YOUTH & FAMILY WELLNESS

DARIUS THOMPSON - SHEPHERD'S CLINIC, WEEK 3

“How do you reconcile the practice of western medicine, in which you were trained to become a licensed physician, with the ideas of alternative medicine, for which you strongly advocate?” we asked Dr. U, an internal medicine doctor at the Shepherd’s Clinic, who along with Dr. L helped bring the Joy Wellness Center into existence.

The Joy Wellness Center at the Shepherd’s Clinic is a volunteer driven nonprofit organization that offers programming that aims to teach patients how to better take care of themselves and maintain a healthy, balanced, self-empowering lifestyle. The Joy Wellness Center offers nutrition classes, yoga instruction, acupuncture and massage sessions, diabetes management, smoking cessation and breathing classes, and a slew of other amazing services. If a patient with hypertension walked in to the Shepherd’s Clinic, he or she would likely leave the clinic with a drug prescription, whereas if that same patient walked into the Joy Wellness Center, he or she might leave with a detailed exercise guide and nutrition handbook.

This past Tuesday during lunch Dr. U, Lucinda - another CIIP intern -, and I were raving about how amazing it is that the Shepherd’s Clinic and Joy Wellness Center exists and what a rarity it is to find an organization that provides such quality integrative health care free of charge. Dr. U is a die-hard fan of integrative medicine, which is why she helped create the Wellness center back in the early 2000s. We started to discuss how in western culture the effectiveness of alternative practices like acupuncture and breathing exercises is not so easily accepted. When asked the question proposed in the beginning of this entry, Dr. U explained how there is healing potential in everything. When her patients express critiques of alternative medicine, she acknowledges their reservations and then invites them to give it a try. There are many ways to go about treating someone, and there are some issues that can be healed without the use of medicine.

Dr. U shared a story about how a patient, Debbie, came into the clinic very distraught and combative. Debbie had gotten into a few arguments with several of the workers at the clinic and was resistant to seeing Dr. U. When Debbie arrived in Dr. U’s room, before the examination began, Dr. U invited Debbie to join her in a breathing exercise. With each inhale Dr. U called Debbie a flower, and with each exhale Debbie was to visualize herself being refreshed. Debbie had been fighting personal demons for several years and had been internally punishing herself for failing to overcome those demons. The day before the visit, Debbie had lost another battle to those demons. Her self-esteem had diminished and she grew defensive. In the midst of such deep self doubt, being called a flower by Dr. U moved Debbie to tears. Debbie became one of Dr. U’s best patients.

There’s healing potential in everything. I remembered this as a recently unemployed patient later that day talked about how sparking up brief conversations with people at the grocery store kept him from feeling worthless. I remembered this as another patient complemented my coworker’s smile and shared a story about how a smile from a stranger prevented him from going through with hanging himself. As we were closing down the clinic for the day, I remembered this as my coworkers and I talked about how yogurt can be used to treat yeast infections.

CHIJIOKE ORANYE - LIVING CLASSROOMS, WEEK 3

It’s the 3rd week of my internship. Everything feels in place…for the most part. I now have a set schedule, Tuesday through Friday from 12-6 and Saturdays from 9-3. My sleep schedule fits well with that of my work; it gives me extra time to review the progression of daily tasks my boss gives me. This way when I walk into the rec center at 12, I won’t be lost at what to do. More of the kids know my name, and I know more of theirs. It’s a great feeling to be able to call someone by their name, no matter how close or distant you are. I never really understood this importance in names till now, when I’m supervising 50 middle school students who make more noise than the bleachers of a Hopkins lacrosse game. Sometimes, the only thing these kids can hear is their name…sometimes. I’ve been stricter…not too strict. I had to let the kids know that Mr. Chi is fun and games, but Mr. Chi also means business. If you can crossover Mr. Chi, then break his ankles while doing it. But don’t waste time yelling that you can do it when it’s time to quiet down and head back for lunch. I’ve began to go out to the many Hispanic stores around Patterson Park and also talking to the Hispanic teenagers that come to use the open field.
However, I fear of complacency. I didn’t come to the Living Classrooms Foundation to fit in; I came to stand out through my dedication for the well-being of the kids. It’s not that easy. And I’ve learned from Reverend Glen Huber that good intentions mean nothing, especially if the good is fueled by ignorance. I feel like before I impose the imitation of any projects like my impending African dance club, I have to listen more, and see what the kids actually need, and see if my agenda falls in line with their necessities.

EILEEN RAMIREZ - ESPERANZA CENTER, WEEK 3

With watery eyes, she turned to me and said, “She’s ashamed of me because I’m Latina”.

On a rare quiet Wednesday afternoon, the other intern and I found ourselves with nothing to do but talk with the clinic’s administrator. She’s a full of life Colombian woman who does the job of three people on a daily basis and somehow manages to find every opportunity to crack a joke. One of my favorite parts of the internship is seeing her interact with our nurse practitioner who’s always misplacing his things.

(Picture a tall, older white guy trying to prove the little blonde Latin woman wrong on whether or not he remembered to date his papers, all while speaking Spanish. It’s my daily source of entertainment.)

So imagine how I felt to hear her say her half-Colombian, half-American daughter is ashamed of her for being Latina.

For being an immigrant.

For not speaking perfect English.

And as she continued to share this story, I couldn’t help but think that this has been happening to immigrant mothers for a very long time. When I told my own mother, she wasn’t even surprised.

You see, I came along a little late in the assimilation to America game. My dad had been here for six years and my mom and my brothers had been here for five by the time I was born. So while I get the occasional phone call of “Eileen, how do you write this name? Is this the proper way to say this sentence? Do you know what this word means,” I never had to go with my mom to her ESL classes after school.

I never had to move four times in five years before finally getting a house.

I never went a year without seeing my dad because he moved to the US first to set everything up.

And I most certainly never had to leave all my family in the Dominican Republic to move to a different country with a differently language.

My brothers did that. My mom did that. My dad had it a little better – all five of his siblings came with him, but still. My family made so many sacrifices to make a life in this country. It wasn’t even like they had a bad life in Santo Domingo – quite the contrary. Yet still, they gave it all up for a hope of something better here.

And while I wasn’t around when things were really bad, when maybe I would be ashamed to be seen with my non-English-speaking mother or admit I came from a Hispanic background, I can’t fathom ever disregarding that. I don’t know how you take something like someone you love leaving everything they know to go to a new place and provide you with a better life… and turn it into something to be ashamed of.

Being the daughter of an immigrant is nothing to hide, it’s something to be proud of.


"Soy lo que me enseñó mi padre,
el que no quiere a su patria no quiere a su madre,
Soy américa Latina,
un pueblo sin piernas pero que camina”
- Calle 13

AYESHA SHIBLI - MARYLAND OUT OF SCHOOL TIME NETWORK, WEEK 3

When you see a doctor, you probably expect that he or she is not afraid of blood—something that would be very disconcerting if you were to go with an open wound or something. Similarly, you would hope that the people you trust to educate your children are not afraid of children. However, your doctor’s not devoid of fear, she knows that there’s always a possibility that a single wrong move could create a lasting consequence. So she’s careful. Working with children is kind of like that. It’s not that I’m afraid of children, it’s just that—in all honesty, it’s kind of a scary job. Someone trusts me with their child, and everything I do is observed by twenty sets of young eyes.

As my first week as a site counselor draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on two major developments in my internship this summer. First, I have officially graduated from the training phase, and second, no amount of training actually prepares you for going out in the field, as it were. This is not to say the training wasn’t helpful—rather, it makes me wish for the controlled space of training, where you only deal with theoretical instances of children mashing bananas on the cafeteria tables during breakfast or the summer camp counselor dreamland notion of every child getting into your morning welcome song.

The very real feeling of mashed banana, however, clears all that theoretical stuff right up. And the stern teacher voice reprimanding the mess, that comes out of your box of tricks (that you didn’t think would actually work, but thankfully does) reminds you that it is going to be a long day.

And yet, when the energy starts flowing it doesn’t feel like a long day at all. Each site has different setups and schedules based on their counselors, for our site my co-counselors and I split the students up by age engaged with split ourselves one per unit. My favorite part of the day is the morning welcome—a chance to speak with my unit and check in with each of them.

As the leader of the Red Group, or rising second graders, I have a pretty tough crowd to impress each morning. What I noticed about my students, unlike the students in the other units, was that they didn’t come in fully hyped with energy. My co-counselors’ units around me did exercises to cool down the energy and prepare for the day. I however began my morning trying to hype my students up. In addition to being a SummerREADS counselor, I am also a camp counselor for Camp Kesem. One of things to warn you about this magical camp for kids whose parents have or have had cancer is that they train you with an arsenal of camp songs that never. ever. escape. your. memory. If you haven’t heard or performed the camp song, Get Loose, consider yourself lucky. Though if you have, you’re even luckier because you know. You know how they’ll all stare as you act sillier and sillier and finally crack a smile and “get loose”. The first morning I tried it I heard a lot of groans. I didn’t let it get me down especially since the next morning they sat down singing the song softly to themselves. Point Ms. Shibli.