Katie Richards—Nashville Neighbors

Updated: Apr 14, 2020

Friends for Good—Siloam Family Health Center Take a moment to appreciate your friends. You know you can count on them for a listening ear when you're trying to figure out things, for good information and advice when you need direction, for help when you're in a bind, and yes, even for fun. Research has documented the value of friendships, showing that they contribute to the health, wellbeing, and confidence of people.

Siloam Family Health Center serves the under-served population of Nashville, especially newly arrived refugees. The 25+ year-old program includes a primary care clinic, seeing 4,000 to 5,000 patients a year. Additionally, the center provides health education programs for their clients. And as "a whole-person health care ministry," Siloam has developed a program connecting the refugees with volunteer teams of new "friends," their own Nashville Neighbors.

According to Katie Richards, Siloam's volunteer coordinator, a team is composed of six to 14 adults, usually ones who already know one another, such as being from the same church or sharing another type of friendship tie. Siloam provides training about the kinds of needs and questions the refugees face and also about the specific culture from which the refugees have come. Siloam also pays for an interpreter to facilitate communication between the team and the family. Team members share the responsibility for being good neighbors so they, as friends, can support one another in this new venture and no one person is overwhelmed. The team commits to six months as Nashville Neighbors.

What happens during those brief months? Many of the refugees have fled violence and war in their home country only to be "housed" in a crowded refugee camp in yet another country, sometimes for as many as 14 years. Leaving behind whatever little support system they had and coming to America, they face a new language, new systems, new expectations of them, new challenges. Having friends to "walk along side them" makes something as "simple" as filling out an application (in a language that they don't speak) and negotiating other common tasks of daily living in a new culture and society much more manageable.

As for the friends on the team, as they get to know the names, faces, and stories of their new neighbors and see them blossom with better health, wellbeing, and confidence, the Nashville Neighbor teams find their own hesitations dissipating and the blessings flowing both ways.

For more information about Siloam, visit siloamhealth.org. To find out more about Nashville 4rNeighbors, contact Katie Richards at 615-921-6114.

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