Psychotherapist, community health specialist and former refugee
“Despite my lonesome arrival upon the soil of this great country without the support of a tribe, knowledge or understanding of the English language, or an understanding of cultural norms, I managed to make the most of my opportunities to become the person I am today.
“A refugee resettlement agency helped me during my first three months in Dallas, Texas. Texas was a tough place, and far from my relatives and friends. I couldn’t see myself succeeding in Dallas, so I moved to Richmond, Virginia, where I found a job at the University of Richmond while also attending Virginia Commonwealth University. During my undergrad years, I was able to volunteer with refugee resettlement organizations, and the American Red Cross as an interpreter, community resources navigator and community disaster educator.
“My desire to help refugees is what motivated me to graduate from Columbia University’s School of Social Work and School of Public Health with dual master’s degrees. In just a few years, I went from a refugee in need of assistance to being a leading voice within the refugee and immigrant community in the fight against health inequality. As a community health specialist, I work on health education, community resources navigator support, capacity building, community organizing and adult mental health first aid. I also work as a psychotherapist providing one-on-one therapy to refugee and immigrant community members who are struggling with mental illness.
“Engaging in meaningful work always brightens my day. There is nothing better than getting up in the morning and knowing that you are making a difference in people’s lives whether it is the youth who is struggling with mental illness and need comfort or someone who is going through domestic violence and seeking a safe environment or parents who are desperate to find addiction treatment for their child. How can you be hopeless when you are the only hope to many people who are facing multiple problems that are beyond their control?
“I believe that we find hope in others’ progress, improvement and success when we allow ourselves to see hope. It always gives me hope when the people I work with regain their ability to change themselves and improve their lives.”