Week 11 – ¡Juntos, Sí Se Puedo!

Week 11 – ¡Juntos, Sí Se Puedo!

I remember when I was in 5th to like 6th grade my family doctor was this really tall Indian man. He was hilarious, and always referred to my dad as daddy. It made me laugh because I was in 6th grade and here was this man referring to another man as daddy. “If you have those sick feelings again always let daddy know.” Aside from that, I think that health center in general was decent for my family’s social identity. We are a very low income Mexican family.

This clinic was in the westside of Grand Rapids, where a lot of other Mexican and of other latino ethnicities would generally live (because it was low income as well). It wasn’t pleasant, to be honest I don’t think I will ever have a “pleasant” experience, the doctors always freak me out. But it kind of felt like “hey, we are all in the same boat together.” All us kids of these immigrated parents always had to have a translator and sometimes tried to be that translator. So I think that unifying social identity of a latino ethnicity made it alright for all families involved. Mom’s would always recognize each other and talk about the latest “chisme” (look it up), and the dads would talk about the Cruz Azul v. Club America soccer game, or something like that.

And that social identity, I think, very positively impacted those health trips. Because human connection is very important. Especially when you’re all in a country where you can constantly be scared and belittled. So it’s good to be there together. It made a stressful, long, and scary experience, into just a tiny bit less stressful, long, and scary experience.

Shout out to the Hispanic community of Grand Rapids! What are some unifying communities, in the area you come from, that maybe helped make a stressful situation a little less stressful for you or your family?

18 thoughts on “Week 11 – ¡Juntos, Sí Se Puedo!

  1. The unifying community for my family and I is my church community. Though the church that I go to, Lawrence Chinese Evangelical Church, is small, but it is made up of a group of people who have a passion for helping others, especially new college students and international scholars. Lawrence is a college town, so there are always people moving in and out. Many of the members of my church work at the university in town and are able to interact with these newcomers and introduce them to our church. It seems like every other week, my parents and other members of the church are planning something to welcome new students into our church, picking people up from the airport, or helping them get acquainted to Lawrence.

    I remember when I first moved to Lawrence from Japan, my family was introduced to my church. Transitioning to a new life in a different country in a different city was an extremely stressful situation for my parents and I. Because my father works at the university, he was able to get to know a few members from our church. From that point, the members of the church took my family under their wing and took care of us until we got completely settled down. Now we have taken on that role to help others whenever we can.

  2. In my community you really only find one type of person. Christian individuals with blond hair and blue eyes. Growing up here surrounded by churches and the christian faith often made me feel out of place as a jewish woman.
    In health care however, I never felt out of place because all of my doctors were jewish. It was very comforting to be around people, especially when your life is in their hands, who understood what medical treatments were acceptable in your eyes.
    In general, I believe having individuals who understand you religious background being health care providers can have a huge impact.
    Weather that be a christian who has studied judaism or any person having a deeper understanding of a culture outside their own.
    This will make them better health care providers and also make their community more comfortable and trusting in them.

  3. I am also Hispanic and come from a low-income home, so I definitely relate! My grandparents came to Michigan from Mexico, and so I have been exposed to the Mexican culture all of my life. However, the town we live in is very lacking in diversity. A very, very small proportion of the community is Hispanic. Often, it was hard to find others outside of our family that understood our situation. Also, since my grandparents do not speak or write English perfectly, I have witnessed some events where my grandparents were taken advantage of as a result of the language barrier. Luckily, this has not occurred as much in healthcare, but there were some instances when the doctors did not communicate as well as they should have to my grandparents. However, having the community we have of supportive family members and friends helps to provide understanding and reliability.

  4. Vinny, thanks for your post. It was really interesting to hear about your background and experiences. One unifying community for me is my church family – they encourage, support, challenge, and confront me as necessary. The great thing about community is the fact that it is not reliant on the mere merit of one individual but rather the collective efforts of a group of people that collaborate to make everyone’s lives better.

  5. I grew up in a white, conservative town where I was the only girl of color. Needless to say, there was hardcore bias all around me. Unfortunately I never found a “safe” spot within my community where I “fit in.”
    I found my place away from home near my temple. It always surprises me the difference of a diverse community can have on human beings. When I switched from my childhood town to Ann Arbor, it was relaxing to see so much diversity and how different people’s minds are.

  6. I also have a similar experience. I live in a community where it is very diverse. Everyone seems to be alright in living in the area, but it can get very dangerous at times. The good aspect about it is that there are a lot of resources for families of low income to go to and, thus, this has helped my family with medical situations as well. It does feel great knowing that there is a support system that is willing to help you out in a stressful situation, and like you mentioned Vinny, it does help to understand the circumstance a little bitter.

    My community has helped me a lot expand my horizons and have very different viewpoints. It has helped me feel that I am not alone in difficult situations, and that it takes courage to seek out support so that some things aren’t as scary as they may seem to be.

  7. The unifying community for me would be my church. I grew up in a surburan area that was predominantly black. Majority of the people were nice and accepting and there were others who weren’t. Some of the kids I was around would call me names and weren’t really accepting of the fact that I had an Nigerian name and a handful of the kids I was around were just really ignorant. My church was predominantly Nigerian so the kids were able to relate with me when it came to being bullied and the didn’t consider my name as being “weird” or strange”. My church community just helped me with getting by until the handful of children became more aware and accepting.

  8. Hey Vinny! Being from the West side of Grand Rapids too I know exactly what you are talking about. Being a member of the Hispanic community I know how it can be. You can really go anywhere in Grand Rapids and know someone there. Having so many cousins you cannot even count, and half of them aren’t even your real cousin. But the feeling of family or community there is huge there. Everyone looks out for each other. Grand Rapids could be a great place, and the Hispanic community is very close.

  9. When I was back in West Bloomfield, I didn’t feel like I fit in very well. Most of the people from my town were white and upper-middle to upper class. There weren’t a lot of Asians around and since I started college, I feel like I fit in more. I have met a lot more people that have a similar experience as me; that of a middle class Asian American. I really feel like I fit in because I can relate to them better that people from WB.

    1. Growing up, I was very fortunate to live in an extremely diverse area. There are strong communities of just about every ethnicity in the area that I come from, and I was very lucky to grow up having a strong Middle Eastern community. I think that this diversity improved the quality in healthcare in that area because healthcare providers are more inclined to be understanding of different circumstances, as they are exposed to different types of people constantly.
      My community was also of a higher socioeconomic status, which I never realized had a large impact on the healthcare I’ve been able to receive. Living in a family and a community full of doctors, I never realized how valuable accessible healthcare is. For example, a few years ago I caught a really bad case of pneumonia. One night I was running a fever of over 103 degrees and I couldn’t get up from my bed. Instead of calling an ambulance, my parents called my pediatrician , who also happens to be my uncle, and he came over at 3 in the morning to help my parents decide what to do.

  10. I am also from the greater Grand Rapids area and know exactly what you mean in regards to the unifying communities present in every nook and cranny of the city. However, the high school I went to fostered incredibly conservative beliefs and it was difficult to find educators or peers willing to explore anything outside of this mindset with me. The one community that changed this was the Women’s Empowerment group I was a part of, and a government teacher who wasn’t afraid to speak his mind. For the first time, students were able to get together to fight for and speak about relevant issues pertaining to gender equality in regards to health care, human rights, social issues, body positivity, or really anything that sparked our interest.

  11. I loved your post, Vinny! 🙂
    For me, one of the communities that helped me get through a stressful time in my life was my international community. Right after graduating from middle school, my family and I had to move to Japan for a couple years due to my father’s job. While I myself am of Japanese race, my ethnicity is predominantly American; I was born and raised in the US my entire life, thus I resonate more with American culture. Moving away from home and having to adapt to a completely new environment and culture was a huge challenge, especially since it was during a critical period of my childhood. However, I was fortunate enough to attend an international school, where the student and staff body were compromised of people who, either like me, had moved to Japan from a different country, or had been moving to different regions of the globe their entire life. Despite our ethnic disparities and dissimilarities in lifestyles, we were all able to unite under the notion of multiculturalism and our experiences of moving away from our native homes, and what opportunities that had brought us. My international community definitely made my transition to living in Japan less stressful; to this day my international friends and I continue to support each other in whatever life transitions we are experiencing.

  12. The community I am from was not very diverse. For the most part it was a majority white area, and was relatively wealthy. That being said, I wasn’t very far from less fortunate communities that did not have the infrastructure to improve. It makes me appreciate the support system that I had at home. The community that I could lean on whenever i needed to destress was my work community. I worked at a summer camp that gave me a break from the stresses of everyday life. It may have been a job, but it was a job that I loved with coworkers that supported me throughout.

  13. When I moved here in the U.S., I never really had a community full of Filipinos. It was just my mom, dad, and I. She had friends from her work, but we weren’t always with them. I actually lived in the Latino/Hispanics area in Chicago, so I became accustomed to being around them, and they became my community. It is so important to be around people who make you feel safe and secure, and that’s what they became to me. I do love the diversity in here in University of Michigan. It is what I’ve always wanted.

  14. I am also from a community that is not very diverse. Bedford tends to be a white, christian community, which can lead to a weird scenario for people who don’t fall into those categories. My experience of being Jewish in this community can be a little complicated. I don’t claim to be incredibly religious, but I do feel as though Judaism is a part of who I am. Growing up I did get made fun. The words hurt, but I decided that if I was going to be the face of Judaism in my school then I might as well represent it well. I embraced the fact that I was different and tried to change peoples’ mind, however being at Michigan and finding more people like me has been amazing. it’s hard to explain, but being able to represent a community can be just as fulfilling as meeting other people that are like you.

  15. I feel very related to your experience, because this is exactly what I felt as a Chinese and a non-native English speaker in America. We went to local Chinese church in our community and people helped each other finding resources and getting over the language barrier. When my family first moved to Troy from China, we did not speak English very well, so buying health insurance and going to see a doctor became a huge issue for us. Without the company of a translator we could not even tell the doctor what we needed. Fortunately, the local Chinese community helped us by introducing a Chinese-speaking doctor for us. She was able to communicate with us in Chinese and introduce us to the America health system. So I think this is definitely the positive impact on my health by my identity.

  16. When I first moved to the U.S. four years ago, I didn’t belong to any community. As a newly settled immigrant, it was hard to make connections with other people; the language barrier and cultural difference further create challenges for my family and me. Furthermore, since the healthcare system here was so different from the healthcare system of my home country, my parents struggled to find a health insurance and didn’t know where to find a doctor. Fortunately, the neighborhood that I lived in was primarily consisted of other immigrant families. Many of these families were from Egypt, China, Ukraine, Taiwan and many other places, so I got to know people with different backgrounds. Despite the differences, we formed a community together. My family would have Thanksgiving dinner together with the neighbor; my friend next door and I would hang out after class and help each other with English homework. My family eventually found a doctor via the recommendation of another immigrant family. In this community, we were all new to this country, but our connections provide support and make us feel less alone.

  17. I would say that I can agree with you in that a sense of community can unite people amongst times of disparity. As a kid my parents had a lot of hard times finding a decent physician. Once we found one it was a sense of unity amongst people in my city. Just like in Grand Rapids, my city Oxnard, California found faith in a doctor.

    We found community in Doctor Carlos T. Barraza. Just like the doctor you had mentioned he always did the most to make the care pleasant and decent. Every encounter began with “hey kiddo!!!” and he always ensured us with a “well these things happen.” I also think as humans we find comfort with those who are like us. Since he is Hispanic he is easier to relate to, and have faith in. I think everyone in my high school had him if they had the same insurance. All of our health care wasn’t the best, but there are people who make experiences better.

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