“You’re going to have a lot of fun,” Jaime Ortiz promised.
It was a Monday afternoon, and Ortiz, a renal care coordinator, was leading an online Zumba class from his dining room, which was decorated with colorful banners and a large Frida Kahlo painting.
Almost 50 Interwell Health employees had logged on to join him—lured by the prospect of dancing and moving together to a soundtrack of salsa, merengue, bachata, and cumbia music.
“Your office today is your dance space,” Ortiz told the group. “It’s your safe space!”
The class was organized by LUNA (Latinos Unidos Network and Allies), an Interwell Employee Resource Group (ERG), to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month.
LUNA has built upon activities like this to create what members describe as an inclusive, collaborative environment to advance – and celebrate – the Hispanic and Latino community at Interwell Health.
“It’s really all about building a sense of familia, or family,” explained Mariel Baluja, a senior manager in the project management office and a co-chair of LUNA. This sense of familia is bolstered by a “very active” group Slack channel where LUNA’s 50+ members can swap stories, recipes, photos, and guidance. “It’s been incredible to witness the camaraderie,” Baluja said.
“We have created an environment where relationship building is key. Our members share everything, from their reflections on the meaning of National Hispanic Heritage Month to photos of the baked goods they made over the weekend, health and family updates, networking opportunities, and everything in between.”
Other, larger events — like a recent cooking class or a talk on the Latino Healthcare Experience led by CEO Bobby Sepucha and Chief Clinical Officer Carmen Peralta, MD — are specifically designed to connect members and carve out space for them to build rapport. “These events bring people together so they can meet and support each other, as well as learn,” Baluja said.
Expanding LUNA’s reach
ERGs like LUNA are an integral part of Interwell’s Corporate Social Responsibility platform, which offers a unifying vision for building a sustainable and equitable future within our organization and the communities we serve.
This vision is closely tied to LUNA’s future plans, Baluja said. “This year, we have been focusing on fostering internal relationships and encouraging our members to get engaged within the ERG. Next year, we want to take it outside of our walls. We want to be able to provide our members with mentorship and sponsorship opportunities, as well as community outreach opportunities. Now that we have a full leadership committee group, I look forward to seeing how we can grow into those spaces.”
A sense of belonging
At the end of the Zumba class, participants shared their enthusiasm in the Zoom chat. “This really got my heart rate up, and the music was great,” wrote one marketing manager. “I joined late. But wow—this was so fun,” said a director of operations.
This exuberant response is one Baluja is committed to continuing as LUNA looks into the future.
“We pride ourselves in bringing people together. We want members and allies to feel an immediate sense of joy and belonging.”
Erika Ruiz, Co-Chair
Mariel Baluja, Co-Chair
Scott Hickey, Communications Chair
Jaime Ortiz, Membership Chair
Mayra Garcia, Activity and Events Chair
Alex Berrios, Community Outreach Chair
Carmen Peralta, MD, Executive Sponsor