Skip to Main Content

Roycemore Student Seeks to Eliminate Barriers for Non-English Speakers to Receive Equitable Healthcare

Upper School Wednesday, 13 Dec 2023

Local high school senior Samuel Yousefzai uses his personal experience as a first-generation American and his passion for medicine to increase accessibility to quality healthcare for non-English speakers in the United States. Sam is responsible for founding Bridge the Gap Interpreting, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide free and reliable interpretation services to non-English speaking individuals who encounter language barriers in accessing healthcare needs. By partnering with local healthcare agencies and recruiting volunteer interpreters who speak different languages, Bridge the Gap aims to ensure that language will never be a barrier to quality medical care in the United States.

“As the first generation of my family to be born in America, I have seen the communication struggles that my family has faced, especially my great grandparents who, after 20 years of living in the United States, remain unable to speak English. Growing up, I helped my great-grandparents communicate with English speakers by translating to them in Assyrian. Whether it was a phone call, greeting a neighbor, or other interactions, I was there helping them tackle the language barrier they faced. However, it was not until they needed weekly visits from a nurse to care for their health conditions that I realized how important communication was to receiving quality healthcare,” Sam explains.

“Consequently, during COVID-19, I volunteered at a local healthcare agency to contact elderly, homebound patients to check on their well-being and provide companionship. I discovered that many of them, like my great grandparents, were non-English speakers who faced language barriers when communicating with visiting nurses, physical therapists, and other skilled healthcare staff.”

Through his personal experience witnessing this barrier through his great grandparents and driven by his desire to improve the healthcare field, Sam founded Bridge the Gap. Motivated by the need for accessible interpretation services, he recruited individuals with diverse language backgrounds who were willing to volunteer their services for this cause. Local healthcare agencies, such as Hands and Heart Home Health, Twin Hearts Home Health, Focus Home Health, Comfort Care, Homeland Home Health Providers, Excellent Care, Medtec Home Health, and Vision Care have benefited from Bridge the Gap’s interpretive services. Sam's dedication and hard work was recognized by Illinois Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi when he received a congressional award for Youth Philanthropist of the Year in 2022.

Samuel Yousefzai, Youth Philanthropist of the Year 2022
Samuel Yousefzai, Youth Philanthropist of the Year 2022

In addition to providing interpreters to local healthcare companies such as home physicians, nursing, and physical therapy agencies, Samuel has successfully created a bridge connecting these local services with nonprofit organizations that assist minorities and underserved communities. This initiative has enabled hundreds of homebound patients to gain access to essential healthcare services, medical equipment, and vaccinations.

Bridge the Gap has broadened its platform to not only provide interpretation services to local healthcare communities but also to enlist more volunteers who offer support to a wide range of diverse organizations. Bridge the Gap has expanded its efforts by recruiting volunteers from local high schools and universities in Evanston, Skokie, Wilmette, and Chicago, Illinois. “We believe that offering assistance and making a difference shouldn't be limited to just one sector. By connecting with a variety of organizations, we can address various community needs and provide valuable contributions where they are most needed,” says Sam.

“Our mission is to make healthcare accessible and provide proper resources to home-bound elderly patients in the area. However, we also recognize the broader impact we can achieve by collaborating with different organizations. Whether it's supporting education, social services, environmental initiatives, or other community-focused projects, we strive to make volunteer opportunities easily accessible and meaningful for everyone,” Sam continues.

Sam attends Roycemore School in Evanston, Illinois where he is completing his twelfth-grade year. At Roycemore, Sam is the Founder and President of the high school Medical Club. His most recent projects have included organizing CPR training for high school students, and initiating the “Help for Homeless" project where medical club members assemble and plan to distribute first aid kits and essentials to the homeless in the community. The medical club is also planning future events such as starting the Doctors Without Borders fund to help contribute to lifesaving care around the world and working with elementary-aged students at Roycemore School to teach the importance of healthy eating. “It's wonderful that our school offers diverse grade levels, we want to take advantage of this and work with the lower class at Roycemore to make a meaningful impact,” Sam says.

Sam is also serving as Secretary of the National Honor Society chapter at Roycemore and is participating in clinical research focused on preventative medicine and social determinants of health. Upon graduation this spring, Sam plans to expand Bridge the Gap by increasing the number of volunteers around local universities and high schools, including Northwestern University. He aims to support small healthcare companies in our diverse community in overcoming language barriers. Sam's vision includes transitioning from local outreach to a national level, focusing on social determinants of health, and expanding access to healthcare services nationwide.

Sam invites anyone in the community interested in joining the growing network of compassionate volunteers, dedicated to creating positive change across different spheres in our community to contact Bridge the Gap. “Together, we can make a collective and lasting impact that touches the lives of many,” Sam concludes.

Samuel Yousefzai, Class of 2024
Samuel Yousefzai, Class of 2024

Schedule a Call with Admissions

Inquire Now