“The most beautiful thing in the world of Tzu Chi is human heart,” remarked Dr. Chen Ying Wei, who heads the Atlanta chapter of the Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) in USA.
Dr. Chen, an ophthalmologist, was a key participant in the recent Tzu Chi Mexico Medical Outreach, which was carried out from 22nd to 27th of August. The outreach was the seventh occasion where a TIMA USA medical volunteer team travelled to Mexico to hold free clinics and community health education programmes.
With the support and assistance from Tzu Chi volunteers from Canada as well as local volunteers in Mexico, the medical team provided more than 4,500 consultations and treatments to impoverished residents in Jojutla and Mexico City. Services offered by the free clinics included family and Chinese medicine, dental care, ophthalmology, as well as health education, and they were made possible by more than 500 volunteer shifts.
First-time participant impressed and touched by the TIMA team
Although the number of patients far exceeded what was expected, the medical team put in their best effort to serve every patient. In particular, the ophthalmology team performed two to seven surgeries each day.
On the day where the seven surgeries were conducted, the ophthalmology team served over 40 patients. Tzu Chi volunteer Xu Jia Jun rendered valuable assistance to Dr. Chen, as he performed the series of operations.
The eye surgeries were successfully carried out with dental equipment and supplies, such as disinfection machine, anaesthetics, gauze, gloves and lights. And it took two ophthalmologists over four hours to complete the surgical procedures. Normally, at a hospital, the surgeons would sit on chairs while performing a surgery, but they had to sit on the side of a table to carry out their work at the free clinic. After performing the last operation, they realised that they had aching backs as a result.
Tzu Chi volunteer Xu Jia Jun shared that keeping a relaxed and uplifting attitude was crucial in treating patients at a free clinic. The sight of an injured eyeball that was bleeding made him feel really nervous, but thanks to the optimistic and positive attitude of Dr. Chen, the surgery was a success.
Xu was a first-time participant of an overseas medical relief mission, and it was also his first trip to Mexico. He had expected a rather chaotic scene and a grimy environment at the free clinics. But to his surprise, the TIMA team had stringent standards in place, and the entire medical mission was conducted in an orderly and safe manner.
Heartening team spirit
Dr. Chen had participated in several Tzu Chi free clinics overseas before, but what he had experienced at this particular medical outreach touched him especially deeply. As a Christian, he felt as though the Holy Spirit had been touched, too.
He was very moved and impressed with the selfless efforts of every volunteer at the free clinics: The CEO of Tzu Chi Medical Foundation in USA, Dr. William Keh, was an inspiring leader, who kept everyone motivated with his unwavering, positive spirit and attitude. Mary, another volunteer, gave attentive care to everyone and attended to their needs. When the volunteers were suffering from muscle aches due to exhaustion, a TCM team would readily give massages and acupuncture to relieve their aches. And there was also Sister Ci Shi, who would enliven everyone with her lively and spirited sign language and dance.
Kevin and Dr. Steve Yen, who hailed from Canada and were volunteering at the dental section, lent a hand to the ophthalmology team by helping with setting up the equipment and preparing anaesthetics. Though they were from different teams, the volunteers worked together like one family and experienced a lot of joy in the process.
Dr. Chen was especially grateful to the local volunteers in Mexico, who did an excellent job setting up the venues prior to the commencement of the free clinics. The medical mission would not have been made possible without their painstaking efforts.
United on the same path despite challenges and differences
Dr. Steve Yen had observed how the elderly and younger volunteers worked together selflessly to serve the needy and sick at the free clinics. The elderly members of the team were supposed to be enjoying their relaxing golden years, and yet they were willing to contribute their efforts to the good cause. And the younger members had chosen to take leave from their busy jobs to work without any remuneration at the free clinics.
Everyone unstintingly gave of themselves to serve the suffering and sick; it was really heartening to see them united in hearts and minds on the same path. Besides showing gratitude and respect to one another, the volunteers were also accommodating and understanding of each other. Their seamless team work and strong, unique friendships had allowed them to form close bonds with one another, despite their differences in nationality, race and culture.