Written by Kristy Mew | Johannesburg, South Africa
When COVID-19 hit, Yvonne Basilio took the opportunity to achieve one of her ambitions: to provide medical assistance during a natural disaster or pandemic. By relocating to New York City during the peak of COVID-19, Yvonne was able to lend her expertise in a place where the conditions were some of the worst in the world.
Prior to her move to NYC, Yvonne had raised a large sum of money towards establishing the AYDA Centre in Saint-Louis, Senegal. We caught up with Yvonne to ask about her passion for AYDA and her recent experience in NYC during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Interview 28 June 2020:
Yvonne, thank you so much for being willing to do this interview with us. To start, can you tell us a little about yourself?
Sure! I am 23 years old. I was born and raised in South Sioux City, Nebraska, and am one of five children. Both of my parents are Mexican immigrants. I have been working as a nurse for almost three years now. I lived in Spokane, Washington, for 13 months before I became a travel nurse. I have experience in long term care, medical surgical and telemetry. I am mentored twice a month in Spokane, and I recently joined AYDA as a volunteer.
Was there an influential experience that motivated you to become a nurse, or did you always know that’s what you wanted to do?
I decided to become a nurse when I worked as a certified nursing assistant in a long-term care facility. I really enjoyed getting to know the people I was taking care of. There is a special bond made when you get to take care of someone every day. You learn to be a good listener as you hear their stories and hardships and that helps you develop patience and compassion. That job inspired me to become a nurse, but working as one has reassured and solidified my decision that this is the right career path for me.
How did you find AYDA and what motivated you to volunteer?
Emily Furnish, who works closely with AYDA, told me about it. I have always wanted to be a part of a charitable organisation. It’s very motivating to see all the hard work behind the scenes for this organisation, and as a mentor have a strong passion for helping vulnerable children in populations. I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to get involved in while AYDA was still growing.
In what ways do you think AYDA can address the most important global issues?
Identifying current global issues is a good start. Recognizing what needs to be done, adapting to overcome challenges, and applying that through education that AYDA would be helping to provide.
Communities are continually being weakened by issues like Ebola, Coronavirus, poor hygiene, massive waste accumulation, and common diseases. What do you think AYDA can do to address these issues in the future?
AYDA aims to advocate and create ways for youth to thrive. One major way children and adolescents thrive is by being educated. As many know, the best way to prevent spreading communicable disease is by teaching hand washing. If children are taught hand hygiene, it should help significantly in reducing the spread of disease. AYDA will be able to provide a solid foundation of hygiene knowledge and this education, plus other activities, will equip youth to create a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.
From your experience in NYC, what do you think less developed countries can learn about dealing with COVID–19?
Developing countries may not have access to some of the treatments we have available in the US, but by washing hands and wearing a mask, you can help stop the spread of COVID-19. Learning the basics at an early age is something that can be taught at schools and at home.
Has this experience in NYC inspired you to work in areas hardest hit by pandemics or has this made you realise that you would prefer a different route in nursing?
I knew this was a chance of a lifetime – to see healthcare in its rawest, most vulnerable form. I never believed I would live to see a pandemic in my lifetime, but here we are! I believe if I were given the chance to go to a hard-hit area again, I would go.
You moved to NYC at the peak of the Coronavirus pandemic. What made you decide to do this and what have been your biggest challenges while working there?
It has been a dream of mine to help out with a major event. I knew that this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity would change me in ways I could never imagine. It was a little scary committing to this major change as it’s been a major sacrifice of my mind and body, but it’s something I know I will never regret. Some of the biggest challenges I’ve had were adapting and maintaining patience with myself.
It was difficult at first to get the hang of the routine at a different hospital in such a different environment. NYC is very diverse, which I’ve enjoyed, but it definitely required me to adapt to the culture they have here.
If you could live and work at one of AYDA’s offices abroad and collaborate with a community in need, what activities, classes or programs would you start with first?
As a nurse, educating people about their health is something I am very passionate about. I believe collaborating with their on-site health office would be the first place I’d want to jump into. I think it would be very enjoyable for me to get to talk to the kids about basic hygiene.
The world’s developing nations were last to be impacted by Coronavirus and have experienced slow infection rates, yet New York City was hit hardest. What is your theory on why this happened?
Aside from the high population, many people travel to NYC frequently either for work or vacation. That means new people are constantly coming into contact with one another. That would be my only guess as to why it got hit so hard.
The global pandemic has had far reaching consequences that are likely to last for years. If someone asked you, “What happens now?”, what would you say?
I’m not sure; I’m curious to see how this pandemic will change healthcare in the future. I think we will be required to wear masks for some time. I believe after a vaccine is made available, it will ease everything a little, but those who are immunocompromised will have to take their standard precautions as they usually would. This is a scary virus and it will continue to be until we can understand it better and have access to a vaccine.
Yvonne is a passionate nurse who dedicates her time to helping others – by not only raising funds for AYDA, but by relocating to high-risk areas during uncertain times. When she isn’t working as a nurse or as an AYDA volunteer, Yvonne enjoys spending time at home with her cat, Benji.
If you’ve been inspired by Yvonne’s passion and think you’d like to become involved with the Alliance for Youth Development in Africa, please send us an email at [email protected]. AYDA is a diverse mix of people who are scattered across the world.
AYDA’s directors and staff are all volunteers, who work full-time in other jobs as teachers, nurses, engineers and more. We could always use more help as we build foundations together!