2019 Week 2: Family Services & Wellness

Eillen M HeadshotEILLEN MARTINEZ | ESPERANZA CENTER

At the Esperanza Center, we have a policy stipulating that we only offer medical services to immigrants who have absolutely no other recourse. These are people for whom it is impossible to receive any type of medical insurance in the United States for lack of a social security number attached to their name: people who do not qualify for Medicaid, have no form of green card, TPS, etc. There are more uninsurable immigrants in Baltimore than we have the capacity to treat, and the number only continues to grow. Which is why we need to have this policy. We exist so they can continue to.

This policy becomes difficult in cases where immigrants who *are* eligible for a form of medical insurance (but for some reason have not acquired insurance) come to see us. Maybe they didn’t know how to apply, maybe in the convoluted process of gaining residency, they forgot that step. Whatever the reason, these are uninsured immigrants, and nonetheless people to whom we cannot offer services.

This week, I had to be a voice of denial to a woman who came seeking care for herself and her mother. We were able to take in her mother, but the woman was becoming a US resident and was now eligible for health insurance, so we referred her to other clinics that could treat her and encouraged her to apply for insurance. In her eyes, however, we were just another place that was shutting her out. She jumped to her feet abruptly, yanked the paperwork we had been filling out together from my hands, and tore them up as she paced around the waiting area. Just because she was gaining residency we couldn’t see her?

It was challenging to de-escalate the situation. My coworker, Yani, jumped in to calm down the woman, explaining the reasoning behind the policy; if we make an exception for her, then we would need to make an exception for all. Those who have no other opportunity to receive medical care, like the woman’s mother, would have to face yet more barriers to receive that care. The woman huffed and sat down to wait for her mother. In those hours of waiting, I observed the woman become friendly with others in the waiting area. Her anger subsided and was replaced with a tired frustration. How much of that tired frustration brews in the lives of immigrants, of Baltimoreans?

In the end, the woman became somewhat amicable, calling goodbye to us as she moved slowly towards the exit, her hobbling mother clinging to her arm.

Edwin A HeadshotEDWIN ARRIOLA | CENTRO SOL

“It’s just a bottle!” My roommate exclaimed, throwing a plastic bottle into the trash bin. I rolled my eyes at him and picked the bottle from the trash, taking it to the recycling bin right next to it. “Well, do you know where that bottle goes when you throw it in the trash?” He nods. “Well yea, to a dump! But that doesn’t affect me.”

I was annoyed, to say the least. Did he really not care about recycling? Then, I realized something, I acted the same as him just a few months ago. I also challenged recycling, reducing waste, and other forms of social justice. My older sister always got frustrated with me when I refused to talk about social issues. I always used the excuse “It’s too political” to try and get out of the conversation.

But I didn’t avoid talking about it because I didn’t care, rather I didn’t know enough about social issues and didn’t want to seem uneducated. And I didn’t know about social issues because I didn’t want to put in the effort to learn about it. However, in the three weeks that I worked with CIIP, I have learned so much about social justice and the importance of activism. I was able to learn about issues like unjust school policies, the war on drugs, and even conservation of resources from our weekly meetings and from my co-workers. I’m so glad that I have been able to learn about these issues and take part in an organization that promotes equity, like Centro SOL.

My boss has recently given me an additional project to work on over the summer. I think she’s beginning to trust me and my ability to be helpful in different projects. I will be a part of a research project with one of her colleagues. The project is meant to measure the trade-offs that political leaders make when implementing certain policies and how those decisions affect the Latino population. On top of these amazing opportunities, my Youthwork students will finally be coming in next week! I can’t wait to finally see them.

Fatima K HeadshotFATIMA KAMARA | MOMCARES

This week has been kind of rough and draining for me, but I’m incredibly grateful for all it has granted me. I gained a sense of independence from my boss Ms. Ana early in the week that truly caught me by surprise. At first, it was a bit scary because although I’d like to be able to say I know how to everything as her intern, the honest answer is that I do not. However, I’m here to listen and learn, and part of learning means asking questions when you are not sure and recognizing when you need help. To hear my boss say that she trusts me was really reassuring to me and I appreciate the space that working independently gives me to build my confidence in my abilities and back it up with my work.

With this confidence, I let go of all my anxiety regarding possibly saying or doing the wrong things and just went for it, while maintaining mindfulness and staying genuine. I went on to make some phone calls to some of the mothers we’ve been supporting, distribute some promotional flyers to our neighboring shops and organizations, and more. The most rewarding part of this week, however, was attending the volunteer training session that MOMCares hosted for anyone in the community who wants to be a part of something as magical as supporting mothers as they bear new life into this world. In this space, I listened to several women’s “Why” concerning the reason they do the work that they do respectively and the reason they want to contribute their support to MOMCares. From this, I saw firsthand that many are affected by maternal and infant morbidity and/or mortality in our community, as those afflicted are often their sisters, daughters, nieces, cousins, and friends. This experience made me hold the work that we do this summer to an even higher regard as I too began to think about my “Why” and how to utilize it as motivation to persevere through these heavy emotions. I’m excited to witness the magic that unfolds throughout the next couple of weeks, especially because next week is the launch of our program for young mothers, a program that exemplifies how those feelings of grief and empathy can be turned into love and support for mothers who may need it most.

Jack S HeadshotJACK SIMONE | CORNER TEAM BOXING

I frequently get lost in my work when I feel like there is a lot to do. This has been a theme throughout my whole life and has been a challenge for this past week at Corner Team. With only a week left until the YouthWorks kids arrive it is certainly crunch time as far as program development and other logistics planning goes. For this reason, I am often glued to my desk trying to do as much as possible. But at the same time, the boxing training that I have been doing with our head coach Michael has been ramping up and requires a bit more time. Through a lot of this week, I felt guilty giving my time to it because I really enjoy it and thus think of it as something that I do for pleasure. That being said it is an important piece of professional development for me. Without being knowledgeable about the ins and outs of the sport my STEM programs will come from a far less informed place. Also bearing in mind that I’ll be working with young people who will be asking lots of questions I would feel a lot better having a strong base in boxing knowledge to pull from. By the end of this week and into the coming weeks I have begun looking at the training as a key piece of my job rather than a perk of it. This has allowed me to not feel guilty when going to box and also has kept me more mindful about how the training I’m doing with Michael will help to inform my lessons. This has meant that I have to do a little bit more work from home because my desk time at the gym is more limited but I couldn’t be happier. I am spending far more time interacting with the patrons of the gym and feel like a piece of our larger community there.

Angela Z HeadshotANGELA ZHU | ST. AMBROSE HOUSING AID CENTER

On Wednesday, I went canvassing in the Harwood neighborhood to spread the word about the HUBS program, which provides housing repairs to seniors. The first woman who answered her door said that she was 65 — just old enough to qualify for our program. It looked like she could use some repairs too. Parts of the ceiling were cracked, and some floor tiles were coming off. However, she told us that she most needed help with paying rent. She and her husband had been homeless twice before and had to accept a run-down apartment that they could barely afford with their Social Security checks. Some days they went without food to keep up with bills. I didn’t know what to say. We gave her the contact information to the Franciscan Center, which provides free meals daily. It was less than a mile from her apartment, but her feet dragged across the floor when she walked, and I hoped that they could deliver to her address.

Another day, I went with my supervisor to visit a senior who was looking to get repairs for her house. Just a few minutes into our meeting, she shared that her husband had recently passed away. The doctors found that he had Stage 4 cancer. She choked up and wiped away tears from her eyes. Even as she showed us the mold in her bathroom and leaks in her roof, I doubted that was the most pressing problem in her life. There was the bedroom she rarely went into because her husband wanted to spend his last hours there and not in the hospital. There was the furniture they purchased together as she proudly stated that they had paid off all the loans on them. My supervisor gave her a hug at the end of our meeting and recommended some group counseling services, but there was not much else we could do. This week I’ve come to realize that while St. Ambrose provides a highly needed service for people in Baltimore, it’s not a panacea for their issues. For now, I try to support my supervisor in her work as much as possible and pray for the things that a roof repair can’t fix.

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