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My firm belief is that you cannot effectively advocate for someone unless you have taken the opportunity to speak with them and learn their story. My time at Gateway Community Services and within NHC has reinforced this belief.
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I grew up in Central Florida where annual hurricanes caused people to dash to the nearest grocery store for bread and bottled water. I worked three jobs my senior year of college while going to classes full time. I was serving in Americorps just this past year when a wildfire struck California, and I assisted with disaster response. I felt prepared for anything.
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How are homeless individuals to be quarantined? How can we check who our clients have been in contact with? How can we make sure the homeless population actually gets tested?
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One of the recurring themes throughout the year has been growth. As I mentioned, I lived the typical, busy college student schedule before entering the service term. Once I started serving at my host site, I realized that this was no longer needed to feel “accomplished” or “busy”. Sometimes a complicated fifteen-minute encounter trying to help a patient who is uninsured, speaks a different language than me, and has just heard a life altering diagnosis of diabetes is enough to exhaust someone. There was not a textbook or syllabus to guide in these interactions, so I quickly had to grow and be confident I could do my part efficiently and correctly.
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Focusing on the process rather than just completing tasks in position descriptions helped me feel more connected and purposeful in my role. And it’s pretty simple: spending time getting to know clients through conversation or learning basic greetings in their language, or connecting with case managers to address together the hardships families are facing.
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