Written by Jeannie Wang
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Patrick McShane
On June 25, 2023, Tzu Chi USA’s Northwest Region held a community free clinic at the San Jose, California, campus to provide disadvantaged and low-income residents with a variety of medical services, including Western medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), dentistry, ophthalmology, and chiropractic treatments. The event was free of charge for anyone who comes to the venue, regardless of whether or not they have an appointment, or if they have insurance.
The volunteer team consisted of physicians from many specialties, some who were TIMA physicians and others who were physicians from the community who donated their time and talent. The patients could register and visit the appropriate department according to their medical needs. Volunteer doctors are not only professional, but also treat patients like family members. Their warm consultation sessions were highly appreciated by people who came to seek treatment.
A Place to Care for The Body and Soul
The day before the clinic, Tzu Chi USA’s Northwest Region volunteers moved supplies from the warehouse in Milpitas to the San Jose Campus. Prior to that, volunteers had already met online to communicate with each other, and had taken measurements and assessed the layout of the venue to make sure the clinic could be conducted smoothly, ensuring the patients would be seen on time.
By the time people began checking in, the volunteers had already set up a temporary clinic room with an eco-friendly tent produced using DA.AI Technology. Patients who speak a language other than English were assisted by volunteer translators who readily helped with their forms. After basic health checks such as height, weight, and blood pressure, the volunteers led the patients to the waiting area of each department.
Outside the venue, a “Footprints of the Buddha” exhibition and informational photo booths on Tzu Chi USA’s Northwest Region disaster relief were on display. Waiting patients could take a moment to browse eight sacred places of Buddhism, and recognize their beauty through the company and guidance of volunteers.
Volunteering Can Be Beneficial to Oneself and Others
After months of preparation, the San Jose volunteers responsible for the free clinic event finally made their debut. Arthur Chang, the team leader, thanked the volunteers for their efforts in publicizing the event, booking appointments, registering, arranging materials, setting up the venue, and liaising with medical professionals, all of which had been very successful overall. This clinic marked the first time that a clinic event was held at the Tzu Chi San Jose campus in California. While the event was an astounding success, there is always room for improvement, and everyone vowed to continue to work together.
Volunteer Fangwen Chen feels that Tzu Chi’s volunteering work has two main aspects. First is the process of cultivating the heart, and second is the determination to be grateful and to give back to society. For her, there were also family factors: “My father often participated in volunteer activities. Influenced by my father, I also like to be involved in more activities that benefit the community, oneself, and others.”
Volunteer Kacie Huang is the daughter of Dr. Kevin Huang of the Northern California TIMA, and will be attending UC Berkeley after the summer. She has been attending free clinics with her dad since she was a little girl: “Now that I’m growing up, I get to be my dad’s assistant, and that’s a really rare opportunity,” she said. She plans to apply for a double major in Molecular and Cell Biology and Business so that she can learn from her father’s experience.
Is It Magic? I Can Walk!
Zhi Xiong Ling, a patient who has suffered from long-term fatigue due to his work, has injuries in three nerves of his cervical spine, while the other nerves have also been compressed, resulting in numbness and pain in his arms, legs, feet, and lower back. He has been to a lot of doctors, but expressed feeling like there had been no real improvement. “I am grateful to Tzu Chi for providing this platform for low-income people to have the opportunity to come and see a doctor. I hope to take this opportunity to let the Tzu Chi Traditional Medicine doctor see me and treat me with acupuncture so that I can get better. I thank Tzu Chi a thousand times.”
Patient Vivian Liu, who came to Tzu Chi for the second time, is grateful for the opportunity to see a TCM doctor as well: “This helps me a lot, the first time I went to Tzu Chi’s volunteer clinic in Cupertino, California, I also met some of my neighbors who went to see a doctor, and I am really thankful to Tzu Chi for letting people who are sick to come and see a doctor here.”
Patient Yuling Li walked into the consultation area very slowly and with difficulty, moving with the assistance of her walker. Through World Journal, she learned that Tzu Chi’s free clinic provides various kinds of medical treatments and acupuncture services. Her knee has been replaced with an artificial joint and has been swollen and painful for two months now, so she especially wanted to see a TCM doctor: “At that time, I didn’t get to book an appointment, but I didn’t want to miss today’s opportunity, I must come to try my luck, and I’m grateful for the love of the volunteers who allowed me to see them. Dr. Liao is very caring. After the acupuncture, both my feet felt particularly relaxed, unlike the pain I felt when I first came in. The doctor asked me to walk around a few times, and the more I walked, the more relaxed I felt, which is really magical!”
Amy Sheu, a patient of Tzu Chi, was very happy when she learned about the clinic on the local news, and immediately called to book an appointment, “Their attitude is very good and friendly. Today, I came to see a Western medicine doctor, the doctor was very patient to listen to me, and also gave me advice, Tzu Chi really left me very touched.”
The Joy of Going From Assistant to Physician
In the dental scaling area, a pair of hands continuously and quickly helped each patient. Periodontist Selina Siu has been volunteering at the Tzu Chi free clinics since 2017, and she brings her scaling equipment with her every time she comes: “Every time I come here, I feel happy, as I can help quite a lot of people in this way. I like the scaling position better, and it’s easier for me to use my own equipment, I can work faster and serve more people in need.”
Ophthalmologist Cynthia Huang was a member of the Tzu Chi Collegiate Association (TCCA) at the University of California, Los Angeles, during her college days, and she participated in community free clinics three to four times a year: “At that time, I was interested in ophthalmology, so I helped out as an assistant to the ophthalmologist,” she said, “I never thought that after a few years, I would be able to work here as a doctor to help patients, checking whether there are any problems with their eyes or if they need glasses. I feel very touched to be able to serve the patients, and I hope that I can continue to help them in the future.”
I Hope I Can Continue to Help Them in The Future
In the first service area, volunteer Yong Han Zhang kindly helped everyone who came to the clinic with check-in procedures. “Everyone thinks that the Tzu Chi volunteers are very kind! They are very impressed,” Yong Han Zhang shared with a smile. Many patients traveled long distances to see the doctors at the clinic. The patients enjoyed the clinic, which deeply touched the volunteers, especially when they saw the patients leave satisfied, which made all present feel that the event was very successful.
Cherrie Lin, a TCM doctor, started joining Tzu Chi’s free clinics by opening her home and inviting people from the community to visit for treatment. She has been working hard in the community all along the way, and has also taken on the role of TCM team leader for the free clinics.
There are many natural disasters in Northern California, and the team went to the free clinics held around the region. She saw many people living a hard life. She was very troubled; although the volunteer doctors did their best to treat the patients, there were many more patients than doctors to treat them. She thought to herself, “If I could become a doctor, wouldn’t I be able to do more?” Every doctor in the TCM team encouraged her to follow this dream: “I entered the Wuxi College of Traditional Chinese Medicine at the age of 48, and completed a four-year doctoral degree in three and a half years. During that time, I traveled to mainland China, Malaysia, and Taiwan, and studied with many masters to learn the techniques of Chinese medicine. I am delighted to have been certified as a TCM doctor last year, and I opened my clinic in March of this year.” She is now a member of the TCM team and has joined TIMA.
At one point in the day, in one corner of the venue, there was a sign that read “Western Medicine.” Seated in front of the consultation table were three people with gray hair. One of them was a volunteer who was helping out, and the other two were Dr. Chi Chen Wang and his mom, who is 99 years of age, blind, and needed some assistance. His mother sat quietly beside him. The mother and son were together, happily passing the time, which was a particularly touching picture of a mother spending time with her son and a son being filial to his mother.