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Volunteer Lights Up Faces at Ossining Open Door

Karina Febre enjoys seeing patients' faces light up when they see that she speaks their language at the Ossining Open Door Family Medical Center.

Febre, 25, an Americorps volunteer, chose to be an interpreter in the Behavioral Health unit at Open Door rather than anything else available because her Spanish language skills allow her to make patients whose first language is Spanish comfortable.

"Sometimes patients keep things back because they're trying to speak a language at (the provider's) level. I've seen that happen with my mom," Febre said. "When they have a person whose fluent, everything comes out. They tend to trust me."

A native of Chile, Febre immigrated to Sleepy Hollow when she was nine years old. She became interested in public health in high school after spending time in Senegal on an AIDS project.

Febre looked for jobs in public health after graduating from Williams College in 2008 with a major in French and Latino studies. She was hired for a temporary position in Queens, NY, that required her to administer a questionnaire to pregnant women to try to get them to participate in a study that looked at the development of children from pre-birth to 21 years of age.

After that position ended, Febre decided to join Americorps as an interpreter in Ossining. She lives at home and receives a stipend in exchange for 35.5 hours of volunteer work every week.

Last year, Febre did interpreting for the Ossining Open Door's nutrition program. In addition to working in Ossining, Febre also works one day per week in Port Chester's Open Door facility doing interpretation for a nurse practitioner in psychiatry.

"I've been placed in a very privileged position to get to sit with provider and patient," Febre said. "I've gotten to see the difference in people with depression who when they came in couldn't even put a smile on their face, and months later they're going on with their lives."

Aside from interpreting, Febre has also participated in group Americorp projects including helping out at the Community Action Partnership food pantry program and renovating the children's room at the First Presbyterian Church in Ossining.

Febre's experience working with medical practitioners at Open Door has convinced her that she wants to become one. She's applied to Hunter College to get a second Bachelor's in pre-medical studies.

"Being a provider, people are more willing to listen to you," she said. "And I've seen the need in this country for Hispanic providers."

She said she knows medical school is a big commitment, but it's one she relishes.

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