After graduating high school in a small island in East Africa, Ahmid Rizik moved to the United States. He says that he was always “medically curious” as a child, and that this quality led him to nursing. Ahmid is also very civically active – in June 2014, he was invited to attend the Immigration Summit at the White House by President Barack Obama.
- What was your childhood like?
I was raised in East Africa on a small island. There were only about 300,000 people on the island. People were extremely poor. Life was tough but neighbors and families were close. People spent a lot of time with their neighbors and families.
Very few people ever continued their education beyond high school, that was not the norm. Once you finished high school you found a job, did something. In my case, I would probably have went to work with my cousin who was a shopkeeper.
- How did it happen that you came to the United States?
I had befriended an anthropologist who was working in my town at the time. There was a period of bad political turmoil in my country. The anthropologist encouraged me and helped me to come to the United States. I came here in May of 2001.
- What happened once you were here?
I lived in NY and attended the Bronx Community College for two years. This was just to qualify me for entrance to a four-year college. I then moved to Harpers Ferry, WV and attended Shepherd University as a Business Administration major. In college, I was active in student government and the multicultural leadership team.
School was hard for me here in the U.S. English was a second language for me and I was still trying to master it. I would have to read the reading assignments or books two or three times before I fully understood the information.
- How did you go from B.A. to Nursing?
As a child I was what I now call ‘medical curious.’ I was curious about why people got sick and what can be done to make them better. I had an easy demeanor so I got along with everyone. I would find myself caring for others. I actually wanted to be a doctor but that was not a possibility in East Africa. The schooling alone was not a reachable goal.
After a time in school in the U.S., I decided that Nursing was the way for me to go so I changed majors and here I am. After graduating, I applied for a job at Chambersburg Hospital and was hired and I’ve been here since.
- What kind of differences are there between healthcare in the U.S. and healthcare in East Africa?
In the hospital in my town, nurses did work like the nursing aides here. There was really no schooling for them. Each day the doctor would come in and do rounds and the ‘nurses’ would give the patient’s their medications, injections, and take care of their basic needs. My hometown hospital wasn’t well equipped or modern. If a person had a complicated medical issue they would be transferred to a hospital on another island or in the capital. A transfer could take a week to happen. Because we lived on an island travel was by boat and the boat only came once a week. A plane was not an option. Most patients who had more than a simple illness would die.
- Do you miss your homeland? Your family?
Most definitely and this has gotten worse as time has gone on. I was young and adventurous when I first came here. This was a new adventure for me to conquer. Since I became a citizen I went back to visit two times. I find it harder to go back because of work and my family.
- What about your U.S. family?
I have a daughter who lives in N.Y. with her mother. I am married to a nurse who also works at Chambersburg Hospital. We are expecting our first child together, a son, at the end of the summer.
- If you wanted to share a message with other nurses, what would it be?
Nursing is a caring profession, a vocation. The patients you take care of may only have you. They may not have any friends or family and you become their support when they are vulnerable.