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Healthcare Heroes: Former refugees fight COVID-19 in Georgia

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Over three weekends of mobile walk-up testing in Clarkston apartment complexes, the IRC-CORE team of former refugees—many of whom have previous medical experience—provided access to an incredible 814 self-administered tests, with interpretation available in more than 20 languages and dialects. We’re thrilled to introduce you to some of our amazing testers and community leaders—our Healthcare Heroes.

Our Healthcare Heroes—Robel, Omar and Christy at one of our Clarkston testing sites.

Photo: IRC Atlanta

Christy Nyeing

Christy Nyeing Photo: Core Response, Ellis Vener

20-year-old Christy Nyeing first came to America through the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program in February 2011 with her father and three younger siblings, after living in a refugee camp in Thailand for six years. While attending Clarkston High School, Christy was enrolled in the IRC in Atlanta’s Youth Futures afterschool program where she received homework help and college readiness support, including touring college campuses and assistance with applications. Now a naturalized U.S. citizen and sophomore at Georgia State University, Christy is majoring in Public Health and working full-time as a tester and Burmese interpreter for CORE at multiple COVID-19 testing sites around Atlanta, including the IRC-CORE mobile sites in her adopted hometown of Clarkston. In the future, Christy hopes to earn her Master’s in Public Health with a concentration in Global Health and her dream job is to work as a Health Educator in developing nations. “I love my job at CORE so much, I love my team so much,” shared Christy, “everyone is in the healthcare field and that’s what I want to do in the future.” We are incredibly proud of and grateful for her leadership in the fight against COVID-19 in Georgia. 

Robel Woldeab

Robel Woldeab Photo: IRC Atlanta

22-year-old Robel Woldeab has lived in America for only 11 months and already is making a positive impact in his new community! Originally from Eritrea, Robel came to Georgia with his five siblings in 2019 to reunite with their father, who was granted asylum in the U.S. seven years prior. The IRC in Atlanta helped the family when they first arrived and Robel quickly connected with Connect 2 Success Program Coordinator, Sharita Khatiwada, to create a plan to continue his education. Robel earned his diploma in Nursing from Asmara College of Health Sciences in Eritrea and is currently working with Ms. Sharita to have his transcripts evaluated, with the goal of earning his Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in the future. Thrilled to be working in the medical field again and building his experience, Robel is working full-time as a tester and Tigrinya/Amharic interpreter for CORE at multiple COVID-19 testing sites around Atlanta, including the IRC-CORE mobile sites in Clarkston. He wants to see more members of the Eritrean and Ethiopian communities to come out and get tested and wants his language skills to be utilized! “People say they are afraid of COVID-19,” he shared, “but they don’t get tested enough! You have to get tested and share correct information.” We are incredibly proud of and grateful for his leadership in the fight against COVID-19 in Georgia. 

Pravin Samal

Pravin Samal

Pravin Samal was born in a refugee camp in Nepal, the son of Bhutanese refugees. When he was 12, Pravin and his family were resettled by the IRC in Atlanta and began a new life in America. Now 22, Pravin is a pre-med student majoring in biology at Georgia State University with plans to become a doctor. He heard about the testing and interpretation job with CORE through a friend and was eager to sign up to gain hands on experience in the healthcare field. Fluent in Nepali, Hindi and English, Pravin also works as part of the IRC-CORE contact tracing team in DeKalb County. While he’s still undecided about the area of medicine he’d like to practice in—everything from family medicine to plastic surgery is a possibility—he’s grateful to be actively helping people in his community through his work with CORE. “It’s very important that everyone gets tested,” shared Pravin, “so if they are positive, they can quarantine, slow down the spread and save our community.” We are incredibly proud of and grateful for his leadership in the fight against COVID-19 in Georgia. 

Dr. Omar Aziz

Dr. Omar Aziz

Dr. Omar Aziz first came to Georgia through the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program in 2013 with his wife and two children, after living in Dubai for more than 12 years. A dentist in his native Iraq, Omar joined the IRC in Atlanta team in 2015 as an Arabic interpreter for our youth programs and in 2017 became our Student Support Coordinator, running our My New School program at DeKalb International Student Center. Now a naturalized U.S. citizen, Omar works with newly arrived refugee youth as they transition into American culture and ensures that parents are empowered to be involved in their children's education. Omar is currently serving as the Program Manager for the IRC-CORE DeKalb County testing project where he used his IRC connections to recruit, hire and train the diverse team of testers and interpreters from the community, and to determine the locations for the mobile testing sites. “Luxury is being healthy, not being wealthy,” shared Omar, “IRC is here to make this happen! Stay blessed, stay safe, and we look forward to welcoming you to our Clarkston testing sites.” With his ample medical background, Omar is a huge asset to the IRC-CORE partnership, and we are incredibly proud of and grateful for his leadership in the fight against COVID-19 in Georgia. 

“The CORE-IRC partnership—which focuses on ensuring that those staffing the testing sites reflect the community itself, so the services are linguistically and culturally competent—reaches community members that the traditional medical community may not reach as effectively,” said the IRC in Atlanta’s Deputy Director, Justin Howell. “This mobile testing along with contact tracing is critical for ensuring community members are aware of their status and take the necessary steps to keep themselves, their families, and their communities safe and healthy. Thanks to our new American neighbors who are working on the frontlines, day after day providing this testing, I believe we can and will crush this virus."

With positive feedback all round—from DeKalb County Board of Health to individuals being supported through contact tracing—the success of this first month has ensured this partnership will continue into the Fall. With more dates and locations soon to be confirmed, the next Clarkston mobile testing sites will be:

Thursday, Oct 1, from 1pm-7pm, and Friday, Oct 2 and Saturday, Oct 3, from 10am-4pm | Refugee Career Hub, 1019 Rowland St, Clarkston, GA 30021

Thursday, Oct 8, Friday, Oct 9 and Saturday, Oct 10, from 10am-4pm | Georgia State University-Clarkston Perimeter College, 3789 Memorial College Ave, Clarkston, GA 30021 

Thursday, Oct 15, Friday, Oct 16 and Saturday, Oct 17, from 10am-4pm | Kristopher Woods Apartments, 792 Jolly Ave S, Clarkston, GA 30021

Thursday, Oct 22, Friday, Oct 23 and Saturday, Oct 24, from 10am-4pm | 1500 Oak Apartments, 1500 Post Oak Dr, Clarkston, GA 30021

Thursday, Oct 29, Friday, Oct 30 and Saturday, Oct 31, from 10am-4pm | Indian Valley Apartments, 3536 Indian Creek Way, Clarkston, GA 30021

Pre-registration is strongly encouraged at: https://covid19.dph.ga.gov. On-site registration is also available.⁣

To learn more about the work of the IRC in Atlanta and for information on how you can get involved with the IRC as a donor or volunteer, please contact Development Manager, Kalie Lasiter, at Kalie.Lasiter [at] Rescue.org or 678-636-8941.

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