The need for health care is great in many parts of the country, where many people are unable to afford it leaving them to go without important dental, medical and vision care.
It is why Tzu Chi Medical Foundation offers free medical clinics such as the one in Coachella, California, with the help of The Flying Doctors, a non-profit all-volunteer organization. Since 1975, The Flying Doctors organization has been providing free health services by flying volunteer doctors, nurses and other staff from California all across the Americas, specifically to areas where access to health care is very limited.
In 2013, Tzu Chi Medical Foundation teamed up with The Flying Doctors as they had the year prior for a medical clinic in Coachella, an agricultural yet very impoverished area. Tzu Chi provided the equipment while The Flying Doctors provided the medical staff and those to fly the planes to get there.
This time Tzu Chi volunteers from Southern California and Central Valley were there to set up the clinic at Desert Mirage High School in Coachella. Tzu Chi brought all the equipment that the volunteer medical staff could use.
People in the community came to wait in line the night before starting as early as 10 p.m. They brought tents and folding chairs along with blankets to keep warm. They were there for everything from vision and dental care to medical and acupuncture all because they lack insurance. The line was very long and continued to grow throughout the next morning, leaving some to wonder if they would secure a spot to see a medical caregiver.
Tzu Chi has the need for health care volunteers and The Flying Doctors has need for equipment, which is what Tzu Chi provides. When they team up, great things happen for those needing the services.
According to one volunteer from the clinic, “We only have 300 numbers for dental and more than 500 people waiting outside for services.”
Volunteers at the clinic said it was the longest line they had ever seen and so many need medical attention.
With so many having never been to a dentist in Coachella Valley, oral disease is pretty commonplace, including periodontal gum disease and people with multiple cavities. One person at the clinic had 20 cavities!
Over the years, positive change has been happening because of Tzu Chi Medical’s commitment to the community and bringing in health services.
While Tzu Chi volunteers are ever grateful to be able to provide the much-needed services to the patients, those same patients are grateful to Tzu Chi and The Flying Doctors for the treatment and opportunity for health care.
While many people come for vision, dental and medical, many have labor-intensive jobs so they come because of their various body aches and pains making sure to see an acupuncturist.
Tzu Chi has in place a model for follow-up care, and volunteers are hopeful that they can continue their work for these grateful people once again.