Coming into this service year, I was eager to learn about advocacy through working with immigrants and refugees as a Health Access Liaison. Despite serving remotely due to the pandemic, I have gained a deeper understanding of what it means to advocate with humility and compassion.
I learned that respecting the autonomy of each person is crucial to advocacy. With every phone call, I seek to understand what is most important to the client - whether it be treating their dental need immediately, taking care of their child’s well-being, or keeping their work commitments for the week. While my goal is to ensure that clients are connected with the care that they need in a timely manner, I realized the importance of understanding their priorities and emphasizing their choice. Because I cannot be present at clients’ dental appointments, many of which are their first in the United States, I encourage clients to communicate their desires regarding future appointments and advocate for themselves at the clinic.
In my role, I also learned the necessity of communicating to clients what they can expect. Earlier in the pandemic, NSC arranged transportation for clients so that they would be able to safely arrive at their appointments. As we began to shift away from providing rides, many clients expressed the desire for continued assistance. Despite wanting to fulfill their requests, I recognized that helping clients learn the route for future appointments was necessary for a sustainable program. I communicated to clients what the health team could and could not provide, and offered one-time escorts to their appointments at Penn Dental. Making myself available through the phone and helping clients become familiar with public transit, I gradually found a balance between providing direct assistance and encouraging clients toward self-sufficiency.
In the process of working with clients from diverse experiences and backgrounds, I developed stronger communication skills and learned balance in many aspects of service. Moving forward, I hope to continue advocating for our clients in a way that allows them to feel both heard and empowered.
Image 1: Nationalities Service Center logo
Image 2: The doors to Penn Dental
This blog was written by Celine Jo who is serving as a
Health Access Liasion with Nationalities Service Center