Medical camp at Kirbyville
An eye-opening experience at Kirbyville Medical Camp
In many faiths it is said, “Take one step toward God, and God will take a hundred toward you.” Though I have often recalled this saying, it was sublimely gratifying to experience it firsthand during the US Sai Organization Region 10 Medical Camp in Kirbyville, Texas. (1)
The one step that we Sai volunteers decided to take – to play a small role in assisting our brothers and sisters, without ulterior or selfish motives – resulted in a medical camp in which every aspect chugged along like a well-oiled machine, a result we felt was purely divine grace.
First medical camp in Kirbyville
Region 10 has conducted free medical camps in many cities for nearly 10 years, usually one or two per year. From the feedback I heard after this camp, it was one of the smoothest medical camps to date, with just the right ratio of volunteers to patients, even though it was our first camp in this small East Texas town. We had beautiful weather, and even during the peak times of 10 am to noon, patients had to wait no more than 10 minutes at each station.
The day-long medical camp, held on 28 January 2012 at the Kirbyville Central Baptist Church, provided about 290 area residents with an array of screenings, physician consults, and health education services. Our 62-member Region 10 team included 18 medically trained volunteers. I was a newcomer, one of 44 general volunteers who helped to register the residents and guide them from station to station.
Sensitivity to patients’ feelings
I was aware that despite there being no cost, many of our visitors would be reluctant to visit a doctor unless they were actually sick. So, part of our job was gently to persuade our patients to visit at least the major stations, such as blood pressure and diabetes screenings, by which time they were hopefully open to receiving a physician’s consultation. We needed to balance our eagerness for providing medical care to these un- or under-insured people, with a respect for their feelings, to avoid turning them off to future medical camps. We felt it was a miracle that many of our participants even attended this camp at all.
Specifically, the camp in Kirbyville offered participants screenings for height, weight, blood pressure, body mass index, cholesterol, diabetes, vision, dental, hearing, and breast exams, and x-ray imaging. On the second floor of the church campus we set up a pediatrics area, while geriatric services remained on the ground floor.
Before participants left, they were given a reusable bag, printed with a maxim that Sai Baba has told us is a key tenet in all religions, “Help Ever, Hurt Never.” The bag contained prescription discount cards, basic toiletries, a calendar, and a first aid kit, as well as winter jackets to children who needed them.
Partnering with ETHAN
Our partner organization, the East Texas Health Access Network (ETHAN), also staffed the camp with a crew of local volunteers. ETHAN is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3), multi-county organization providing culturally and linguistically appropriate services that increase access and promote wellness to the under-served population of Deep East Texas. It operates as a partnership between consumers, area hospitals, community clinics, public health departments, city and county officials, faith-based organizations, and other safety net providers serving Deep East Texas.
The ETHAN volunteers offered our guests education in healthy living, including information about nutrition, exercise, and smoking and drinking cessation services available in the local area. ETHAN also brought teen-aged volunteers to help engage the children while their parents were busy.
My skepticism dispelled
Until this experience I had been skeptical about the efficacy of organizations like ETHAN, but all my skepticism and cynicism were dispelled when we spoke with ETHAN volunteers and witnessed them in action firsthand.
My experience with this medical camp showed me how valuable community-based efforts can be, and the meaningful role our Sai organization can play. ETHAN has social workers on staff but no medical personnel, so when ETHAN staff plan a camp, they call physicians in the local area to offer medical care at a nominal cost. ETHAN collates information gathered about each “patient” who attends the camp. Then, their health workers typically contact local physicians for follow-up care. This preventive care helps diminish the number of people rushing to emergency rooms for basic medical needs, which substantially helps reduce medical costs in the long run.
The person who dedicates time, skill, and strength to service can never meet defeat, distress, or disappointment, for service is its own reward. Their word will be ever sweet and soft, their gestures will be ever revered and humble. They will have no foe, no fatigue, no fear.
Sathya Sai Baba, discourse on 28 Aug 1976
The power of playing our role, as asked
The medical camp was also a powerful demonstration for me about the determination and tenacity of a community to render assistance to its members, and its ability to pull in appropriate resources as needed. I learned through this experience that to help a community, sometimes all one needs do to be of service is lend a helping hand when and as asked.
In this case, the Sai organization alone could have provided all the services that were offered at the camp. However, by partnering with ETHAN and the local community leaders, we were able to support, and hopefully strengthen, the existing infrastructure. Furthermore, the presence of these local volunteers provided a cultural link that made our service efforts more acceptable and meaningful to those being served.
Surely the Lord’s hand inspired all the parties and volunteers to contribute in this endeavor. The local people were really happy, and we received many inquiries about organizing medical camps in other towns in the area. I can definitely see the benefit of continuing these camps on a regular basis. We give all the credit to God, who leads us all the way, and conclude that only He could have accomplished all this!
Ranji Raghavan, Service Coordinator of Houston South Sai Center,
& Ram Nandam, Region 10 Service Coordinator
(1) Region 10 encompasses the southern central states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas.
BACKGROUND NOTE: Region 10 held its first Medical Camp in 2005 in San Augustine, Texas, working with the city’s mayor and city manager. The ETHAN team was one of the groups who participated in the medical camp. The relationship between ETHAN and Sai organization regional officers was cultivated, and Sai Region 10 continued thereafter to participate with ETHAN on numerous medical camps and other humanitarian projects in East Texas. For more information about ETHAN, serving Deep East Texas, see: http://www.ethanresources.org/.
About Sathya Sai Medical Camps
Sathya Sai Organization medical camps in the USA offer free health screening services and referrals to follow-up providers. The camps may include vision care, dental care, veterinary care, or other services.