This week Vince, Alex, and I went to visit the Uptown Clinic to get a better ideas as to what kind of medical assistance refugees receive here in the Chicago area. I was shocked to discover out of the seven Public Health clinics in the Chicago area, that only one has a program specifically geared for refugees. All refugees who are relocated to the Chicago area visit the Uptown Clinic on Wilson to receive immunizations and health screening required by the state. Although we came a hectic time, as one of the receptionists told us many refugee children were getting kicked out of school since their immunization records were coming back as incomplete, we were able to sit down with the Public Health Administrator who supervises the program that services all refugee patients.
I was really happy to discover that the nurses who perform the physicals for the refugees were once refugees themselves. The administrator told us how important this was as these practitioners are able to empathize with the refugees. To add, most of the know about 2+ languages – which is even more critical as translation of particular dialects proves to be the clinics toughest issue to circumvent.
We explained explained who we were and why we were at the clinic. The administrator was glad to hear about what we were doing. She was even interested in the pamphlets we hope to complete by the end of this semester. She even asked if we would bring some of these pamphlets when we completed them!
I felt really honored that this woman was interested in our work – she had explained that the clinic was losing its dentist and other specialists due to budget cuts – and that any help we could provide in finding practitioners sensitive to the issues that may come up when working with refugee patients would be appreciated!
This week as my partner and I visited our family, we found out that “Karan” finally got a job. We are so excited for him because rent was becoming an issue for his family. The family finally looked joyful and there was a new atmosphere in the room. Also we meet a new family member as well. It was “Karan’s” uncle. During our visit this week, we read books that the family had checked out from the local library. I am very happy because “Karan’s” reading has gotten better and his wife is getting better. The main thing we need to work on with them is reading comprehension. So next week we want to have a lesson plan and help them work on meanings of words. We also talked about different holidays. Since it was Diwali this weekend we brought them candles so they can celebrate their traditional holidays as well. It is important because being from an immigrant family myself, I understand that culture and traditions are all they have left in this country. By continuing these rituals it keeps them in touch with their homelands.
This week, Kelsey and I continued to help the kids with their homework. Last week, we were able to see the loneliness and “homesickness” that they face because the girl started telling us that she has no friends here. However, this week she was very happy and playful, and she told us that she has three friends at school. She is always so eager to work hard and learn new words, pulling out other story books or math activity books and memorizing words from her picture dictionary when she finishes her homework. Dedicated as she is, she also has an amazing sense of humor, and she often reminds me of Pipher’s chapter on resilience. Yesterday, she took my palm and pretended that she could read my fortune, laughing and telling me that I would go to the bathroom and eat an apple. Her brother is always much quieter and seems to have much more limited English but it suites his aloof, adolescent-boy manner and he is also very endearing. They illustrate the trait that Pipher calls love-ability, which I thought was a strange trait to include in the chapter on resilience, especially because it’s so much more difficult to describe or to develop and enhance as some other qualities such as the ability to pay attention or ambition- “It’s an elusive quality, but we all know it when we see it” (Pipher 291).