EHC Introduces Learning Pods for
Children of Staff Members
When Philadelphia’s public school district pivoted just prior to the start of the school year to virtual learning only due to COVID precautions, Esperanza realized that many parents among the staff, without options for child care, would need help in order to continue full-time work. The concept of “Learning Pods” to support staff members and their children was explored and implemented within weeks by two dedicated staff members, Debra OrtizVasquez, Director of Community Health and Wellness, and Marquita Farmer, Executive Administrator.
“For a time such as this” describes how God moved in recent months as people from around the city have come together to support children in the public schools during the COVID crisis. “Initially, I started attending weekly meetings of churches, non-profits, and residents that ‘gathered’ virtually to talk about the Learning Pod model; it became clear that we needed to be a part of this movement in the City,” said Debra. “This model provides a place for families,
organizations and churches to create Pods for learning support for our children.”
With the start of the school year only a few weeks away, several major questions had to be answered quickly: finding a secure location to host the Pods, planning a weekly schedule, and coordinating student support, among many other details. A local church near our Hunting Park site, In the Light Ministries, provided an answer to prayer by offering the already-outfitted
children’s wing in their building. Two former Cairn University students were— miraculously it seemed—available immediately to serve as our new Learning Pod Coordinators: Brianna Torres (photos below, L) and Katherine Kempf (photos below, R).
Katherine has a background in social work and graduated with her BSW from Cairn, having completed her internship with Esperanza’s Community Health and Wellness team. “I love when [the children] make each other laugh, or when they can be proud of something they accomplished, an assignment or art project, that is really special. Most of the kids are from different schools and we have a range of age groups and school levels, sixth graders, a couple of fourth graders, lots of first graders, but seeing the younger ones looking up to the older kids and them completing activities together, has been cool.”
Brianna also attended Cairn University and graduated with a bachelors and masters in counseling. Her experiences as a Community Relations Coordinator for a church in Northeast Philadelphia and as a part-time teacher have helped grow her desire to serve and build a better quality of life for others.
She shared about a day in the life of the learning pods: “I arrive at 7:30 am, open up and make sure everything is ready for the day. We wipe down the bathrooms one more time before the kids come, also do the screenings here to make sure everyone’s healthy. At 3 o’clock we offer two clubs; art with Kate, and team challenge with me. The kids also get time for one-to-one learning.”
“I’ll say we wear a lot of different hats during the day. Some feel like a teacher, some as a parent, a lot of that is informal obviously. But I like that we have a unique label as ‘Pod coordinator’ because it covers all of those hats. When they make each other laugh, or when they can be proud of something they accomplished, an assignment or art project, that is really special. The kids get to interact not only with their virtual class, but with each other during breaks, lunch, and recess,” said Katherine. As the Learning Pods move into their third
month, we’re grateful for everyone who has been involved in making the Pods a reality for these children and for Esperanza’s families!
Our K&A Location Turned One
Looking back, despite the many unexpected events of 2020, we are grateful for the way that God has sustained us at our new Kensington site over the past year and made it possible for us to expand healthcare access to our patients and community.
New Arrivals To Our Patient Care Staff
Corin Dickinson, CRNP,
Family Nurse Practitioner
Dickinson grew up locally in Souderton, PA and is quite familiar with the Greater Philadelphia region. She completed her associates in nursing degree at Montgomery County Community College in 2013. Her experience grew as an RN working in intensive care over the years, but soon enough Dickinson found herself with a desire to further her studies as an advanced practice nurse at UNC-Chapel Hill, where she earned her Master of Science of Nursing degree and was a member of the Sigma Theta Tau Honor Society.
“I chose to pursue primary care as a focus, with the goal of keeping patients out of the ICU as much as possible. I first learned about Esperanza through a current employee, Katie Bhadra, CRNP, who was a former roommate. When she described EHC, I was immediately drawn to its Christ-centered mission. My prayer is for God to use me to help heal His people and point them toward a relationship with Him,” wrote Dickinson.
Kim knew he wanted to work at Esperanza since completing an SMI term back in 2014 while he was a medical student at SUNY Downstate College of Medicine in Brooklyn, NY. Growing up in the working-class community of Woodside, NY and being a child of immigrant parents, he recognized that part of his calling was to work in medically-underserved areas. While completing his residency training in pediatrics, he gained clinical experience at Open Door Family Health Center in Ossining, NY, which serves a predominantly Hispanic and immigrant population.
“I think this was very much a calling—to use the medical knowledge I had gained through years of schooling and training in a very tangible way to serve the community of North Philadelphia. It is so wonderful to be part of a body that is striving to know the Lord more, and participating in His work in this community,” said Kim.
One of his favorite verses is Philippians 3:8: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Kim hopes that through Esperanza he can continually grow in Christ, with others, and to help bring others to Him.
Daniel Kim, MD, Pediatrician
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