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5 questions: Working in Legacy Emanuel’s Heartbeat Café has opened doors for Olivia Graham

May 20, 2022

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Our recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month continues. Meet Olivia Graham, a 17-year employee of Food and Nutrition Services at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center. In 14 years, she has worked every role in Heartbeat Café and is now a floater, an “amazing employee and the queen of grab and go,” says Colleen Peters, her director. She was born in the Philippines, has a 14-year-old daughter, and is grateful for her career at Legacy. She sat down with us to answer five questions.

Your work at Legacy began soon after moving to the United States. How was that adjustment? 
It was difficult when I first came to the United States and was trying to learn English. I was afraid people would laugh because of my accent. But Legacy has opened doors for me. I didn’t know how long I would work here. I didn’t know then that no matter who you are, what your culture is, as long as you can communicate – even if your English isn’t totally perfect – it’s okay.

How has Legacy opened doors?
I love my job. I am so happy here. If you love your job, you like come to work and you like the people around you. That is what it’s like for me. I have achieved my goals by working at Emanuel. I got a house after working here for just a few years. This hospital has given me all of my dreams and lets me help others.

How do you help others?
There is a Filipino American Association on Start Street where we volunteer. It is open to everybody. We have fundraising dinners to buy shoes and books for kids at home in the Philippines who need them. I also send money back to family at home and to neighbors there. I know how they live, which is totally different than here. Because they helped me, I send some of my money to buy them rice, canned goods, and gifts at Christmas.

Does your background help you in your work?
We like to help people. We share. Sometimes customers have a hard time speaking English, and we help them however we can. Sometimes I am able to help them in my own language.

What was the biggest challenge in your work during COVID-19?
We got really slow here. I thought we might shut down because of COVID-19. There were no visitors, fewer employees at work. One day, there was just no one here. We lost the people we usually talk to. Now some are back again.

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