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Albany program helps refugee women learn to stay healthy in U.S.

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Fatima Salih, a refugee who arrived in Albany final yr, waited greater than a decade to be reunited together with her husband, who left their native Sudan in 2004 and made it to the United States by way of Libya, Italy, France and Malta in 2014.

Relatively talking, adjusting to life in America has been a breeze, Salih stated, in half due to a collaboration between Whitney Young Health and the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants in Albany. Through it, the 30-year-old has discovered how to store for and prepare dinner greens she’s by no means seen earlier than, how to use the WIC checks she is allotted to purchase them, how to use health insurance coverage, and what providers she is legally entitled to obtain.


“They make life easy for me,” Salih stated by way of Rana Bader, a peer educator at St. Peter’s Hospital who speaks Arabic and English and was at Whitney Young Health Center on Monday to translate.

On the final day of the brand new program’s first eight-week session, a half-dozen women discovered about consuming healthy via being pregnant, the advantages of breast-feeding for each mom and youngster and breast most cancers screenings. They have been inspired to get a main care physician and OB/GYN, to get annual physicals and mammograms. Afterward, they celebrated with a meal of tofu and greens over curried rice — all components they will buy via WIC, or the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. The program is focused at women who, like Salih, are pregnant or have youngsters beneath 5 years previous.

Katie Palmer and Kelsey Munn of Whitney Young and Amy Pabbi of USCRI structured the program with an emphasis on encouraging the women to look after themselves. Most attendees have been from Syria, the place the tradition doesn’t stress self-care for women, Pabbi stated.

Rateba Afara, an older lady visiting the category on Monday — she was the mother-in-law of one of many college students — stated she solely went to the physician for 2 causes: when she discovered she was pregnant, and when she delivered a child.

The program was hatched by Palmer and Pabbi, every newcomers to their organizations final yr. Pabbi, who oversees medical case administration for USCRI, realized her shoppers typically didn’t use their WIC checks to full benefit as a result of they did not understand how to. When she began speaking to Palmer, the WIC director at Whitney Young, they realized the women wanted assist with much more.

“It went from, ‘We have to be able to help them use their WIC checks’ to ‘We need to help them live here,'” Palmer stated.

USCRI helped about 600 refugees resettle in Albany final yr, Pabbi stated. She didn’t have numbers but for this yr, however current information analyses exhibits that refugee admissions have decreased nationally in the wake of President Trump’s threats to bar immigration from seven majority Muslim nations. Federal courts have blocked the president’s tried ban, and in reality Albany and different cities proceed to obtain some refugees from these areas.

Pabbi and Palmer began the program with an Arabic-speaking group, as a result of that they had a prepared translator, Bader’s sister. (Bader crammed in on Monday.) Other teams who could also be focused for future packages are those that converse Burmese, Farsi or Dari, and Swahili. Whitney Young Health can also think about a Spanish-language program, although USCRI wouldn’t take part, because it doesn’t have refugees from Spanish-speaking nations.

The first program appeared to go additional even than its creators hoped, serving as an prolonged welcome mat to the refugee women.

Lubna al Shirfi, a 32-year-old lady from Syria, was already very knowledgeable concerning the health subjects on Monday’s agenda. But the program has made her extra assured, she stated, as a result of she obtained info instantly from WIC, she stated.

She praised New York for the best way it has accepted her household.

“When I came here, I feel really that I am safe,” al Shirfi stated by way of Bader. She has felt extra snug in Albany than in Jordan, the place she lived for 4 years and the place her household was attacked, because it had been in Syria.

She typically has nightmares that she is not in the United States.

Fairouz Atwah, who additionally got here right here from Syria, echoed her sentiments: “We are living with good people here,” she stated.

chughes@timesunion.com518-454-5417@hughesclaire


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