As Greece reopens, post COVID-19 surge, and regular activities slowly resume, we would like to recognize Laurance Menetian, as CHEER Champion of the week. Laurance is a Psychologist, Psychotherapist, and Clinical Criminologist who collaborates with CHEER’s International Branch, CHEERing. She works as a Protection PSS (Psychosocial Support) Specialist under the Danish Refugee Council (DRC). She works on-site and in cooperation with local partners to provide psychosocial support to residents of the Skaramagas Refugee Camp, using group information sessions and focus group discussions. Laurance has been a key facilitator of DRC and CHEERing’s collaborations, helping to implement workshops and information sessions at Skaramagas on topics ranging from health and nutrition to basic first aid.
The refugee crisis in Greece began in 2011 and continues today, and as laws and the needs of refugees continue to evolve, so too does Laurance’s work adapt and expand. When asked about the refugee “crisis” overall, Laurance explained that while she does not see the situation changing any time soon, she remains motivated—“we all work towards that direction, to have citizens living with dignity and having their rights, and we put our own little pebble towards that direction, so hope never ends!”
And boy does Laurance put pebbles, if not boulders, towards that direction! Through her smiling and enthusiastic demeanor, boundless positivity, and dedication, Laurance works to support the well-being of the camp residents each and every day. She explains, “The big success is seeing the difference you do through your work for each individual. Even a slight change, a smile, the relief in someone’s eyes, is our ‘reward’ in our everyday work. A small action from our side, could be an important change for the refugee we have been helping.” When asked what she enjoys most about her work, Laurance replied, “speaking to the people and listening to their views, their story and their experiences is great…It is exciting, because you do not only give to people, but from each one you get something, you learn something new.”
Laurance balances these positives with the difficulties, both tangible and intangible, of working with refugee and migrant populations. Of the most challenging parts of her work, Laurance said, “Working with the system is challenging, facing on an everyday basis the experiences of refugees can lead to secondary trauma. Trying to make a difference and a lot of times being disappointed, but still having to work, is challenging.” In this ever-changing and demanding environment, Laurance explained the importance of boundaries, saying, “it is essential to…know what you are capable of doing and what is not your responsibility. And as easy as it may seem, it needs constant work with one’s self to achieve it. Because, after all, if you cannot take care of yourself, how do you expect to help others?”
In taking care of herself and trying to maintain those boundaries, Laurance does theater outside work. One day she hopes to combine her work and play through a theatre project involving refugees!
Congratulations, Laurance, and thank you for all the incredible work you do! We cannot wait to keep collaborating with you all.
This week's CHEER Champion is the Houston Health Department Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program! This department consists of 165 members who provide supplemental foods, nutrition education and breastfeeding support to women, infants and children up to the age of five. They were nominated for their creative use of videos to promote and improve breastfeeding education.
“Our team aims to capture the attention of viewers and raise the interest of the public to normalize breastfeeding. We do this by creating song parodies of top hit songs that people commonly know.” –Zahra Koopaei, WIC Bureau Chief for Project 26, Houston Texas
The WIC Program Project 26 serves the at-risk Houston community by issuing WIC foods, providing nutrition education, breastfeeding support through peer Counselors, breast pumps and access to a navigator, who connects clients with community resources. Their services are evidence-based and premised on research findings that families who participate in WIC have:
During this COVID-19 pandemic, the Houston WIC team have come up with creative ways to serve the community while adhering to social distancing and the correct use of PPE. The breastfeeding support team are assisting moms through Zoom video conference and mailing out breast pumps. They remain committed to providing the much needed support services to their community.
Congratulations to the Houston Health Department WIC, thank you for making breastfeeding education so much fun!
Congratulations to CHEER Champion of the Week, Emily Sanchez, MS, Clinical Dietitian, and U.S Army Captain, who currently serves as the Chief of the Community & Outpatient Nutrition Branch, Brooke Army Medical Center, Houston TX. Emily was nominated for her breastfeeding work and contributions to managing the nutritional needs of patients during the current COVID-19 epidemic in New York.
Growing up, volunteerism and community service was a significant part of Emily’s childhood and family life. Therefore, it felt very natural for her to join the military as an adult, in a bid to serve her community and country. “The U.S. Army’s emphasis on life-long learning and the core values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless-service, honor, integrity, and personal courage resonated with my upbringing. It felt like an instant connection of my personal ambitions and the values my mother always tried to instill in my brother and me,” she shares.
During her undergraduate education at Boston University, Emily volunteered with CHEER (formerly the Breastfeeding Center) as a research assistant. After that, she completed her Masters’ Thesis on “Infant Feeding Practices from Birth to Six Months among Women Receiving Treatment at Army Medical Treatment Facilities” and became a CLC. She has since used this additional training to enhance individual outpatient nutrition therapies and to coordinate breastfeeding support groups and mother-baby nutrition classes.
Currently, Emily serves as a clinical dietitian for the 11th Field Hospital - Javits Medical Center New York- where she leads the hospital’s nutritional medicine team for the COVID-19 pandemic. The team consists of 8 Army dietitians, and 24 nutrition specialists who are working together to deliver therapeutic meals and meet patients’ medical nutrition needs. They also provide inpatient medical nutrition therapy and education in support of patients’ recovery from COVID-19.
When asked what she enjoys the most about her work, Emily expressed her love for the constantly changing nature of her military service and the fantastic civilian, multi-agency teams, and service members she has been privileged to work with. “It's these relationships, partnerships and bonds that keep me motivated to continue serving,” she says. “Every day, there is a new task to accomplish or challenge to overcome, and you must engage and rely on your team members to assist you in doing so.”
Furthermore, Emily reflects on her time at CHEER and describes how her participation in data collection and analysis set the foundation for her passion in research and data analytics. “My experience at CHEER sparked my pursuit for life-long learning. So much so, I will be starting my PhD this fall at Tufts University with a concentration in Nutritional Epidemiology and Data Science,” she states. The CHEER team is proud of the work that Emily does and we are happy to have been a part of her professional journey.
Congratulations Emily, we thank you for your service and wish you the best in your future pursuits!
Our CHEER Champion this week is Lisa Spring, RN, Certified in Inpatient Obstetrics, and OB Charge Nurse at King’s Daughters Medical Center (KDMC). She was nominated for being an amazing supporter of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative at her facility.
“I enjoy working on the unit because it is very family oriented and community supported. The Baby-Friendly initiative and our 3 year journey to designation really helped establish an even stronger bond that I am happy to be a part of,” shares Lisa.
Lisa first joined the Labor, Delivery, Recovery, and Postpartum unit of KDMC in 1998. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in a geriatric-psychiatric setting, but she always knew L&D was the goal. In her 20 years at the facility, she has enjoyed being able to contribute in various ways to the birthing experience of moms. As the OB Charge Nurse, she works closely with all the nurses to assist in educating moms on the benefits of breastfeeding and implementing immediate STS following all types of deliveries. “I tour expecting mothers through our department as part of the prenatal education class, to give them an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the department and know what to expect during their delivery,” states Lisa.
Lisa reports that the BFHI was initiated at KDMC by Blue Cross Blue Shield, Mississippi, and their push for maternal quality improvement. “When it was first introduced, I was reluctant to accept the change because it meant work process changes and I was uncertain about how the community would receive such changes,” she expressed. Over time, she was able to overcome those uncertainties once she witnessed the benefits of skin to skin and other baby-friendly practices. She declared that Baby-Friendly practices are now well supported within the facility and the community at large.
When asked what motivates her work, Lisa expressed that she is inspired to do this work because she loves mamas, families, communities, and enjoys witnessing the miracle of birth. “I feel happy to be able to bring calmness, reassurance, and comfort to first time moms who are afraid and do not know what to expect,” she shares.
In her spare time, Lisa enjoys traveling and spending time with her grandchildren.
Congratulations Lisa, thank you for your commitment to improving the birthing experiences of mothers at your facility!
CHEER Champion of the week
Each Monday (besides public holidays), we will recognize a CHEER Champion for all the support they have provided for CHEER, CHAMPS, or the general public.