Beautiful Chaos

8:30 am Arrive at 1216 Arch Street. Lower the music blaring from your headphones to greet Stephen at the front desk.

8:32 am Ride the elevator up to the 4th floor

8:33 am Exit the elevator into the lobby of Nationalities Service Center

8:34 am Chaos

Pure and utterly beautiful chaos. This is probably the most accurate depiction of the lobby at my host site, Nationalities Service Center (NSC), a resettlement agency that provides different services to immigrants and refugees in the greater Philadelphia area. From the minute that you step foot into NSC, you will be bombarded with an assortment of different languages, colors, sounds and smells. In the front of the lobby, you’re likely to find our Congolese clients, of all ages, conversing in French or Swahili like they’ve known each other for years, while our Syrian clients gather near the classrooms and gossip and laugh at my attempt to speak what little Arabic I know to them. Although most tend to interact with those who are similar to them, there is something that binds all of our clients together regardless of language or country of origin, and that is their humanity and sense of responsibility towards one another.

I see this humanity displayed daily during my interactions with clients. A Syrian client offers to hold the house keys for his Congolese neighbor until she gets back to NSC from her appointment, because she does not want to misplace them. The next day, a five year old Burmese girl steps in front of a Pakistani boy who is about to run in to the street. Or, my favorite memory, when five Iraqi women took to the dance floor at our annual NSC Thanksgiving party and taught a group of Congolese and Ethiopian men how to do the ‘dabke,’ a traditional Arab dance.      

"NSC clients dancing the 'dabke,' a traditional Arab dance, at the annual NSC Thanksgiving Celebration."
Taken by Ashley LaBonde of Wide Eyed Studios.

As Clinic Liaison at NSC, I serve with the Health and Wellness team and coordinate primary and specialty care for my clients at three of the seven refugee clinics that NSC works with. This position consists of daily client interactions, most of which happen when I am out in the field escorting clients to their appointments if they are not familiar with the area, or need assistance with registration or social service navigation. My position has allowed me to develop deeply personal relationships with my clients, and through my interactions with them, my concept of service and what it means to me continues to transform. To me service means standing in solidarity with those who are marginalized or oppressed. To walk alongside people, and not in front or behind them. Service means being able to amplify the voices of those who are not heard and to be an advocate for those who are denied basic human rights, such as healthcare or refuge. Serving with the National Health Corps at NSC has not only altered the way that I view service, but has challenged my concept of humanity. There is a oneness to humanity, and we as people are bound to each other in a way that allows us to care for and promote the growth of one another, which is so clearly displayed in the interactions between my clients on a daily basis. When we recognize the responsibility and the humanity that we owe to one another, we create healthier, thriving communities.

This blog post was written by NHC Philadelphia member Talia Charidah.
Talia serves as a Clinic Liasion at Nationalities Service Center.