June 4, 2019
Marking Gun Violence Awareness Month
On Valentine’s Day, I remember that love comes in many forms. We frequently think of love as something shared between two people, symbolized by a dozen red roses or a romantic dinner. However, in reflecting on the work of Doctors of the World/Médecins du Monde (MdM), I see love in a variety of other contexts and relationships. After Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, MdM first responders witnessed acts of love between neighbors and aid organizations, working in unison to rebuild homes and health facilities. Emergency field teams in Syria bear witness daily to immense gratitude and love felt by refugees after receiving medical consultations for their children, or offers of affordable shelter for their families.
But there is also desperate need for shows of community love and support for people closer to home.
In October 2012, when the Rockaways was decimated by Hurricane Sandy, MdM joined the ranks of community groups, government and non-profit organizations in a remarkable outpouring of disaster relief. Everyone banded together to rescue survivors, distribute food, water and medicines, and begin rebuilding what was destroyed. However, after a few months, we began to see first responders and emergency aid organizations drawing down. We recognized a long-term need for a sustainable healthcare resource which could serve the community beyond the immediate aftermath of the hurricane. As the camera crews packed up and left, we stayed behind and upped our commitment.
In a record three months, we set up a free health clinic, which has now been running since October 2013. “I can’t remember the last time I’ve been to a doctor,” said one resident. Other patients came to us unaware that they qualified for Medicaid, and we encouraged many more patients to enroll in the Affordable Care Act, so as to incorporate them into the existent healthcare system.
At the end of the subway line in Queens – a world apart from Manhattan – discussion of healthcare policy remains to this day marred in partisan discourse. In a society riddled with inequality, our focus is on leveling the playing field when it comes to equality of access to healthcare. However, in order for the Rockaways Free Clinic to be a success, we need local community support in raising funds and awareness of available services.
Watch the above video to hear from clients of the Rockaways Free Clinic. Their enthusiasm and appreciation for the Rockaways Free Clinic services is audible. Come this Valentine’s Day, remember that love comes in many forms. A bit of care for people in need goes a long way. Help us sustain this rewarding initiative and give today.
Henry E. Chang, Executive Director