Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Health department offers clinic for refugees


A small boy wailed as a nurse from the Warren County Health Department administered a shot Tuesday at the International Center of Kentucky, then was soothed by others in the room and a toy.

Following news that a huge volume of refugees were expected to arrive in Bowling Green in September, the Warren County Health Department provided an on-site clinic at the center offering refugees vaccinations, tuberculosis screening and blood drawing – procedures a refugee would need for a green card or to enroll in school.

Lana McChesney, a registered nurse at the health department, said staff overcame language barriers with the help of translators for the refugees, most of whom were Burmese. The clinic was an extension of the health department’s regular services.

“It’s been easy to overcome,” she said. “They’re very appreciative of what we’re providing them.”

Case manager Elda Chavez said about 42 refugees attended, along with another 40 at a similar event last week. The advantage of having a clinic at the center, she said, allows refugees to learn how the health department works while in their comfort zone and prepares them to be self-sufficient in the future.

“It’s something that minimizes the stress I believe,” she said.

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Ben Shing Lin, a case manager at the center, lent his skills as a translator and helped prepare documents. Burmese refugees, Shing Lin said, undergo a big shift after moving to Bowling Green from rural areas in Burma.

Shing Lin came to America as a Burmese refugee in May 2013. He said people don’t understand refugees and often think they are in the country illegally.

“Personally I want to encourage the Bowling Green community to learn more about refugees,” he said. “We are here legally.”

Shing Lin translated for Sea Mary, a Burmese refugee who came from a refugee camp in Thailand. She’s been in the U.S. for more than one month.

“I feel comfortable living here,” Shing Lin translated.

Her biggest challenge is communicating with others.

“I find a lot of difficulties to communicate,” she said.

“I feel more comfortable here compared to living in Thailand,” she said, adding that there wasn’t enough food and supplies in the camp and that refugees are not allowed to work.

As for her children, she said, she wants them to be educated and understand their rights so they can live a better life in a safe place.

“I just want a happy life here, and I want my children to be educated in the future,” she said.

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