Monday, January 31, 2011

Week 1 Service

As a Health Leads volunteer, I go to a weekly 2 hour shift at the University of Maryland Medical Center, Labor and Delivery Unit. There, I work with urban and often marginalized women. My job is to provide resources to these new moms as well as their new babies. The kinds of resources range from food stamps to getting a crib.

This week my client is Ms. Johnson. I must admit that before I even met Ms. Johnson, I have already decided what she would be like: African American, single working parent, probably young, probably the baby’s dad is not with her, probably already have a kid before, and probably lives on welfare. After all, that is what most of our clientele population is like. Although Ms. Johnson fits some of the descriptions, by no means is she a clone of what I had thought she would be. Although unmarried, she and her boyfriend plan to raise the boy together. Disagreeing with me, Ms. Johnson rents an apartment, has a steady job, health insurance, and has successfully enrolled herself as well as her child in WIC, women infant care, a federal program that provides nutritious food to newborns. All she is looking for is to have a different job so she may spend more time with her son.

As I was still trying to take in all the information, her boyfriend stepped in and gave her a gentle kiss on the cheek. That kiss shuttered so many stereotypes I had of Ms. Johnson and the urban population in general. Just because someone lives in the city, does not mean that person fits all the urban stereotypes. Ms. Johnson is a hard worker and a caring parent. However, her effort, at times, is stopped short due to social determinants. Ms. Johnson may have to leave her current job not because she wants to rely on welfare but because she needs time to take care her new born son. I am glad that through Health Leads I have the opportunity to see the Baltimore city from a different perspective. It asks me not just to look from the surface but to inspect from

all directions and to gain a deeper understanding of a population that is seemingly different from my own. Just like Rawari bridges the two generations, Ms. Johnson is the link between me and the urban population. Through her, I erased some of the stereotypes I had of urban population and wish to continue this process.

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