Herndon In 1995, Naila Alam arrived to the United Stated from Pakistan to study hotel management. Soon she was diagnosed with a rare blood disease that almost proved fatal, and with her husband back in Pakistan, she had only her sister to help her navigate through a foreign country’s health care, as well as maintaining her educational studies and working.
She eventually made a full recovery, but knowing what she went through and the difficulties that can be faced by new immigrants coming to this country, she founded Express Care. The organization, which is currently based out of the Neighborhood Resource Center in Herndon, is dedicated to
providing educational and other opportunities for immigrants in transition.
“Our goal is to provide training for people who are in the midst of learning a new culture, and while they’re training we’re able to assist them with things like social services and groceries, until they’re able to get on their feet,” Alam said. “The healthcare system can be so complicated, even for
people who speak good English, so they can use any help they can get.”
One of the more popular programs offered at Express Care is the Personal Care Aide classes, which helps people interested in caring for the needy learn the basics. Some students in the class are taking it because they hope to move into a health care job.
“The benefits are two-fold for this program, on one side it’s empowering people who are jobless and trying to find their way in a new country, and on the other hand it helps seniors, or others who need care get in contact with properly trained assistance,” Alam said.
SESSIONS ARE TAUGHT by Department of Health, Police and Fire personnel and others, which helps the students not only learn the facts, but the healthcare, fire and rescue process, which is often different from the country they came from.
Samina Quereshi of Herndon, a native of Pakistan, said the program has taught her many things she had no idea about.
“I didn’t know about things like the way germs are passed on or CPR, I had never been exposed to that,” she said.
Maryam Noori of Reston heard about the program through her mother. Her mother is diabetic and her father suffers from heart disease, so she says the program has made her more confident in her ability to care for them.
“It was a very important decision to come to the program, and so far I’ve gotten a lot of great information,” she said. “I think it’s a great help for everybody, it’s good information in a friendly, family environment. Hopefully I’ll be able to care for my parents, and then use the knowledge to find a job, I’m looking into nursing programs.”
Jessie Samoa of Leesburg said that the “program should be introduced to more people, it helps with your own knowledge, with being able to find a job. I’m hoping to get into senior care, and I think this is a major step in that direction.”
Express Care also offers classes in English for Speakers of Other Languages, computer and other job training. Scholarships are available for those interested in taking the classes.
“There are a lot of adults we see that have never used a computer, and that’s an essential part of applying to jobs,” Alam said. “We have a group of dedicated volunteers that are bi-lingual, which helps for people who are coming over and don’t speak much.”
Nadia Alsaadi came from Iraq about a year ago, where she was a pharmacist. She began volunteering with Express Care to learn
more about the American health system.
“Naila is just an amazing lady, and I’ve picked up a lot from her,” she said. “I try and work from her example, where she will do anything she can to benefit the community, and really brings together everyone in the program as a family.”
The group recently received a grant from Amerigroup, which helps connect people to affordable healthcare options.
“A lot of people they see don‘t know about the coverage they can get, many have never even been to see a physician before and they have chronic issues,” said Tarik Chapman of Amerigroup. “Naila herself is very active in attending some of our advisory boards, and makes it easier on her clients to get connected with services they need.”
MARIA SCHAART, manager of INOVA’s Congregational Health partnership, presented volunteers of Express Care with an award Friday, June 22 for their efforts.
“We’ve had a wonderful relationship with them, and the work they’ve done is one of the biggest benefits that people in the community can get,” she said.
Volunteer Amena Waseem writes grants for Express Care, and as someone who hopes to get into health care, she says the experience has been invaluable.
“It’s been good to get experience in the grant system, but also very eye-opening just to see people in need and the resources that can become available through them if you work to find them,” she said.
More information on Express Care can be found at www.expresscare.org.