by Nancy Patterson, Community Outreach Coordinator, NN/LM, SE/A Region
“Volunteerism is the greatest humanitarian act a person can share …”
P.I. Advocates International, Inc.
Ali Muhammad is the Executive Director of P.I.A., Inc., a non-profit organization that serves the low-income communities in and around Washington, DC, where he lives and works. He is responsible for the vision of P.I. Advocates, Inc., which is to be a delivery system of easy-to-understand health information that serves as the premier obtainable health information resource, and technical assistance to providers who serve minorities diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and those at risk for infection of HIV disease. P.I.A., Inc. accomplishes its goals through strong, collaborative partnerships with an array of service providers and communities to ensure the development, delivery, and implementation of their unique training models for the general public.
When asked how he came to do this work, Ali simply states that he finds a great sense of gratification in helping others. He was kind enough to be interviewed for our Inspiring People feature in April 2011.
NN/LM SE/A: Is there something in your own personal story that you feel lead you to do the work you do?
Ali Muhammad: I entered HIV/AIDS prevention education work soon after I started treatment for the condition in the fall of 1996. I realized how manageable HIV/AIDS is if adaptation to the right-personal HIV medical regimen is done correctly. I have been living with and successfully managing this and associated ailments for approximately 23 years.
NN/LM SE/A: What do you love most about what you do?
Ali Muhammad: I love seeing the look of accomplishment on the faces of those we teach how to use computers and how to find health information on the Internet. I especially enjoy seeing the smiles of seniors when they realize they can learn to use computers. It is also motivating to see how fulfilled women and men in local substance abuse programs are when they complete our workshop and receive a government certificate of completion from the U. S. National Library of Medicine.
NN/LM SE/A: What is the biggest challenge in what you do?
Ali Muhammad: The biggest challenge is getting people to come out and partake in the workshop. I say that because they are always faced with life-changing elements that seems to prevent people from taking time to invest in learning and embracing this “new” world of technology.
NN/LM SE/A: What has been the most fulfilling part of your work in terms of health outreach to your community’s underserved populations?
Ali Muhammad: The most fulfilling aspect of our work is looking back acknowledging the vast number of people we’ve trained over the 12 years we have been providing these free computer workshops.
NN/LM SE/A: What do you see as the biggest health concerns in the communities you serve?
Ali Muhammad: Over the many years I have been involved in providing what I think is a much needed concept—computer and health literacy workshops, the biggest health concern in the communities we serve is a gross lack of personal health literacy. I know this may not seem to be a health issue, but it is the beginning of managing any and all health concerns.
NN/LM SE/A: How did you first come to know NN/LM SE/A?
Ali Muhammad: I first came to know about NN/LM SE/A through my association with the National Library of Medicine and my association with Karen Pomerantz from George Washington University.
NN/LM SE/A: In what ways has NN/LM SE/A been of help to you?
Ali Muhammad: NN/LM SE/A has been a supporting factor in PIA reaching many more participants through funding to provide our workshops to more people. I feel we have met all requirements to consider them partners in addressing health literacy needs in underserved communities.
NN/LM SE/A: Can you share a success story about the impact of health outreach in your community?
Ali Muhammad: I have received testimonies from a number of people stating how PIA saved their lives. One such person has worked with PIA for 8 years, rebounding from the brinks of death (as she puts it). She is now our Outreach Manager and is teaching others how to use computers and how to access health information housed in electronic medical libraries.
NN/LM SE/A: What advice would you give others who are interested in doing health outreach work in their communities?
Ali Muhammad: Dedicate yourself to making sure others benefit from your work. Let the gratification from seeing people learn from what you are trying to gain on their behalf and always remember that volunteerism is the greatest humanitarian act a person can share—volunteer your services even when funding is not available.
If you would like to share your story or suggest another person for our “Inspiring People” feature, please email Nancy Patterson: firstname.lastname@example.org