Our Mission

The Rural Women’s Health Project (RWHP) holds a unique position as the only health justice organization in North Florida. Our mission is to use evidence-based strategies to build sustainable and replicable community programs and policies to strengthen communities’ capacity to overcome health and social justice barriers. Our primary focus is on immigrants and also women living with HIV. Founded in 1991, the RWHP involves communities in the development and implementation of all aspects of our work. We seek to build the capacity of emerging leaders, create advocacy opportunities, build coalitions and improve linkage to health protective services.

“... the people must learn to read their own reality and write their own history.”

--Paulo Freire,
Pedagogy of the Oppressed

The Fotonovela

Fotonovela Sample image

The fotonovela is a traditional print medium found in Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean. Fotonovelas, also known as novelas or novelitas, are similar in format to that of a graphic novel.

The fotonovela is arguably the RWHP’s most effective tool. For almost 30 years, the RWHP has molded the fotonovela into a tool of reflection, role modeling and empowerment.

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About Us

The RWHP Approach

The Rural Women's Health Project (RWHP), founded in 1991, is a non-profit organization that designs and implements community-based, health-education projects, trainings, and materials to assist communities in strengthening their understanding of critical health, occupational and family issues.



  • Collaborates in the implementation of health projects that promote the well-being of communities.
  • Creates innovative educational tools, including: fotonovelas, radionovelas, traditional music, educational games, traditional calendars, flipcharts, radioscripts and more.
  • Trains communities and the organizations that serve them in the development and use of community-developed, health education tools and testimonial multi-media.
  • Advocates for lay-health worker programs in rural communities.

The RWHP's health justice approach centers on three main concepts: modeling positive health behaviors, providing health and justice inequities, and the importance of "each one, teach one." This philosophy is put into practice through the production and dissemination of health education training programs, curriculum and popular education techniques, publications for community and health organizations, clinics and outreach programs.

Using visual storytelling as the foundation of our work, we guide community partners in the development of stories that will be the focus of each project. All of our materials, whether produced individually or collaboratively with other grass-roots organizations, include community evaluation to assure message impact with cultural and linguistic accuracy.

The Rural Women's Health Project has developed a unique method of communal storytelling, blending non-formal education, sociology, and health education. The RWHP transforms stories into popular mediums such as the fotonovela, radionovela and original music to convey health messages.

Communal storytelling is a medium that combines elements of cultural beliefs, traditions, and community realities and can be an integral part of successful health education that leads to positive behaviors within the communities, especially among Latino immigrants.

Language Access Plan 2022

The RWHP Language Access Plan serves to publicly present our commitment to serving limited English proficient speakers, within the framework of our mission.

The RWHP Team

Fran Ricardo

Director of Development/
Let's Talk About It Coordinator

Fran Ricardo brings her experience as an educator and publisher of health-related journals into her RWHP work. As the Director of Development, Fran coordinates communication with community partners, directs our advocacy programming and works on the development and distribution of community-based materials.
BA in Education, University of Florida

Robin Lewy

Robin Lewy


Robin Lewy brings her training and curriculum development expertise to our programming. Robin has worked in health justice in Central America and the Southeastern United States for the past 30 years. As Director of Programming, she serves the coordinator of the RWHP's Community Health Worker initiatives and the coordination of testimonial media projects.
MA in Community Development and Popular Theatre, University of Nebraska/Omaha

Anna Villagomez, MPH

Health Programs Manager

Anna coordinates COVID-related information, outreach and services, while supporting the mission of RWHP.
Master of Public Health, University of Florida, 2021, Bachelor of Arts in International Studies, University of Florida, 2019

Adriana Menendez

Adriana Menendez

Social Service Manager (Project Salud)

Adriana coordinates our community referral/navigation services, operating the monthly food relief drive, and supporting the mission of the RWHP.
Bachelor of Science in Special Education, Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, 2015.

Ethan Maia de Needell

Immigrant Program Manager

Ethan oversees program reporting for all RWHP initiatives serving the Latinx community. Additionally, he facilitates the Strategic Working Groups of the Gainesville Immigrant Neighbor Inclusion Initiative (GINI), of which the RWHP serves as the Community liaison.
Bachelor of Arts in International Studies, University of Florida, 2016

Nikki Torok

Nikki Torok

Art and Media Director

Nikki Torok provides design, layout and pre-press expertise for print media. Maintains the RWHP's online presence by designing and updating the website, blogs, social media and networking accounts.
BS in Advertising and Communication, University of Florida, 1996.

Kaeli Flannery

Kaeli Flannery

Research & Data Consultant

Kaeli coordinates all RWHP  Data Management and supports research development.
Master of Public Health,  University of Florida, 2020.  Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology, Minor: Health Disparities, University of Florida, 2019.

Alejandra Romero

Project SALUD Comunicadora Manager

Alejandra oversees the Spanish language referral line serving four counties. Psychology, AA pending, 2021.

Eleni Stilian

Eleni Stilian

Data Manager

Eleni supports the VIVIR 21 covid response effort by maintaining data and client communication
Food and Resource Economics B.S., International Studies B.A. pending 2023.

Natalie Davis

LTAI Community Health Worker

Natalie co-coordiates the development of testimonial media and support programs for "Let's Talk About It."

Join Our Team

We are always looking to expand our enthusiastic team members to support RWHP programs and projects. If you would like to submit a request to be a volunteer, intern or for employment, please email Robin Lewy and include a resume, explanation of interest in joining the RWHP and a clear description of your specific interest. We will promptly respond to all inquiries for volunteer, intern, scholar or employment interest.

Annual Highlights

During 2022, the RWHP deepened our commitment to health education outreach and social justice advocacy. ,Our goal is community safety, health and inclusion. Check out our 2022 Annual Report to read about the impact we are making.

RWHP 2022 Annual Report
As the Rural Women’s Health Project (RWHP) begins the 30th year of service amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked 142 community partners to offer their perspectives and guidance on RWHP programs and services through our Annual Partner Survey. This report reflects findings from a subset of 28 community partners that completed the survey. We intend to use these important insights to ensure our work aligns with partner’s needs and observations.

RWHP 2021 Annual Partner Survey
In 2019, we strengthened our partnership with Florida Legal Services. We continued to advocate for a more inclusive Gainesville/Alachua county for immigrants and their families. We collaborated with law enforcement, City and County Commissioners, Levy County School guidance counselors, and DCF representatives to shift local policies and practices affecting immigrant safety. We also produced a new publication, Mobilizing to Defend Families Impacted by Interior Immigrant Parent Detention, to address Action Steps for child welfare systems.

Through our new project Health PLUS, we established an English navigation helpline as a sister program to Project SALUD. This project capacitated 6 LTAI members as CHWs in Alachua, Levy, and Putnam counties. LTAI members also continued their advocacy efforts in national and regional events focused on HIV decriminalization and reducing stigma. They developed new materials to engage faith leaders and organized a community event in recognition of Women and Girls HIV Awareness Day.

RWHP 2019 Annual Report
In 2018, we engaged with critical stakeholders affected by migrant family separation and parental detention. These include, but are not limited to, primary school guidance counselors, the Gainesville Police Department, and child protective services. We contested Federal policies surrounding mass deportation through advocacy and education. An outcome of this being, the Family Separation Report.

We also expanded health screening opportunities for immigrant communities in 3 counties. We continue to partner with the UF School of Education and Levy County to increase the engagement of parents of ESOL students. Our work on HIV has focused on addressing drivers of the epidemic in the South by strengthening the capacity of women living with HIV. Throughout the year, the women of Let’s Talk About It have engaged politicians at the local, regional, and federal level. They have also initiated a local media campaign, called Judge Not!, to diminish HIV stigma in the churches.
2016 has been an amazing year of spreading the benefits of promotor de salud programming with Project SALUD (el Sur and el Norte) in Palm Beach and Marion counties. We have deepened our commitment to working with health and community-based partners in Marion County to benefit services for the immigrant communities. And, we are getting ready to begin the 4-year Stellar Program, thanks to a partnership with UF’s College of Education. RWHP focus will be on strengthening school, family and community engagement.
This year “Lets Talk About It” moves the RWHP into broad community work, engaging multi-cultural, HIV-positive women from North Central Florida in a peer outreach program. Creando Nuestra Salud continues to dominate our Florida Promotor Initative with 20 new promotores educating about early cancer detection. Advocacy has focused on the HIV/AIDS in the South with RWHP co-authoring a section on HIV and Immigrants for the Southern AIDS Manifesto, lobbying for the Southern AIDS Strategy Initiative and as panel presenters at the XIX International AIDS Conference in DC.

Click here to download our "Year in Review" Infographic.
Creando Nuestra Salud has a tremendous year working with 43 promotoras in 7 counties to educate on early breast cancer detection, reaching over 1200 women. The new RWHP video recounts the experiences of three Latina breast cancer survivors. Coinciding the beginning of our 20th year, the RWHP is honored to be awarded the 2011 Catalyst Award for excellence in service to farmworker communities.
Voices of Immigrants in Action (VIA) is the RWHP’s Southeastern US regional advocacy initiative. VIA addresses the emerging issues of the Hispanic immigrant community, as well as mobilizing a multi-level response to factors affecting HIV/AIDS transmission in Hispanic Immigrant communities in the rural South. Community-driven recommendations to their critical issues are conveyed in a bi-lingual video, fact sheets and policy briefs.
The Florida Council Against Domestic Violence contracts the RWHP to produce three fotonovelas for Hispanic women in rural Florida about assistance for victims of domestic violence. Project Claridad launches "Sin Humo" (Without Smoke) its smoking cessation program with Putnam County Migrant Education.
Consultants to Lake County's (FL) new Community Health Worker Program, coordinating their initial CHW education, Hispanic Health Assessment and Spanish-language health resource guide.
Partnering with Alianza de Mujeres Activas [AMA] (FL) on early detection of breast cancer. Funded Florida Breast Cancer Coalition Research Foundation and the American Cancer Society to develop breast cancer novelas and educate promotores in outreach techniques. Partnership with the Southeastern National Tuberculosis Center extends to address the education and cultural competency issues around tuberculosis in the African American Community. Workshop venues include churches.
A multi-year partnership begins with the Southeastern National Tuberculosis Center for Vivir a todo Pulmon, a project to educate foreign-born, Spanish-speakers about tuberculosis and to partner with clinicians to strengthen community education and patient compliance.
Documented the experiences of the participants at the Bi-national Health Promotores Conference on HIV, McAllen, TX. Funded by Farmworker Justice.
Launched Project Claridad - an HIV prevention project developing farmworker youth peer educators. Three-year funding from the Pfizer Foundation (HIV Southern HIV/AIDS Prevention Initiative.) Pizcando Sueños exhibited at the Universidad De Historia y Antropología and the cultural arts center FRISAC in Mexico City. In Guanajuato Mexico, the exhibit also coincided with RWHP workshops with the health brigadistas of the Rancho of Cantera Uno andfotonovela development with mothers in Chamacuaro, Guanajuato.
Worked in Arequipa, Peru with the Acociación de Organizaciones de Mujeres de Arequipa (ASOMA) to document their organization's 13 year history in fotonovela format. Created ASOMA-Proyecto de Vida. Collaborated with Redlands Christian Migrant Association on parenting novela series.
Bi-nationally funded Pizcando Sueños [Harvesting Dreams] combines community-based research and storytelling to give voice to Mexican farmworker women in Florida.
Contracted to develop KidCare campaign for Hispanics, including traditional music, radio and fotonovelas.
RWHP begins work on HIV projects with funding from North Central Florida and National March of Dimes.

Awards & Recognition

CCCC Technical and Scientific Communication Award - 2023
Presented to Laura Gonzales, Language Access of Florida and Robin Lewy, M.A., RWHP Director of Programming
in the category of Best Article Reporting Qualitative or Quantitative Research in Technical or Scientific Communication for “(Re)Designing Technical Documentation About COVID-19 with and for Indigenous Communities in Gainesville, Florida, Oaxaca de Juárez, Mexico, and Quetzaltenango, Guatemala” in IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication!
Awarded by Conference on College Composition and Communication
Presented to Robin Lewy, M.A., RWHP Director of Programming
Awarded by UF Cancer Center, University of Florida
Presented to the Rural Women's Health Project
Awarded by Multi-Cultural and Diversity Affairs, University of Florida
Presented to the Rural Women's Health Project
Awarded by the Mexican- American Council (MAC)
Award Badge
Rural Women’s Health Project receives “Champion of Farmworkers” award!

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Presented to the Rural Women's
Health Project

Awarded by the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust
Presentation Image
Rural women's health project a finalist for national award

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Presented to Robin Lewy
Awarded by the Gainesville Commission on the Status of Women, Inc.
Robin Lewy with Award
Rural women's health project a finalist for national award

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Presented to the Rural Women's
Health Project

Awarded by the East Coast Migrant Stream Forum
RWHP Awardees
RWHP receives 2011 Steve Shore Community Catalyst Award

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Presented to the Rural Women's Health Project
Awarded by the Florida Association of Community Health Centers, Inc
Presented to the Rural Women's Health Project
Awarded by Positives Empowering Positives (PEP) Club
Presented to the Rural Women's Health Project
Awarded by Title I Migrant Education Program
Presented to the Rural Women's Health Project
Awarded by Alianza de Mujeres Activas (AMA)
Presented to Robin Lewy
Awarded by Alianza de Mujeres Activas (AMA)
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Our Partners and Funders

All RWHP programs are carried out with community or regional partners. The RWHP is passionate about collaboration and about keeping resources accessible to community members.

We seek funding from federal, private and philanthropic agencies that embrace our commitment to community-based work.

Community Partners

Our Funders