Carrie Harris

CHW Spotlight: Carrie Harris

Carrie Harris

I have worked at Volunteers of America MN/WIS for 15 years and I absolutely love it! The diverse population I serve face many health and social disparities in their lives and may need support to remain living independently. I have always been interested in health and nutrition and found that this area could be addressed more in the social services we provided. Over the years, I have led several health groups focusing on health improvement. When I came to learn about community health work, I knew this was something I had to be a part of. I looked into what our agency needed to be able to have CHWs on staff and started talking people to get grants to fund the new program. Once funding was achieved, I played a large role in implementation. We hired 2 CHWs and I supervised them. When the opportunity came up, I decided to take the CHW courses myself so I could also help people as a CHW. I very much enjoyed learning how to help people be in control of their conditions and their lives. The education was a great addition to my social service background. I just love meeting people where they are at and helping them make different choices if they choose to, with their health.

Learning about the CHW field is very exciting to me. I believe that not everything fits in the same box and there has to be different approaches to education in the health care systems. I would like to share what I have learned with individuals and agencies and them with me. I would like to make more connections with others in the same field. I would also like to develop new ways to grow the CHW field and make them happen.

As CHWs, we are very aware of the health care disparities. Let’s work together to solve them.

April 2020 MNCHWA Spotlight: Mohamed Ibrahim

Mohamed Ibrahim

Community Health Worker

Mayo Clinic Health System

I was born in Mogadishu, Somalia. I have a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery from Benadir University in Somalia and have worked in trauma and emergency surgery including service overseas with the International Committee of Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders.  Now I live in Mankato with my lovely wife Samsam. I have three boys, Hamza, Hisham and Hilal. I love soccer, reading and volunteering.

I earned my CHW certificate from Rochester Community and Technical College and currently work as a CHW in Mayo Clinic Health System where I serve as a central link between patients and health and social service providers, conducting home visits, facilitating health literacy workshops, and providing culturally-responsive interventions to address Somali health disparities.  In addition to that, I am studying for the US medical license examination test to continue the journey of helping underserved communities as a doctor.

In addition to my professional role, I am highly engaged in the greater Mankato community serving on several area committees and boards, including Blue Earth County Mental Health Task Force, Mayo Clinic Community Cancer Research Advisory Committee, Mayo Clinic Health System Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and Mayo Clinic Health System Family Medicine Quality Committee. I am a founding member of a developing grassroots group, Linking for Good, a committed group of local Somalis seeking to build bridges between the Somali and the greater Mankato community.  I also serve in a leadership role as one of the Imams at the St. Peter Islamic Center and Dar Abi Baker at Mankato.

In addition to our daily work to provide the Somali community in the Mankato-St. Peter area with information on the COVID-19 virus and Minnesota’s response, we have been doing many things.  These include:

  1. We have set up two What’sApp groups for Somali community members—one for Mankato and North Mankato and one for St. Peter.  You may already know this—community members move around between these communities.  A mom may live in St. Peter while here daughter lives in Mankato. This is often the case so there is a lot of movement back and forth.
  2. We set up a free conference call listening session to share information with the community and answer questions. We will continue to use free conference calls for meetings and for educating the community.
  3. We have identified people in housing complexes in Mankato, North Mankato and St. Peter where many Somali families live to share information with families in the building. We use What’sApp and free conference calls to inform these key people.

What’sApp and free conference calls are good tools because people can ask questions.  We find people have a lot of questions because they know something critical is happening, but they are not getting the information in Somali they need to understand. They have a lot of questions.  What’sApp is very simple and used by young and old alike.

February 2020 MNCHWA Community Health Worker Spotlight: Vonyee Howard

Vonyee Howard, MNCHWA Board Member
Care Coordinator at People Incorporated
Family Life Mental Health Clinic
MN CHW Certificate Holder

What do you do as a CHW?

I’m the Care Coordinator at People Incorporated – Family Life Mental Health Clinic.  I work alongside a team of mental health practitioners & clinicians and provide advocacy on behalf of consumers to communicate their needs within the organization, as well as to outside organizations.  A large part of my role is assisting consumers with connections to various community resources, including health insurance.  I also initiate referrals for MNCHOICES assessments, case management services, vocational training, support services, and other mental health programs.

What has been your favorite part of being a CHW?

My favorite part of being a CHW has always been helping people connect to the resources and services they need.  I also love when I can squeeze a smile or a laugh out of someone, just by being myself.  I realize the people I serve are dealing with some very tough times; some might even be experiencing feelings of depression and hopelessness.  To say or do something that makes someone laugh or smile during tough times warms my entire spirit.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

Most people don’t know that I’m inspired and motivated by the people I serve and by the need I see for service in our communities.

Success Story

I recently connected a consumer to a resource for a holiday food basket. She called me to personally tell me about her experience picking up the holiday food basket: “Ms. Vonyee, I want to thank you for putting me in contact with [the agency]. They had a holiday party. I met some nice people and had a wonderful time! The people there were so nice!  I wasn’t expecting anything except to pick up food, and I received so much more! Thank you SO much!”
I, of course, knew ahead of time that a holiday party was included but I didn’t think it was an important detail to mention when I provided her with this resource.  The smile and excitement in her voice over the phone was infectious; I was so happy that attending the party was a pleasant surprise for her– especially during the holiday season.

January 2020 MNCHWA Community Health Worker Spotlight: Kimberli Barker

Kimberli Barker, CHW Certificate Holder
Dakota County Public Health

What do you do as a CHW?

I work for Dakota County Public Health, supporting a variety of programs. When I’m wearing my Child & Teen Checkups (C&TC) hat, I do different kinds of outreach including C&TC introduction calls to families who are newly enrolled in Medical Assistance, Car Seat education and distribution, and other forms of Community Outreach. Community Outreach includes things like Health and/or Resource Fairs, Summer Safety Camps, and Information Tables at Food Shelves and other Community Events. Most recently we have been developing an Oral Health presentation for ECFE classes and in-home child care centers.

When I wear my Family Home Visiting (FHV) hat, I work alongside our Public Health Nurses with families of young children who need a little extra parenting support. While the nurse typically visits once or twice a month, I can visit every week. We work through a goal-setting process that allows the family to select the topics that they are interested in learning more about. Then we use a variety of curricula to determine their strengths and how they can use their own strengths and resources to address their areas of need.

What has been your favorite part of being a CHW?

I enjoy working with families and watching as they discover their strengths. I especially enjoy watching when children flourish and grow in their relationships with their parents and other care givers. I guess my “favorite” part is when a family returns weeks, months or even years later to say “thank you” and lets me know how my visits have shaped their futures.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

I love learning about cultures. I believe that every person is a part of a large culture as well as sub-cultures and I like to learn about how they mesh together to create that person’s personality and life experiences. I especially love trying and experimenting with the foods that are important to people I care about.

Success Story

Several years ago I visited with an immigrant family who had two teenage children and a newborn. My visits were typically with Mom and Baby while the other children were in school. Dad was occasionally there, but he also worked varying hours. Mom felt isolated and confused about life in a new country. She shared both her struggles with her family’s discontent over her coming to the U.S. and her joy at watching her children adapt to their new life.

During our visits, she would hint at verbal and emotional abuse by her husband, the father of her children. When he was not present we were able to address the different ways that domestic violence is viewed in her home country as well as here in the U.S. At one point we visited a shelter and she considered joining a support group but didn’t follow through as she did not have a driver’s license or car at that time.

My visits ended after about 2 years and I would occasionally see her when she came into the office for her WIC benefits. Fast forward six years … this past summer, I was called to the lobby, only to find this mom asking for me. Her older children are now out of the home and thriving on their own. Her youngest is doing well in school but is concerned about his mother’s safety. Dad has become more and more vocal and has begun to threaten her with physical violence so Mom is asking me about the shelter that we visited years ago.

I was able to help her call them and set up an appointment. Because she now drives her own car, I was able to meet her at the appointment and get her set up with the ongoing supports she will be receiving from them. As we parted from that appointment she said: “I didn’t even know if you still worked in Public Health, but I knew that if you did, you would be able to help me find the help I need now.”

December 2019 MNCHWA Community Health Worker Spotlight: Hilda Sanchez-Herrera

Hilda Sanchez-Herrera
Minnesota Community Health Worker Certificate Holder
Sanford Health

What do you do as a CHW?

I help patients navigate the health system, fill out insurance forms, interpret and translate as needed. Network with other CHWs.

What has been your favorite part of being a CHW?

Promoting the CHW Profession. Sharing my passion for helping people in the public sector. Working with and learning from my classmates at various events.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

I participated in two marathons in 2017 and my goal is to do another one. I also completed the 2019 CHW Leadership Cohort and joined the National Association of CHWs earlier this year.

Success Story

A mother with a special needs child needed help understanding some of her child’s needs. After a few minutes of conversation, we were able to get her the right resources for both mom and child before they left the facility. Mom was grateful for the information and the providers were thankful for the intervention.