Volunteering Is Family Business at Tzu Chi’s Fresno, Calif. Medical Foundation

Steven Voon, his wife and his two young daughters are a loving family, and a family that is grateful. As Chief Operating Officer and Executive Director of Tzu Chi Mobile Clinic and Outreach at Tzu Chi’s Medical Foundation in Fresno, Calif., volunteerism is a family affair. The work Voon does along with his wife, Tzu Chi volunteer Olivia Chung, helps some of the neediest people in Fresno’s grape country. This is where much of the country’s grapes are grown but not many people truly realize the dedication and extremely difficult work that goes into it, day in and day out.

The Voon’s family days are filled with Tzu Chi duties that need to be done after the couple drop off their daughters at school. The girls see firsthand the good, selfless work that their parents have been inspired to do daily.

They work in the Central Valley where the grape fields are located, and there are 1.5 million Mexicans, 80 percent of whom are undocumented and without papers work long days. The work is hard and most start their days as early as 3 a.m. Their jobs do not offer medical insurance so most people do not even go to the doctor or the dentist.

Whatever accident, if you slip or fall, we have to settle our issues on our own.

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Although the workers are desperate for some type of medical insurance, which most likely won’t come, there is hope through Tzu Chi Medical Foundation’s mobile clinic, which opened there in May 2012 and is open every Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The mobile clinic will eventually be equipped with a dental room, conference room and an acupuncture room.

Tzu Chi volunteer, Dr. Walter Fung, has survived cancer twice and knows what it’s like to have something change your life. Because things can happen to anyone, Dr. Fung has a strong need to help others.

That’s what brought me here—the sense that I got to do something for other people.

And helping people is contagious as Dr. Fuze, another volunteer doctor, had not intended on providing his services for as long as three years, but he continues because of the pleasure he receives from helping others.

Since the Fresno medical facility organizes all the outreaches, it also has all patient charts and files. Volunteers Olivia and Ron helped Voon get all medical data captured and wrote the electronic health records so that it is all secured in one place. This enables seamless patient registration that only takes a few seconds.

Part of the Fresno mobile clinic’s services include administering flu shots to the local residents, many of whom work in the grape fields for only $15 to $20 a day. According to Dr. Fung, they give hundreds of flu shots at a time. Many who receive the shot are receiving it or the first time in their lives.

According to Voon, there are on average 15 to 18 outreach events a year. It takes strong volunteers and hard work to ensure that everything is done prior to an event as well as during and after. Preparation includes loading the truck with equipment, unloading at the event, cleaning and doing is over again. The days are long and include a lot of physical work.

Tzu Chi volunteers not only experience a lot of physical hardship on a daily basis especially when working on an outreach event but emotional and they make personal sacrifices in order to do the good works of caring for others who are in need.

At the Binational Health Week Outreach at the Fresno City College event, the Tzu Chi medical clinic provides health care to the immigrant population, the uninsured and low-income communities.

Dental clinics were offered to families, some of whom never had been to a dentist or had a cleaning because they lack the insurance or simply do not have the money. Others are concerned about their children’s health and want them to receive care.

From nobody to recruit to about 150 volunteers and 50 community volunteers. That’s the unique part of Fresno. We use a lot of community partners and community volunteers to support this event.

The college gives back to the community as well. Joanne Pacheco, academic chair, FCC Dental Hygiene Program, wants her students to give back by using their skills that can help the people in the community who need it most.

It was so cool seeing everyone’s smiles on their faces and being able to make their day. My first patient who came in, she was so grateful when she sat down in the chair, and she hadn’t had any insurance, and when I got finished cleaning her, she could not say 'thank you' enough.

More than 30 providers come to Fresno to offer their services. They are medical professionals who believe in Tzu Chi’s mission and what the organization does for the wellness of people. After watching the genuine concern that the doctors and dentists have for the patients, more patients are inspired to sign up to volunteer themselves.

Steven Voon feels lucky to not only do the work that helps others and fills his own heart but work that his wife and two daughters can take part. It is something in which they believe, something that helps to bring wellness to those less fortunate.