Many people believe it is easy for immigrants to come to America and begin a new life, better than they had in their country. There really are no select group of words to describe the challenges immigrants face. Each person and family have their own unique experiences. Immigrants experience language and cultural barriers that we do not think about. Throughout this year Hope In a Storm, has been able to help immigrants navigate through some of the these barriers by advocating on their behalf, as individuals. One of the many ways we have helped is by being at their side as they receive medical needs and make sure they understand processes.
Most immigrants work and have medical insurance, but our medical system is different from what they have known in their country. The simple knowledge of re-ordering a prescription is new to them much less the more complex system of navigating hospital corridors to get various x-rays and exams. I took Kim for an exam her doctor ordered. She had to go to a hospital for an x-ray. It took us two attempts to get directions to the correct floor. On one floor, I assisted Kim at the reception desk where she had to sign in and answer questions that were in English. I assisted with some but other questions we did not answer because they meant nothing to her. In her country they don’t keep family health history.
We were then directed to go to another floor for the x-ray exam. As we entered the room, I asked the technician, that was taking the x-ray, to explain to Kim what was being x-rayed and what the doctor was looking for. The technician graciously used an ipad to connect with an online interpreter. Through the interpreter the technician realized Kim did not understand what x-ray was being taken or why. Kim said “the doctor told me I had to have it taken”. After explaining to Kim, through the interpreter, what she was x-raying and what the doctor’s orders requested, the technician turned to me and thanked me for advocating for Kim. The technician said she would not want to have an x-ray taken without knowing why. As Kim and I walked from the hospital, in broken English, Kim thanked me and said, “I would not had known how to get to that office without you”. We both laughed.
Another major area in which Hope in a Storm has become involved is fighting Human Trafficking.
Many of our immigrants come to America through a diversity or lottery Visa. The immigrant, who does not understand the American financial system and doesn’t speak English, relies on an immigration “agent” in their native country who has connections to “managers” in America. The managers are also from the immigrant’s home country, although they now live and work in America. The actual cost for an immigrant to get correct documents, medical exams and vaccinations, US Embassy VISA approval, and transportation to America could be between $2,000 and $3,000. However, the manager has immigrants sign a contract before coming to America, and ends up charging them $18,000 to $20,000, sometimes even upwards of $30,000. Most contracts require the immigrant to make large payments until the amount is paid off. These people work very hard and long hours and are forced to pay, in cash, half of their paycheck to the manager. (That is, of course, after racking up even more charges as they wait stateside for their work permits to be approved, relying on their manager-often-turned-landlord who charges inflated rates for every roll of toilet paper, bite of food, or bottle of water the immigrant uses.) This is known as Human Trafficking, and it is a form of slavery that is difficult to escape. Hope In a Storm works to educate the immigrants concerning their rights, and to collaborate with other agencies in the community and state who are fighting human trafficking such as the African agency, NISAA.
Mary and her family are from Africa. Their family “manager” was taking half of their pay checks. If they said they needed the money for food and rent, the manager became angry and threatening, making them pay anyway. Hope In a Storm met with Mary and her husband. With HIS by their side, Mary and her husband called NISAA and arranged an meeting. After a recent session with NISAA, and understanding further their rights, Mary, grabbed my hand and smiling said “Thank you”. She understood they did not have to give half their paycheck to a manager. The law was on their side and HIS was there also. Mary and her husband would be able to pay their rent, feed and cloth their family and have HIS walking beside them. Knowing HIS would be there to help her and her husband gave their family a more secure feeling of home.
Become a part of the helping hand to the many families like Kim and Mary’s by contributing to Hope In a Storm through a monetary donation. Your donation would be used to help people who are working hard to make a better life for themselves and future generations.