Dr. John Birky knew there was a need to bridge the gap between refugees in Garden City and healthcare, and opening New Hope Together, Inc. is one of the efforts to do just that.
New Hope Together, a nonprofit organization, had its grand opening on Saturday.
“We have two components to the organization,” Birky, who is the CEO of New Hope Together, said. “One is healthcare focus, and the other is focused on language.”
Birky said the organization is dedicated to improving the physical, spiritual, and socioeconomic well-being of refugees in the community through healthcare services, English language learning and mutually beneficial relationships.
Located in the 600 block of Labrador Boulevard, New Hope Together operates out of Labrador Apartments. A remodeled two-bedroom apartment features two exam rooms and a waiting room, said Dr. Scarlett Gard, a physician and the medical director for New Hope.
The apartment complex was chosen because many refugees live in the neighborhood, Birky said.
“We want to reduce barriers to accessing healthcare however we can,” he said.
New Hope Together will offer primary healthcare services on a walk-in basis, making sure refugees are staying on top of their immunizations and preventative care, Birky said.
Along with healthcare, New Hope will offer a Language Partner Program designed to help teach refugees English through one-on-one tutoring. The organization is seeking volunteers to help with the language program.
“They can meet in a coffee shop, in a restaurant, and if they begin to feel comfortable enough, in each others’ homes,” Birky said.
Birky said that language is one of the barriers that stops refugees from seeking and accessing healthcare, adding that he and others at New Hope are excited about the literacy program because it’s not duplicating what’s already being provided for refugees at Garden City Community College and other places.
“We’re doing something unique where we have one-to-one language partnerships,” he said. “But really, this is about helping them with English, helping them integrate into our culture, but also building cross-cultural bridges.”
Birky said that working with Somali residents in the wake of the arrest of three southwest Kansas men accused of planning to blow up an apartment complex that is home to scores of Somali refugees made them realize that cultural walls for refugees are higher than they thought. The clinic, he said, is another step toward breaking down some of the barriers.
The organization is completely volunteer-based. There are six local physicians, including Birky, who will volunteer at New Hope Together, as well as volunteer translators.
The clinic will be open Tuesday through Thursday in the mornings, and one volunteer physician will always be there to help.
“We each have other jobs, but if we each take a chunk and volunteer, work together, we can have a bigger impact,” Birky said.
Both Birky and Gard work at Wellsprings Family Healthcare. Gard began working there last fall and said one of the reasons she was drawn to come practice in Garden City was because of its diverse population. Her husband, Andy, also sits on the board for New Hope. New Hope’s board of directors is made up of five community members and their job is to make sure the organization is complying with its mission.
“We’re really excited that we get to start volunteering in this way,” Scarlett Gard said.
Sydney Rodriguez, Miss Garden City Fiesta 2016, was at the grand opening on Saturday to see what the new clinic was all about. She plans to compete in the Miss Kansas pageant in June with refugee awareness as her platform.
“There’s a lot going on in the world right now, and there’s a lot going on in our community when it comes to immigrants and refugees,” she said. “There’s so many different people from all over the world that are here in Garden City, and it’s kind of a huge melting pot. I’m from here, and I want to share it. I want people to know what’s going on here. They’re (refugees) not bad — they’re beautiful, loving and friendly.”
Rodriguez said New Hope Together is a stepping stone to connect the community with the local refugee population, and she is eager to see what the organization can accomplish.
Both Birky and Scarlett Gard said they are excited to start helping the refugee community.
“I think we’re most excited to see what kind of impact this is going to make in years to come on individuals’ lives and and just the community of Garden City,” Birky said. “We’re just excited to see the positive impact.”
More information can be found on New Hope’s website, www.newhopetogether.org; on its Facebook page, New Hope Together; or by contacting the clinic at (620) 464-4295 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.