Immigrants, Frightened and Sick, Line Up for Free Health Fair

Posted on April 24, 2019 by Catholic Charities Admin  |  Share

Catholic Charities NY Teams Up to Save Lives

By Teresa A. Santiago, Catholic Charities NY Hispanic Community Consultant

Recently I had the opportunity to participate on behalf of Catholic Charities in Fuertes Juntos, Salud es Vida, (Strong Together, Health is Life), a community health and Information fair sponsored by UNIVISION Channel 41 at Hostos Community College in the Bronx. While sharing key social service information from organizations like Catholic Charities NY, the fair focused on two major health issues in the Latino community, diabetes and hypertension- high blood pressure. Moreover, it provided free health screenings for diabetes, hypertension, glaucoma and body mass density.  Health care experts were on hand to answer and provide life-saving advice.

2,000 People Line Up

Because it was a beautiful, warm and sunny day, when I turned the corner onto Grand Concourse at 8AM to drive into the college parking lot, I wondered if many people would actually show up despite all the fair had to offer. 

To my surprise the line to get into the fair, which started at 9AM, ran all the way around the corner from the entrance and three lines deep. Over 2000 people attended the Fair from throughout the tristate area. 

Immigrants Fearful of Receiving Services

At Catholic Charities’ table I received many questions on low-income and affordable housing and where to go to get food. Most questions, however, focused on where and when Catholic Charities offered clinics providing free immigration and legal advice. 

I was struck by the clear uneasiness, almost fear, in the eyes of many of the people I spoke to.  Some sent their young children to get immigration information from the table and shied away when I tried to speak to them.  I can only imagine what they are feeling.

Our Catholic Charities information table was sandwiched between the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, New York Chapter who provided the medical personnel for many of the screening tables and the NYPD Explorers Program.  This gave me a close-up view of the health emergencies about to unfold.

While screenings were going on at one part of the college, a standing-room-only seminar on diabetes was being conducted at the Hostos theatre.  Celebrities and on-air personalities like Coco Cabrera, Rafael Bello, Karen Scott and Dr. Cesar Lozano participated.  They covered everything from the symptoms of diabetes to options for treatment, healthy eating tips and recipes for quick and delicious dishes for the whole family and advice on how to stay motivated and on the road to a healthy life style.

Four Rushed to Hospital

But the most impactful moments for me was watching EMS personnel wheeling away four participants whose diabetes or hypertension screening results were so critical they had to be rushed to the nearest hospital.  These individuals had no idea they had diabetes or high blood pressure.

Clearly, these ill people wanted health care so much they were willing to wait in long lines to get it.  Yet, perhaps because they lacked information or because of their immigration status, this free health fair was the only place they could find for help.  

This event and its screening opportunity literally saved these four individuals’ lives. Very powerful!

Catholic Charities NY offers a wide range of free and low-cost services for those facing physical and emotional challenges.