Madi Bolanos

Reporter

Madi Bolanos is the immigration and underserved communities reporter at Valley Public Radio. Before joining the station, she interned for POLITCO in Washington D.C. where she reported on US trade and agriculture as well as indigenous women’s issues during the Canadian election. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in anthropology from San Francisco State University. Madi spent a semester studying at the Danish Media and Journalism School where she covered EU policies in Brussels and alleged police brutality at the Croatian-Serbian border. Originally from Fresno, she is happy to be back reporting on important issues in the San Joaquin Valley. 

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Low income communities across the San Joaquin Valley and other regions of the state are being hit hard by rising water and utility debt according to a recent survey released by the California Water Board. 

Michael Claiborne, an attorney with the Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, says residents are having to decide which essential service to pay for amid a global pandemic. 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Tulare County is still in phase 1A of its vaccine distribution, but the county’s Health and Human Services Department is already working with other organizations on vaccine distribution for farmworkers. 

Carrie Monteiro, a spokesperson for the department, says the county wants to be prepared to vaccinate farmworkers when phase 1B starts. That’s why, in collaboration with the Community Care Coalition, it’s asking farm and agriculture employers to respond to a survey. 

 

 

On a cloudy morning in Northeast Bakersfield, Dr. Mathew Beare walks along a narrow trail of damp fallen leaves to a small homeless encampment.  For over a year, Beare and his street medicine team have made the drive every Thursday from Clinica Sierra Vista in downtown Bakersfield to this barren site just off of Chester Avenue. 

 

 

On this week's Valley Edition: A street medicine team in Bakersfield educates people experiencing homelessness about COVID-19, and debunks myths about the vaccine. 

 

Plus, writer Mark Arax tells us about his research into the history of the Confederacy in the Central Valley.

 

Aminah Elster is the policy coordinator at the California Coalition for Women Prisoners and a formerly incarcerated person. She says the women inside the Chowchilla facility continue to tell her about unsafe living conditions even after the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reported the highest number of positive cases, 512, at the facility on Jan. 3. 

 

“The conditions are filthy. There’s dust everywhere, torn mattress, rusted bunks,” Elster says. “There’s little to no access to cleaning supplies.” 

 

 

On this week's Valley Edition:  Why a state program that provides free COVID-19 hotel rooms to farmworkers is going largely unutilized.  

Plus Pulitzer Prize winning journalist John Branch tells us how wildfires and climate change are endangering California’s most iconic trees.

And a cornerstone of the Armenian community, Hye Quality Bakery, has closed its doors.

In the last two weeks, 48 people at the Coalinga State Hospital have contracted Covid-19, according to the Department of State Hospitals. Some patients without legal documentation are asking the state to allow ICE to deport them because they don’t want to get the virus.

Andrew Warren, 52, a Vietnamese citizen and resident at the civil confinement facility, says he’s afraid he’ll die at the state hospital due to unsafe practices among the staff that put him at a higher risk of contracting the virus.

Residents at Coalinga State Hospital are blaming staff members for infecting patients as reports of COVID-19 related deaths are increasing at the facility. 

 

“It’s like they're putting us in a tunnel, pouring gasoline down the tunnel and lighting a match,” resident James Hydrick said.

 

 In the past week alone, Hydrick said he’s seen nearly 10 ambulances leave with COVID positive patients in critical condition. And he said it’s due in part to staff floating between quarantine and non-quarantine units.

 

Courtesy of John C. Fremont Healthcare District

Residents and staff of the long-term nursing home at the John C. Fremont Hospital in Mariposa County received their first round of the COVID-19 vaccine on December 17th. As they wait for the second round, many people in the facility say they are thrilled to have the protection they need to fight the virus. 

 

The facility is home to 17 residents over 70 years old making them high risk candidates for contracting COVID-19. 73 year old Patricia Wildt says it feels like a privilege to be one of the first in the county to get the vaccine. 

 

 

On this week’s Valley Edition:  With Valley hospitals at capacity, we check back in with an ICU nurse from Fresno who lost a colleague to COVID-19 in May. 

 

Plus, Black Americans have had good reason to distrust the medical system. How a Fresno coalition aims to rebuild that trust around COVID-19 testing and vaccines.

 

On this week's Valley Edition: We look at what will happen to the Fresno nonprofits providing COVID assistance to the community if CARES Act funding disappears at the end of the year.

Plus, a new UC Merced photo exhibition documents the lives and struggles of Central Valley farmworkers in the 1960s. 

And StoryCorps San Joaquin is back with a look at how Fresno’s CMAC got started.

Fresno Mayor Lee Brand and Mayor-Elect Jerry Dyer announced Tuesday the police department’s next chief. Juan “Paco” Balderrama will be the first Hispanic police chief in the city’s history.

“It’s been clear from the start that Fresno wants a chief who can make changes, build trust, and increase safety for all of our residents,” Brand said at the press conference, referencing the many public community discussions and surveys conducted by the Fresno Police Reform Commission

On this week's Valley Edition: We take a look at the COVID-19 Equity Project aimed at preventing the spread of the virus in some of Fresno’s most vulnerable neighborhoods.

Plus, he lost his quesadilla stand to the pandemic. Now this LA cook is using his skills to feed communities including farm workers near Selma.

And we look at strategies to find permanent homes for people experiencing homelessness.

Madi Bolanos / KVPR

Before the pandemic hit, Heleo Leyva owned a quesadilla stand in East Hollywood, where he offered a special: buy one quesadilla, share the other for a discounted price.

But when he lost customers due to the pandemic and had to close his stand, he started a GoFundMe site to help pay his bills. That’s when he realized he could also use social media to feed others. His first step was creating a community fridge, where people could donate food.

Madi Bolanos / KVPR

The day before Thanksgiving is typically one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants. But with state guidelines encouraging people to stay home, many businesses fear they’ll just continue to lose money.

Javier Ruiz is a line cook at Little Hong Kong Chinese Cuisine on E street in Fresno’s Chinatown. The restaurant reopened with new owners in July, but according to Ruiz they’ve hardly had any customers.

A private philanthropic foundation is donating over two million dollars in grants to six organizations in Fresno as part of a nationwide

Madi Bolanos / KVPR

Not every small town in the Valley has a COVID-19 code enforcement officer, but Firebaugh does. His name is Sef Gonzalez and on this Tuesday, he’s dropping by restaurants downtown to remind them of the new rules issued by Governor Gavin Newsom.

At a Mexican restaurant, Don Pepe, Gonzalez tells the owner Juan Miguel indoor dining must stop by 3 p.m.

The Fresno City Council unanimously voted to accept the Fresno Police Reform Commission's report on Thursday. But as councilmembers clarified in the Zoom meeting, that doesn’t mean all 72 recommendations will be implemented immediately.

The report will be handed off to a seven-member Police Reform Implementation Team that will review the recommendations and decide what further action is necessary. That may include a budget review, a meet-and-confer contract or a policy change, according to councilmember Miguel Arias. But ultimately, the council gets the final word.

On this week's Valley Edition: Governor Gavin Newsom announced California was pulling the emergency break on its reopening plan due to the state’s rising COVID-19 numbers. We go to Firebaugh to get the reaction of this small Fresno County farming town that has fought hard to keep cases low. 

Plus, we discuss the growing humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh following the six-week war between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

And we talk with award-winning journalist Farai Chidaya about her new podcast, Our Body Politic.

On this week's Valley Edition: Now that California voters have said no to the idea of restoring affirmative action, we take a look at what this will mean for public higher education.

Plus, in honor of Veterans Day, we talk to Peggy and Edward Pastana about how their bond helped them overcome an accident that recently kept them apart.

And a documentary from a UC Merced professor explores the refugee experience through the eyes of children.

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