
Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.
ARIANNA CHAVEZ, 22, Bonita, CA, Founder & CEO of non-profit organization Basta Disparidad San Diego Free Resources, Chicana, she/her/hers
WHEN DID YOU START YOUR SAN DIEGO FREE RESOURCES: “BASTA DISPARIDAD” INSTAGRAM PAGE AND WHY?
The official start date was September of 2019 and I think that was really important because it was just a few months before the 2020 pandemic. And because we were entirely virtual, a lot of people actually relied on us for resources because so many people were laid-off or suffering from food insecurity and housing insecurity.
I’ve grown up in a few different parts of the [San Diego’s] South Bay area. I would say National City is generally just a lower income area versus others that tend to be more middle class areas. Growing up having lived between communities, I saw the differences in each and how certain communities had less resources than others and those certain communities also tended to bear the brunt of health disparities or negative health outcomes. Initially, it started off as just me promoting free health services because that’s how I thought I could impact health the most. Now, it’s kind of shifted to promoting not just free or low cost medical services, but also humanitarian resources.
YOUR ORGANIZATION IS CALLED “BASTA DISPARIDAD” WHICH TRANSLATES TO “END DISPARITY” IN SPANISH, WHAT WAS THE THOUGHT PROCESS BEHIND CHOOSING THIS NAME?
San Diego, of course, has a really huge Hispanic community and I identify with that community, and they tend to be under-resourced. The idea is that we’re ending health disparities for Hispanic communities. But since we have started, we have grown to just eliminate health disparities for all communities, but I think the Hispanic community is at the core and the community I identify with and want to continue to uplift.
WHAT IS YOUR MAIN GOAL FOR THIS INSTAGRAM PAGE AND HOW DO YOU FORESEE ITS FUTURE?
The main goal is that we’re able to connect people to resources to allow them to live the healthiest life that they can. I think going forward one of my dreams is to make this even bigger than San Diego. Since I am applying to medical school across the country, I see in the future that one of my interns, who has been around for a while, will take over the San Diego chapter allowing me to open a chapter wherever I end up in the country because I think that all across the country, there’s health disparities and underserved communities that I could really use this page.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE BEST PART ABOUT WATCHING “BASTA DISPARIDAD” GROW?
I think just knowing that you’re able to make a significant impact. One of the stories I always tell is that Chula Vista had some of the highest rates of COVID 19 infection back in 2020. There’s a lot of people who work in the service industry in Chula Vista and so you saw a lot of food insecurity, housing insecurity, a lot of financial strain at that time, and there was a vaccine distribution event in Chula Vista and this was one of the first ones, when they were just allowing the general public to receive the vaccine. Our interns really pushed that vaccine event and within 48 hours we were able to completely book the event and get about 4,000 people in Chula Vista vaccinated. I think seeing things like that, seeing our efforts actually play out in real life is the best part and just knowing that we’re able to connect people to resources and hopefully alleviate health disparities.
IF YOU COULD SEND A MESSAGE TO LATINX YOUTH DREAMING TO CONTRIBUTE TO THEIR COMMUNITIES LIKE YOU ARE, WHAT WOULD YOU TELL THEM?
I would say that I think everybody has a unique and distinctive set of skills and talents and even though they may not realize it, they absolutely do have it. And I think you have to use what you can and be really creative in contributing because there’s so many creative ways to do that. I mean, I do it through nonprofit organizing, but I’ve met people who do it through art, through music, through writing and so I think there’s so many ways that you can use your skills to make an impact on your community. And so I think you just need to focus on what those skills are and then apply it to some sort of project.
HOW DID IT FEEL TO HAVE “BASTA DISPARIDAD” BE RECOGNIZED AS ONE OF ONLY FIVE ORGANIZATIONS TO RECEIVE THE HEALTH SERVICES ADVISORY BOARD (HSAB) COMMUNITY INSPIRATION AWARD BY THE SAN DIEGO COUNTY?
Getting that award was a huge deal for me just because I think it was one of the first times where our efforts were really recognized. I really enjoy public health and really am passionate about it. We have a number of interns who are with us at anytime for public health majors so we really look up to leaders and to know that they are the ones making decisions at the county level and were able to recognize our efforts meant the world to not just me but to all the interns, so it was really awesome to see that.
AS A COMMUNITY AMBASSADOR AND MISS BONITA 2021–2022, HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO YOU TO REPRESENT THE LATINX COMMUNITY?
I think representation is so important. It not only inspires the next generation to achieve whatever they want and whatever they can dream of but I think it’s also really important to have people with our experiences and our culture in these spaces. And to again, just lift up people in our own community and bring them to these levels, I think it’s so important to represent, share our experiences, background and culture in these spaces.
WHAT MESSAGE WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO SEND TO LATINX READERS?
I think there’s a lot of spaces in society where Latinx voices are missing, and I think it is so important that every one of us tries to get into those spaces and have our voices heard and have our experience and culture shared. I think if anybody has a dream of doing something, they should continue to pursue it because it’s so important that we have representation in every single aspect of society and in every industry, so my message is to just really go for it.