Introducing PLN’s Latest Agents of Change:

Project Innovations Los Angeles (PILA)

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By Para Los Niños Team


July 29, 2022

What is PILA and their mission?

Starting in 2021, Project Innovations is a community driven collaborative that cultivates bonds to heal from trauma, promotes emotional wellness, and strengthens a culture of resilience. As a partnership, PILA enhances leadership through building community capacity, instilling agents of change for long-term sustainability, and by fostering communities that are empowered, informed, healthy, and resilient.

Their initiatives are aimed towards two primary groups: 1) local communities and 2) PLN teachers and school staff.

For their community-facing initiatives, PILA partners with community members to foster trauma informed and resiliency-based practices in local neighborhoods to…

  • Challenge systems of oppression that perpetuate trauma.
  • Increase protective factors such as healthy coping mechanisms, secure attachment between caregivers and children, and robust social support networks.
  • Connect and refer families to resources and services to adequately address traumatic experiences and mental health needs.

Effectively, PILA is reimagining mental health by departing from the traditional direct services model to creating long term collective change through community capacity building. Community members drive and lead their work, and in collaboration with them, PILA started four primary branches rooted in compassion, healing, and community: Neighborhood Leadership Groups (NLGs), Connected Family Playgroups, Community Ambassador Network (CAN), and Trauma and Wellness Coaches.

  • Neighborhood Leadership Groups (NLGs): These vital neighborhood groups are centered around bolstering the leadership capacity of community members to share resources, cultivate emotional resilience through the Community Resiliency Model (CRM), mobilize residents to collectively address systemic conditions that perpetuate inequities and trauma. Community members participating in NLGs have a greater sense of belonging in their community and strengthened leadership abilities to advocate for sustainable change. PILA’s team of Promotoras support ongoing, weekly NLG meetings. Promotoras are community members selected through a nomination and voting process by their own community to lead for a year’s term. Part of the NLGs’ curriculum is to enhance leadership skills and equip promotoras with knowledge on how to address inequities and strengthen protective factors such as: parental resilience, social connections, linkage to concrete support in times of need, knowledge enhancement of parenting and child development, and promotion of social emotional well-being of children.
  • Connected Family Playgroups: PILA’s team of Child Development Specialists facilitate playgroups with parents and caregivers with children ages ages 0-5 by implementing the Trauma Resilient Parent Training/The Play Strong Model (TRPT). The model is a parenting education framework for strengthening parent-child attachment, building calm emotional regulation, reducing parental stress, and developing child and family resilience. Playgroups encourage and reinforce parental resilience, parent-child relationships, and social-emotional regulation using a neurorelational approach.
  • Community Ambassadors Network (CAN): PILA’s Community Ambassador Network was created as part of LA County’s Department of Mental Health community’s efforts to prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19. Ambassadors live in the communities they serve and are trusted individuals with first-hand knowledge of the challenges their communities face. At a grassroots level, they address vaccine inequities and reduce access barriers by supporting community members with making appointments, providing transportation to vaccination sites, and identifying local testing sites. Ambassadors are uniquely able to engage their local communities in critical dialogue about the importance of healthy behaviors including physical distancing, wearing face masks/coverings, and proper hand washing. They also distribute COVID-19 packets that include face masks and hand sanitizer, as well as COVID-19 information, and connect residents to community resources.

In regards to PILA’s work at our schools, PILA developed the Coaching Program where Trauma and Wellness provide trauma-informed professional development and coaching to staff at Para Los Niños charter schools identified school sites to mitigate and address the effects of vicarious trauma. Through professional development and addressing the social emotional needs of school staff in one-on-one coaching and trainings, emotional resilient, safe and supportive learning environments are more possible: school staff have more positive interactions with students, gain opportunities for self reflection, and find confidence and ability to provide trauma-informed practices.

A culture of self-care, self-compassion, and social emotional well-being in the classroom starts with emotionally resilient, self-aware, and well-supported school staff!

PLN is excited to see the continued work and long-term fruits of PILA’s vision and work, all of which are in line with the heartbeat of our organization: to see children, youth, and communities thrive. For more information on PILA’s community services and events, visit their virtual office here and follow their Facebook page here.


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