Guest blogger Frances Cobb, one of seven students in this summer’s Community Health Immersion, writes…
“How many servings of fruits and vegetables do you and your family eat a day?
What are the biggest problems for you and your family?
For your community?
Do you exercise?
Has anyone in your family been sick in the last year?
Do you know where to go for healthcare?
Do you and your family have health insurance? ….”
These are some of the questions we asked refugee families in our Community Health Surveys (CHS). This summer as part of Siloam’s Community Health Immersion, nine of us went door-to-door completing the CHS among refugee families in the Highlands and surrounding apartment communities. Through the CHS we sought to assess basic wellness and identify community-wide issues encountered by the refugees in understanding the American healthcare system and in transitioning to life here in the United States.
When I first heard we would be going door to door interviewing refugees, I think my blood pressure and anxiety shot up. It sounded like an awesome opportunity to interact with the refugees and assess their health across different nationalities within our new community here at the Highlands, however I was mildly terrified of knocking on the doors of strangers and inviting myself into their homes.
When we first set out, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but what I encountered behind each door we knocked on was a generous, resilient family working against language barriers, childcare issues, financial burdens, and general confusion in their transition to a new culture.
In that week and half, it was like we were traveling the globe. I spoke with Bhutanese, Burmese, Rwandan, and Ethiopian families within our community. No one refused to answer our questions and many people went so far as to thank us for taking time to listen to them and trying to understand the difficulties they have encountered in transitioning to life away from their home country.
I was so encouraged as a volunteer and future healthcare provider by the generous and helpful attitude of the refugee families I had the pleasure of meeting. By interacting with them in their homes and taking time to sit with them, we were able to gain a better understanding of the health environment experienced by both newly arrived and established refugee families.
Additionally we had the opportunity to observe the aspects of the American healthcare system that cause confusion among these families and ultimately act as barriers to staying healthy.