Meet Brian Mwesigwa, Health Care Specialist, World Relief Spokane

I am from Kenya; I was born in Kenya. My dad is Ugandan and my mom is Kenyan. I grew up in Kenya and moved here when I was seventeen, almost eighteen. I went to college and graduated in 2011, then took a two-year break and later went to grad school. I studied Public Health in college. I did an internship here with the health care team and then I moved from Spokane, in 2015, to Seattle and did some contract jobs. I had an opportunity to work here, at World Relief, so I moved back in the summer of 2016.

In my job, we work with refugees, specifically when it comes to their health. Ranging from health insurance, health screenings, referrals, surgery, anything under the umbrella of health in general is what we deal with.

I think the best part of this job is just coming to work and working with clients. Some will tell you “thank you so much for what you’ve done for me,” or just a simple appreciation; it has so much weight.  It surpasses anything when someone comes and tells you “I really appreciate what you’ve done for me.” Seeing that this person’s life has been affected in a positive way because of what we have done is very humbling.

The other part of the job I like is that World Relief is a place of work where things are constantly changing, so you are always learning new things. It is never constant, and it is never dull. Today you learn one thing and tomorrow you are confronted with something else, and then you have to learn more. Learning is relative to people. The kind of learning I am referring to is not just about the job itself, but you also learn so much from the clients. They challenge you, they inspire you, and they make you appreciate the little things that you take for granted. That is what I like about this job, the constant change, and the continued process of learning.

We do so much for our clients, but sometimes because of the nature of people, not just refugees, sometimes they feel like we are not doing enough sometimes. It can be frustrating, but understandable. I think most of our clients come from environments where they have been promised a lot of things, and nothing was fulfilled. They are told, “oh tomorrow a truck will come with a bag of rice,” and nothing comes. Or people just making false promises. When they come here, they will have that mindset. They have to go through a learning process, in America everything is a learning process and a system. For example, people from where I come from, if you are sick you just walk to a hospital, and say I have a headache, and they will see you right away. You can walk to any pharmacy without prescription.

I think in America, I’ve been here long enough to understand that we have a tendency to worry about what affects us, but not about what happens in the rest of the world. It is nobody’s fault. We have this notion that America is the greatest country in the world, which it is, I love America and this is my home. I think we have not taken the initiative to open our minds to things that happen outside of our country. Refugees are people like you and me, they are smart, intelligent, and have so much wisdom. They are loving people, they have goals, and so much education.

Where I come from, I was not a refugee, but most of the things refugees have gone through, I have either gone through it or seen it. Most of the countries refugees come from, the way their government is structured, it allows you as an individual to walk the extra mile, because not everything is given to you. For example, when I was in school back home, in order to prepare for an exam the teacher only gives you 25 percent of the material and you have to work for the other 75 percent. Teachers give you notes and books, but they don’t tell you what the exam will cover and there is no study guide. There is nothing to help you prepare.

From the time kids are in fifth grade, they are already out of the house and in boarding school. When you are away from your parents, you learn to be independent, you learn to develop skills and tools that will help you be successful. I want people to know that refugees are resilient because of what they have gone through and because of the environment where they grew up. They can go through any kind of situation in life and make it through anything.

I have always wanted to work with minority groups and the most vulnerable. Ever since I was a little kid, I always wanted to work in either a hospital back home or places where they don’t have adequate medical facilities or providers. I grew up in an area where malaria was horrible, I have had malaria several times and I saw people dying just because they don’t have adequate transportation to the hospital. Both of my parents are trained nurses back home, but they cannot practice it here. Growing up in that environment always inspires me to go back home, not just home, but anywhere struggling. Even if that means South America or the Middle East or anywhere that experiences a kind of plight. My passion is to work for the most vulnerable and not just advocate for them, but make sure they access services. That is what inspired me to work for World Relief and that is why I am here today.