My name is Vadim Gaynaliy and I am a COVID-19 Contact Tracer for the Tracing Health Program in Clark County, Washington. My role in Tracing Health is that of a Contact Tracer. I came to work through a recommendation from a friend. They were in need of Russian speaking bilingual contact tracers. And so I was recommended by a former employee. I think we’re the right people to do this work because we were chosen from the communities in which we serve.
So when you speak the same language as someone else and you share their culture, you’re better able to meet their needs. You’re able to understand them and are more empathic level. And that helps get to the point of the problem more quickly. There are lots of Russian speaking people who live in the Pacific Northwest. Understanding that and being able to communicate with them in their language automatically gave me a higher level of trust than they would have gotten from someone who is speaking through an interpreter.
Being able to communicate with them in the various dialects that people speak is also very important. Lots of times these languages and dialects aren’t represented in interpreter services, and so is communicating to people directly about their health, gives them a bigger sense of privacy and they feel like they’re more understood if you’re speaking their language. So one of the folks I talked to early in my work with PHI in Tracing Health program was an elderly lady who is around 83 and didn’t really speak any English at all. She didn’t understand who I was and assumed I was one of her relatives just because she’s never picked up the phone and talked to a stranger in Russian before.
Lots of folks are hesitant, but specifically these these people who immigrate from the former Soviet Union are especially hesitant to talk to anyone who represents any kind of local government. So gaining her trust was a little bit difficult. But once we got past that barrier, she was very communicable and very eager to share and listen and follow instructions. This work is more than a job because it grounds me into my community and it helps me see the end goal and the mission that we’re all striving towards.