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A Look Back on Tzu Chi’s Fresno Mobile Clinic

Central California Mobile Clinic  | August 28, 2021
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Tzu Chi's Mobile Clinic travels to Madera, CA, to provide vision services for 25 young children. Photo/Zhong Mingyu

Written by Olivia Chung, Chiehpei Chen, Mingmei Chung
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto

Since 2001, Tzu Chi USA’s Fresno Mobile Clinic has traveled throughout rural areas in Fresno, California, committed to helping low-income residents meet their medical needs. The team has also inspired local community groups, medical professionals, and community residents to participate in volunteer work through these regular community clinics. 

The city of Fresno is located in California’s Central Valley, and is home to many agricultural workers and immigrant families. Living among California’s farmlands, many face challenges accessing comprehensive care. And without medical insurance, the cost of treatment and medications in the United States isn’t manageable for many people. 

Acts of Love Are Far-Reaching

During an earlier period of Tzu Chi’s volunteer medical services in California, volunteers found that many people could not travel to the clinic. Therefore, to allow medical services to reach individuals from remote areas, Tzu Chi USA’s medical team and volunteers began to develop a mobile care system.

Tzu Chi's Fresno Mobile Clinic allows essential services to reach individuals who otherwise might not have been able to access them. Photo/Zhong Mingyu

Fully equipped with medical equipment and supplies, the mobile clinic effectively broadens the scope of Tzu Chi’s love. Furthermore, Tzu Chi’s medical team has planned, designed, and developed three types of mobile medical vehicles: dental, ophthalmology, and western medicine, to better meet the medical needs of their patients. At present, there are ten Tzu Chi medical vehicles in the United States: four each for dental and ophthalmology, and one for western medicine and cancer screening each. The vehicles are stationed in the Los Angeles area of Southern California, the Fresno area of Central California, the San Jose area of Northern California, and New York state.

Holistic Health Care

Tzu Chi’s philosophy for providing holistic health care upholds the view that all patients should have access to quality medical services regardless of their status. Through the development of a standardized charity clinic process to reduce patient waiting time and deliver regular volunteer training, the charity clinic services not only ensure volunteers have a positive service outlook, but also protect the rights and privacy of patients, safeguarding public health with high-quality medical services.

Tzu Chi's Vision Mobile Clinic provides eye exams and prescription glasses. Photo/Yeh Chin Hung

Tzu Chi’s innovation in the ophthalmology clinic is perhaps even more eye-opening. In addition to standard optometry machines and treatment chairs, professional optometrists are invited to see patients. There are eyeglass lens grinding machines and a variety of beautiful frames to choose from as well. Patients who have confirmed the need for glasses after their examination can receive new prescription glasses within one day. 

The traditional eye care process requires patients to go to an optician or dispensing service with a prescription to get their glasses made, and then wait several days for the glasses to be ready for pick-up. Tzu Chi’s practical services help agricultural workers, who depend on hourly wages to support their families, see the world clearly without taking two days off from work, costing them their daily wages. These services are rendered with attentiveness and respect, and give rise to relief. 

Safeguarding Health

Fresno Mobile Clinic currently offers a variety of free medical programs in multiple medical disciplines, encompassing regular programs, annual consultation programs, and special programs, to provide fundamental medical services to the community.

During the pandemic, Tzu Chi volunteers walk senior community members home. Photo/ Zhong Ming
In 2013, Tzu Chi provided the Fresno Community Health Project with the equipment and human resources to help maintain the health of residents. Photo/Wen Chun Chiang

Tzu Chi’s regular clinics include weekly Western medical consultations, a weekly See 2 Succeed ophthalmology clinic for elementary school students, the Senior We Care dental and eye clinic, the iCare 20 program for patients not covered by the ophthalmology program, and the monthly appointment-based dental clinic. All programs focus on helping residents maintain their day-to-day health. The annual large-scale clinic provides medical services to the community, spreads social welfare news, and effectively implements social assistance efforts.

The “Healthy Fresno” event was launched in 2015, and was organized in collaboration with community organizations and government agencies. The annual event features a two-day joint community clinic that provides consultations on Western medicine, dentistry, ophthalmology, Chinese medicine, and information regarding the cervical spine. The “Care 4 Highway 99” dental and ophthalmology clinic was launched in 2017 with a focus on caring for the medical needs of residents in four neighboring cities.

Promoting a Virtuous Cycle

Tzu Chi Medical Foundation (TCMF) Deputy Executive Director Wen Chun Chiang explains key points for volunteers participating in the charity clinic service. Photo/Wen Chun Chiang

Tzu Chi’s well-organized service model and unremitting efforts in medical care have created a distinctive manner of charity clinic in Fresno. It has not only built a reliable reputation among patients by word of mouth and touched countless patients who have benefited from it, but also attracted more people to join Tzu Chi’s charity clinic, presenting opportunities for people to give back to their hometown. As more people became aware of Tzu Chi, they began to take an active role in caring for the needs of their neighbors, too. 

Tzu Chi’s harmonious and friendly volunteer service environment provides volunteers with the opportunity to grow spiritually. Individuals maintain a positive attitude in the process of treating patients with empathy, and inspire each other’s mindfulness through the sharing of insight. In essence, the entire volunteer team supports each other’s growth and progress.

The Boundless Love of Many

The second community clinic held by Tzu Chi Fresno Mobile Clinic in 2002. Photo/Wen Chun Chiang

Donations from selfless individuals across the globe enable Fresno Mobile Clinic to adopt an effective organizational management approach in addition to providing high-quality medical services. Organizational management policies are put in place to set up annual plans. Through education and training mechanisms, team members are encouraged to pool their ideas and pursue higher service goals, which assures the establishment of team consensus, so that the entire medical team can clearly implement their goals. 

In addition to providing service in Central California, the Fresno Mobile Clinic and other regional medical teams have been exchanging and sharing experiences within the Tzu Chi network, holding medical and equipment training, and learning and growing together. 

In 2018, the Fresno Mobile Clinic hosted Tzu Chi International Medical Association’s (TIMA) annual conference in the United States. During the annual conference, Tzu Chi medical teams from all over the U.S. shared and exchanged experiences. TIMA teams from New York and Las Vegas were impressed with Tzu Chi’s operational model for the mobile clinic in Fresno, and decided to introduce vision mobile clinic services after returning. Tzu Chi’s medical team in New York swiftly turned their hearts to action, and with the active efforts of volunteers from all over the region, the goal of setting up a medical van was soon achieved. After the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the 2019 TIMA Global Forum’s Annual Conference, the Northeast region’s two new mobile clinics were driven across the United States to serve the community.

Tzu Chi New York's Vision Mobile Clinic officially opens its service project to the community in 2019. Photo/Lo Hsien Hung
The Las Vegas medical team partners with the Fresno Mobile Clinic and completes the first Las Vegas clinic in 2019. Photo/Peter Simmons

Seeds of Love Are Sown

The volunteer team in Las Vegas brought good news in 2019. After completing volunteer training and the success of local fundraising for optometry equipment, the first eye clinic was launched. The Fresno Mobile Clinic took on the relay of love by providing glasses after the charity clinic. Within 24 hours of receiving the prescription, the glasses were sent to the patients in Las Vegas.

The Fresno Mobile Clinic has been stationed in Central California for 20 years, and volunteers continue to pursue progress, always reminding themselves that there is still room for further improvement.

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The Fresno Mobile Clinic has completed one thousand charity outreach activities in just a few years. Photo/Tzu Chi USA

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