Migrant Medical Mission attracts 200

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 26, 2004

AHOSKIE – &uot;Bienveniedos a la mission medico. Por que esta aqui hoy y como te puede ayudar?&uot; &uot;Welcome to the medical mission. Why are you here today and how can I help you?&uot;

Those were just some of the exchanges taking place at Saint Thomas Episcopal Church earlier this week where nearly 100 volunteers dedicated their time, talents and energies to helping migrant workers and their families get the medical care they need while on their own mission here in the states.

Born out of a simple prayer for God to reveal a manner in which one local woman could serve Him, the migrant mission has developed into an annual event of fellowship and servant ministry and is now celebrating its fifth year.

&uot;It’s really exciting to see how this outreach has been embraced by both the professional and domestic communities,&uot; said event coordinator Pam Boyette. &uot;Every year there’s always something that makes the mission worthwhile. Last year, it was a girl we ministered to in Scotland Neck,&uot; she recalled.

&uot;Right before she came to the states, she collapsed in Mexico in the back of a taxi. She didn’t have money to see a doctor. After being examined by one of our volunteer doctors, it was discovered that she had likely suffered a heart attack and we were able to get her the help she needed.

&uot;It’s things like that that make the event worthwhile, knowing that what we do for the least of these we are doing for our Lord,&uot; she said. &uot;Although there is no contract promising continual care, we are able to help with some of the neglected needs of the individuals that come to us seeking the needed medical care that was inevitably postponed for lack of finances or other circumstances.&uot;

Volunteer translator Raul Campos, a native of Mexico currently living in Gatesville, attributes the lack of follow through on visits to the doctor to more than just finances.

&uot;I am Hispanic and I know that many people of my nationality do not have insurance, but aside from that, they are working all the time and have little time to see the doctor,&uot; he said. &uot;By the time they are done working, the doctors offices are closed and they cannot get in to see them.&uot;

Campos explained that many in the Hispanic community work two or more jobs in order to support families back in their native countries, often sending money back home to make for a better life for them.

&uot;If people could see how hard they work and some of the conditions they live in, many would be shocked,&uot; said Boyette. &uot;They are very conscientious, hard working people.

Right now, I know of 16 men living in one house in an effort to make a living and still provide for their families.&uot;

According to preliminary calculations, an estimated 200 migrant workers were able to receive medical care during the two-day event.

&uot;I was surprised to see an increase in the number of women attending this time,&uot; said Boyette. &uot;I think it’s wonderful to see them here because it takes time to build rapport with people, especially through language and cultural barriers. I think this is also the first time that we have had this many children,&uot; she said smiling.

Among those children was Campos’s seven-year old daughter, Maria, who played with some of the children whose parents were being examined and undergoing treatment. &uot;I think it’s cool being here,&uot; she said. &uot;It’s nice to get to know more people.&uot;

Campos, who intermittently observed her father translating for the doctors and patients, expressed a desire to teach Spanish. &uot;I like being bi-lingual. It’s a lot of fun and you can help people understand things.&uot;

In addition to a church service that kicked off the event on Monday, the mission provided HIV testing, diabetes screening, mental health literature, dental and medical care, eye examinations, blood pressure checks, a full course Hispanic-style meal both nights, clothing and Spanish Bibles.

&uot;We have a little bit of help from everybody,&uot; said Boyette noting the various volunteers and participating agencies and businesses.

&uot;This year we had five physicians, 10 nurses, three dentists, two dental hygienists, one optometrist, six student nurses, six health educators, 14 interpreters, two pastors, two pharmacists, 45 lay volunteers and one attorney, just in case,&uot; she said.

The mission recorded a tentative total of 42 medical exams, 25 vision exams, 33 diabetes screenings and 64 dental evaluations with 27 people treated. One gentleman, who was not able to comment, had seven teeth pulled.

Carol Cooper, an RN who volunteered to help with the diabetes screening, stated that four out of 12 individuals who underwent the screening were deemed as high risk and referred to the doctor for further evaluation.

&uot;Statistically, Hispanic people have a higher rate of diabetes than other races,&uot; she said, &uot;followed by African Americans and then Caucasian Americans. It used to be that diabetes was a disease that you were born with or developed with age, but what we are seeing now is a higher instance of children having the disease and it’s primarily because of their diet and lack of exercise.&uot;

Cooper emphasized the importance of education in preventing the onset of the disease. &uot;What we are sharing with them is simply the factors that place them at a greater risk of being diagnosed with the disease in hopes that it will give them ammunition for preventing future health problems.&uot;

Cooper stated that some of the contributing factors that increase a person’s risk for the disease are: obesity, family history, race, diet, lack of exercise, stress, age and genetic predisposition.

&uot;The most important bit of information we can tell them is to take everything in moderation,&uot; she said.

Also participating in the event were the following professional agencies: the Ahoskie Key Club, Telemon, Ahoskie Housing Authority, Hertford County Public Health Authority (from which came the HIV and Diabetes Coordinators and some nurses), Roanoke-Chowan Community College (volunteer student nurses), Roanoke-Chowan Hospital Outreach Coordinator and the Roanoke Human Services Center, otherwise known as Mental Health, Mizelle’s Drug and DrugCo along with those who contributed from the faith community.

Boyette also expressed gratitude for the time and efforts of Randy Bratt, a Spanish teacher at Hertford County High School who volunteered to help coordinate the interpreters. &uot;I’d be amiss if I didn’t thank him for all the help he has provided in gathering together our translators,&uot; she said.

&uot;He has been truly instrumental, all of the volunteers have been really. None of this could have been done without them. Each person plays a part in this. Some people didn’t even wait for me to contact them, they contacted me several months in advance. It’s really wonderful to have people so supportive of this ministry.&uot;

Aside from offering an outlet that serves the unmet needs of migrant workers, Boyette expressed the hope of an increased awareness and sensitivity to those around us.

&uot;People in this community are really neat. Overall, there is an incredible willingness to respond to others, but there are some who are still afraid to venture out of their comfort zones and minister to those in need. What I hope is that this will be an example that will lead to the opening of the eyes and the healing of hearts.&uot;

She continued, &uot;Sometimes, even in the Christian community, we can be focused on the happenings within our own little box and we lose sight of the needs of others and the way people hurt. We need to remember to be compassionate and open our own eyes to the reality of how God works in people’s lives through us.

&uot;That’s the joy of it all. The reward in knowing that you’ve helped someone is in seeing the different ways God works in their lives. Nobody can buy that, it’s just in the experience, but sometimes people are simply too busy to stop and look. It kind of gives us the picture of the Good Samaritan, he reached down and touched something he was not supposed to touch, something politically incorrect, because it was the right thing to do.&uot;

She added, &uot;The responses through the professional community and the lay community and the community of faith was absolutely fantastic and all of us at Saint Thomas want to thank the entire community for making it possible.&uot;