Written by Pinhau Chiou
Translated by H.B. Qin
Edited by Andrea Barkley
In a significant step toward providing healthcare access to those in need, Tzu Chi USA’s Northeast Region launched its “Caring for Health Day” event at PS 94 Elementary School (The Henry Longfellow School) in Brooklyn, New York. This initiative was designed to offer free medical services to the community, focusing mainly on those who are uninsured or unable to afford medical care. To this day, nearly 27 million Americans lack health insurance. This is primarily due to the high cost of insurance and other socio-economic barriers.
For the first time this year, nearly 20 healthcare providers proudly offered various medical services, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments, acupuncture, rehabilitation and physical therapy, and dental care through free clinics at the elementary school. Tzu Chi Northeast also deployed two Vision Mobile Clinic vans, which provided the public with comprehensive ophthalmologic services, including examinations, diagnoses, and eyeglasses.
Expanding its geographical reach, the annual Caring for Health Day, traditionally held in Flushing, New York, was conducted in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park for the first time. This move to Brooklyn was made possible through the supportive efforts of the office of 38th District Councilmember Alexa Aviles and PS 94 Elementary School. At the onset of the event, Councilmember Aviles expressed her gratitude to Tzu Chi USA’s Northeast regional volunteers and volunteer physicians for their selfless service. She expressed her pleasure at seeing such a beneficial event organized in her district, enabling more individuals to access high-quality healthcare services.
Due to extraordinarily high costs, affordable dental care has always been a highly sought-after service in lower-income communities. During this event, dentists provided oral hygiene education, oral cancer screenings, scaling, and health screenings, all to aid the public in preventing dental problems. Additionally, services such as acupuncture and physical therapy were also popular.
Rose Rodriguez, the vice principal of PS94 Elementary School and a volunteer at the event, experienced the benefits of Tzu Chi’s physical therapy first-hand. Due to knee discomfort, she sought treatment from physical therapist Jiaxin Zhang during a service break. “Because of going up and down the stairs, my right knee is a bit weaker than my left knee,” she reflected. “The doctor provided techniques to strengthen my right knee, and shared some ways to help me stretch my muscles and exercise my knee.”
Weijian Zhang, a physician who has practiced in Brooklyn for several years, expressed an acute awareness of the dire need for medical care among the region’s under-resourced population. He noted that this marked the first time since the pandemic that Tzu Chi ventured into Brooklyn to conduct such a large-scale, comprehensive free clinic.
In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing society, mental health conditions are on the rise. Recognizing this, Tzu Chi invited psychologist Katherine Lau to offer her expertise and counseling to those in need. Lau noted, “Often, we encounter Chinese American individuals who have already consulted with their physicians and initiated medication regimens but still harbor doubts about their prescriptions. They seek consultations with other doctors to alleviate their anxieties. Parent-child relationship issues are also commonplace. Many parents have expressed frustration over their children’s constant engagement with electronic devices, preferring online interactions over cultivating real-life social circles.”
According to Lau, effective communication is the key to understanding these issues. Ensuring that both parties genuinely listen to each other can create empathy, and illuminate a path forward. Seeing things from the other’s perspective can lead to more effective conflict resolution.
Tzu Chi’s Caring for Health Day event was a wonderful success, meeting the community’s diverse medical needs while strengthening the bonds and collaborative efforts between Tzu Chi USA Northeast volunteers and the community. This event truly embodied Tzu Chi’s firm commitment to safeguarding the health and well-being of Brooklyn’s residents and communities.