Interview With Mrs. Jill Van Balen, EHC Volunteer Chaplain
For the past several years, a dedicated group of Volunteer Chaplains has ministered to our patients, their families, and to Esperanza's staff at all three of our sites.

Jill Van Balen was part of our Fall 2017 Volunteer Chaplain training class (see class photo, below). After completing her training, she immediately started to visit Esperanza’s patients in Temple University Hospital, going once a week. When COVID hit last year, she willingly shifted to reaching our patients hospitalized at Temple – by phone! She regularly connects with eight to twelve patients, or their families, each week, and since last summer has served hundreds of patients.
Can you tell us about your background?
I was born and raised in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. When I went to graduate school at North Carolina State, I met my husband-to-be, Lucas, who was also there in graduate school for agriculture. He is from Venezuela, of Dutch immigrant parents who went there to flee World War II in Holland. I lived there for 40 years and all three of our sons were born and raised there. They eventually moved to the United States to study and work. Since about 1993, I was involved in kids’ evangelistic Bible studies and evangelism and discipleship in police and military prisons. That all started when I went to visit an inmate at the police prison with some missionaries, she invited two other women to the Bible study and they repented of their sins and became Christians. So, I asked the missionaries, “Who’s going to disciple these women?” They told me, “you are!” I did this for years and eventually sensed God leading us to join one of our sons who is living in Philadelphia. 

What made you interested in becoming a Volunteer Chaplain at Esperanza?
When we moved to the U.S., I knew I wanted to serve the Lord somehow. I thought it would be using the kids’ Bible materials I had brought from Venezuela. But then a neighbor told me that Esperanza Health Center was recruiting Volunteer Chaplains – and that was it!

Is there a particular patient encounter that you’d like to describe?
In one particular call in December, I spoke with the patient’s adult daughter who answered the phone. She is bilingual but prefers English. She went on to tell me that their mother had taken them to church when they were young but then her mother died so they stopped going. Unfortunately right now her father can’t go to dialysis – which he needs – because of COVID. I told her about how my mother died when I was 9. As it turns out, she has a 9-year-old daughter and wants to put her in a Christian school. So I prayed for her, and gave her the link to an on-line service, and told her my testimony about the need to raise children in the church. She was extremely thankful for the call and asked if we could help her find a local bilingual church, and we followed up to help her find a church.

How would you describe your experience as a Volunteer Chaplain so far?
It feels very good – being able to pray with people who are suffering and going through hard times. If they can know God’s presence, then that’s a blessing. When you have suffered, it’s easier to help others who suffer. In general, people appreciate someone praying for them. It’s also wonderful when someone can be connected to a local church or can receive a Bible to begin reading.
Group photo of EHC's Volunteer Chaplains–Class of 2017.
COVID-19 Vaccine Update
Sandra Collazo-Lopez MS MEd RN, Director of Nursing, receives the first dosage of the Moderna COVID vaccine.
Esperanza Health Center continues to administer COVID-19 vaccines to our patients as well as some community members, based on the most current City of Philadelphia Department of Health guidelines for who is eligible to receive vaccines. We’re thankful for our several new vaccine team staff members who have joined us recently, and for the many other staff who have been working hard to provide vaccines to our patients and community. Additional updates will be provided in future Esperanza Chronicles eNews editions - thanks for your prayers for our staff in this ongoing effort.
Reflections on Providing Nutrition Care During a Pandemic
by Holly Barbee, RD, LDN

Although meeting patients where they are is common practice in the nutrition world, it took on a new meaning in March 2020. Once the coronavirus hit Philadelphia and we began to work from home, Esperanza’s dietitians had to figure out how we would still provide quality care to our patients while working remotely. Our job ranged from the standard care of an outpatient dietitian to keeping our patients healthy enough to stay out of the hospital. We worked hard to keep up with our high-risk patients to help control their blood sugar levels, discuss a heart-healthy diet, or just provide a listening ear for those who had a hard time coping with all the changes brought on by the pandemic. We learned a lot about God’s grace, how to be patient with others and to be thankful for those around us and their continued health. 
When it became safe, we were able to move back into the office a few days a week to offer services to those who needed specific nutrition education that could only be provided on-site. We were reminded just how beautiful face-to-face interactions (even with masks on!) are and how grateful we are to care for our community. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12: “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Our hope is as we continue to navigate this “new normal” and can start seeing each other again, we will not take for granted the importance of personal interactions with our patients.
Esperanza Health Center and Jefferson Awarded Grant to Promote Digital Literacy in the Latino Community
Earlier this month, Esperanza Health Center and Thomas Jefferson University were the recipients of a two-year, $50,000 grant award from The Mayor’s Fund for Philadelphia through their Digital Literacy Alliance initiative. Staff members from our Department of Community Health and Wellness will collaborate with a team from Jefferson, led by Kristin Rising, MD, MSHP and Brooke Worster, MD, FACP, to identify and address the key barriers to digital readiness among the Latino population served by EHC. A key outcome will be to create a digital literacy toolkit that will help community members more effectively engage with digital resources, and will help healthcare providers to address barriers and opportunities in digital healthcare with their patients, in an effort to reduce health disparities.
Apply To Our Ministry and Serve With Us!
Esperanza Health Center is looking for individuals who are compelled by the love of God and have the desire to use their gifts to help people within the communities of Philadelphia. Please visit our Career Center where you can view every open position and apply online! Some current openings as of 3/23/2021 include:

Nurse Care Manager
Esperanza Health Center seeks a full-time Nurse Care Manager with either a CRNP or RN licensure. The Nurse Care Manager is an integral member of the Care Management Department, focused on patients recognized as high-risk and/or high-utilizer, who require multidisciplinary care management to improve patient outcomes and reduce emergency room utilization and hospitalizations.  The Nurse Care Manager works together with primary care practitioners, community health workers, and registered dietitians to deliver holistic care, develop and implement care plan strategies and patient education during in-home and in-office visits, and work with team members to provide linkages for the various health and social needs of patients.
Medical Assistant
The Medical Assistant performs a wide variety of roles in support of the clinicians and in the provision of safe and whole-person care. The Medical Assistant prepares adults and children for exams and assists adult practitioners, pediatricians, obstetricians, gynecologists, and HIV care providers in caring for patients. The Medical Assistant addresses the needs of walk-in and call-in patients in the back desk and triage areas, performs phlebotomy, tends to orderliness and stocking of exam rooms, hubs and labs, assists supervisors with specific tasks, and nurtures the spiritual growth of team members and patients. Medical Assistants are assigned to the various roles above based on the needs of Esperanza Health Center and the skill set of the individual Medical Assistant.

Dental Assistant
Esperanza Health Center seeks a full-time Dental Assistant. The Dental Assistant is responsible for assisting the Dentists and Dental Hygienists in the direct provision of dental services to patients of the center. The Dental Assistant is also responsible for sterilization, preparation, and inventory control of dental instruments and supplies. Other responsibilities include dental radiography, equipment maintenance, oral health education, monitoring patient flow, and assisting the Dental Administrator as needed. Position includes some Saturday shifts.

Cafe Manager
Esperanza Health Center seeks a Cafe Manager to provide leadership and oversight for the Phoenix Cafe. The Phoenix Cafe’s mission is to provide accessible and affordable fresh food in North Philadelphia. Phoenix Cafe is open at two of our three locations: Hunting Park and Kensington and Allegheny. The Cafe Manager will oversee both locations.

RN Clinical Manager
Esperanza Health Center seeks full-time RN Clinical Managers for our Hunting Park/5th Street sites and for our Kensington site. The position is responsible for managing the clinical operations and clinical staff (RNs and two clinical supervisors who supervise the medical assistant team) at the assigned site. The key clinical operations managed by this position include inventory and procurement, infection control, laboratory compliance, vaccine protocols, and routine departmental tasks. Training-the-trainer, developing staff, and providing leadership to the RN/MA teams are vital parts of this role.