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NH News

Overtime: Lidia Yen's Longest Job? Family Navigator

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Alli Fam
/
NHPR

Lidia Yen’s schedule necessitates meal prep. Yen, 22, is juggling two jobs, working seven days a week and just graduated from college. This week, she made chicken and shrimp alfredo in her new apartment in Pembroke.   

Yen leads Change For Concord. It involves hours of organizing and informing community members about the racism and discrimination around them and showing them how to take action. But perhaps her longest, unpaid job is that of the family navigator. It’s everything from ensuring SNAP forms are filled out accurately to taking her mom to the doctor. It’s often unnecessarily complicated work. The daily grind of working in a system that wasn’t built with families like hers is stressful and frustrating. 

“My mom speaks English as a second language,” Yen says. When medical staff speak with her mom at an  appointment, she often can’t understand them. Yen becomes the translator, but not into Acholi, her mom’s native language. 

“I don't even speak my native language,” Yen explains. She was born in Sudan, but she’s lived in New Hampshire since she was seven. When she’s at an appointment with her mom, she simplifies the English into more familiar terms. It’s something she feels the staff could probably do themselves, but they don’t.

Yen studied health care administration in college. She picked it, in part, after years of the system failing her own family. 

And since classes ended, she’s experienced lots of transitions. She moved home in December. Back then, she was working as a caregiver for the elderly because she wanted direct experience with her field. But the job’s stress and intensity increased during the pandemic. 

Clients were supposed to wear masks. But she says the majority didn’t. “It put me in a tough spot because some of them just can't be left alone,” she says. “I just had to stay there. And deal with it and make a complaint to the office.” But she says no one did anything about those complaints. 

Yen and her entire family caught COVID-19 that winter, although she’s unsure if they contracted it from her job. It was a tough month. The family couldn’t leave to shop, or do almost anything else. The only notable income they had was sick days from an organizing internship Yen had with the American Friends Service Committee in Concord. 

After that month, Yen returned to the caregiving work. But the overnight shifts became unbearably draining after months of getting minimal sleep on someone else’s couch or chair and managing the COVID risk. Eventually, she quit. 

Now, she’s balacing organizing work (which she really likes) with a new job at a hospital call center. She’s also adjusting to her new apartment, a cute two-bedroom in a cheerful neighborhood. 

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Credit Alli Fam / NHPR
Yen's home office in her new Pembroke apartment.

But the move also sparked an unexpected loss of her Medicaid coverage. In hindsight, Yen thinks the loss was caused by living independently and making a bit more money. Last time she went to the doctor, she thought she was still covered. Now, she’s stuck with the entire bill. While she’s applied for an employer’s health insurance, she’s still not totally sure how she’ll afford the visit. 

“I was just trying to make a preventative health appointment and it just did not go my way. It was not worth it,” she says.

But even though Yen is now in her own place, her family is never far away. Yen says her mother loves to come visit, kick her feet up, have a glass of wine, and unwind with her daughter.

Lidia Yen is one of six women NHPR will follow as part of Overtime. And we want you to add your voice. How are you managing the needs of caregiving and work during the pandemic? What is changing for you as the pandemic fades?

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