Tzu Chi Sacramento’s Annual Free Clinic Helps the Sick and Spread Love

Northwest  |  December 13, 2022
Medical volunteers provided dental treatment to patients with care. Photo/ Chuanxin Zhang

Written by: Yuqin Zheng
Translated by: H.B. Qin
Edited by: Andrea Barkley

Collaboration for the First Time After the Pandemic

In the early fall morning of October 16, 2022, Tzu Chi USA volunteers from Sacramento, California, promptly gathered at a school gym provided by their partner, The Highlands Community Charter School.

This gathering was the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic that the Sacramento Service Center resumed its free clinic. Volunteers took extra care in COVID prevention. Before entering the gymnasium, people took their temperature, checked their vaccination cards, and received a quick screening to ensure a safe and secure environment for incoming patients. 

This year, the gym’s dental and Chinese medicine consultation rooms were equipped with self-expanding tent cubicles developed by Da.Ai. Technology to reduce the chance of bacterial transmission.

Inside the gym were orderly mobile clinic rooms set up the day before by the Tzu Chi USA youth volunteers and their parents. The volunteers arranged all the necessary items to make the clinic run smoothly.

In addition to dental treatment, people could receive Chinese acupuncture and cupping to relieve joint and bone suffering. Most patients who came to receive treatment had old work injuries. The acupuncture treatment significantly reduced their discomfort.

In addition to the clinic rooms in the gym, the Da Ai dental van from San Jose, Northern California, also came to help. Two dentists in the van served patients with dental problems.

Patients registered and had their blood pressure taken in order, making the atmosphere lively. Compared to regular hospitals, the atmosphere here was warm and welcoming. More than 30 patients received dental, Chinese, and Western medical consultation services to relieve their suffering.

Care for the Disadvantaged, Selfless Love Blooms

Ana Navarrete, a volunteer living in Sacramento and working at Highlands Community Charter School, is the school’s Student Services Center officer. She said, “I had never heard of Tzu Chi USA before, and this was my first contact with Tzu Chi. I learned about the free clinic from my school, and it was a great opportunity for my lucky students who needed help. Through my contact with Tzu Chi USA, I found that every volunteer, from the dentist to the receptionist, to the registration volunteers, is great. You are surely the best team of dentists! I am pleased that you can help our students!”

Ana added, “This time’s volunteer experience means a lot to me. I immigrated from Mexico when I was a kid. I couldn’t afford to go to the dentist’s at a young age, but now I can help my students with the whole process, which is why I came to this volunteer event.”

With Ana’s assistance, the Latin American residents could complete the registration forms and go through the medical process with the help of the volunteers and the medical team. Oscar Aguilar, a Sacramento resident, said, “I lived in Sacramento and was told by the neighboring school that there is a dental service here. You can attend even if you only want to get your teeth cleaned. Before entering the room, they asked for my vaccination card and did a quick COVID-19 screening test to ensure the whole process was safe. The office was spotless, and there was an internist to take my blood pressure and suggest ways to keep my blood pressure under control, which made me feel great.”

Amy Tran is one of the six dentists at the freed clinic, she is a Buddhist, and it is her first participation in the Tzu Chi USA free clinic. She admires the smooth flow of the entire clinic operation. While studying at UCLA, Tran actively participated in mobile clinics. Now that her youngest child is attending college, she has more time to participate and regain her enthusiasm. “I am amazed by the professionalism in every detail and the thoughtfulness of every process. It makes it easy for dentists to perform here,” she said, “There are so many volunteers that there is no short of hands!”

All the people are so friendly, everyone works together to accomplish the tasks. Even the vegetarian lunch was delicious, which made me very happy. I am looking forward to the next free clinic and would love to participate again!

Tzu Chi youth volunteers and young volunteers came to help out and work together. Photo/ Chuanxin Zhang
A group photo of the participating volunteers. Photo/ Chuanxin Zhang Chang

With Positive Energy, Young Hearts Soar

Thirteen Sacramento Tzu Chi USA youth volunteers and their parents came to the gym the day before the clinic for the preparation work. In addition to helping carry supplies and setting up complex medical equipment, learning how to install and use medical instruments was essential. The Tzu Chi USA youth volunteers are all agile and intelligent middle school or high school students. It only took them two hours to set up the clinic site.

There have been quite a few young volunteers on-site at the date of the free clinic. Fourteen Tzu Chi USA young UC Davis volunteers and four Pacific University’s Nursing Department students came to help. They were distributed to various service stations to help patients with registration, take their height and weight, and guide them to their seats. In contrast, some helped with sterilization or were assistants to dentists and Chinese medicine physicians.

In addition to the three dental consultation areas and four Chinese medicine consultation areas inside the gym that day, the Dentist Da Ai Medical Van team outside the gym was also busy. Two dental assistants and Tzu Ching supported two dentists from UC Davis, all working together to relieve patients’ suffering.

Angel Tseng, a young Tzu Chi USA volunteer currently studying at UC Davis, introduced the origin and meaning of the Tzu Chi bamboo bank to the incoming residents. “What struck me most today was that many patients did not speak English. It made it more difficult to explain the values of the bamboo bank,” she said, “My co-worker and I had to do everything we could to make sure they understood. We tried to use magazines, flyers, and photos to convey the spirit of Tzu Chi USA so that people could understand Tzu Chi better.”

Even without saying words, we can still convey our beliefs.

There is no boundary between love and doing good. People waiting for treatment learned about the bamboo bank, and the Tzu Chi USA philosophy introduced by Angel Tseng and raised their hands in praise. At the same time, the Tzu Chings conveyed their warmth with laughter.

After a busy morning for the volunteers, another group brought a delicious-smelling vegetarian lunch. The delightful lunch amazed everyone, who could continue the afternoon’s free clinic work after regaining strength.

The free clinic that helped disadvantaged community residents by meeting their fundamental medical care needs ended successfully at 3:00 p.m. Everyone was full of joy and looked forward to the next collaboration.

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