LEWISTON — Soraya Karbasi and Bryan Jeff Mayo will be working on Thanksgiving.

But that’s what they’re thankful for.

The two nurses are part of a cohort of 13 hired from the Philippines to work for St. Mary’s Health System’s d’Youville Pavilion. St. Mary’s couldn’t find enough local nurses to work in the nursing home. The Filipino nurses couldn’t find jobs in their home country. 

The 13 started arriving in August. Karbasi, 27, arrived in September and Mayo, 33, arrived in October.

This will be their first Thanksgiving.

“We’re excited to partake in the celebration,” Mayo said.

“Especially the food,” Karbasi said with a laugh.

They’ve heard what the day involves: spending time with family and friends, feasting, watching football, expressing thanks.

Although the American holiday isn’t celebrated in the Philippines, Karbasi and Mayo are familiar with the theme. The Philippines has both national and regional festivals that are all about blessings and giving thanks. (Though unlike America’s Thanksgiving Day, those celebrations last between one week and one month.)

The nursing home doesn’t close for Thanksgiving, so most of St. Mary’s new Filipino nurses will be working on the holiday. But they’re OK with that.

Their jobs are part of what they’re grateful for.

“My family, my friends, good health … I’m thankful to God for all the opportunities, challenges and triumphs. And of course, the opportunity of achieving our American dream courtesy of the leadership of St. Mary’s,” Mayo said. “There’s a lot to be thankful for. We just have to reflect on those on Thanksgiving.”

All of the Filipino nurses will celebrate Thanksgiving on Friday with a potluck dinner at their supervisor’s home. Both Mayo and Karbasi plan to bring dishes familiar to the Philippines, but they expect more traditional Thanksgiving fare will be there as well.

“I’ve heard of turkey. Like it’s the main thing,” Karbasi said.

This will be their first Thanksgiving, but it won’t be their last. The nurses work under a three-year contract and often have the option of staying longer.

“We’ve been really working hard for this American dream. We’ve faced a lot of challenges just to get here,” Mayo said. “Again, we are very thankful to St. Mary’s for selecting us.”

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Soraya Karbasi and Bryan Jeff Mayo are nurses at St. Mary’s Health System’s d’Youville Pavilion in Lewiston. They moved from the Philippines earlier this fall and will celebrate their first Thanksgiving. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)


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