NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A former refugee from Iraq now works at Siloam Health where she was once a patient. Currently, they’re preparing to welcome Afghan families to the clinic following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Zainab Al-Fatlawi had never heard of Nashville when she resettled here. She worked at the United States embassy in Iraq and came to Music City with a special immigrant visa for safety reasons. She was happy, but also anxious about the unknown.
"How’s it going to be here? Will people honor us? Respect us? Or will they look down to us as refugees? But thank God we were blessed in huge way to have volunteers and people who were involved in our lives," Al-Fatlawi said.
One of those places was Siloam Health. She received a medical screening at the clinic. Then, she decided it would be her goal to work there one day.
"I am very passionate about helping the refugee community. I love them, and I want to be part of their life," Al-Fatlawi said. "I want them to know that God has a plan for them, and they’re not just here randomly, this is for a reason, and they can start over."
In a few days, the clinic will welcome an Afghan family fleeing the Taliban. "I feel like this is my mission. I want to just like encourage them, empower them, and tell them 'You know we’re here for you. We’ll teach you to navigate the system. It’s hard even for Americans. We’ll teach you. We’re here for you, so don’t be afraid,'" Al-Fatlawi said.
Siloam Health is juggling resources to make sure they can help hundreds of refugees with medical needs as they slowly arrive following an extensive screening process.
"Refugees usually come with a limited amount of support as far as the federal program, these Afghan arrivals will be given a much more limited support from the federal government, so we’re looking for the community to really step in," said Amy Richardson, chief community health officer at Siloam Health.
However, Richardson said they're prepared. "Because we opened a clinic in Antioch last year and it’s grown our capacity," Richardson said.
Meanwhile, Al-Fatlawi will continue being a light in these uncertain times for Afghan allies. “You are not alone, you are welcome,” Al-Fatlawi said.
Siloam Health's website says to fund one Nashville neighbors team working with newly arrived refugees costs around $2,500.
Catholic Charities and the Nashville International Center for Empowerment are the two refugee resettlement agencies here. They accept donations too.