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FISH, BruinHope partner to provide medical care to children

UCLA students from two campus groups, BruinHope and Fellowship for International Service and Health, commonly known as FISH, provided basic medical services to children on the outskirts of Tijuana, Mexico.

By Samuel Temblador

Nov. 12, 2013 12:14 a.m.

TIJUANA, Mexico — Tucked in between the maquiladoras, or factories on the outskirts of Tijuana, many people live with preventable diseases and without medical insurance.

The children of the Tribu de Jesus shelter on the fringes of Tijuana are among the those that lack basic health care.

UCLA students from two campus groups, BruinHope and Fellowship for International Service and Health, commonly known as FISH, traveled to the Tribu de Jesus children’s shelter Saturday to bring basic medical services to the shelter’s children.

The children, ranging from 5 to 14 years old, visited the free medical clinic in the reading room on the second floor of the shelter.

The clinic included stations for checking the children’s blood pressure and body mass index, and an oral hygiene station where the children learned how to properly brush and floss by practicing on a plastic set of teeth. Afterward, FISH gave each child a toothbrush and toothpaste.

At the last station, clad in blue scrubs with pen and clipboard in hand, sat Dr. Woojin Lee, an emergency care specialist. Lee met with each child one-on-one to examine the status of their health and give them consultations.

Outside, children ran around the grounds, toothbrushes in hand, as members of BruinHope held an arts and crafts workshop for them.

The Saturday trip was the first time the two organizations, both dedicated to providing humanitarian services to underserved populations, worked together, said Shane Huston, marketing director for FISH and member of BruinHope.

BruinHope has worked with Tribu de Jesus children’s shelter since 2005, said Mena Said, health director of BruinHope and a third-year molecular biology, immunology and microbiology student.

The group provides Tribu de Jesus’ about 80 children, housed at three different sites, with food and water donations, as well as English lessons. Members of BruinHope also teach children basic health habits, such as how to wash their hands and brush their teeth.

FISH usually travels to the town of Maclovio Rojas, about 20 miles south of the border of Tijuana, to provide medical services to underserved communities, said Huston, a third-year communications studies student. The group’s approach is preemptive, focusing on diagnosing health problems and generating medical data so people have a better idea of how to address their problems.

Although the organization gives out health supplies such as toothbrushes and vitamins, its primary goal is to give their patients an accurate idea of what their health problems are and how to address them, said Emily Smith, chief executive officer of FISH and third-year microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics student.

“We know we aren’t doctors, but if we can bring a doctor to give a diagnosis, maybe that could save a kid’s life,” Smith said.

Mena said he thinks collaborating with FISH has allowed BruinHope to more effectively serve the children’s needs. Because of the partnership, the children were able to have access to a doctor.

This is a luxury the shelter often can’t afford. When children get sick, the directors of the shelter have to take them to a far away mobile clinic in small groups, said Fernando Meza, co-founder of Tribu de Jesus.

Edith Palomino-Meza, wife of Fernando Meza and a co-founder of the shelter, said in Spanish that she was grateful for FISH and BruinHope’s services despite their limitations when it comes to direct medical support.

Meza said it is helpful that FISH provides the children with diagnoses so that the adults at the shelter can understand how best to help them.

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Samuel Temblador
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