‘I want to help’: Providence caregiver uses free time to teach refugees new skills

Monday through Friday, you'll find Diego Monico hard at work as the phlebotomy lead for Providence Medical Group Laboratory Services. But, it's what he does on the weekends that truly sets him apart. Diego has spent nearly every Saturday since March teaching Venezuelan refugees to drive.

"I do it because I want to help, and I enjoy it because it brings me purpose," Diego said.

Venezuela is currently facing an unparalleled social and humanitarian crisis due to a combination of flawed economic policies and political conflicts, resulting in severe food insecurity, the second-largest global migration crisis, and regional instability.

Spokane has become a haven for refugees fleeing violence and suffering in Venezuela and other countries. Providence Holy Family Hospital hospitalist Dr. Kyle Varner has been at the forefront of helping some Venezuelans come to Spokane. He was the one who first connected Diego with this volunteer opportunity.

"Being able to drive is a huge liberation. It means you can go to the store or go to your job without having to ask for help," Diego said.

Diego knows firsthand what it means to feel that kind of empowerment. He was a teenager when he emigrated to the United States with his family from Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. As a first-generation American, he had to quickly adapt to a new language, different customs, and unique experiences.

"I can remember some of the challenges I faced with things like learning to drive," Diego said. "That's why it's so important that I can be there for these new friends and help make sure they have a good first experience in America."

Fluent in both Spanish and English and a father of three, Diego has the patience and positive attitude needed to be a good driving coach.

Since he started volunteering, eight people have earned their licenses.

"I will never forget the first person who called me saying, 'I did it!'" Diego said. "I get emotional just thinking about it."

The driving force behind Diego's passion for doing good is simple: "Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

"Do great things so the world will be better," Diego said.

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