On April 16, 2023, the SSSIO held a free health fair/medical camp at the Words of Life Christian Center in the Bronx, with over 128 recipients served. The event, held from 2-6 p.m. was attended mainly by Spanish-speaking individuals who were seen by 23 volunteer physicians from area hospitals, some of whom were SSSIO members. Medical services provided included vision check and screening for diabetes, cholesterol, hypertension and cancer. Following physician and specialist consultations, attendees identified as needing further treatment were referred to local hospitals and given information about community health resources.

Present at the health fair were personnel from 12 public health and social services agencies who provided information on ancillary support services ranging from childcare, autism support and HIV support, to affordable housing and Medicaid/Medicare insurance. Guests also received health education on nutrition and smoking cessation. About 30 church and SSSIO volunteers ensured that everything ran smoothly from registration to guiding attendees through the various stations.

One SSSIO doctor, Kunal Merchant, an ophthalmologist, remarked that it was his first time serving professionally at a free health fair. He added “I found the opportunity very rewarding. In the past, I had volunteered many times when accompanying my father, Dr. Yatish Merchant, presently the medical director for the SSSIO Mid-Atlantic Region.”

The eye specialist noted that he saw about 8 individuals an hour, “which was about 40-50 persons in total. I had wonderful people working with me. Together we were able to give reading glasses to several attendees and also gave two of them a pair of distance glasses allowing them to better see.  Most had never seen an optometrist or ophthalmologist. I checked the front part of the eye and explained how they can have healthy vision. I discussed how diabetes and glaucoma can impact vision. I also looked for dry eyes which over-the-counter drops can help with. “

Dr. Bangaru Raju, an internal medicine specialist with the Montefiore Healthcare System, noted that the medical clinic that he directs serves a similar population. “We see similar ailments: diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, and obesity.“ He noted that several residents in training assisted at the health fair and were very inspired. “They are eager to participate in future health fairs. Sathya Sai Baba said that if you instill those values now, they will become the future torch bearers.” Dr. Raju praised the church’s leadership for a well-organized event, noting that,” the pastor was so accommodating, and he blessed us with a prayer before we started the health fair .”

SSSIO Mid-Atlantic Region President Aparna Chitturi, agreed, stating, “this was the first time that we had partnered with another organization on such a large scale in our region, and the partnership was seamless.  Volunteers from the church worked alongside us on all activities. It was a great example of service being a great avenue for sharing Sathya Sai’s message and love with the local community.”