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Mary Hanna

Nashville TN - Nashville International Center for Empowerment (NICE)

Mary Hanna | 2017 Summer Project Snapshot

Nashville, TN | Nashville International Center for Empowerment

Imagine you have moved out of your home country. To make matters worse, imagine you have been forced out of your country. You now live in a foreign country—one in which you barely speak the official language, know absolutely no one, and are still struggling to learn and understand the culture. Now, imagine you are sick. Imagine your child is sick. You have been living in that country for less than three months. You have no driver’s license. Even if you had one, where would you go for help? And how would you pay for treatment? If this sounds like a stressful situation to you, you’re not alone. This is the reality for thousands of refugees and immigrants in the United States. Even after enduring the unimaginable to arrive in the “Land of Opportunity,” many still lack the knowledge necessary to help them survive here.

This summer, I worked on my Ingram project at the Nashville International Center for Empowerment (NICE). Because NICE is an affiliate of ECDC, when a refugee arrives in Nashville, NICE provides them with an initial 90-day period of service. Included in that service is help from a health case worker, if needed. Therefore, many of NICE’s clients are dependent on the health staff for their most crucial needs. Very often, these needs are only the immediate ones. So, what does a client do after their 90 days of service? Dependence on others is not inherently bad; the harm comes when it hinders all potential of self-sufficiency. My main job this summer was to create an extensive health education curriculum for the health department. The health staff felt they needed some way to educate their clients. I compiled information from the various subjects that my supervisor believed could benefit clients most. The curriculum I made encompasses subjects from exercise to visiting the doctor to sexually transmitted infections. The final product includes eleven lessons. When necessary, the health program creates educational sessions focusing on subjects of demonstrated need for their current clients. These sessions are sometimes held during NICE’s cultural orientation classes and other times at the health screening events. The health department’s lessons will now be taken directly from this new curriculum, saving the staff time in preparation.

While spending my summer composing a curriculum to educate others, I ironically learned much of that information for the first time too. Of course, most people understand how complicated health care can be in the United States, so I often pushed myself to imagine what it would be like for a newcomer. Throughout my time working on this project, I was constantly reminded of the importance of self-sufficiency, particularly in refugees and immigrants. Good nonprofit organizations are able to help with immediate needs of the population they serve, but what makes an organization great—and truly helpful—is the ability to simultaneously address immediate needs and long term goals. My hope is that this curriculum will allow NICE to be helpful to their clients by showing them how to take control of their health in a new country. I am not expecting the overall health of the refugee and immigrant communities in Nashville to drastically change as a result of my project, but if just one person learns something of use, I will be pleased with its impact.