When the pandemic effectively shut down most of our county and we were not able to see our friends, family, or loved ones, a lot of us did not know how to manage our new lives. We lost the ability to walk into our favorite coffee shops each morning, eat cake with our grandmas on their birthdays, throw our graduation caps in the air after four years of schooling, and so much more. Celebrations, nights out, smiles, laughter- they were all lost, or at least put on long-term hold. Watching the news with my mother and sister each night in our small town, I knew others had much more to lose, such as their jobs, their houses, electricity- things a lot more essential than grabbing a beer with our friends on a Friday night. After applying and being accepted into the National Health Corps Philadelphia, I knew I would be in a great position to better help those in need. I had been to the City of Brotherly Love before but lacked the knowledge if its history: Philadelphia was the poorest large city for years. With this in mind, I knew there would be ample opportunities to make a difference and positively impact the lives of those in and around Philadelphia.
As I started my service year, my first ‘assignment’ was to reach out to a long list of high-risk patients, ask them a few questions, and determine what community resources to connect them to. I promptly made a resource list for the county I was serving, including resources for veterans, education, food, counseling, housing, etc. I then started reaching out to the patients and giving them contact information to community resources that they could take advantage of. As I listened to the patients and their stories, I knew what I was doing was a lot more than just giving phone numbers or addresses to community help; I was giving them hope. Many did not get a stimulus check in time to pay rent, had kids they could not provide food for, lacked adequate housing, or had their utilities shut off. In the time of the pandemic, when we thought we had lost so much, I reflect on others that are not as fortunate to have a steady income, a bed to sleep in at night, or dinner on the table seven days a week. I felt so connected to something bigger than just me, learning from these patients while providing them with necessary relief. I will not be able to help every person in and around Philadelphia, but I sure am glad I met the patients that I did so far.
Although serving during a pandemic looks different than most years with not being able to meet others in the program or patients I am serving, I am grateful for what I have learned so far from my patients, peers, and mentors. I focus on what I have and have been able to do, rather than what I have ‘lost’ and have not been able to do. I thank myself for applying to NHC Philadelphia, NHC Philadelphia for providing these programs and positions, and the patients for never giving up hope, even during a pandemic.
Picture 1 caption (Philadelphia): The City of Brotherly Love during the holidays
Picture 2 caption (my host site): My host site, just 40 minutes outside the city
This Blog was written by Alee Pettit who is serving at Norristown Health Center.