Bonjour from Paris!
COMEDE (Committee for Health of Exiles) has created a wonderful internship plan for me and everyone there have been great hosts. During my past few weeks here I have learned how COMEDE functions as a safe place for exiles, refugees, and illegal immigrants, who may lack papers and/or housing, to receive medical, psychological, and juristic assistance.
I was shocked on my first day when I arrived at the Kremlin Bicetre hospital, just outside of Paris, and realized I was not going to be working in a big fancy hospital like the ones I am accustomed to in the United States. COMEDE is just a part of the hospital and is a one-floor, intimate heath center in a run down building. At first glance someone may not believe it could be well-known or efficient, but COMEDE’s waiting room is full everyday with people coming in waiting to tell their story and ask for assistance.
The under-grown appearance of the organization is actually beneficial because although COMEDE does amazing work to help the helpless, it is better if it is a quiet and almost secret place for people to come to who may fear imprisonment or deportation.
Because of doctor-patient confidentiality, which includes the intern sitting in the corner, I cannot recount details of the devastating stories I heard or the torture wounds I saw, but I can give an example of one patient’s story.
A Bengali journalist came to us seeking medical attention and psychotherapy for his insomnia after the Islamic government tortured and imprisoned him for two years for writing against Islam. When the government came after his family, he lost both of his parents, and the rest of his family fled for their lives and are now exiles, dispersed around Europe. He cannot sleep at night because of the constant fear that someone is trying to hurt him, and he has longterm medical problems resulting from the torture and his time in prison.
This is just one example of the cases we hear every day. I am so grateful that I have been given the opportunity to hear the stories of each patient and work with COMEDE to ensure they are on the path to a better future.
These photos are of the building I worked in (La Force) with COMEDE within the Kremlin-Bicêtre Hospital.