Halima Mohamed knows how challenging it can be to find health care in a strange, new country.
"When I came here I didn't have insurance, and I found life difficult," said the 47-year-old Somali refugee, who came to Greeley after stops in California and Boston. Now she has a job, and the health insurance that comes with it. "Everything is good right now."
Mohamed was among the roughly 120 immigrants from Somalia, Eritrea, Myanmar and other nations who gathered Saturday at the Global Refugee Center, 1424 13th Ave. in Greeley, for the first refugee health fair.
The fair brought together the refugees - many who came to Greeley to work in the JBS USA plant - with more than 25 volunteer nurses and 10 doctors from North Colorado Medical Center, Poudre Valley Hospital, North Colorado Family Medicine, among others, who offered a wide range of health screenings and advice for Greeley's refugee community.
Volunteers from the Christ Community Church, 1301 15th St., helped organize and run the event. JBS and the United Food and Commercial Workers Local No. 7, the union for many workers at JBS, provided food for the event.
The health fair was the brainchild of a group of doctors who attend Christ Community Church. They worked with Asad Abdi and Colette West form the Global Refugee Center to make it a reality.
"I think it was Asad and Colette's perception that a lot of people in the refugee community need to be connected with services and don't really understand how to do that in our system. It's so different from the systems they're used to," said Dr. Wayne Jeffers, a hospitalist on the faculty of the North Colorado Family Medicine residency program. "There's a need for some education for the community on some things like nutrition and exercise. Particularly in our society, it's so different than the places they've been."
Dr. Kent Britton, who was a driving force behind the event, said planning started several months ago.
"It kind of started as an idea in the fall or winter," Dr. Kent Britton said. "It started breathing on its own after a few months."
Britton said he hopes to learn from the event and hold more health fairs in the future.
Inside the center, refugees sat on chairs in a hallway, waiting for help form translators, who took them from room to room. The center provided translators for 10 different languages so doctors and other volunteers could communicate with those who didn't speak English.
Outside each room hung signs that indicated the type of care provided in the room. In one room, doctors and nurses helped check eyesight. In another, they taught about the importance of healthy diets and eating the right food. Other rooms offered exercise techniques and mental health expertise, to name a few of the services. As they went from room to room, the refugees carried an 8.5-by-11-inch card where their health information was noted. After visiting all the rooms, they met with the doctors, who helped the refugees assess the information and made recommendations about seeking care.
"We're not actually providing treatment of any kind here today," Jeffers said. "It's more advice."
In another room, refugees met with officials from Sunrise Community Health, who could help the refugees schedule appointments and check to see if they were eligible for discounts or aid.
"What we can do is we can get them into the system," said Vanessa Wilkins, the satellite clinics manager for Sunrise. "If we can get them in there, it can keep them out of the emergency room for non-emergent care."
Jeffers said he enjoyed seeing the fair in action and was excited to see the response from the volunteers.
"To me, it means there's a lot of energy in the Greeley community that recognizes that these settlers, these refugees, in our community could really use some assistance in some way," he said. "It's been pretty exciting and encouraging to me."
Mohamed said the fair made a difference for her.
"It's very good," she said. "I'm happy."
Abdi, who thanked all the volunteers, said the event had a broader goal than simply helping refugees with their health care needs.
"Our purpose is to help educate and integrate our newcomers to the community," he said. "These kind of events will eliminate the fear and misunderstandings and miscommunication between the two communities."