Simplified: South Dakota Voices for Peace earned $100,000 in federal funds and some attention from infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci for its work to keep people of color in South Dakota informed on all things COVID-19.

Why it matters

  • The grant will fund outreach efforts to get more Black, Indigenous, and people of color vaccinated in South Dakota.
  • Phase one involves getting out accurate information on vaccines, answering questions and building relationships.
  • In phase two, the nonprofit will work to find ways to bring vaccines to each community in a way they feel is safe and trustworthy, Executive Director Taneeza Islam said.
  • Good data on vaccination rates among these groups are hard to come by, said Michaela Seiber, CEO of South Dakota Urban Indian Health, but she says there's still "a lot of work to be done."

Tell me more about the nonprofit.

  • When the pandemic hit Sioux Falls, SD Voices for Peace quickly realized people had nowhere to turn to find local health information in languages other than English.
  • The nonprofit jumped into action and began disseminating local health information in different languages.
  • The group's emergency relief fund also provided more than $930,000 to immigrant households impacted by COVID-19.
"We're just in the right place at the right time when it comes to strategy and being nimble," Islam said of the nonprofit's quick shift to focus on COVID-19 information and relief funds. "If we don't do it, I know no one else is going to do it."

Tell me more about the grant money and Fauci.

  • The grant – funded through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – will help the nonprofit continue working with people of color in the eastern half of the state to build vaccine confidence.
  • Money will be used to hire more outreach coordinators to travel, provide information, build relationships and help reach people in their preferred languages.
  • Additionally, SD Voices for Peace received a $25,000 grant from grassroots organization "Made to Save" to build relationships and trust when it comes to the vaccine.
  • That work caught Fauci's attention, and Islam was on a zoom call with him last week explaining the nonprofit's work in connecting with people who are multilingual.
"I just felt really acknowledged," Islam said of getting to present her work to the doctor.

What does success look like?

The goal is to build relationships first and then encourage vaccinations.

"This is the work that takes time," Islam said. "Entities just think they'll come (and people will turn out for a vaccination clinic). That's not what's happening."