By Jules Lavallee
Los Angeles, California (The Hollywood Times) 6/21/2021- LA resident, Natalia Estrada and her friend, Britney Conroy during the start of the pandemic started a podcast, Las Chicas Del Barrio, and just celebrated their 1 year anniversary this past May. Natalia wanted to help those in need for her birthday, July 12th. She decided to launch the Journal Drive with her friend Britney as a way to help the kids in Foster Care and those in Homeless Shelters in LA and Fort Lauderdale for the Precious Dreams Foundation. www.preciousdreamsfoundation.org
You launched a podcast, Las Chicas Del Barrio with the intention of helping your Latinx community through conversations about mental health, dating, and being first-generation Americans. Tell us about your podcast and how it led you to help others?
Las Chicas Del Barrio came about last year during the beginning of quarantine. We always joked about having our own talk show one day, then it hit us, why don’t we start a podcast!? Everything about our podcast is intentional. Our name “Las Chicas Del Barrio” means girls from the neighborhood. Natalia was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, and Britney was born and raised in Miami, Florida. From the name, it’s easy to think we grew up in rich and famous areas but we come from humble beginnings. Our intention is to make the neighborhoods we grew up in better so the next generation of youth that comes after us can use our life experiences as a guide to continue improving their communities. We would not be here if it was not for our community, our Latinx community, our neighborhood communities, friends and family, and everyone who has impacted our lives along the way. They keep us going and growing. Receiving messages of support and gratitude that one of our episodes has helped someone motivates us to continue evolving to become a better version of ourselves. Last November, our first community project came to life. We hosted a toy drive to give the children in Lotus House Women’s Shelter located in Miami, FL new toys for the holidays. Most of our projects thus far have focused on the unhoused communities of Los Angeles and Miami. Over the years we have seen the numbers of unhoused persons rise significantly, it’s easy to see tents lined up on the side of the street or hear people talk down to these communities because of how it makes the city look. What many critics fail to realize is that we as humans should not dehumanize people because of their living situation. Instead of criticizing we should educate ourselves on the unhoused crisis that is occurring in our backyard. Having this conversation is only the first step, it is imperative that we start taking action. Some ways to take action are by volunteering with organizations, calling your local representatives, etc. We believe that there is no action that is too small or that will go unknown. One small action can create a ripple effect for others to take action.
Our past projects include Women’s Day in Skidrow, we handed out over 200 hygiene kits to the men and women in skidrow. In May for our first year anniversary, we did a similar project except for this time we helped the unhoused community in Miami. We challenge you to go do something for a stranger today. Las Chicas Del Barrio Podcast is for the community, we hope that you join us for all our episodes and endeavors to come. You can find our podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcast, and YouTube and chat with us on Instagram @laschicasdelbarriopodcast.
Tell us about the Journal Drive. Why does this mean so much to you?
We are hosting our Journal Drive to help benefit the Precious Dreams Foundation. Journals we collect and purchase will be donated to their chapters in Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale. The idea for the journal drive started with Natalia wanting to spend her birthday giving back in some way. Through Instagram, she found the Precious Dreams Foundation. We loved their purpose and the work they continue to do for the unhoused youth. Journal Drives help the Precious Dreams Foundation in a big way. It means so much to us because helping the unhoused community is what we do best. Journaling has helped us both with releasing emotions, mapping our dreams and goals, we can only imagine how these journals will help the children and teens.
How important is journaling in the lives of young people in foster care and homeless shelters?
The youth who are unhoused are not defined by their past or current circumstances. A journal provides an outlet for them to manage their stress, navigate through adversity and empower them to dream and create.
What is your goal? Can people donate journals?
Our goal for the journal drive is to provide the Precious Dreams Foundation chapters of Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale with 100 journals for each chapter. We have a GoFundMe where people can donate towards our drive. We are also accepting brand new journals, we just ask that the new journals have no spirals for they can be used as a weapon and are also gender-neutral colors. You can also use help by reposting our flyer which we have posted on our Instagram @laschicasdelbarriopodcast. If anyone has any questions or would like to reach out to us, you may email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tell us about the packages that the Precious Dream Foundation will be giving out next month.
The Precious Dreams Foundation has a program called Comfort Drop, where they personally deliver bedside comfort items and provide youth with an opportunity to discover comfort through inspirational stories and activities. The youth are provided a comfort bag that contains items such as journals, books, MP3 players, stuffed animals, blankets, and new pajamas. Due to COVID-19 in-person programming was suspended, the members of the Precious Dreams Foundation would host activities for the youth such as pillowcase decorating, yoga/meditation, journaling activities, and guest speakers.