COVID-19—Women of Faith Making a Difference

September 2, 2021

By Sandra Millon Underwood, RN, PhD
FAAN Professor, UW-Milwaukee College of Nursing

The COVID-19 Delta variant is wreaking havoc across the nation. While some individuals continue to debate the need to wear masks, others are finally scrambling to get vaccinated. Amid all of this, several women in our communities of faith are working diligently and quietly behind the scenes to educate, inform, vaccinate, and help people navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bonnie Anderson

Two of those individuals are Bonnie Anderson and Dadzie Ghazaalal. Both are involved with health education and outreach initiatives within Milwaukee’s inner city. Bonnie Anderson is a nurse manager at Milwaukee Catholic Home, but in her spare time she directs a project called Nurses Affecting Change. Nurses Affecting Change is composed of nurses from the local community that provide education and services to combat preventable diseases and chronic conditions to underserved populations in Southeastern Wisconsin. Dadzie Ghazaalal, who is affectionately known as ‘Sister G’, is affiliated with Ahmadiyyia Islam in Milwaukee and is a member of the Bait’ulQadir Mosque, volunteers with several community groups to ensure that accurate messages about the COVID-19 vaccinations and testing are being presented and received by members of her faith community.

Dadzie Ghazaalal
“Sister G”

“For the past 15 years, Nurses Affecting Change has been involved in the community. Our initial focus was on breast health education and breast cancer screening. Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we could no longer go into the community, so we shifted our focus and began educating people about COVID-19 and the vaccinations,” said Anderson.

Education and messaging continue to be critical in helping ensure people get tested for COVID-19 and are vaccinated. Health officials say that deaths and hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are at a level in Wisconsin not seen since February due to the more contagious Delta variant. And, while health officials are encouraged that the overall state vaccination rate is now above 50 percent, the Delta variant is more infectious than previous variants, which means more people must be vaccinated to reach herd immunity. Yet, there is some reluctance among the younger population and communities of color to get vaccinated.

“We recently worked with the Milwaukee housing project to help determine why some people are not getting vaccinated. Some of the reasons appear to be fear and negative information being circulated in the community about the vaccine. People tend to believe the negative information and myths more than the positive and scientific information,” said Anderson.

Sister G who, in addition to distributing information on COVID-19, is heavily involved in other community initiatives such as feeding the hungry, agrees.

Pictured above: Dadzie Ghazaalal giving bags of sanitizer, disinfectant, and masks to residents

“I think we have not reached the masses. Among the reasons that people in the community have not gotten the COVID-19 vaccine are fear and trust. Those two things play a big part in their reluctance to get vaccinated. People need to have someone they can trust give them accurate information. I have tried to be that vehicle in my community. People are tired, but we must get more people fully vaccinated if we want to get back to normal,” said Sister G.

Confidence in the messaging and the messenger appear to matter, according to Anderson.

“When the vaccine first became available, I made a presentation at my church— True Heart Missionary Baptist Church. I think that helped. Most of the people at my church have received the vaccine; a few have not, but they have not ruled it out. Part of the problem is that some people are saying they don’t know what’s in the vaccine. I point out to them that many of us are on insulin for diabetes or other medications and we don’t know what is in that either. They agree and say, ‘what you said makes sense’, so they go ahead and get vaccinated,” said Anderson.

Sister G looks to her faith and her husband’s support as she continues to work tirelessly to educate the community about COVID-19.

Pictured above: Bonnie Anderson giving bags of sanitizer, disinfectant, and masks to the community

“In addition to talking with and listening to people speak about COVID-19, we have been able to provide bags containing hand sanitizer, soap, masks, disinfectant, and health information to community organizations like Franciscan Peacemakers, and others. I come from a background where my grandmother, mother and all the ladies in my family went to church every Sunday. Whatever was needed, we did it. You cannot be on this earth and not do the Lord’s work. Being involved in the community, any way that I can, is important to me. We must get a handle on COVID-19. Too many people have died and continue to die. I am grateful to groups for the help and resources they provide to people in our community to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sister G.

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The COVID-19 Awareness, Understanding, Screening, Surveillance, Social Support, Education and Empowerment Project is encouraging COVID-19 vaccinations among men, women, and youth (12 years of age and older) in Southeastern Wisconsin by increasing public awareness and understanding about COVID-19; increasing access to resources essential to COVID-19 prevention and control in venues where Black Americans work, worship and are otherwise engaged; and, providing resources for navigation to COVID-19 screening and COVID-19 vaccination. The project, which aims to ensure that no one is left without and that no one is left behind, is supported by the Anthem Foundation. For more information about the project and access to available COVID-19 awareness, prevention, and control resources, contact Dr. Sandra Millon Underwood at”