Simplified: From translation to coaching to photography to education, Moses Idris has been an active member of the refugee and immigrant community for years. Now, he's added health care to his list of expertise while helping launch Avera's neighborhood community health worker office.

Why it matters

  • Idris has spent his entire career so far helping the immigrant and refugee communities in Sioux Falls.
  • He started a community soccer team and, most recently, a volleyball team for Kunama girls. He's also worked as an interpreter and as an educational assistant at Whittier Middle School.
  • His latest effort is through his job as a community outreach coordinator at Avera Health. He's helping connect immigrants and refugees to health care resources in the community.
“Health care can be so confusing and you just need somebody that can help guide you and understand the system," he said.

Who is Moses Idris?

Idris moved to Sioux Falls in 2010 from Eritrea, a country on the northeast side of Africa. He graduated from Roosevelt High School and started college at the University of Sioux Falls (USF) for a media degree.

  • He was working as an interpreter during this time, helping members of his Kunama community in hospitals and schools.

After graduating from USF, Idris took a job as an educational assistant at Whittier Middle School to be closer to some of his soccer players and pursue his interest in education.

"They’re just fun kids and I love them a lot, and so it's just a fun journey," Idris said. "Mostly in the community I'm known as the soccer coach."

How did Idris get into the health care field?

Idris knew his wanted to go to graduate school, but wasn't sure whether to pursue education or health care. At a community table talk event, Idris made a connection with Avera and called to hopefully set up an internship or a job shadow. That made his decision easier.

  • Avera Chief Operating Officer David Flicek and Julie Ward, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), met with Idris to talk about potential opportunities for him within the DEI program.

Idris took a job as the DEI intern for Avera, transitioned to a patient care tech where he could work directly with the patients, and then took his current position as community outreach coordinator alongside Adane Redda.

“We kind of created that position with someone like Moses in mind, someone that could help Avera build trust with our immigrant refugee communities, someone who could help not be just an interpreter of language, but an interpreter of culture," Ward said.

What's Idris working on now?

Let's start with a little background.

During the pandemic, the federal government gave out grants to support community health workers (CHW), or professionals who helped connected people with health and wellness resources.

  • The CHW position requires a certification, and workers can help people fill out documents, find jobs, translate and more.
  • Avera was one of the organizations to receive the funding, and they chose Idris and Redda to help with the program.

Typically, CHWs are stationed in the clinic and help when a patient comes in, but Ward said Flicek wanted to try a system where the patient could find help in a more comfortable location.

  • Idris and Redda helped find an office at the Empower campus (formerly the School for the Deaf) where immigrant and refugee community members already visit. There will be four other CHWs in the office with a total of 12 languages spoken across all workers.
“I kind of help them connect with the refugee and immigrant populations,
Idris said. "So whether it's helping people get either access to health care by interpreting or helping them connect with doctors.”

What's next for Idris and this grant program?

The CHWs have already been taking calls, and Idris has already been making visits to help the community in their homes.

  • Ward said they're hoping the new office on the former School for the Deaf campus will be open sometime in October.
  • From there, she's hoping they can run classes and programs out of the office to teach community members about healthcare topics like billing and being a good patient.
“If we can use this space, rely on the experts in this space to help us build some trust and break down some barriers, we're going to get that much closer to achieving health equity for all," Ward said.

Idris is still hoping to go back to school for an MBA, but he said he's happy to be at Avera until he can pay back more of his student loans.

“I get to go around the community, meet people and talk with them about how we can improve the community and to make Sioux Falls a better place," he said. "And that's been my passion since I've moved here.”