Calgary-based MD International receives information and care packages for newcomers

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When a newcomer family fell ill with COVID-19 in 2021, Dr. Fizza Rafiq helped, through the work of a local non-profit organization, to translate pandemic protocols into their language, offer them health advice and delivering food and medical supplies to them during their period of isolation. .

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“Fortunately, they did not end up in the hospital. They were stable at home, so we kept in touch with them. We are doing it not only for this family, but also for other families,” said Rafiq, one of the founding members of MD International, a Calgary-based charity formed by doctors who have been trained abroad. but who are now authorized to work in Canada.

Their mandate is to ensure that health care and medical information is free from discrimination based on race, religion, income or ethnicity.

They help international medical graduates navigate the barriers to entering the Canadian healthcare system. And they have contributed to disaster relief efforts internationally, including a trip to Bangladesh in 2017 to provide medical support at a refugee camp.

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When the COVID-19 pandemic first spread to Alberta in March 2020, MD International immediately established a COVID-19 Task Force to keep Calgarians informed in many languages.

“The first seminar we held was for the Pakistani community, we went live on Facebook,” Rafiq said. “And we continued to hold these webinars in other languages ​​on a weekly basis. We provided them with information in their own language, so they could stay calm, stay home, and find out what the symptoms are.

MD International volunteers held virtual sessions open to the public with local yoga instructors, physiotherapists and kinesiology students to promote movement in the early days of the pandemic restrictions.

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The organization has partnered with a few similar groups to provide families in need with hygiene kits and food baskets, as thousands of people have been left without work. Volunteers also delivered hot meals to families sent into isolation after being exposed to or falling ill with COVID-19.

But it is MD International’s “I am a COVID guardian” campaign, launched during the second wave of COVID-19 infections in late 2020, that is the culmination of their efforts against the pandemic, Dr Asim said. Hussain, elected president of the organization.

“We had this idea where we wanted to give ownership back to the people, because if someone in authority gives you instructions, it becomes more of an order. But if it comes from someone who is close to you or part of your community – in your language or in your native language – it will be easier and more acceptable,” Hussain said.

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The volunteers, or “COVID Guardians,” have put together a series of videos to keep people informed about the pandemic, public health measures and vaccines. To help kick off the campaign, Alberta Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney, who represents Calgary Northeast, served as the first COVID Guardian and explained the concept in the first video.

“In one week, we covered 25 different languages ​​in more than 120 videos featuring people ranging from a seven-year-old child to an 80-year-old man, sharing messages about how people could protect themselves and others. said Hussain of the initiative.

When vaccines began to become more readily available, MD International volunteers again shifted their efforts to advocating for everyone eligible for vaccination.

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“At that time, people had a lot of questions about vaccines, so we started a vaccine campaign and answered people’s questions about why they should get them,” Rafiq said.

Working with groups like the Center for Newcomers and primary care networks, MD International has helped operate accessible pop-up vaccination clinics at the Genesis Center and Village Square Leisure Centre. Projects like these have been so successful in vaccinating residents in communities in northeast Calgary that this area of ​​the city achieved an astonishing 99% vaccination coverage for the first dose in November.

“It gave us a lot of happiness and satisfaction with our campaign and that what we did worked,” Rafiq said.

“It was a very successful campaign and a very good job done by all the collaborative organizations that worked in the North East and South East.

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“We were able to mobilize a lot of resources and we were able to reach those communities.”

Co-founder Dr Abdul Rahman said that as a child psychiatrist he also saw the effects of the pandemic on mental health early on and worked through MD International to run seminars on different aspects of mental health and awareness.

The group worked with another local charity to raise over $100,000 for the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation for Calgary’s future Child and Youth Mental Health Centre.

“What strikes me is the involvement of young people in collecting donations for the Children’s Hospital Foundation. Many children who have participated in these efforts, either as volunteers or by making a contribution, have found it to be very rewarding for them,” Rahman said.

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MD International has been recognized in Alberta with a Northern Lights Award in 2021, which honors exceptional Albertans for their impactful volunteer work.

Hussain said the group will continue its work in the community and hopes its educational content can reach the wider Calgary community.

“I think we’ve played a role in reducing the spread of COVID-19, especially in Calgary’s diverse communities,” he said.

“I think we all have an idea of ​​how we can help the community in a bigger way. … We live in a cosmopolitan community and we like to make sure that we participate in these activities where we benefit everyone.

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Twitter: @BabychStephanie

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