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Woman Changes Retirement Plans To Aid Hispanic Community In Central Florida

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Josephine Mercado, a New York native, migrated to Florida with her husband with the intention of retiring from practicing law. Her retirement plans were suddenly halted when she observed the limited health care options Latinas had in central Florida. Given that many medical providers in the area did not speak Spanish and were also not familiar with Hispanic culture, Mercado decided to tackle this issue head-on by founding Hispanic Health Initiatives.

Hispanic Health Initiatives (HHI) is a grassroots organization composed of Hispanic professionals who aid locals across four counties in Florida in finding available health care services. The organization also hosts health fairs that offer HIV screening, immunization for children and expert advice from volunteers on how to lead a healthier lifestyle.

Rani Vizcaino, a health care worker and volunteer, describes how appreciative the community is to have access to HHI screenings. “Events such as these are really needed because they’re able to just walk in, you know, without filling out any prior forms or being approved for any particular program,” Vizcaino says. “They can just come in and get the screenings that they need.”

Mercado hopes her altruistic business venture can serve as a model for others. “If I was to give a piece of advice to someone that’s interested in starting a nonprofit, I would tell them that they should link up with other like-minded people,” she says. “[Through] networking [and] building relationships, you start discovering more about yourself and about the other person.”

Reflecting on her company’s mission, Mercado states, “Our goal is to expand the access to health care, and that’s basically what we’ve done. I don’t even know if I want to retire, to tell you the truth.”

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