Discovering the Goodness of People

Posted on: April 26, 2021Philadelphia

Nationalities Service Center logo - an orange circle with a white line drawing of a bridgeAs a Clinic Liaison, I am my refugee clients’ bridge to Medicaid, primary care screenings, and follow-up care. Starting this role in the midst of the pandemic, I have been almost entirely “virtual” since I haven’t been allowed into hospitals or clinics with our clients. This means that instead of meeting clients at their homes to escort them to their initial health appointments, I order them Lyft rides and call to make sure they are able to locate their driver. While this may sound straightforward, it became extremely complicated when clients were not English literate or fluent and could not read signs or license plates around them to help them navigate streets or clinics. 

As a result, I sometimes found myself deferring to the people of Philadelphia to help. I instructed clients to put our call on speaker-phone and let me speak to the nearest nurse, security guard, or person on the street to see if they could help with navigation. I was pleasantly surprised to realize that people were especially willing to help us when they understood that our client couldn’t speak English. Despite needing to stay masked and 6 feet apart, the people just going about their day around our clients were always willing to lend a hand.

The Wyss Wellness Center exterior photo showing stairs and ramp to entrance
The Wyss Wellness Center, pictured above, is a community health
center based out of Jefferson Family Medicine Associates,
where NSC sends a majority of new arrival refugees for their initial screenings.
Their new location based in South Philadelphia, increases
accessibility to healthcare for many of our clients who live there.

In one instance , I was (telephonically) helping a mother with her four children pay for a prescription at a busy pharmacy; I could hear her kids running around and a lot of people waiting to get their prescription. It happened to be her first time counting American change and it turned out that she was a few dollars short. We decided it would be best if she could come back another time to pick up the medication since it wasn’t emergent. However, as she was leaving, we heard a woman in the pharmacy stop her and offer to pay for the prescription. 

On a separate occasion, I was working with a client who regularly went to physical therapy appointments for a new prosthetic leg he was receiving. Due to a bad snowstorm that day, we weren't able to offer him a Lyft ride nor were we able to escort him to his appointment. When I relayed this to the clinic, their medical assistant, who had no connection to NSC, actually offered to pick him up from his house (about a 7 minute walk away) and bring him to the appointment. 

Similarly, I was scheduling a different client’s first appointment at the Wyss Center, a new clinic that had opened near her home. This was a really exciting development for this client since she was preliterate and has trouble navigating Philadelphia to get to her appointments. The community health worker with whom I was coordinating her care actually offered to walk over to her house to bring her over to the appointment even though that was not one of her responsibilities, since she knew how important this was to our client’s care.

As such, one of my largest takeaways from my position has been an unexpected but beautiful consequence of working remotely: good people are everywhere and the spirit of collaboration brings them together.


About the Author:

Shruthi Voleti

Pronouns: she/her

Host Site: Nationalities Services Center

Shruthi attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she studied Public Health and Nutritional Biochemistry. She's excited to immerse herself in a diverse group of people at the Nationalities Service Center! She's hoping she can pick up some Spanish and Arabic this year. Additionally, she's looking forward to learning more about healthcare access in urban settings for underserved groups.

Host Site

1216 Arch Street
1216 Arch Street